Saturday, March 24, 2012

Endless Expo delays coming to an end...?

I've written about construction progress on the Expo line in LA twice before. Both times it was to complain about the amazing continuous delays faced by the line. The expo line is a new light rail line that will connect downtown LA, USC, Century City and (eventually) Santa Monica. The line was supposed to open in 2010 but hasn't yet.

Now a date has finally been announced, but Metro is keeping with the theme of treating their shiny new rail line as some kind of Disney attraction, and not a critical piece of transportation. They've chosen a launch date that actually minimizes the lines use.

Lets review:

Original opening date: June 2010
Delayed to late 2010
Then early 2011, possibly by April for the inaugural festival of books at USC
From there, delayed into summer 2011.
Finally given a "finalized" opening date of November 15, where the budget alocated the money needed to run the line.

In September I talked about how the line might miss 2011 completely. That was correct. Here was the wost case scenario:
And now rumors are running around that Metro may be able to hit the November 15 start date....but they're choosing not to.

That's right, after over a year of contractor delays, now it's the operating agency wanting to hold service. And shockingly, the reason seems to be that they don't want to launch when the service would be wildly used.

I'm not even kidding. Metro is looking to avoid ridership by delaying service until March of 2012.

I wrote that in September. here we are almost exactly 6 months later, and I could be writing the same thing today.


In November I confirmed that 2011 was out of the question, and that March scenario was coming to light.

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.

Wouldn't you guess it, but that's also just as relevant today.

Well, Metro didn't have to sabotage their own opening, the good private contractors did. That "can you believe it" date of March 2012? Even delayed past that.

So now a date has finally been announced.


Expo Line to open to the public on Saturday, April 28


This should be exciting news, after endless delays, the line may finally open.

But the timing absolutely sucks.


Saturday April 28th is...

....after the end of the semester at USC, meaning the students don't really have the opportunity to ride the system and plan their transportation for the next semester. They COULD try expo and see if leaving the car at home makes sense for next semester, but not with the way metro is scheduling things. USC will be the prime ridership generator on the line, but metro is choosing to minimize their "advertising" impact by not serving the students before they leave for the summer.

....a week after the enormous festival of books in expo park. Tens of thousands are expected to attend. Parking will be tight. People will be looking for any alternative mode of transportation....but metro won't provide it. Visitors will get to enjoy test vehicles gliding by, but not opening their doors to riders.

Basically, a transit system that's doing everything it can to minimize ridership.

Yes, metro can fill endless pages with excuses.

Lets look at some excuses
"Launching on a high ridership weekend might be a problem if there are service delays. That's bad press".

Except expo will be undertaking 5 weeks of pre-revenue service, which involves running the line as it would on any day, but not letting passengers on. And that's after 6 full months of other testing. If that's not enough to ensure things will operate smoothly....

"We can't balance the high demand of a festival and an inauguration"

Worst excuse ever. If expo can't handle events in 2012, then it was built wrong. What happens when there's an event in 2015? 2020? The city will keep growing, there will be more riders.

The point of public transit is to get ridden and handle large crowds. By skipping a big event, metro is both saying that they don't care about actually serving the taxpayer, and that they built a badly designed system.


Of course, all this gives metro the benefit of the doubt that they actually will get things open by the end of April. I for one wouldn't hold my breath. Sure, they've held their big, extra public press release with the mayor....but this is an organization that has managed to screw things up every step of the way. Botching an official launch date? Sounds like something right up their alley.


Oh, and by the way....if this post feels too negative, it absolutely should be. And remember, I love light rail, the technology isn't the problem, the implementation is. And the implementation here has been terrible.

2 comments:

  1. I dont follow the politics of your area, but what are the chances that the delays are political and/or financially beneficial to some person or group? I understand the concern for wanting to work out the bugs to save face before a grand public unveiling. Why dont they open it on a limited basis gradually to a big fan fair, kinda like stores do with grand-openings 3 months after the doors actually opened?

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    1. John, this project has been handled so badly that sometimes I do think there's someone behind the scenes intentionally screwing things up.

      I fully agree that they should open to the USC campus for the festival, which would alleviate concerns about not having enough rolling stock.

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