MTA Gold Line 1, Best Laid Plans 0

Well it looked good on paper. It worked, in theory. But actualizing a weekly evening bike ride utilizing the MTA to get us to Pasadena for a cruise back downtown? That’s a rail line of a different color.

It started out well enough with the seven of us getting a timely jump for the three miles from our start point south of the Arts District up to the Chinatown Gold Line station, where we arrived in time to get tickets and up the stairs to the platform with a couple minutes to spare before the arrival of the 8:34 p.m. train

Then it all went dreadfully wrong. The train arrived — and on time, too — but it was only two cars in length and filled pretty much to capacity. Certainly it had room for seven more passengers, but not seven passengers with bikes.

So we opted not to board and instead waited out the 18-minute interval until the next scheduled train. But lo, what yonder doth I see, but a three-car Gold Liner coming towards us out of the darkness only a scant few minutes after the 8:34 train left the station? Alas, “Out Of Service” is emblazoned on its marquee and it screeches on by us. When the 8:54 arrives it’s the same story of two cars, these with even more people than the first. Common sense prevailed and we opted not to board and thus abandoned hope of getting to, and riding home from, Pasadena. And sure enough shortly after that train departed, another three-car “Out Of Service” train scooted by as if mocking me.

I was bummed to say the least. Then I was angry. Where’s the freakin’ logic in cramming passengers into two compartment while the empty triple trains are left to haunt the rails like ghosts of what might have been?

We still enjoyed a decent ride up along the little-used ped/bike passage between the north and southbound 110 Freeway…


…before coming back through Chinatown to Little Tokyo for sushi and such at Joy Mart. But when I got home I was still pissed enough to put aside my need for sleep and write the MTA a letter:

Let me preface this by saying that given my past attempts to communicate with the MTA’s customer service I wholly expect this complaint either to be ignored or its point to be missed entirely, or at best, barely grazed.

But be that as it may I am nevertheless compelled to express my extreme disappointment this evening when myself and a group of six other cyclists I was traveling with attempted to access first the 8:34 p.m. northbound GoldLine train at the Chinatown stop and then again the 8:52 p.m. train. Both consisted of only two cars that were filled to capacity, leaving us stranded at the station.

The painful irony is that following closely behind both the 8:34 and 8:52 trains were out-of-service trains each consisting of three cars.

Had either the 8:34 or the 8:52 train had a third car attached the odds are that my friends and I would have been able to get to Memorial Park station as planned. Instead, after being unable to board the 8:52 p.m. train we just gave up and ate the cost of seven tickets, sadly deciding instead just to abort our plans to visit Pasadena and just stay downtown.

I’m not sure what ridership-to-car formula is used to decide how large a train is for any particular run but that formula failed seven of your riders this time. Twice.

If you’re going to suggest that we should have left the bikes in Chinatown and used the Gold Line without them, please don’t. As a group of recreational cyclists who enjoy weekly rides around the greater Los Angeles area, our plan was to use the Gold Line (most of us for the first time) to get up to Pasadena and then bike back to downtown L.A. and we shouldn’t have to modify it to fit the MTA’s failure to provide a train large enough to acccommodate us.

Strangely I immediately began contemplating next week’s ride involving the Red Line to Universal City — but this time it could really work. Really!

Pix from tonight’s spin can be viewed here in this Flickr photoset.