By Noel T. Braymer
Despite heavy morning rush hour traffic I got to the Oceanside Train Station with about 15 minutes to spare. My first surprise of the day: the lines at the Metrolink ticket machines were gone! There was only one woman in front of me when I arrived at the ticket machines and one person came up as I left with my ticket. I saw people using their phones as tickets with the conductors reading the bar code on their phones with a bar code reader. I wanted to get a paper ticket since I planned to ride LA Metro trains and buses. For that I needed to get a paper ticket with an embedded chip in it to open the LA Metro turnstiles. In the future all LA Metro turnstiles will have bar code readers installed to read Metrolink tickets on phones. For now you can show your Metrolink ticket on your phone to the bus drivers to ride the buses. No doubt there are problems to iron out with the new on-line ticketing, but this is a major step in the right direction.
The 7:37 AM Metrolink train headed to Riverside left on time with no problems. It had plenty of room when I got off of it at the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station to board the connecting Metrolink train to Los Angeles. The train to Los Angeles also had room for more passengers as we arrived about 10 minutes early into Los Angeles. For the second time in a row I didn’t have to wait for a southbound BNSF freight at the Fullerton junction. But we met a southbound freight as we headed into the station. Still when people exits a late morning Metrolink train at LAUS, it is an impressive sight watching a long stream of people walking along the platform and down a platform tunnel to the main station tunnel.I looked around the station a bit after I arrived. This time there was someone on the LAUS station piano who could play it with both hands and 10 fingers, My goal for this trip was to check and take photos around the area of LAX of construction of the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line, then get some pictures in downtown Santa Monica of the soon to open Expo Line station and of test trains running in Santa Monica.
I was soon on the Red Line from Union Station to catch the Blue Line at 7th st and Flower in downtown Los Angeles. It seemed that Light Rail doesn’t get enough preference when it comes to street running in Los Angeles. Along Flower Street which both the Blue and Expo Lines run on there are on-ramps for the near by Harbor Freeway which cross the Light Rail tracks. My Blue Line train was caught for some time next to an on-ramp between Washington and Pico Blvds. The Expo Line travels further south on Flower to Exhibition Blvd which is next to more Harbor Freeway on-ramps. I got on the Blue Line around 10:20 AM and got to the transfer station for the Green Line at Willowbrook by 10:52 PM
A major problem with LA Metro, is their trains and buses don’t connect well with each other. If a connecting train is in the station when your train arrivals, it by pure chance. But this is what happened when I went to go on the Green Line. The problem was the Sheriff Department was doing ticket inspections at the same time. I had not only to tap my card at the turnstile, but the ticket inspectors wanted to read my ticket with their smart phone readers. I could have used another set of turnstiles which would have bypassed the ticket inspectors, but then I couldn’t see my train which I was underneath the platform of either. When I got to the platform I saw my train and went up to it and the doors where closed. I tapped the button to open the doors and the train left instead. The next train didn’t arrive until about 11:11 AM. During this time the Sheriff’s ticket inspectors checked my ticket a second time on the platform, along with the other passengers and again after we boarded the 11:11 AM departure.
I arrived at the Green Line Station at Imperial and Aviation by 11:25 AM. This station will connect to the new tracks for the future Crenshaw/LAX Line which will stop at the Expo Line at Crenshaw Blvd. After taking a few pictures around this station, I headed over to the bus stops to catch a bus to Century and Aviation Blvds. I wanted to follow the old ATSF Harbor Line right of way between Century Blvd to La Cienega Blvd. I wanted first to ride a bus to Century and Aviation to save at least a mile of walking. I now qualify for the senior discount on most transit. Riding the Santa Monica Bus would only cost me 50 cents compared to the full fare of $1.50. I finally left at 11:40 AM after 3 Santa Monica Buses arrived and the drivers had a layover. When we left a second Santa Monica Bus followed us. It seems there were time keeping problems that day causing buses to run in bunches. That makes it hard for transit buses to be on time to connect with Light Rail.
I walked mostly along Aviation Blvd and got a few pictures. There is no track work yet on the right of way. Most of the work are on the projects that will take the most time to build like elevated segments and tunnels. Construction is now underway on overpasses at Century Blvd., Manchester Ave. and La Cienega Blvd. La Cienega is where the Crenshaw/ LAX Line will cross over the 405 Freeway. It will also be elevated over La Cienega Blvd. I then walked back to Manchester Ave to catch a LA Metro 115 bus to Sepulveda to rejoin the Santa Monica Bus #3 which would take me to downtown Santa Monica next to the downtown Light Rail station. While I waited to catch this bus, I went in a nearby mini-mart for a snack and something to drink. There was another person waiting at the bus stop when I went to the mini-mart. When I got back to the bus stop the person was gone and I had missed my bus. When the next 115 bus got to Sepulveda, it turned left onto Sepulveda just as the Santa Monica 3 bus came up Sepulveda and was waiting to turn left onto Manchester. Needless to say I missed that #3 bus. The Santa Monica #3 buses are suppose to run every 20 minutes most of the day
The most frustrating thing about riding buses is the time wasted waiting for them. As it is I can ride a bike faster than riding the bus. I catch up and pass buses because they are stopping all the time to pick up and drop off passengers. Also on a bike you can leave when you want and you can travel directly without transfers, unlike depending on a transit bus. If people have electric bikes, they would get around faster not only than by bus, but also than by car on most trips that don’t require freeway travel. I finally caught a Santa Monica Bus by 1:35 PM and arrived in Santa Monica by 2:06 PM. I got a few pictures, but thought I better head back to Union Station and try to catch the 4;30 departure for Oceanside. I took the 733 which is a LA Metro Rapid Bus which goes between San Monica and Union Station in 90 minutes. It also stops at the Culver City Expo Station which is how I have been connecting to Santa Monica from the Expo Line. Because of construction, the closest 733 bus stop to the Expo Line station was unavailable. But I saw a 733 laying over about a block away so I walked over to it. Of course as I walked, it left and I had to wait for the next one when I got to the bus stop. I left on the next 733 around 2;41 PM.That would be enough time to catch the 4:30 PM departure for Oceanside so I skipped the transfer to the Expo and Red Lines to get to Union Station,
I must admit it was interesting riding east of Culver City on Venice Blvd for the first time. I could see changes in development and in period architecture as I got closer to downtown Los Angeles as the buildings got older. There was also lots of new construction in downtown Los Angeles. There was even new construction along Main Street which generally hasn’t had much construction in the eastside of downtown since the 1920’s. While this was interesting, my bus was running late! We got to Union Station at the east end at the bus station at around 4:26 PM. I got out as fast as could and found the track I needed, I was jogging up the platform tunnel and found the train still at the station. But I found all the doors closed. Just then the conductor in the open door of the rear cab car called out to me and I got in. As I was walking in the upper level I could feel the train leaving the station. This train runs at the heart of rush hour from downtown Los Angeles and it had a heavy load departing. It had over 70% seat occupancy, but many spare seats had bags or clothing on the seats to discourage people from using them. After walking though the upper level of 2 or 3 cars I found a seat next to the aisle and jumped in it while 2 businessmen where talking business in a foursome of seats.
By the time the train left Fullerton the crowding had eased. More people got off than got on once we left Los Angeles County. What I noticed was that traffic on the freeway in south Orange County was much lighter than what I usually see on Fridays when I usually travel over an hour earlier on the train. Also nice is we didn’t get stuck at Serra waiting for the usually late Metrolink departure to San Bernardino from Oceanside common with the earlier departure from Los Angeles. Usually when I catch the earlier train there is stop and go traffic southbound in Camp Pendleton into Oceanside. But on this trip everything was free flowing. It just goes to show that most congestion is short lived and most of the time the roads are underused, We could reduce more traffic congestion if only people traveled at different hours instead of mostly during a few hours in the morning and evenings. We got into Oceanside about 7 minutes early and traffic in Oceanside was much lighter going home than what I usually get stuck in arriving almost an hour earlier on Fridays.