Sat, Dec

Will Scary Behavior Keep Riders Away from LA’s Multi-Million Dollar Light Rail Lines?

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - As the various meetings for the Wilshire Subway, Crenshaw/LAX, Green Line to LAX, South Bay Green Line Extension, Downtown Light Rail Connector and other Metro projects bring us that much closer to seeing these projects move from science fiction to fact, and as the Expo and Foothill Gold Lines get built before our eyes, more and more commuters, employers and politicians are taking these projects seriously.

Meanwhile, Mayor Villaraigosa is both fighting for federal loans and ways to get local workers employed to build the rail and other transportation projects that have been launched years forward by the passage of Measure R (link), while Sandy Banks raises questions and concerns about the recent stabbings on the Red and Gold Lines. (Link)

I'm sure that there will be cynicism to the points that Villaraigosa and Banks raise, but I think their discussions are quite timely and quite relevant.

There's no reason why LA County shouldn't reap the benefits of the jobs that these transportation projects require for construction, although the issue of cost-effectiveness of tax dollars is one for which county taxpayers should also benefit.  

Skilled construction labor means good jobs (be they union or otherwise), and the higher these jobs pay the fewer the number of individuals who will benefit from these jobs.  We need quality middle-class job creation, but we also need to get as much built for our taxpayer dollars as possible.

And count me in as someone who is much, MUCH more excited … and interested … about the more long-lasting job creation established by the existence of permanent rail stations and transit-oriented development  (to say nothing of the increased mobility) over the more fleeting job creation involved with constructing these rail projects.  

Love or hate the proposed AEG Downtown Convention Center/Football Stadium project, those jobs associated with that project and the increased number of conventions held there are going to last a lot longer than those created by the construction of the Expo Line and Downtown Light Rail Connector projects that will make the Downtown Convention Center accessible.

And count me in also as someone who has both interest and concern with the potential upsides and potential risks of taking mass transit to Downtown or any other location.  Sandy Banks is writing as both a columnist and as someone who has a lot more legitimate reason to fear than most of the rail transit advocates I know when it comes to transit safety ... because she's a woman.

Whether the women I've spoken to about mass transit are rich or poor, white or black or Latino, I assure you that they feel much more vulnerable about their personal safety on mass transit (particularly when they are with their children) than the majority of rail transit advocates I've dealt with (who are mostly single and male, or of either gender but their children are grown).  

And I remind you that in Japan and Europe and countries throughout the world there are female-only rail cars for the ladies, who are sick of being groped, or who fear getting groped ... and those cars were established because that problem wasn't just based off imagination and paranoia.

However, before I dismiss my childless friends and colleagues in the transportation/transit advocacy world on this issue, the point does need to be made that--despite the recent Red and Gold Line stabbings--we didn't presume the 110, 710, 405 or other freeways were too dangerous to use after there were past spates of road rage and random shootings that occurred on those venues.  The safety/security issues for freeway or rail violence should lead to a mature effort to reduce or eliminate that violence, and not to an immature effort to reduce or eliminate that form of transportation.

So we have city and county police officers that patrolled and enforced the safety of the freeways, and I will challenge ANYBODY to reject the notion that a greater presence of sheriff's deputies patrolling MetroRail railcars and stations will increase security and peace of mind for the more vulnerable transit riders amongst us.  After all, if my wife and two children can't ride the rails safely, I won't ask anyone else to ride them (and I).

It will please concerned readers that not long ago, Metro passed a sort of "code of conduct" requiring behavior … even odor …  to be acceptable for individual transit commuters to sit or stand next to other commuters. That would minimize any risks of conflict or discomfort.  In other words, if you are engaging in scary or disruptive behavior, or are exhaling enough alcohol to ferment the air of everyone breathing next to you, the passengers have the right to ask sheriff's deputies to consider removing you--if the sheriffs don't proactively take that measure first.

And while I have serious questions about the cost-effectiveness of placing turnstiles to help ensure that rail transit users pay for their tickets, I really, REALLY oppose the use of homeless individuals using the trains as a place to sleep or live.  By and large, our MetroRail lines are among the smoothest and cleanest lines in the nation or even on the planet (try taking the Chicago O'Hare to Downtown train--it's darn convenient but it rivals Magic Mountain for its roller coaster-like experience), and it is my belief that our growing tourist industry exists in part because of our first-rate trains ... trains that should be as safe and pleasant as they are smooth to ride.

So we should start raising these relevant questions, political correctness be damned, because we're paying for these economy-building, environment-sustaining and quality-of-life enhancing projects, and we deserve nothing but first-rate results.

The Expo Line will be running to Culver City sometime next year (and to La Cienega as early as this year), the Foothill Gold Line is starting construction in earnest, and the Crenshaw/LAX project will likely have its Final EIR passed by the Metro Board in a matter of weeks to months.  We have every right to be serious about our MetroRail Network projects, because Metro is being serious with us about making them become reality.

And speaking of serious efforts to make these projects become reality, I was very pleased with Roderick Diaz, Cory Zelmer, Pat Tomcheck, Diego Alvarez and the other Metro, LAWA, City of L.A. and other officials who ran a great Green Line to LAX Project open house last night in Culver City.  I appreciated their sincerity, their interest and other efforts to record the input and answer the questions of myself and others who attended this open house event.

It is my belief that the learning curve of everyone went up (certainly my own learning curve did so) with respect to how the Green Line, the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the LAX People Mover, the Consolidated Rental Car Facility and the Metro Bus Center could all be placed together in a manner that would please all parties.

I did learn that the physical layout of the Century/Aviation station might not allow for the Green Line to turn west on Century Blvd. unless it had its own station there that was so far away from the Crenshaw Line Century/Aviation station that many planners (and potential transit users) might find problematic ... but that a Green Line with a station at Century/Aviation but kept going north, with a turn west at Arbor Vitae, and with a terminus at/near the Metro Bus Center and Parking Lot C is a planned possibility.  In other words, the first leg of a Westside Green Line might finally become a reality, and the South Bay Green Line Extension will become that much more exciting and desired by South Bay residents who want remote LAX access.

Furthermore, the LAX People Mover, with money ponied up by LA World Airports and the local hotels, could create an elevated, smooth and high-capacity train on Century Blvd. to the Central Terminal Area that would enhance the commercial activity and mobility of workers at LAX, airport-adjacent hotels and businesses--to say nothing of easing access and mobility of airport commuters to/from LAX, the consolidated rental car facility (wherever the heck that'll end up) and MetroRail.  In other words, this might just work.

As I mentioned in my last CityWatch article, the Crenshaw/LAX line establishes MetroRail/LAX access from Downtown, the South Bay and Southeast L.A. County, and the Green Line to LAX should establish MetroRail/LAX access from the Westside to create the final leg of the "X Marks The Spot" configuration Metro and transportation advocates have sought for years, if not decades:

It bears repeating:  we have every right to be serious about our MetroRail Network projects, because Metro is being serious with us about making them become reality.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice 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 is also co-chair of Friends of the Green Line. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw

Tags: Mayor Villaraigosa, Measure R, Red Line, Gold Line, LA County, Downtown Stadium, Expo Line, Foothill Gold Line, Wilshire Subway

Vol 9 Issue 70
Pub: Sept 2, 2011