5 Killer Reasons Why a Direct LAX-Union Station Rail Line is a Must

TRANSIT WATCH--Enough of the agendas! We're already hearing talk of Measure M local funds to the City of Los Angeles being diverted away from potholes, and the new voter-approved homeless funds are potentially up for grabs to be spent in non-transparent, concerning directions.  At the city, county and state levels, we're seeing taxpayer funds treated like private/political funds. 

Overall, Metro's "agenda" is smart and balanced...but the staff can only be directed by its political boardmembers, who've perhaps gotten the wrong idea about what the passage of Measure M meant. 

The Metro Board needs to know they did NOT get a blank check, nor an excuse to close their ears and eyes to those too busy working and taking care of their families to attend meetings.  

And while there are very good things Metro is working on, the choice of a bikeway to connect regions of South L.A. to the L.A. River is about as "smart" as the decision to create an Orange Line Busway instead of holding out for a light rail line. 

Because a do-over is much worse, and much more expensive, than doing it right the first time.

And just as the San Fernando Valley (and Metro will pay big bucks for not spending smart on their publicly-owned rail rights of way to create an Orange Line light rail to connect Warner Center with the Gold Line in Pasadena, the greater part of the L.A. County will suffer if we do a feel-good bikeway instead of a light rail line on the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way: 

1) The Eastside will lose a direct rail path connecting the jobs-rich LAX region with their communities. 

2) The opportunity of a regional rail network to serve the Arts District, the southeast portion of the Downtown region, southeastern L.A. County and the San Gabriel Valley will have a long and circuitous route to access LAX. 

3) Opportunities to revitalize South L.A. and create a flurry of middle-class, affordable housing, and an associated network of parks and bikeways will be greatly harmed. 

4) Commuters from LAX accessing Downtown will discover they're being "taken on a ride" up Crenshaw Blvd., with a forced change of trains at Crenshaw/Exposition, thereby harming our developing global economy and our growing tourism economy. 

5) We will lose out on a vital chance to focus on a "Second Downtown Light Rail Connector" to tie the Green, Crenshaw, Blue, and Gold Lines together on a publicly-owned right of way that's as vital as was the Expo Line right of way.   

And this will all come crashing down on the short-sighted, agenda-driven Metro Board between now and 2022, when all the good work to connect LAX and Metro Rail will suffer a horrible public relations black eye because Downtown and LAX weren't directly connected. 

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line reaches its truest, fullest potential when it is extended northwards to the Wilshire Purple Line Subway and beyond (with a projected ridership of over 100,000 per day of commuters between LAX and the Wilshire Blvd. commercial corridor ...

... but that should NOT preclude a direct LAX-Downtown commute for rail commuters and with an adjacent bikeway and parkway, to boot. 

Like it or not, the Expo Bikeway, which I fiercely fought for and still am infuriated to not see completed through Cheviot Hills, did have to take a "backseat" to the Expo Light Rail Line. 

So the "suggestion" or "promise" that the Bikeway will not preclude a future light rail line won't hold water. 

And if no widened right of way is purchased right NOW, there will be a growing call before and during 2022, when the Metro Rail/LAX connection should be completed, with the following message: 

What the hell were we thinking when we failed to build a direct LAX to Southeastern and Eastern LA and Union Station when we had the chance?


(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 alpern@marvista.org. 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 Dr. Alpern.)