Saturday, March 1, 2014

Glidin' on the Gold Line

While Debra and I were in Pasadena we had the opportunity to ride the Gold Line light rail train from the Del Mar station to Union Station in Los Angeles. From there, we picked up the Red Line subway and went into the city.
I didn't know there was a light rail system there - or even a subway - until I read Taras Grescoe's book Straphanger. Debra gave me a copy for Christmas in 2012. It's a fascinating account of Mr. Grescoe's travels on several rail-based rapid transit systems around the world, and his thoughts on the future of rail-based commuting. I read the parts about Toronto and Ottawa first as I was most familiar with those systems, and thought those sections would help me calibrate the book - or maybe just confirm by biases :-) They seemed on-the-money, so I had some confidence in the rest of the book. It's not light reading, but it's quite well written, so it goes down easy.

Until I read this I thought people transportation in Los Angeles was composed of just a vast network of streets and freeways - which it is - but, there is also a well developed, and fairly extensive, bus, light rail, and subway system. 
This stretch of highway is mid-day somewhere in Orange County. It looks pretty much free and clear - and it was for awhile - but on President's Day we experienced a traffic jam going into downtown Los Angeles that would try the patience of a saint. Debra and I are still married, so all went well :-)
Jam-zilla didn't stomp on my love of classic cars. Look at this gorgeous Thunderbird. While I was snapping a picture, the owner and his young daughter happened to wander back to their car. The gentleman told me he had inherited it from his mother, who was its original owner. It had sat unused for a long time and he restored it back to its original state. He also told us, like all old cars, driving it was an adventure. There was always some little thing going on with it, but in the end, it was worth any little quirks it exhibited.
And then there was this El Camino. I didn't get to meet the owner, but it's beautiful even not knowing its story.
Well, I didn't have a car like any of those to cruise around in, and the massive traffic jam had sort of dulled our interest in a lot of driving, and given the uniqueness of a light rail system in the heart of the centre of the car culture universe, and given my interest in all things even close to streetcars, well, all those ands meant riding the Gold Line was a foregone conclusion. 

We were staying a block away from the Del Mar station, which is sandwiched between Raymond and the Arroyo Parkway and has a condo complex built around it. The train enters the station at the opening in the complex at the green arrow.
That's a closer view of the station entrance. To get in, the train crosses Del Mar Boulevard ...
... and then goes under part of the condo complex to access the platforms.
And here they are. The platform on the right goes to the next Pasadena stop, Memorial Park Station, and the one on the left goes to Union Station in Los Angeles.
There are some stylish shelters on the platforms, and while I was gawking at them ...
... the Los Angeles bound train entered the station.
It's an Italian AnsaldoBreda P2550. When we rode it into LA we found it to be clean, comfortable, and fast. As well as fast, it seemed like we didn't have to wait very long for a train to show up at any station along the line, so service was quite frequent. I'm not sure how automobile drivers felt about this as it seemed to me when I was a walking around the city, trains were crossing roads, and barriers were dropping to stop traffic, with considerable frequency. And often when the barriers were down, they sometimes seemed to be down for quite awhile with no trains going by. I don't know what the algorithm was that was controlling them, but I started to wonder if they were frustrating drivers, or if the drivers were used to the algorithm's behaviour.

Anyway, the trains also appeared to be carrying lots passengers. Friendly and helpful ones too. As Debra and I were trying to figure out how to buy a ticket from the platform machine, a young woman gave us a quick tutorial, and within a minute or two we had some tickets and were on our way.
The profile of the tower on the LA platform is clearer once the train has left. 
This is the promotional poster near the bottom of the tower. Love that pool. Life on the rail looks pretty good. 

Speaking of water, life isn't all freeways and trains. The beach is pretty good too.

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