Nowhere has the challenge for kicking off a mass transit system been greater than in car-crazy Los Angeles.
But now 18,000 commuters daily climb aboard the Blue Line for the run between Los Angeles and Long Beach. Those numbers wildly exceed expectations, climbing to three times the projections of six months ago when Blue Line set off on its inaugural run. Its initial success bodes well for Southern California mass transit.
Much is riding on the Blue Line besides commuters. The 22-mile trolley line is the first leg of a planned 300-mile, $7.5-billion rail network that eventually will span a five-county area, linking Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties.
Since satisfied commuters beget more riders, establishing the Blue Line’s reliability and safety is crucial to building confidence. So far, efforts by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission appear mostly on track.
The much-anticipated crime problems along the line, which runs through several high-crime areas, have not materialized, thanks to assiduous, no-nonsense monitoring by the Sheriff’s Department’s special Transit Services Bureau. Not that the line has been totally free of problems. Car or pedestrian accidents at rail-street crossing points have resulted in four deaths and 13 injuries. Transit officials are working on the problem, and sheriff’s deputies have issued hundreds of tickets to minimize the chances of additional major accidents.
The Blue Line’s ridership provides a useful gauge in assessing whether commuting Southlanders might hang up their cars keys and give mass transit a try. Local voters last November confirmed their support in approving a sales tax hike to finance mass transit.
Freeing the region from the increasing paralysis of gridlock will make commuting easier, the air cleaner and provide wider access to jobs for those in suburbs. The Blue Line is a splendid beginning.