Sun, Jun

Best Advice for MetroRail Planners: Dig Deeper, Reach Higher


TRANSPORTATION POLITICS - My last CityWatch article on the Crenshaw/LAX Line, and on the two contentious efforts to create community-supported stations at Leimert Park and at Hindry Ave.

in Westchester, ended with three main points on how to actually create a light rail with those two necessary stations: 

1) Massive upzoning to encourage densification and construction along this region of Crenshaw Blvd., and justify a $200-400 million subway through Park Mesa Heights (similar to the zoning and density along Wilshire Blvd.). 

2) We do NOT know whether the Crenshaw/LAX Line will reach the LAX Central Airline Terminals indirectly (via a LAX People Mover monorail at Century/Aviation) or directly (an underground subway tunnel and station west of Sepulveda Blvd. that would have no station at Century/Aviation). 

3) Stop focusing on race and ethnicity for this or any other MetroRail project, and start focusing on proper planning and cost-benefit analysis. 

So let's have more light, and less heat, on this issue of Leimert Park and the concept of Crenshaw Blvd. renovation--it's not about race, or historical ethnic ties, or anything like that.  But it is an issue that will define the transportation priorities of the next Mayor of Los Angeles, who will have four votes on the Metro Board of Directors. 

● It's about the many unresolved questions as to what we want the Crenshaw/LAX and MetroRail/LAX lines to be, and whether we want to Dig Deeper and Reach Higher (more subway and more expensive rail projects that are able to accommodate many more daily passengers). 

● It's about whether we want either: 

a) A nice light rail trolley that can transport up to 70,000 to 90,000 passengers a day, or 

b) A major conduit of rail travel, such as the Wilshire Subway, that can transport up to 200-300,000 passengers a day. 

● It's about whether Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Mid-City constituents who want (as I do) a Leimert Park station--it's got to be more than "this is a historically black and underserved community, and it's owed a station" because that cost is (again) $200-400 million if it's placed in a tunnel.  A ground-level station at Leimert Park, if possible and desired, would be a very small fraction of this price. 

(In contrast, the Hindry Ave. station in Westchester is $15-20 million, is ground-level, or "at-grade", and would serve not only "white" Westchester but also adjacent "black" Inglewood and fill in a current gap of over two miles on the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line without a station.) 

● It's about whether we really want to focus on the best MetroRail/LAX connection possible, and avoid a series of wyes (junctions forcing people to get off one train and onto another in order to get to their destination) and create a more simplified approach that unites the north-south Crenshaw/LAX and South Bay portion of the Green Line into a singular light rail line. 

(The underground approach below LAX is consistent with an underground Park Mesa Heights Tunnel, and creates a single, massive Crenshaw/LAX/Green Line rail project that is more akin to the future Wilshire Subway than it is the recent and expanding Expo Light Rail Line.) 

● It's about more County/City of Los Angeles cooperation and a recommendation by Metro for the City of Los Angeles to stop massive Expo Line-adjacent development (such as the Casden/Sepulveda Project) that is better suited for a project adjacent to the future Wilshire Subway, and a recommendation by Metro to instead start massive development and redevelopment along Crenshaw Blvd. to make it a north-south version of Wilshire Blvd. 

● It's about viewing the Crenshaw/LAX Line as a project that WILL, someday, connect to the future Wilshire Subway, and perhaps even the Red Line Subway, and connect to LAX in a manner that would necessitate grade separation at Park Mesa Heights to carry hundreds of thousands of riders a day. 

● It's about really studying the funding and effort for an underground LAX subway station, which would require either a very small People Mover to carry passengers and workers to the individual Central Airline Terminals--or just a series of escalators and moving walkways--in contrast to a FAA-required rail trench east of LAX that might cost up to $300 million, as well as a MUCH longer People Mover from Crenshaw/Aviation costing up to $1 billion. 

● It's about creating a rail project that is more compatible with future rail extensions to the Westside and South Bay than the current Crenshaw/LAX Rail Project, which is helpful to the Mid-City almost to the exclusion of the Westside and South Bay. 

● It's about recognizing we don't really know ANYTHING about where the Crenshaw/LAX Project should extend south of the proposed Hindry Station and nearby rail yard, and therefore limiting this project to a rail spur ("Phase 1") that includes a Leimert Park and Hindry Station.  Yes, that means a quick supplemental EIR, but it also means that we might have a better handle on the bidding process for this line...which currently has no resolution. 

● It's about combining forces with the City of Los Angeles, Metro, the South Bay and Southeast L.A. County Cities, and the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys into planning a "Son of Measure J" for the voters to extend the Measure R sales tax (no new sales tax, as with Measure J) and expedite a more defined, less nebulous series of rail projects: 

1) A north-south rail line that is almost entirely grade-separated and subway-enhanced from the South Bay to LAX to the Crenshaw Corridor and which has a northern terminus at the Wilshire Subway (Purple Line)...with the potential to some day extend north to the Red Line. 

2) A north-south Rail Line that is almost entirely grade-separated and subway-enhanced from the San Fernando Valley Metrolink system to the Expo Line in the Westside...with the potential to someday extend south to LAX. 

3) A long-overdue approval to fund the extension the Foothill Gold Line to Ontario Airport. 

4) An expedited South Bay Green Line extension to Torrance, 

5) A light rail line connecting the Southeast L.A. County Cities to MetroRail, 

● It's about fulfilling the promise of building a 21st Century MetroRail system to serve the needs of LA City and County residents. 

And, ultimately, it's about Digging Deeper and Reaching Higher for what should be a cost-effective, economy-building, mobility-enhancing and environmentally-friendly approach to urban planning and revitalization for all portions of Los Angeles City and County.

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]  He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 



Tags: Ken Alpern, Transportation Politics, Crenshaw/LAX, Park Mesa Heights, Leimert Park, Hendry Ave, Westchester












Vol 11 Issue 39

Pub: May 14, 2013



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