One Hand Clapping for L.A. Landmark City to Sea Expo Line

The celebration continues for the opening of the long awaited Expo line connecting downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, with the powers-that-be, their acolytes and the mimicking media hailing it as a landmark in Southern California’s maturation

Ever since I could duck under the turnstiles in my native New York, and later wave my pass in L.A.s burgeoning system, I have been a public transit advocate. I even was briefly a planning consultant to the MTA, trying to raise its user awareness.

In my weekly city observed commentary for 97.5 KBU. , and select other websites. I applaud the opening, but frankly with one hand. It works, for a finite few at leisure or for whom it is convenient.

This includes tourists, dogged pedestrians, grounded students, and think tank minions who constitute a vocal constituency and together make a faithful lobby for flush transit funding.

Many were at the launch ceremonies along with the politicians and bureaucrats who for a day abandoned their official cars for a rare transit ride.

And of course also present were the construction industry chieftans and lobbyists who have benefitted well from the billions of dollars spent on the Expo Line.

However, the system doesn’t work particularly well for those who live along the coast and also those who work there, and have to commute. Affected are the enclaves of the Pacific Palisades, Topanga and my Malibu.

Indeed , if you can’t walk from home to a station, and have to be on time anywhere, you will have a problem, especially in Santa Monica., and especially at the terminus at 4th St. Bus connections suck and trying to park all day near is worse.

There is no parking there, not even a kiss and ride curb cut. At the 17th St, SMC station are only 67 spaces, with many already going to monthly permit holders.

The dearth of spaces is a result, I feel, of a maladroit MTA and the sanctimonious city of Santa Monica, not wanting to aggravate local traffic anymore than it is, and also not wanting to spend the money acquiring sites for all day public parking.

It is a win-win for the city and agency, lose, lose for the commuting public.

In one of the more gratuitous print commentaries, the usually reasoned critic Christopher Hawthorne of the L.A. Times takes a 64 year old Pacific Palisades resident to task for asking how to get to the station.  He argued like a  bureaucrat rather than a user advocate.

Hawthorne contends by his count there are up to 10,000 spaces within a healthy 20 minute walk. This is not so healthy if you are handicapped as I am. They are also pricey.

But first one has to get these conjured up spaces, which means for most driving on the dreaded PCH.

That is another 30 minutes in the usual iffy morning traffic from, say, Point Dume. And then to find a parking space, hoffing it to the station, catching a train for a stop and go 48 minute ride downtown.

There you can exit at the 7th Street Metro Station if you work nearby, or if elsewhere transfer to the Red or Purple Line trains, which is another 15 minutes to wherever. On a good day making connections could total a 2 hour commute for people working downtown.

Worse is for those living in or about central L.A. and working in, for instance, Malibu, be it as a teacher, clerk, laborer, or house cleaner. The region’s grunts.

And now the bus schedule is said to being tampered with to encourage use on the Expo Line. Work force commuters beware. They remain almost an after thought, as they have all during the design and development of the rail system.

To be sure, the launching of downtown L.A. to the sea is historic. It just has to be fine tuned. And it can be, by the MTA initiating speedy shuttle buses on the PCH, to serve the coastal communities, and beach parking lots , for commuter use. In addition, the train also can be speeded up instituting signal priority.

And the sooner the better, MTA has to keep in mind Measure R2 calling for yet another transit sales tax is coming up, and there are a lot of voters among the commuters.



Published by


Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.