Getting Around LA Better Not Rocket Science … Let Me Explain

TRANSIT WATCH--For years, I've been among those who've been told that this or that project "will neeeeeever happen" and then it does happen.  Sometimes, it's a win:  the Expo Line, or a Metro Rail/LAX Connection. Sometimes, it's a loss: Measure S, and the hope that LA will embrace legally-, scientifically- and environmentally-coherent Planning policy. 

But then there's the issue of not repeating the mistake of throwing away a perfectly good rail right-of-way, owned by all taxpaying citizens, which could provide a cost-effective "Second Downtown Light Rail Connector" to link LAX to South and Southeast LA, the Blue Line, the Gold Line, and Union Station. 

The idea of relegating a rail right of way (the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way) between the Crenshaw and Blue Lines, or the Crenshaw Line and the LA River, to a walkway/bikeway instead of a full light rail line WITH a walk/bikeway makes as much sense as ... 

... when the Expo Line rail right of way was to be relegated to a walk/bikeway instead of the light rail line (with a walk/bikeway) like we now have.  That was a stupid idea which we avoided in 2001, when the Expo Light Rail Line was decided by the Metro Board, and this "Rail to Rail" idea pushed by the Metro Board now is just as stupid. 

And short-sighted. And insulting to the taxpayers and to commuters and to tourists ... and to just about anyone with common sense. 

Heck, I'll go out on a limb and guess that even the Metro planners got stuck with this "Rail to River" idea against their will.  Virtually all of the Metro planners/staff I've ever met are sincere, receptive, and visionary engineers and professionals who have made me PROUD to pay my sales taxes in L.A. County. 

There is a growing interest in having an urban renewal and redevelopment, coupled with a Metro station or in the Arts District and the industrialized portion of southeast Downtown. 

There is also a growing interest as to which route the proposed light rail line from southeast L.A. County to Downtown should take.  

There is also a growing interest as to ensuring that BOTH the proposed routes of the Eastside Gold Line (SR-60 freeway route, and Montebello/Whittier route) are built out. 

Put this all together, as well as the knowledge that the Blue Line is virtually at full capacity, and the Expo Line is racing to full capacity decades faster than planned ... 

... and the idea of a SECOND DOWNTOWN LIGHT RAIL CONNECTOR using the Harbor Subdivision to connect LAX to Inglewood, the Blue Line, the Southeast Cities Light Rail Line, the Arts District, the Gold Lines, and Union Station virtually writes itself. 

Yes, portions of that right-of-way need repair because the Alameda Freight Corridor ripped through it (and appropriately so, based on our priorities twenty years ago), but a bridge or two could fix that. 

And Yes, we need an accompanying walkway/bikeway just like we need an Expo Bikeway to accompany the Expo Light Rail Line. 

And YES, this will help create affordable housing for the middle class to access their jobs and revitalize an area of Los Angeles that has been ignored for too long. 

So let's throw out that Major Investment Study to do Rail to River/Rail the right way, and not make the same mistake that we almost made with the Expo Line. 

And while we're at it, could we throw out another Major Investment Study to extend the Green Line to Torrance and the Blue Line? 

Clearly, a rail system, as with a freeway system, makes sense when we create a full network. 

Not rocket science here, folks ... just rail science and good, healthy dose of common sense and respect for the taxpayers.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member 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 was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)