Saturday, November 26, 2011

Expo line to miss 2011 opening

I've been following construction progress on the Exposition Light Rail line in Los Angeles for a couple of reasons. One, is because it's one of the most exciting transit extension projects happening in this country, hitting a very dense, under-served, and populated area that deserves fast rail access. Two, is because my sister goes to USC, and the line will serve the campus at multiple points, offering students a quick and cheap ride to downtown This will allow students to comfortably live further from campus...never mind the enormous benefits to faculty and staff who will see better commuting options.

Unfortunately, if you get you news only from press releases and other official sources, you won't be aware of the constant delays the line keeps suffering.


 The expo rail line (in aqua) will eventually reach Santa Monica. Phase 1, below, is now scheduled to open in 2012.

Photobucket
Photobucket

Back in September, I wrote a post discussing the continuous delays suffered by the line. In that post, I mentioned rumors that the line would miss the "Fall 2011" opening date that had, at that point, been assumed to have been the final delay. The line was originally due to open in Summer 2010.

Well, the line will no longer open in 2011, and may even miss all of January 2012.

Last month, rain fell in LA, and apparently, this caught the contractors by surprise. Station designs had shown woefully inappropriate shelters for riders, but apparently the underground electronics were also unprepared as well. It almost seems like nobody told the contractors and designers that yes, it does rain in LA. Multiple times a year actually. According to reports, a whole bunch of cables and electronic boxes had to be dug up and replaced.

If a competent contractor had been handling construction, this setback could have been handled and still allowed a 2011 opening. But as has been proven time and time again, that is far from the case.

It is now November 25, 2011. Due to federal regulation, Metro, once absolutely all construction is done, must run between 4-6 weeks of what is called "pre-revenue" testing. That is, the trains must be run as they would under normal service. Same daily hours, same time between trains, and same stops, with dwell time for fake riders. This testing was set to begin in August, for a late October opening. And then September, to hit November. And then October, for an early December opening. And then November, to just get it in time for the 2011 banner.

But now it's too late.

With continued contractor delays, Metro has no incentive to rush, because even a late December opening would be highly improbable, never-mind the extra work and pay needed for the holiday scheduling.

As such, it is now a 2012 opening, and probably a late February one at that. What's another month or two amongst friends? You see, it became clear a very long time ago that the Los Angeles authorities don't see transit extensions as integral parts of the commute and the economy. A highway project would be rushed to open ahead of schedule. After all, jobs are on the line, and people need access ASAP.

But rail? It's just a fun train ride. It's not like real people have real money on the line when it comes to getting to work on time.

So what's another month or two of delays? After all, 2010 and 2011 have gone by, and no scathing criticism has been written by the media. Who cares if the first riders aren't allowed on until Valentine's day?

So if you happen to be one of those people who made plans assuming the rail line would open on time, like maybe renting an apartment by the line to commute to work, or opening a business catering to customers, or taking a job in an area you thought you'd be able to reach cheaply...

Well, I hope your plans were highly flexible. Metro obviously assumes they are.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good article. Yes, Expo line delays are outrageous, and yes, it seems that people in LA are very willing to let this slide, including the media. Where is the grilling of public officials for these constant delays? Where is the public outrage?

    The Expo has line has been almost completely built for a long time. The trains are there, the stations look finalized, yet months and months go by and the line does not open. Whenever I drive past the Expo line tracks, I see one or two workers, or no worker at all. It seems as if there is two guys with a pickup truck building the entire line..

    Maybe we should build like in China.. a few thousand workers completing the line in 6 months from start to finish. Americans have become too complacent and lazy in such public projects.

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