Yesterday I had the honor of riding the Gold Line Eastside Extension, a segment of light rail which connects Downtown LA to Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, and East LA. I got off at the last stop (Atlantic) and walked west two stops to Maravilla station (which the recorded voice mispronounces, in Spanish "a" always sounds like "ahh"). It's a landscape of strip malls and small-lot single family houses, which are said to have a relatively high population density because of high household sizes. The East LA Civic Center was interesting. It had a very nice park.
Farther west, I got out at Mariachi Plaza, one of the two underground stations. There was a street festival bustling with people. A person from the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) talked about plans to redevelop some unused parcels along the line as dense, mixed-use residential-over-retail projects.
But those are just details. This project is important because it makes people excited about public transit and brings outsiders into the neighborhood. The limited stop, high capacity, cleaner electric propulsion, pay-before-you-get-on, good schedule model of light rail means that we have something superior to a bus here.
There will be a lot said about this as we get to know the extension better. For now, I'll leave you with the image of a boy who was sitting behind me on the train. As we dipped down into the tunnel his voice rose in excitement: "That's so cool!"
I couldn't agree more.