Railway might not be solution to SoFi’s accessibility issues

Bus final
The Metro bus system offers a way for Los Angeles commuters to navigate the vast metropolis without a car. (Jackie Walsh / Medill Reports)

By Jackie Walsh
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — There is a state-of-the-art stadium in Inglewood and another new arena on the way, but the means of getting to them lags behind the times.

During the four years of construction required to build SoFi Stadium, home to two NFL teams and the site of Super Bowl LVI, the lack of efficient transit options between Inglewood and the rest of LA County was not fully realized. 

It wasn’t until a year after the stadium opened that the idea of projects to further develop public transit to make traveling to Inglewood more feasible were proposed. According to the LA Times, Inglewood secured $350 million for a project to build upon the existing rail system, adding three new stations. 

Funding transportation that gives citizens an alternative to traveling to SoFi by car has many benefits, including reducing traffic congestion in the developing community. Yet, critics of the costly project say the wrong form of public transit is being used. 

James Moore, director of the transportation engineering program at the University of Southern California, said the push for railway developments instead of busways is misguided and not based on the interest of passengers. 

“If you really wanted to make transit an attractive alternative to the stadium, the only way to do that is the bus system,” Moore said. “This is something that can be done.”

According to Moore, the only obstacle is legislators who prioritize railways over buses, regardless of practicality. 

“There are a lot of political acrobatics in place to justify building rail lines as if it was somehow a systematic, justified thing to do, but it is not,” Moore said. “All resource decisions are fundamentally political. That leads to a lot of capital intensive projects, like rail lines.” 

Buses are the only investment that have the most profound translation to usability, according to Moore, because they are cheaper to build, provide the benefits of rail and are more flexible for users. 

Yet, Moore said the focus on the rail system has made the bus system’s only role in transportation to SoFi to fill the gaps of the current rail lines before the train system can drop off fans right in front of the stadium. 

Streets for All founder Michael Schneider advocates for adjusting transportation in Los Angeles so streets serve bike, bus and pedestrian lanes, not just cars. The Southern California organization founded in 2019 is dedicated to redesigning the transportation landscape in Los Angeles to include streets with protected bike lanes and exclusive right-of-way bus lanes. 

According to Schneider, slow implementation of the LA City Council’s 2015 mobility plan that includes adding 200 miles of bus lanes has limited the quality of services buses can provide. He said he feels that given that buses do not have their own lane and are subject to traffic, rail is the only attractive enough option to deter people from driving to SoFi.

“While rail should have been incorporated into this project from the get-go, if we can’t get dedicated 24/7 bus lanes to and from SoFi, adding rail now is still a good idea,” Schneider said.

Los Angeles resident Donald Reese said the frustrations of using the public transportation system and the resulting traffic have left him mainly traveling the city by bike. 

LA resident Donald Reese relies on his bike to get around the city. (Jackie Walsh / Medill Reports)

When Reese thinks of taking the 5-mile trip from Crenshaw to SoFi Stadium in the future, he said it won’t be using the railway. 

“They can build all the rails they want, but there is always going to be traffic,” Reese said. “It might be utilized, but people aren’t giving up their cars for it.”

Jackie Walsh is a sports media graduate student at Medill.

Editor’s note, Feb. 17, 2022, 9:15 p.m.: A quote from Michael Schneider about the rail being a good idea was updated with a new quote from a follow-up interview.