Since July 14, 1990, the Militant has attended every single one of the (M) Rail line openings, and Sunday was no exception. And he especially wanted to be there for his Militant readers, as this was the first (M) Rail opening since this here blog began.
It's been reported that around 75,000 people took advantage of the free rides of the 6-mile Gold Line Eastside extension opening, which is about the same amount of people that ride the 22-mike (M) Blue Line on a typical weekday!
The Militant has definitely been to the Eastside - and East Los Angeles proper - before. But for many Southern Californians, a good number who've long held the notion that East Los was some putrid 3rd world ghetto of sorts, this was a discovery, an awakening. A curious one, since the Militant overheard many families on Sunday talk about how eager they were to not only ride the line, but to go to a part of So Cal they usually don't go to. And if it was good enough for Metro to invest $800+ million to go to, they might as well check it out.
Of course though, by the time the autumnal dusk set at the 5 o'clock hour, the lengthy, nearly-hour-long lines at both ends had shrunken down to "just a bunch of people waiting on the platform," maybe those preconceived notions had not changed just yet. Tiny steps...
The short lines were perfect for the Militant though, as they gave him an opportunity to see the two light rail subway stations at Mariachi Plaza and at Soto - the first since 7th Street/Metro Center opened to Blue Line riders in February, 1991, and also the first deep-bore subway stations in Los Angeles not directly linked to the Red Line tunnel system.
Both stations resembled mini-Red Line stations - the same plaza-mezzanine-platform design, but with a lighter infrastructure (shorter platforms and no TransitVue video screens -yet). The Militant also noticed that the track floor is flat and not sunken-in like that of the Red/Purple lines - which means that if you fall in the tracks, you either have to GTFO or you'll die, as they lack the crawlspace clearance of the heavy rail trains that allows one to get run over by a train and still survive.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said that the Gold Line was and "inadequate" transit system. She needs to STFU, especially as an obvious non-transit rider. The Soto and Mariachi Plaza stations aren't just the nicest stations on the Eastsdie extension, but they're some of the nicest (M) stations in the entire system. Soto's blue glow motif is a wonderful addition to the 1st/Soto intersection and the palace-like Mariachi Plaza station (hands down the fun-nest transit station name in human history) makes an already-cherished community public space even more vibrant. It's like the Leimert Park of the Eastside.
It's only six miles, but this relatively short stretch of light rail infrastructure is perhaps the most meaningful segment of the (M) Rail system to date. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne summed it up best in his recent Eastside Extension review:
...as trains trace new paths across the city, some of the divisions that for generations have made Los Angeles a balkanized collection of neighborhoods may begin to wobble or fall away.
That's not to say that some homogenization of L.A.'s various parts is on its way or should be our goal. Quite the opposite: New transit lines tend to throw the vibrant differences among neighborhoods into high relief.
(Bless that Hawthorne guy...he's not a stuck-up elitist prick like his predecessor, Nicholas Ouroussoff was. The Militant sooo wanted to slap that sucka upside the head many times).
There are some in the Eastside who fear that despite the increased accessibility for its denizens, that the Gold Line will bring on hipsterification and all that. It may or may not happen, and some of it will happen, but ultimately, in the bigger picture, the Militant predicts they have nothing to fear. The community culture of the Eastside is strong, solid and well-defined. No one can take that away. Stop worrying about how the rest of the City will change the Eastside and start thinking about how the Eastside can influence the rest of the City.
Night and Day: Compare this picture, taken Sunday evening: