Lit Rail

Photo courtesy of The Figurehead

In 2008, I wrote the self-indulgent post below, the re-telling of an anxiety driven dream. At the time, I was skeptical of the fabled “Subway to the Sea,” I thought it would never be finished. There was much resistance to the trains/subways crossing certain areas of the Westside. Wealthy residents complained of noise and traffic issues, all the usual NIMBY stuff. Many of us felt like the resistance was really rooted in not wanting the train to deliver teeming masses of urban folks into their neighborhoods. Funny, how much has changed since 2008. For one, the teeming brown masses of the city are increasingly being pushed to the margins of the County, and out of the urban core. Most of the neighborhoods currently being gentrified are neighborhoods along the new train lines.

A couple of years ago, I went to a house flipping workshop, out of curiosity and to chuck tomatoes and rotten eggs at the pompous house flippers (not really, sadly, I behaved). The house flipper or rehab investor or whatever professional euphemism is in use, explained how he looks for homes that run along the Gold Line. His target homebuyers were hipsters wanting to live near train lines, not so much for transit purposes but because it gives them identity. He said, they want to know they can “drink in Downtown bars and catch the train home.” Doubt they are using public transit, most likely it’s uber or lyft. The only drunk people using public transit are the same drunk people that have been using it. This is not Berlin. Our current transit system was developed to help move people, workers, across the city but those workers are being displaced from their neighborhoods, and replaced by casual transit riders. Metro ridership is down.

8 years later and you can now take a train, the Expo Line, to Santa Monica from Boyle Heights (you have to switch trains, but still). The Purple Line, the O.G. “Subway to the Sea” won’t make the coast until, maybe, 2035. Guess we can’t complain that the Expo Line takes about an hour for the crosstown trip, at least it’s not a hologram.
I’ll be back in 8 more years with the next part of this story.

From 2008:
It was sometime in the future, I had recently returned to Los Angeles after a long absence. I was pleased to discover not only had the Gold Line been finished but I was told the subway to the sea was also completed. I entered the Gold Line station at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights hoping to get to the ocean. Around me the station teemed with thousands of Brown folks. I followed the masses down escalators, assuming they were headed to the platform where I could catch the train to the beach. The escalators kept going down, down, down and then I ended up wandering through a complicated Escher-esque maze of escalators and tunnels. Finally I could see this intense bright, light coming from the floor I was heading to. As the view became clearer, I see the ocean, so brilliant blue, the sand, the palm trees swaying and I can feel the ocean breeze. At a railing, Latino families stand admiring the vista and smiling. As I get closer, I make a shocking discovery. It’s not the ocean at all but a giant hologram, an extremely realistic simulation of the beach. No one around me seems to notice and I feel like that character in the Twilight Zone episode where a woman is yelling to the humans boarding a spaceship to another planet that the alien book titled “To Serve Man” is a cookbook not a manual for the betterment of humankind. I feel incredibly disappointed and let down. Worse yet, I look over and notice in between the teeming tunnels and escalators are stands for every fast food chain and long lines of people waiting to order.
Keep dreaming Los Angeles.