Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Free Metro Orange Line rides on opening weekend

The Metro Orange Line is set to begin carrying passengers on Oct. 29 -- that's a Saturday, folks -- and will be giving free rides that weekend. Here's the latest press release:

Official Opening Date for Metro Orange Line set for Oct. 29

  • Free public rides, community festivities planned for opening day weekend

Heralding a new era in transit service for the San Fernando Valley, Metro plans to officially open the Metro Orange Line Saturday, Oct. 29 to free public rides and festive community celebrations.

The new 14-mile transitway will start across the street from the terminus of the Metro Red Line subway in North Hollywood and pass through the communities of Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Encino, and Tarzana to Warner Center in Woodland Hills, offering Valley commuters a time and money-saving commuting alternative to the 101 Freeway.

“The opening of the Metro Orange Line represents a milestone for the citizens of the San Fernando Valley, who have waited decades for an innovative transportation solution to help relieve some of the most congested freeway corridors in the country,” said Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and Chairman of the Metro Board of Directors. “With gasoline prices spiking to $3 and more per gallon, the Orange Line will arrive just in time to help Valley commuters save money and commute time. I urge all Angelenos to join me in riding the Metro Orange Line and the entire Metro Bus and Rail System whenever possible.”

The public will get their first opportunity to ride the new line for free Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 29-30, where opening weekend service will be frequent.

“I and many San Fernando Valley citizens have dedicated the better part of the last seven years to bringing this transit project to a successful conclusion,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor. “This is an L.A. solution to an L.A. traffic problem. When the Orange Line succeeds — as I know it will — it will serve as a region-wide model that offers commuters a quick, reliable, flexible and inexpensive alternative to gridlock.”

On Saturday, community celebrations are planned between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at several stations along the route including the North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Balboa, Pierce College, and Warner Center stations. No community events are scheduled on Sunday.

The opening of the transitway will mark the debut of the 60-foot Metro Liner, a custom-built, articulated bus that can seat up to 57 passengers. These advanced, aerodynamically designed vehicles provide quick and easy boarding, a roomy interior, full accessibility and automated station announcement system.

“The Metro Orange Line will bring quicker, more efficient bus service to Valley commuters and easier access to the expansive, countywide Metro Bus and Rail system," said Roger Snoble, CEO of Metro. “We encourage everyone to jump on-board and experience the Valley’s new shortcut for themselves.”

The Orange Line, the first of its kind transitway project in Southern California, began construction in January 2003 and incorporates a host of innovative construction and design features, from advanced traffic light signal priority system to artistically designed transit stations, park & ride lots with more than 3,000 parking spaces, bicycle and pedestrian paths and California native landscaping.

Ridership on the line is expected to reach an average of 22,000 boardings per day by 2020, providing access to business and education centers, arts and theater venues, neighborhoods, entertainment, attractions and the natural environment.

Following free rides opening weekend, Metro Orange Line fares will be $1.25 for one-way trips, or $3 for a Metro Day Pass that allows unlimited local access on both the Metro Bus and Rail System from the time of purchase until 3 a.m the next day. Weekly and monthly transit passes are $14 and $52, respectively. One-way and day pass fares can be purchased at station ticket vending machines. Monthly passes can be purchased on Metro’s web site at www.metro.net and at various retail outlets.

For more information on the Metro Orange Line, visit www.metro.net/orangeline.

if they'd only RELEASE A SCHEDULE so I know how long the trip is going to take from Van Nuys to Woodland Hills. And I need to get myself a scooter, skateboard, roller skates or some other wheeled mode of transport to get me from home to the bus stop and from the final stop to work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Orange Line Busway opens Oct. 29

We got a brochure in the mail from the MTA announcing the day. The Orange Line travel times aren't in yet -- they're probably still figuring it out with the test runs (I've seen a total of one bus so far). But the Daily News today, in a Lisa Mascaro story warning motorists about the weight of an MTA bus, should it hit your car head-on, had the following at the end of the story :

The 14-mile busway, between North Hollywood and Warner Center, is expected to carry travelers across the Valley in about 40 minutes.

During its busiest times, as many as two dozen 60-foot buses will be running along the busway.

Forty minutes from North Hollywood to Warner Center. Not bad, especially considering the buses still have to deal with picking up passengers and stopping for traffic signals. If it can get me a 20-minute commute from Van Nuys to Warner Center, I will be very, very happy. If it's 30 minutes, I will be less happy. Longer than that, and I will be unhappy.

A graphic in a less-recent Daily News said that there will be bike racks INSIDE the bus. Sounds better to me than the current MTA buses, which have bike racks on the front. The pressure of strapping the bike in and then running to the front of the bus to take it off at the end of the trip is too much for me to handle. But there will be only three racks per bus, and really, how much space do you expect a bus to have for bikes? I'm thinking skateboard or scooter to complete my regression into total teenagehood.

They came, they dug big holes, they left

The sewer work in my Van Nuys neighborhood made its way to our street yesterday. Giant holes were dug with enormous backhoes (the 2-year-old loved it -- "big trucks!" ) ostensibly to install pipes that were broken during the Northridge Earthquake. Oh well, what's 11 years of leaky sewers between friends?

I really am excited that they're doing in at all. And hopefully our street, which resembles a rock-strewn dirt road more than anything, will be repaved as a result.

Generic backhoe photo, but it looked surprisingly like this, right down to the clouds.

I had to drive around a guy who was in a hole up to his neck at 6:30 p.m., and the crew worked overtime, until about 7 o'clock, refilling the holes (they broke a water pipe sometime during the day), and this morning at 7:30 a.m. or so there was a giant water truck with a guy hosing down the mud. On a street that doesnt drain at all due to being in almost total disrepair, it just made muddy puddles. Whatever. It just means we're that much closer to new pavement and hopefully some Starbucks-busting speed humps. Now if they put in real curbs, that would be special. Ours is one of those streets that just slopes up to the lawns -- no curbs and no sidewalks, the latter for which I'd gladly give up some lawn to the city because I LOVE sidewalks. Great for kids, dogs and regular people, too. It would give the coffee-seekers something to walk on while they made their way toward Starbucks.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The power went out today

Somebody at the DWP connected the wrong cables together, according to reports, knocking out power to large parts of Los Angeles, including much of the San Fernando Valley. Out for about 2 hours. Just a flicker at the Daily News office in Woodland Hills, but it did hit Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, downtown and a whole bunch of other places.

But let's all remember what's important. I'll have to reprogram the VCR to record the "Big Brother 6" finale. One more episode. It's always a relief for "Big Brother" to be over. You start out a summer, there's nothing to watch, and you get hooked on something that, while not bad, could be a whole lot better. And by now you just want it all to end.

Back to the outage. Only a couple of hours. Not enough, I hope, to kill the Double Rainbow Cherry Chip soy ice cream. And we've got a new sprinkler controller that has a 2-year lithium battery. So just a couple of clocks and two VCRs to reprogram.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The state of Jazz in L.A.

Lynell George's big piece on live jazz in L.A., Off the radar but still flying: L.A.'s jazz scene is as sprawling -- and as tenacious -- as the region itself has been quite the subject of conversation lately, both in the office here at the L.A. Daily News and in the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.makers.guitar.jazz.

I planned to respond on the newsgroup but stopped to think about it. There is more light in the darkened tunnel of the L.A. Times piece than I initially detected. And I just don't know what a working musician "deserves" as far as "respect" and a livelihood goes. It's one of the things that kept me from pursuing a career in music (not having talent pouring out of every orific was the other). Anyhow, here's some of what I wrote and never posted (but, as you can read, I am doing so now:

This is a tough one for me. I am familiar with the article, and I think it's overwhelmingly more than a little negative, with no not enough mention of the fact that live jazz is struggling all over the country and that L.A. isn't an anomaly when it comes to a less-than-ideal jazz scene.

When you read the Lynell George piece, I wish you could read the companion article by the great Don Heckman (he's the jazz critic for the Times), which for some reason is not on the L.A. Times Web site anymore. It talks about L.A.'s place in jazz history, from Jelly Roll Morton through the Central Avenue scene and the West Coast sound. He doesn't even mention Ornette, Bird's time in L.A. or the explosion in fusion (much of it birthed at the Baked Potato club in Studio City) and all the smooth jazz that happens here (and which gets a lot of attention in terms of airplay and sales, whether you like it or not). Even without all that, Heckman does mentions the many and varied kinds of music that do happen in L.A., especially Latin jazz, which is very big and well-attended here, and the growing avant-garde jazz movement (Vinny Golia, Nels Cline, etc.), plus a host of ethnic improvised music (Persian, Celtic) as well as folk and bluegrass (not mentioning the jam band phenomenon, which is big here, too) that are all part of the greater music scene, which has a potential to grow and morph into something new and exciting.

And there are performers who are making their mark, none of whom are mentioned in the Lynell George story. What about John Pisano, whose Guitar Night has survived multiple venues to become an L.A. institution? And L.A. is just teeming with great players who work a lot, both live and on records.

And there's a growing free-music scene (as in free of charge, not of Western harmony) in L.A. From the major museums to downtown office areas, festivals, the Grove shopping area and more, there are always jazz events that expose people to this great music at no charge.

Bottom line, people like John Pisano who constantly promote what they are doing and work hard at it will be heard. Just as Jimmy Bruno has a pot cooking on every fire (yes, he's in Philly, not L.A., but he's the best example of a guy who really knows what it takes), those who know how to hustle will rise to the top -- the same in L.A. as anywhere else.

Could we use a bunch of clubs in one easily accessible area? Yes. Could we use more coffeehouse venues that welcome jazz music? Also yes. Do we need more players who work to build a following through regular gigs? Yes.

In the Times story, the top three clubs, in terms of prestige and ability to attract national acts -- the Jazz Bakery, Vibrato and Catalina's -- are featured. Catalina's is in Hollywood, but Vibrato is up on Mulholland Drive in the hills between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, and the Bakery is in Culver City -- neither of the latter two exactly centrally located. And two of the three (Catalina's and Vibrato) are pretty darn expensive, what with covers and high food and drink prices.

At the smaller clubs, it's hard to know what will make a scene happen. I tend to think that a lot of regular performers who are there either weekly or monthly, peppered with higher-profile acts who drop in occasionally. But I don't run a club and really can't say for sure what works.

I work at a newspaper (the L.A. Daily News, smaller and more suburban than the Times) and I can tell you that the clubs are NOT doing their job when it comes to publicity. There are some good independent publicity people, along with some performers who really know how to put themselves out there, but most clubs have no idea how to get themselves written about in newspapers and magazines.

And music journalism in general, not just jazz, is in a pretty sorry state these days. In most print and broadcast media, music takes a very-far-back back seat to movies and TV. And things like "American Idol" and whatever the latest rap innovation happens to be are making all the noise.

The whole situation is tough, and there are no easy answers.

A lot of people are moaning about how jazz in L.A. is not as big or important as N.Y. What can you do? L.A. will never be N.Y. But it is possible to have a scene, or many different scenes here, and there are players that are working a lot -- not necessarily making a ton of money in the clubs, but working quite a bit just the same. It's not like playing jazz clubs was lucrative in the '70s and now not so much. And I hear the New York players all the time saying how getting a paying gig in that city is next to impossible.