Monday, November 23, 2009

If the Blue Were Like the Green

South Los Angeles County's Rail Lines

I ran some numbers recently. It turns out that of all the rail lines in LA County with frequent service (hence, excluding Metrolink) the Green Line is the fastest. It covers its 20 mile distance in 34 minutes, which converts to 35 miles per hour. The line achieves this speed because it is completely separated from other traffic, mostly running down the middle of the 105 elevated highway. The Blue Line, by contrast, covers its 22 mile distance in 54 minutes for an average speed of 24 miles per hour.

So, what if the Blue Line ran as fast as the green line? In that case the blue line would cover its distance in 38 minutes, for a savings of 16 minutes end-to-end. Hence, a commuter who rode the blue line end-to-end, round trip every weekday, 50 weeks a year would save over 133 hours per year if it were as fast as the green line. If that commuter's time is worth, say $15 per hour, the money value of that lost time is $2,000 per year ($40 million per year for 20,000 such commuters).

According to a 2003 USA Today Article, the cost of going back and grade separating the Blue line would be about $1.6 billion ($1.88 billion in 2009 dollars, if you adjust using the consumer price index a popular measure of changes in price levels over time).

Worth it? Well, it would only take 47 years for those 20,000 commuters to save that much in time, and there would be no more at-grade deaths. I say it's a good project.

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