When I was in Los Angeles three weeks ago, I naturally rode the new Expo Line between Santa Monica and downtown a couple of times. I can confirm that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a hit on its hands. The trains were pretty full, and, while there is no way to prove this, it did seem as though the passengers included people from many different social backgrounds.
I can also confirm what some other observers have pointed out: The trains spend a huge amount of time waiting for red lights at street intersections, approximately six minutes over the course of one fifty-two-minute trip. It’s almost beyond belief that the second largest urban agglomeration of the Western world would have spent something like two and a half billion dollars to build a rail line that has to wait for cars, but that’s the way it is. The same problem occurs on the Blue Line to Long Beach, the Gold Line to East Los Angeles, and the Orange Line BRT in the San Fernando Valley. Every stereotype of where Los Angeles puts its priorities is confirmed by this pattern. Signal preemption is not exactly high-tech any longer, and, if that seems too complicated, crossing gates at every intersection would seem like a no-brainer to me.