Tue, 28 Sep 2004

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gold line

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I randomly decided to hop on the MTA Gold Line, which runs from Union Station in Downtown L.A. to the eastern edge of Pasadena. I got on at the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park stop and headed north to Lake Avenue in Pasadena, where I hoofed it down to Colorado Ave to visit Vroman's Bookstore (for some reason I can't get the actual site to load up, so I linked Google's cache.) I splurged and bought too many books, but, oh well. I have no excuses. On the way back I hopped on at the Memorial Park Station, which is where you would get off if you were interested in visiting Old Town. The bohemian-like enclave that I sighted off of the Mission St Station in South Pasadena intrigued me, and I had a rather late lunch there. I kind of wonder if it has always been there, or if it literally grew around the station. Of course, it was mostly white people. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

It looks like there are going to be massive developments adjacent the Lincoln Heights/Cypress Park station. There were a bunch of bulldozers at a vacant lot right next to the station. Just a block or so down the street is the Los Angeles River Gardens, which was the former site of Lawry's. I didn't really get to tarry too long there, although I may consider stopping there tomorrow before I head home.

While many people think it is completely ludicrous to build rail (whether heavy or light) in the city that built one of the first freeways in the country, it is interesting the patterns of development that subway and light-rail stations create. For better and for worse, nodes of gentrification are developing. You can see this most conspicuously at the Hollywood and Western stop off the Red Line. When I was in high school, this place was teeming with porno shops, and ladies were working the streets bigtime. Now it has given way to miles of non-descript strip malls and new housing developments.

I did have to chuckle a bit as the Gold Line crossed over the parking-lot like Pasadena Freeway. The experts estimate that the average speed of rush hour traffic will drop off to about 17 mph in a few years. Freeway widening will have little relief. (As I read somewhere—unfortunately I can't give proper credit—freeway widening is a little too much like trying to solve your weight problem by merely loosening your pants.)

Ever since I first rode the trains in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, I've dreamt of being able to traverse the City of Angels without ever having to hop in my car. It is unlikely this will ever happen in my lifetime, but at least the MTA is heading in the right direction. They plan to expand the Gold Line to go through East L.A. and some of the more proximal suburbs of the San Gabriel Valley. There is talk of using existing railroad right-of-way for the Expo Line, which would provide access to Mid-Wilshire and West L.A., and maybe even Santa Monica. As the traffic continues to worsen, as gas prices continue to rise, and as the world's oil supply slowly becomes depleted, someday the City of Angels will have to look to the future and build a reasonable transportation infrastructure.

One of the neat things about the Gold Line is the scenic route through the Arroyo Seco. As it heads out from Union Station, you get some of the urban vibe, but it quickly enters the viaduct maze where the L.A. River rounds the bend past the hills where Dodger Stadium and Elysian Park sit. From there on it gets pretty residential, and downright nature like, until it hits Pasadena. It quickly passes through a completely industrial area then ends up in Old Town, which is chock full of commercial fun. From there it finds itself in the median of the Foothill Freeway, where things are a little more nondescript, although Mt. Wilson looms grandly to the North. In the straight-up industrial and residential outskirts of New York and Chicago, I do not think you can get this kind of view. Sure, you get an excellent urban feel, which probably cannot be reduplicated in L.A. (although downtown L.A. does serve as the inspiration for all that noir fiction), but that's about it. In contrast, the Gold Line manages to highlight the natural beauty of the city which has resisted taming by even the most zealous developers. As one of my fellow passengers remarked, "Wow, this ride sure is pretty."

Which brings me to the fact that lots of people use the light-rail. In a city where it is often stated that there are more cars than people, in a city where the combined surface area of all the freeways could probably pave the entire state of Rhode Island over, in a city for which there is a song about how no one walks there, a lot of people overlook the reality that not everyone can afford a car, and the annual reg fees, the insurance premiums, the gasoline. In the trains I rode, most of the seats were occupied. Granted, no one had to stand up, and it wasn't packed the way a rush hour Brooklyn-bound B-train gets packed, but it was still impressive that lots of people were using it.

There was a computer game once upon a time (in the early 1990's) called "Rise of the Dragon" which depicted the city of L.A. with actually useful public transit. Like subways and shit. Since then, it's always been something I fantasize about. Imagine being able to take a train out to the beach on any of those numerous 70 degree days anytime during the year, and not having it take 2 hours to get back home. Imagine being able to hit all the hotspots without having to hop into a car.

Again, unlikely in my lifetime. Ah well.

23:43:27 28 Sep 2004 > /unrealcity > permalink > 0 comments

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