Yesterday Radhika and I went by train to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Driving on the way to the train we stopped at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga and had breakfast, just the two of us. It was fun. Our real purpose was to take Radhika to meet Kandarpa and so we decided to try public transit instead of using the standard Los Angeles method of travel, the car. We took the public transit system just for fun and to see if it had any future use for us. Once we reached Union Station we went out and visited the area just in front of the station and saw those first cradle places of Los Angeles, the first house, it’s first church, its first barrio, and the first homeless. From there we went to Hollywood on the Redline to meet Kandarpa.
The Redline is a real-live underground subway! I never knew Los Angeles had an underground. It can’t be more than a few miles long, but hey, if it’s all you have, you must extoll its glories. It functions fabulously! All other parts of the LA transit system are aboveground LRT rail. Considering that public transit in Los Angeles has been subverted for a 100 years by oil and car companies, and considering that mass transit was not actually begun until the 1990s, it’s a fairly good system. That’s a lot of considering. The truth is public transit in Los Angeles is a work in progress. In my view any city that has a transit system that fails to reach its airports is an incomplete system. This includes St. Petersburg Russia and Toronto Canada, so-called mature transit systems. If Los Angeles could just connect its transit system to LAX that would be a huge step forward. I’d move the rating of the system from C- to B immediately.
The one thing to remember about Los Angeles is that it has no center, no defined core, no focus. In fact the expression ‘downtown’ as it relates to Los Angeles is misleading. The downtown is just a mass of government and financial buildings. Nobody lives there. There’s no soul. And no one should go there expecting to be in Manhattan or San Francisco or any other city that actually has a core. From a mass transit perspective, the only thing that makes ‘downtown’ necessary, is Union Station. That’s the place where you are forced to go for connecting routes to useful places. The only true reason you would go to downtown Los Angeles is to a government building for immigration or because you are a witness in a high profile trial.
Unfortunately the transit system of Los Angeles is slow, frustratingly slow, yet it feels blazingly fast. This is because in many places it travels right down the center of some important freeways, which means you have a spectacular view of both sides of the traffic flow. And they’re not moving! You feel as if you are blasting through the stopped cars on both sides of the freeway. Don’t they call this relative motion? And, while you race your way through all the stopped traffic, you can relax and read Wikipedia articles about the future expansion of LA’s mass transit system. There you will learn that in perhaps two decades the system might be useful. Maybe.
In spite of everything we had a great time. I’m told our next trip will be to old town Pasadena. Cool. But it will be like touching your nose from around your head as we are forced to go through Union Station!
Oh, and one more thing, and its a secret: The system is a ghost town. Nobody uses it! You can actually have a seat.