Ride and Rail Diary

Posted on May 10, 2015 by

Traffic in L.A.’s flower district was unbearable but I didn’t have any trouble navigating around Wall, 8th or Santee. It took a few minutes to realize I was witnessing a Mother’s Day Weekend buying frenzy and just happened to be bicycling through. There was nobody to pick up flowers for anyway. My mother’s been gone for more than 40 years and my kids’ mom just a little more than three.

So I turned up Crocker to get a firsthand look at the tents, overturned shopping carts and thousands living on the streets of America’s most densely populated skid row.

Don’t get the impression though that I was seeking out human suffering or my own.

I just got off the Gold Line at Alameda and 2nd and was crisscrossing my way southwest for Expo back to Culver City. In fact, an hour before, I had been enjoying a chicken salad sandwich on raisin bread at Buster’s Coffee on Mission in South Pasadena across the street from the light rail station. Sit outside next to the tracks – on the other side of the fence – and watch the trains pulling in and listen to the sounds of the railroad crossing and you’ll think you’re in Connecticut.

Saturday is a good day for ride and rail because the cars are less crowded but all those empty seats make you wonder whether Southern California’s big transit build-out will attract enough passengers to transform the region. Residential and business development “clusters” around train stations dress up neighborhoods and create charming areas to shop and hang out.  The start of the  new housing / workplace alignment transportation planners are talking about.  But will tens or hundreds of  thousands of residents change their travel habits?

It’s not without irony that the last leg of my trip – the three mile bike ride from Expo’s current termination point on Washington Blvd, just west of National (next year Expo stretches all the way to the beach!) – took me through this year’s Culver City Car Show, featuring more than 400 vintage autos and thousands of fans. Thunderbirds, Corvettes, Mustangs, Woodies and freshly painted 50-year-old Ford pickups sparkling like gems on display.

Yep, we love our cars here in Southern California. Could it be that someday we’ll love our trains, too?

Comments (5)


  1. Lou: People do love trains. Just visit the annual train day event at union station and you will see thousands of people and their kids enjoying the trains and the history. What’s missing from the build up around the metrorail train stations is the cost of these shops. How much did that Chicken Salad sandwich in South Pasadena cost? The average worker won’t spend that kind of money. And what is the motivation to go from Culver City to S. Pasadena? there has to be a reason to travel there.

    I took the Gold Line to East LA to visit one of my favorite spots, El Mercado. I bought a pair of huaraches there. I needed sandals. I wanted the real thing. So I boarded the train and it took me there. So you see, from my minute example, there has to be a reason to use the train. If you’re a student, does the train go to your school? If your a businessman, does the train go to your work? Simply put, it’s not enough. When LA ditched the red cars, the original train system, they did something evil. It can never be put back the way it was. As long as people have cars, for their everyday business like going to work or to the market, they won’t use the train. As for recreation, most of us don’t have the time to enjoy our time off, and the trains don’t take us where we need to go. We know they weren’t built for us.

  2. Fred Wilber says:

    Hey Lou! Something about the idea of trains is so romantic. Europe gets it and will be ahead of the game as this motor vehicle infrastructure we’ve built the American Empire on continues to deteriorate and crumble. We’re addicted. Can’t cut the umbilical cord to the personal automobile. And we’ve made it very difficult to do so. The car rules, even in Vermont, by necessity for most. For such a rural place, Vermont does put a valiant effort into providing public transportation, with even talk of more investments in rail, but the roads receive the bulk of the attention and still they fall apart. From my perspective, we, the government of the U.S. of A, have become subservient to the oil/automobile/concrete/contracting cartel of companies that control the political purse strings. And that won’t change until we cut that umbilical cord to our automobiles. Do you think $5.00/gallon would do it? $6.00? $9.00? Maybe? Not.

  3. Ron says:

    I like cars, and trains.
    My issue will be hauling a bunch of stuff around that’s far from train tracks.
    But for leisure, it will be a pleasure to take the train to DTLA, or Hollyweird and not worry about it.

  4. John Connolly says:

    Gotta love those trains!
    Just gotta break myself of the lazy habit of not wanting to walk a mile down the hill (and a mile back UP the hill to get home) to reach the station.
    Joe H is right that the Red Cars were a real mass transit system built for working people (OK, to GET working people TO the Bosses’ workplaces). From the Mexican Border to San Luis Obispo, and from Santa Monica to Riverside, the Red Cars went farther and to more places than any of our Light Rail jaunts do today.
    Still … it’s a start. And as the LA/SoCal Transit Net grows AND with the advance of electric cars … AND with a little bit of Political Revolution … who knows? … We might develop a sustainable People’s Republic of California after all.
    Coming from a “Philadelphia Rapid Transit” & Pennsylvania Railroad family … I gotta root for the Rail Routes, just to honor my Dad and Grand Pop!

    And my lifelong love of The Rails in every form.

    John Connolly

  5. Betty Madden says:

    I use the Gold Line & it is crowded during work day hours and it is more pleasant on the weekends when a seat is available. Pasadena is a great destination. Shops & food are not more expensive along the rail than the neighborhood itself.

Leave a Reply to Betty Madden