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LB Post Articles Highlight “Urban Revival” Aspirations

July 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Urban revival. The term is thrown around about as frequently, and with as much weight, as the term “fusion” is in the culinary world. Both phrases seek to say something very simple in a fanciful way. Essentially, urban revival refers to the recent movement to re-make our cities more pedestrian friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and environmentally sound.
A couple of news articles in the July print edition of Long Beach Post provide an interesting perspective on how this concept is applied in Long Beach.

In her article “The 10 Worst Decisions in Long Beach History”, writer Allison Jean Eaton provides a voice rarely heard in Los Angeles County- one that looks to the mistakes of the past to learn how the future can be made that much better. She is willing to look lovingly at her city and admit that we’ve messed a few things up.

I was surprised to see problems caused by The Queen Mary on her list. When I moved here, I thought of it like I do the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The Arch is a historical monument to Westward expansion and the exploits of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea. For many, the view of the Queen Mary evokes the same sense of history and desire that the Arch does. Maybe The City of Long Beach just needs to rethink the use of space, much like St. Louis is doing with the Gateway Arch.

Also appearing in the July edition is an article called “The Future of the Long Beach Civic Center” by Brian Ulaszewski. In it, he highlights the problems with the current center, and the possibility of a new use of space to bring about the activity it was meant to bring to downtown.

I recommend picking up a copy of the paper or visiting them online. Resources like the Long Beach Post are invaluable.

The Articles from LBPost.com:
The 10 Worst Decisions in Long Beach History
The Future of the Long Beach Civic Center

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Categories: tourism, Uncategorized

The Pike’s Not Dead!

June 13, 2011 4 comments

This past weekend, I finally had the chance to ride the Ferris Wheel at the Pike downtown. I had been to The Pike several times before, and each time I went seemed more dead than the last. It always amazed me how many empty storefronts there were and how few people were out on a given night. The closure of Borders seemed like it would be a huge blow to the area, and I was worried I was witnessing The Pike’s death as a possible casualty of the economy. But this weekend was different- I was surprised and excited to see so many people out enjoying a beautiful Long Beach weekend downtown.

As many already know, The Pike of today is much different from the original one. Opening in 1902, and shuttering in 1979, it hosted several roller coaster and amusement rides, the original Loof’s, now on Long Beach Blvd., and even a bath house. The newer, modern version seeks to pay homage to the past by incorporating a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and pedestrian overpass that looks like a roller coaster. The fountain outside of The Laugh Factory on the corner of Pine Ave. and Shoreline tells the stories of some of the Pike’s former main attractions.

The views of Long Beach and the Port are definitely worth the $3 ferris wheel ride. For those coming down for a movie or dinner, there’s plenty more to do before or after. A One Dollar Book Store has even moved into the old Borders location. At the very least, The Pike and nearby Pine Avenue Pier are excellent for a relaxing walk.

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LB Passport v. STL Downtown Trolley

November 14, 2010 2 comments

Metro St. Louis' Downtown Trolley. Photo: nextstopstl.org

Before I moved to Long Beach, I did a little research on the public transit in the area. Having previously heard how bike and pedestrian friendly the city was, I was eager to see the extent of the bus system. In St. Louis, I used the bus and Metrolink when I lived in South City to get to school, the Galleria, the comic shop, sporting events downtown, and the bars and shops on South Grand. I had a Metro Student Pass and used public transit whenever I could. When I moved back to South St. Louis County, taking the bus was more difficult because my neighborhood was only served by two routes. It became even more difficult when the bus routes were cut back in 2008 (thankfully, they were later restored with the help of federal funds). However, despite having good ridership numbers, public transit in St. Louis maintained somewhat of a negative reputation. I heard all the usual complaints: it’s inconvenient, doesn’t go where I want to go, seems unsafe, etc.

Earlier this year, Metro St. Louis created a somewhat gimmicky way of getting people to change their ideas about transit: The Downtown Trolley. This bus route runs in a constant loop through downtown St. Louis, taking riders to major points of interest in the area for just a $2 all-day fare.  While it isn’t an actual trolley, the bus wears a fun, painted wrapper, the idea seems to work. I took it myself once over the summer while researching for some bar reviews. At first, the idea of the trolley seemed gimmicky and wasteful to many, but much excitement was eventually generated, and the idea took off. Metro used to operate a “Downtown Circulator” route, but it generated little excitement, and it seems few actually knew about it. Does the success of the new trolley mean it’s gimmick is what made it work?

Fortunately, Long Beach Transit has something similar in downtown LBC. The Passport is a similar idea to Metro St. Louis’ Downtown Trolley- it takes riders to major points of interest and attractions in the area and provides a great way for visitors to see the city. The Passport however, consists of not one, but four bus lines, and is free at all times when ridden downtown (regular fare is required East of Alamitos Blvd.).

LB Transit's Passport. Photo: flickr.com/photos/fredcamino/

The positive impact of riding the Passport is immediately apparent. I have ridden it on several occasions to go to the Queen Mary, the Convention Center, and Shoreline Village.

The idea of a bus route focused on local attractions and tourism is not a new one, but any transit system will benefit from it. Long Beach Transit has created a successful formula in branding the Passport as a separate system integrated into the larger LBT system: Passport buses have noticeable red wrappers, routes marked with letters instead of numbers, and it’s own name (“let’s take the Passport!” sounds different from “let’s take the bus!”).

So maybe the gimmick is worth it. Both the Passport and the Downtown Trolley have a wrapper that separates them form other buses, clearly defined routes mapped at each stop, and are often marketed to tourists. What do you think? Have you ridden either bus? What can the two transit agencies learn from one another? Is their success exaggerated?

Sources: lbtransit.org, metrostlouis.org, nexstopstl.org