The inimitable John Walsh, L.A.'s favorite gadfly (unless you work at City Hall), will show up to protest the triumphant Expo Line opening at USC today, where the train will reportedly break through a welcome banner as confetti and cannon fireworks go off in the background.
The Bus Riders Union is similarly displeased with the county's priorities. After much prompting, they even got the feds to tell the L.A. Metropolitan
Transit Transportation Authority…
… to look into the apparent civil-rights disaster that is Metro's favoritism of subways over bus lines.
But a stern letter from the Federal Transit Administration will do little, for now, to curb rail mania in L.A., as young business professionals marvel at the New Yorky possibilities and pols pump their chests like Green Gods, declaring themselves the leaders of this new sustainable world within car capital USA.
It's hard to keep track of all Metro's latest subway openings/approvals. But here's our best attempt at a roundup:
• The Expo Line from downtown L.A. to Culver City opens today at noon. Free rides all weekend! Cost to taxpayers: $930 million.
• By 2016, the Expo Line will run all the way to Santa Monica. Cost to taxpayers: $1.5 billion.
• By 2015, the Gold Line will run all the way to Azusa. (It currently ends in Pasadena.) Cost to taxpayers: $1.4 billion.
• Metro decided yesterday to construct a complex, two-mile regional connector joining the the Gold Line, Expo Line and Blue Line beneath Little Tokyo. Riders will be able to stay on the same train all the way from Montclair to Long Beach, or from East L.A. to Santa Monica. The connector will open in 2018. Cost to taxpayers: $1.37 billion.
• Metro also decided yesterday to build out the Purple Line one more stop westward to mid-Wilshire, phase one of the mayor's highly political “Subway to the Sea.” (However, they still have to battle Beverly Hills a while longer on the next two stops, as those stops would require the train to run beneath precious Beverly Hills High.) Cost to taxpayers: $5.6 billion.
Let us know if we missed any.
To appease the bus folks, Metro's also throwing in an $185 million extension of the Orange Line bus from Canoga Park to Chatsworth. (See how much cheaper buses are than trains?)
Anyway, onto the raving gadfly in the Obama mask, because that's an opening-day spectacle we'd way rather see than any old cannon firework. Walsh says in an email titled “OBAMA LOOKALIKE CRASHES EXPO LINE'S VIP MAIDEN VOYAGE” (oh hell yes) that a mysterious “demonstrator” plans to dress up as Obama and carry a sign with the words “OBAMA SAYS MTA IS RACIST!”
Walsh is also concerned, to put it mildly, that Metro is rushing ahead with all these shmancy new subway projects while the city can't even pay for the ones it's already got.
A Los Angeles Times story last week reported that Metro has racked up over $1 billion in deferred maintenance costs.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has an equally flaky track record of promising big rail majesty built on funds from some fantasy piggy bank. Desperate to secure the federal loans he would need to build the Subway to the Sea in under three decades (before he, you know, croaks), Villaraigosa has proposed a hilarious “forever” tax that would shake down L.A. County taxpayers of the future to secure his political legacy ASAP.
Which is all to say — welcome to L.A., Expo Line! Try not to hit quite as many cars as you did during your test runs, and do beware the man in the Obama mask. 'Cause he's got a point.