Lessons Learned From a True Westside-Style Friday the 13th!

ALPERN AT LARGE--Call it "just desserts".  Call it an avoidable tragedy.  Call it just part of life and/or human nature.  But there was a real nightmare last Friday the 13th in the Westside, and much of it was entirely avoidable. 

Unavoidable: The traffic jam due to a local power outage that caused the Expo Line crossing gates from the 405 Freeway to Palms to remain down, and to reduce speeds of the Expo Line to about 10 mph while creating traffic jams from Hades. 

Avoidable: That there were so few north-south traffic conduits, including and especially Overland Ave., to accommodate for motorists the power outage that will inevitably occur. 

Unavoidable:  The gates had to be dropped in order to make sure there were no train/car collisions. 

Once Avoidable, but no longer Avoidable: It took me an hour to drive from my home in Westside Village, drop my daughter off on Overland Avenue south of the train tracks while trapped just south of the gates, along with a horde of other parents, and watch with horror while screaming for her out of my car window to watch for the train as she ran across the tracks and joined the other students. 

Many of those other students had to walk all the way from Westwood Blvd. or further west from Sepulveda Blvd., along the many surface streets in Rancho Park to access Overland Ave. Elementary School. 

Unavoidable--well, maybe Avoidable: A huge hunk of the Overland Ave. playground will be taken away from the children in order to create a parking lot for the teachers, a lot which once existed on the Expo Rail Line Right of Way. 

Avoidable (and this is the BIG one):  A fight against the Expo Line that prevented a $40 million Overland Avenue rail bridge from being agreed upon once it was learned by all (including myself, who wanted it underground) that a rail tunnel at Overland would have been a $400 million environmental nightmare. 

Also Avoidable: The agenda of a few locals to demand the Expo Line be underground, or not at all...thereby forcing the Expo/Metro Boards to choose the cheaper at-grade (ground level) configuration after a long, bruising, and futile legal fight that went all the way to the California Supreme Court.   

It's pretty obvious now that the region would have gone for the rail bridge had the small, loud group of locals allowed for the cheaper rail bridge. 

Also Avoidable: The fight and the hidden agendas behind opposing a rail bridge at Sepulveda Blvd. (which is quite beautiful and attractive, by the way), including an overgrown Casden/Sepulveda project configuration and a small group of neighbors who felt that their not wanting to see that bridge in the air was more important than the traffic/mobility/safety needs of the entire Westside. 

Also Also Avoidable: The bizarre desire of Mid-City/Downtown City Councilmembers to oppose even the Sepulveda Blvd. rail bridge (can you imagine last Friday the 13th without even Sepulveda Blvd. north-south access?) because of perceived racial disparities between the Mid-City/Downtown and Westside portions of the Expo Line. 

Also Also Also Avoidable: The religious fervocity of those who hate motorists so much that their choice of at-grade rail crossings became an obsession, and who all seem to be either retired, single, and/or without small children...and who forget that even in Portland, OR there are at best 10% or fewer commuters who bicycle to/from work and college.  Car motorists are NOT evil. 

It's a very good thing that we have an Expo Line as an alternative to the miserably-clogged I-10 freeway, and it's a very good thing we have Uber/Lyft and telecommuting to keep people off the roads whenever possible.  Ditto for bikeways and Rapid Buses. 

It's a very good thing that the City and County of Los Angeles are engaging in efforts to support the rights of transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians...but a very bad thing that it's turned into a zero-sum game against motorists who still (like it or not) pay the majority of income, property, and sales taxes in our region. 

This should not be a game, and it should not a war...but it's turning into one, courtesy of a few overempowered, privileged individuals who believe that they are higher lifeforms than their fellow neighbors who (like them) are intelligent, hard-working human beings. 

There will be more Friday the 13th's, but it would be nice to return to that old "majority rule" thing in order to prevent future, avoidable ones from happening.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. 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.)