So here is an interesting experiment.

I have a meeting in downtown Los Angeles, right off a subway stop at 7th street. So I thought I’d take the subway.

Why not; if I’m going to help pay the fourth billion dollar tax bill of the subway I may as well get some value out of it, right?

A few notes: first, it feels like any other subway I’ve taken in Europe or back east. Except for the turnstyles, which do not exist: the whole thing is run on the honor system. Well, there are cops, but they seem more interested in stopping me from taking pictures than they are in making sure I have a value day pass.

I take pictures anyway.

If I had taken my car to the office building at this time of day it would have taken me 20 minutes to get there. As it is it took me 10 minutes to get to the parking lot, another 10 minutes to park, and about a 10 minute wait for the subway car to run. I gave myself an hour. Let’s see how well this pans out.

A day pass is only $5, making this cost effective if I’m paying for parking. And so far the train seems to be running with efficiency: since my meeting ends at five my theory is that it may save time on the return trip, since downtown traffic is a nightmare at rush hour.

Later…

It took about 25 minutes, making me about five minutes late to my meeting. Not bad, not great.

Later…

Now the real test: leaving downtown Los Angeles. Right now trains are running every 10 minutes; if I can get back to my car in a timely fashion, then this will be–well, not a win, but at least a draw.

It’s clear to me that the real purpose of the subway is not transportation, though it serves that role. The real purpose is infill redevelopment in the Los Angeles area. I may just pop my head up at a couple of stops to see if I find what I did in Hollywood: massive development at each stop.

Huh. The train is late.

Addendum: I’m playing subway “wack-a-mole” and poking my head up every few subway stops to test my theory that the subway is about redevelopment. This may take a little longer, but it is more entertaining.

Later…

I think the LA subway is interesting. As a transportation method it is clearly a failure: for what we spent for it we could have improved the freeways a lot. But for incouraging infill development, it works very well.

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