Monday, April 9, 2012

The Expo Line: What it means for Anime Expo (and other cons at the LACC)

Southern California is known as the car capital of the world, the automobile is the main artery of this massive megalopolis includes communities from Santa Monica to the east to San Bernardino in the west, moving south all the way to San Diego. We are so dependent on the car that people forget that Southern California used to be home to one of the largest mass transit systems on the planet, the Pacific Electric system. In the height of light rail, the system covered Southern California with over 2,500 miles of track. Due to heavy government subsidies on public roads and slick marketing in the rise of the automobile era, the Pacific Electric system waned and were replaced with huge interstate highways. With huge traffic difficulties, the light rail system is slowly coming back in Southern California. The opening of Metro's Expo Line on April 28th is a part of a huge mass transit expansion. This new Expo line will open up new possibilities and will continue the urbanization of downtown Los Angeles.

Metro's new Expo line is a new line that will be used by thousands of commuters, but it is also the rebirth of an old right-of-way from the Pacific Electric. A rail line from Los Angeles to Santa Monica was one of the first rail lines that was built in Southern California. In 1908 it was first electrified and became one of the main legs of the huge interurban rail system. The rail line went from downtown LA, headed south, and turned west to hit Culver City and the Westside of Los Angeles. It continued until 1953, when the rail line was finally abandoned. It was used as a major form of transportation for well over 78 years [1]. The modern Expo line covers essentially the same track that was used for the Pacific Electric Air Line [2]. In 1990, Metro bought the entire right-of-way to Santa Monica. After extensive environmental studies, construction started after groundbreaking in September 2006 [3]. After almost 6 years, the first phase of the Expo line will finally be open.

Makes it easier for
Japanese guests to attend
What does this new light rail mean for Anime Expo and other conventions that use the Los Angeles Convention Center? First, the completed Expo line will provide a way for convention attendees who live in the Westside of Los Angeles a way to move to the Los Angeles Convention Center very fast. The first phase of the Expo line has a termination point at Culver City and it goes right through USC. For those of you who live in the Westside, you know that the 10 freeway that goes through downtown Los Angeles is one of the most congested freeways in the United States [4]. By having a mass transit system, it reduces the amount of traffic on the nearby freeways and it moves large numbers of people fast. The expansion of mass transit into more urban areas will also increase acceptance of light rail as an acceptable alternative. This potentially means that they will have a light rail system that goes from downtown Los Angeles that connects directly to the Los Angeles International Airport [5]. From a convention's perspective, this is huge since it allows the guests of honor to be picked up faster and easier. It is also huge from an attendee perspective since it allows people from outside of the state to have better access to the convention center. Thirdly, a viable mass transit system also creates a more vibrant downtown due to ease of use. A more vibrant downtown means that there are more people on the streets. In turn that means more shops and a wider variety of places to visit.

The Expo is opening on April 28th, but it opens a whole new world of possibilities. It is a successor to a system that was a major transportation hub for well over 70 years. There are also many possibilities to improve the convention experience, by making it easier for locals to attend the conventions. It also makes the downtown more vibrant by making downtown more accessible. The Expo line can also pave the way for the all-important transit system to move back and forth from LAX, which means that it will be easier to move people from out of the state or even out of the country. While we may be a car culture, the city of Los Angeles is moving in a right direction to ensure that they can grow for years to come.

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast.

Sources Cited:
[1] Masters, Nathan. "Rail Returns to the Westside: The Expo Line's Historical Precursors | LA as Subject | SoCal Focus | KCET." KCET - Rethink TV. (accessed April 9, 2012). 

[2] "Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line." Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California. (accessed April 9, 2012). 

[3] Jager, Rick . "Groundbreaking Press Release." The Expo Line - Friends 4 Expo Transit Home Page. (accessed April 9, 2012). 

[4] "Expo Line to fill an L.A. gap." Los Angeles Times. (accessed April 9, 2012).

[5] Guccione, Jean. "$1B Light Rail Link to LAX Proposed -" The leading Aviation industry resource for news, equipment, and information. (accessed April 9, 2012).


amateur_cameko said...

"From a convention's perspective, this is huge since it allows the guests of honor to be picked up faster and easier."

Is it common for Guests of Honor to take public transportation (which in this case would include taxis and shuttles) to get from the airport to the convention? I always thought a staffer would be picking them up or at least meeting them at the airport.

Nice to see that a light rail service that connects the city center to a major point of entry...If only Las Vegas is willing to expand the monorail to McCarran Airport. Unfortunately, as it is privately funded, profit would have to be a motive for monorail expansion, while traffic alleviation/resident mobility is probably the main motive for any publicly funded transit project.

KrisZ said...

They will still be picked up by a staffer, at least they wont be stuck in traffic.

What is baffling is that the Monorail in Las Vegas doesn't expand to the airport. Part of the heavy traffic is moving tourists back and forth from McCarran to the Casinos. They really need to find better solutions for the monorail since it is not reducing congestion in LV at all :(

amateur_cameko said...

One of the original plans was to extend the monorail from the airport all the way to downtown, but some of the people commenting on the local paper's website said the taxi lobby keeps that from happening...It hasn't really been profitable from the start, and I think it's because of poor management, not from any possible conspiracy. I think the city was not designed for mass transit to begin with if you look at how the bus service is run.