Is 10 Freeway closure an opportunity to boost mass transit ridership?

Most are calling the mile-long closure of the 10 Freeway between Alameda Street and the East Los Angeles Interchange a nightmare, with names like “Carmegeddon 2” popping up on social media.

But on Monday, Nov. 13, the first work day since the Saturday fire damaged freeway columns and prompted the closure of all lanes in both directions, some see it as an opportunity to change traveling behavior and alleviate the bumper-to-bumper gridlock that normally occurs on the 10 Freeway into and out of downtown Los Angeles.

Transit agencies are adding service, while others are pointing out that the options for Southern Californians trying to connect with work places in downtown Los Angeles and on the Westside are more plentiful than during previous freeway closures. They include the closure of the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass for a weekend in July 2011 (i.e. Carmeggedon) for a new bridge and widening, to the collapse of the Santa Monica Freeway (10) due to the Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake.

“We have so many better options now than we did back then, in 1994,” said Lisa Levy Buch, spokesperson for the Metro Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, the agency building an extension of the Metro A Line from Azusa to Pomona, set to be completed the first week of January 2025.

A sign on the 10 Freeway urges motorists to use public transit instead of hopping onto the 10 Freeway into downtown. “Your best option is to travel by public transit,” said Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation on Monday.

LA Metro’s A Line has 44 stations and runs 48.5 miles from Azusa to Long Beach and is touted as an alternative to the 110 and 210 freeways, which may get more congested due to the closure of the 10.

Metro’s E (Expo) line, a 22-mile light-rail line, runs parallel to the 10 Freeway and has 29 stations between East Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The train line takes passengers from East L.A. to downtown, USC, Culver City, Santa Monica and back.

Eli Lipmen, executive director of the pro-transit nonprofit Move LA, rode the E Line from the La Brea area to the Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator east of DTLA on Monday, and saw the closed part of the 10 out the train’s windows. “We took transit. It was a great way to go,” he said.

Many took the Metrolink passenger rail’s San Bernardino Line, which takes Inland Empire riders through the San Gabriel Valley into downtown LA’s Union Station. On Monday, Metrolink added six extra trains — three in the morning and three in the afternoon and evening — connecting Union Station with its Covina Station and all stops in-between, the agency reported.

The temporary, roundtrip service between L.A. Union Station and the Covina Station schedules are as follows: Departing Union Station at 5:50 a.m., 8:08 a.m., 10:38 a.m., 1:38 p.m., 4:22 p.m. and 6:23 p.m. Departing Covina at 6:59 a.m., 9:11 a.m., 11:44 a.m., 3:11 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

Foothill Transit continued to run its express buses from City of Industry, San Dimas, Montclair, the Fairplex in Pomona and West Covina along the 10 Freeway ExpressLanes, which is also a busway. The busway was not affected by the closure, since the busway exits to the right onto Alameda Street away from the closure.

“We are using it now. There are no detours,” explained Felicia Friesema, spokesperson for Foothill Transit, on Monday.

The agency is monitoring if more carpoolers are crowding onto the ExpressLanes, which could slow down bus service, she said.

Joe Linton, editor of Streetsblog LA, was hoping the closure would cause politicians and policymakers to better promote mass transit. Less than 10% of all L.A. County travelers use mass transit, while the closed portion of the 10 Freeway sees 300,000 drivers a day.

“When we put all our eggs in one basket, we get bigger failures,” Linton said. “We should’ve been building alternatives and making them more frequent and more dependable. I’m curious to see what results come out of this.”

He said Metro should make E Line trains arrive more frequently. With less waiting time, more people would ride it. “We need to diversify our investments so one incident doesn’t take down a whole region.”

Lipmen suggested that Caltrans use empty land along the 10 for temporary park-and-ride lots and run buses into downtown. And Metro could give green-light priority to light rail that runs along streets. He’d also like to see Metro Micro, a van pickup program, be diverted to the closure area.

“This incident speaks to climate disasters and also, what if there is another earthquake? Having alternatives to the freeway will be more important,” Lipmen said.

Friesema suggested that while this closure continues commuters should ride one of Foothill Transit’s express buses. “If you are looking to avoid the stress of the commute, I’d recommend one of these,” she said, adding. “And bring a book.”


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