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LA Metro’s New Blue Line Ⓜ️ Future Transit USA

September 18, 2019


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Today, Los Angelist offers a challenge to Metro CEO Phil Washington. But we’ll get back to that in a moment. Nearly 30 years ago, following a brutal era in which the Pacific Electric Railway was foolishly dismantled and Los Angeles county left entirely devoid of passenger rail transportation in its
wake, the first Metro Blue Line train
triumphantly retraced the old route laid out by Henry Huntington in 1902 between
Los Angeles and Long Beach. But in the decades since 1990, the year in which
what we now know and love as the Metro Blue Line embarked on its inaugural
voyage, our beloved metro rail line to Long Beach has begun to show its age in
a big way. So this week on Los Angeles we will discuss a few ways the Metro Blue
Line has most noticeably begun to show its age, and take a look at the exciting
upgrades blue line riders have in store for us following the two separate months-long closures planned to rehabilitate the aging rail line. First, the closures;
Recognizing the shabby state of repair found on the aging Blue Line, especially
in comparison to Metro’s newer and more recently constructed rail lines, Metro CEO
Phil Washington recently announced that both the northern and southern portions
of the Blue Line will be closed in two separate phases beginning in January
2019. Initially, the southernmost portion of the blue line through downtown Long
Beach will be closed for upgrades to traffic signal prioritization and safety
systems. Once completed, these upgrades should improve travel times through
downtown Long Beach and reduce the number of accidents caused by
automobiles obstructing the blue line’s train tracks.
Many such accidents could be prevented if only the street-running portion of
the blue line along Long Beach Boulevard was better protected by traditional
railroad safety equipment such as crossing gates. Railroad crossing gates
make it very clear to drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians when a train is planning
to proceed across an intersection. So if Metro installs those or another
equivalent safety feature along the blue line’s street-running portions, such as in
Long Beach, fewer drivers will try to dash in front of approaching trains, and fewer
near misses should ultimately mean fewer accidents in total. Additionally, it might
also be a good idea for Metro to uncross the tracks in downtown Long Beach as
part of the upgrade so that multiple trains could more easily proceed through
the downtown Long Beach transit gallery without conflict. Once these and any
other needed upgrades and repairs to the Blue Line’s southern terminus are
completed, Metro will embark on the second and more ambitious portion of the
Blue Line rehabilitation project; Grade-separating the frantically busy section
of track shared with the Expo Line between 7th Street and Metro Center and
Los Angeles Trade Tech. As can be seen, Metro Blue and Expo Line trains must
cross the busy intersection at Flower and Washington as often as every two minutes
during peak hours. As such, Flower Junction has become something of a
bottleneck for both the Blue and Expo lines, and Metro has finally appropriated
funding to bury the station which should more or less completely solve the
problems for the stretch of track shared with Expo. But what about Washington
Boulevard? I live right off of Washington Boulevard and this street is a mess. The
sidewalks are barely wide enough to allow a single wheelchair past, the
traffic signals prioritize automobiles taking awkward left turns over both
trains and pedestrians, and you feel as though you’re trespassing on a busy
highway just walking down it. So what should Washington Boulevard look like
instead? Well first there are at least two too many car lanes. As part of a ‘New
Blue’ one automotive lane needs to be removed from each side of Washington and converted into an ADA-compliant bike lane. Additionally, the crosswalks need to be
converted into four-way scramble crosswalks similar to those found in
Santa Monica. And finally, depending on how much
funding is ultimately made available to Metro for this project, we need to take a
serious look at grade-separating the Metro Blue line on Washington Boulevard,
and if we can’t afford to do that, we should at least make it something less
of a pedestrian slaughterhouse. So what’s my challenge to Metro CEO Phil
Washington? I say if Phil Washington can fix Washington Boulevard,
I say we named it after him! We just have to add “Phil” to the signs. “Phil Washington Boulevard”. What do you think Mr. Washington? Are you up for the challenge? It’s not like our slave-owning wooden-toothed first president doesn’t already have
plenty of stuff named after him… At Washington Station, Blue Line trains turn
onto the Pacific Electric’s former four-track main line to Long Beach. Although
several grade separations and a number of pedestrian safety improvements are
needed by the communities served by this portion of the Blue line between
Washington and Willow stations, this section of track, since it was used for
freight during the Pacific Electric’s many years of abandonment, actually never ceased being a functional rail line since it was not dismantled along with
most of the other lines of the PE. As such, the stretch of Blue line from
Washington Boulevard in LA to Willow Street in Long Beach for the most part
only needs to have its aging signals and safety features replaced with modern
ones. However, there is a distinct and very exciting possibility that one or
both of the lightly used freight tracks may be purchased from the Union Pacific,
enabling a future Blue Line Express service and restoring the Pacific
Electric’s old four-track mainline to its once and future glory.
And finally, Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station will be receiving a major
makeover. The busiest station on the Blue and Green lines open before the green
line was completed overhead as part of the 105 freeway and it shows. The Blue
line platform at Willowbrook/Rosa Parks is essentially directly underneath a
busy eight-lane freeway that wasn’t even there yet when the station was first
designed in the 1980s. To address this, Metro will be moving the Blue Line
platform out from under the shadow of the hideous 105 freeway and turning Rosa Parks Station back into the vibrant center of Willowbrook community life
that it was between 1990 and 1993 – 1993 being the year the 105 freeway opened on
top of a community that never wanted it there in the first place. The
construction of the 105 freeway however and the story of the tens of thousands
displaced by it, not to mention the valiant fight of LA residents to have a
rail line included in what had originally been proposed only as a dirty
polluting freeway for cars quite frankly deserves its own episode, so we will comeback to that at another time. So what do you guys think? is LA ready for a Phil Washington Boulevard? A Blue line express train? Are you pissed the Silver Line still
costs more than all of Metro’s other trains and buses because of that
lose-lose compromise between Metro and Foothill transit a number of years back?
Especially lose-lose now that it will be the main north-south transit route at
least through 2019… Let us know in the comments! And of course if you haven’t
already, please like, share, subscribe and join the public transit revolution at
Patreon.com/LosAngelist

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