Wed, Aug

MetroRail Planning: It’s About Time, and About Timing!

MOVING LA - While Measure R made it clear that LA County felt it was “about time!” we got our countywide MetroRail system, the planning for the decades-overdue Expo, Wilshire, Crenshaw/LAX, Downtown, Gold and Green Line projects were significantly expedited.  But time is money, and money is still a finite resource, so the timing about when big decisions are made is as key as the decisions themselves.

Example #1:  Westchester Needs A Light Rail Station!

After being good sports about acknowledging a visually-impacting rail bridge at Manchester Blvd., and after being good sports about locating a huge MetroRail maintenance yard within its boundaries, Westchester deserved a lot better treatment than it is suddenly getting  from Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line staff.

All of a sudden the elevated Manchester/Aviation station, which Westchester has fought for these past few years, is suddenly up to $80 million in costs?  And the best Metro can do is promise to keep in mind a worthless, unhelpful and undesired at-grade station at Hindry Ave. that Westchester made it clear it opposed?

I mean no disrespect to Roderick Diaz and his Metro Crenshaw and Green Line teams (who are under enormous pressure from Mid-City, Westside and South Bay citizens and electeds that want everything to go their way, often at the expense of other regions). However, isn’t more explanation in order for this eleventh hour dropping of the elevated Manchester/Aviation station (which is freeway-adjacent and would enjoy considerable ridership) from the Final EIR?

The TIMING of this is pretty horrible, and entirely out of character for Diaz and his Metro staff, who overall have been pretty above-board in explaining why they can and can’t deliver the proposed betterments for the Crenshaw/LAX Line.  The Manchester/Aviation station should be kept as an optional station in the Final EIR to allow for proper discussion and a proper exploration as to why this station should or shouldn’t be kept in the bidding for potential construction contractors.

Example #2:  The Westside needs remote rail access to LAX!

It’s been discussed by many others—not just by yours truly—that “MetroRail to LAX” means (in practical terms) MetroRail to Crenshaw/Aviation.  That critical intersection, as well as the adjacent Century Blvd. commercial corridor, is one of the most important parcels of commercial real estate in the entire county because of its proximity to LAX and its location on the Harbor Subdivision Rail Right of Way that connects the Ports and Downtown LA.

The Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project, which over the past few years has increasingly been in the glaring spotlight as the Expo Line battles draw to an end, will connect the regions of Downtown/Mid-City, South Bay and Southeast LA County indirectly to LAX because it will connect the Green and Crenshaw Lines to each other at Century/Aviation.

However, much of the reason the late state senator Jenny Oropeza fought to have $200 million included in Measure R to fund and create the Green Line to LAX Rail Project was to ensure that the Westside would also enjoy remote rail access to LAX by extending the Green Line from Century/Aviation to Westchester (the southernmost neighborhood of the Westside).

The Green Line was originally supposed to extend through Century Blvd. to Airport Blvd., Westchester Parkway and up Lincoln Blvd. and end at Marina Del Rey.  Then the Metro plan was to have it end on a preliminary basis at the Metro-owned lot at 98th Street south of LAX Parking Lot C, perhaps turning westward from the Harbor Subdivision Rail Right of Way on Century Blvd. or 98th Street in order to do so.

The Metro-owned lot would serve hotel visitors and employees, office building employees, post office and LAX Cargo buildings, a future Century Corridor conference center, etc—roughly about 40,000 employees who could use that station.  

The Metro Green Line to LAX team from Metro has alternatively suggested a westward turn from the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way at Arbor Vitae to end up at the relatively remote but useful Metro Bus Center at Parking Lot C.  Either routing of the Green Line to the region of Parking Lot C has its advantages and disadvantages, and both have the ability for further study and extension of the Green Line up Lincoln Blvd., Sepulveda Blvd., or even a branch to both corridors.

With Metro scoping sessions for this project beginning, the TIMING is NOW to make sure that LAX has remote access to the Westside, even if it’s a small extension that opens up big new options for the future.

Example #3:  We need the MetroRail/LAX link to be by rail, and not just throw down a few buses!

For decades we’ve heard LA World Airports promise a LAX People Mover from the Central Airline Terminals to either Century/Aviation, or even the Aviation/Imperial Green Line station, but the TIMING is now to start thinking about what sort of link MetroRail and LAX should have.

I’m alarmed by all the second-hand reports that LA World Airports (LAWA) is planning on either a Bus Rapid Transit or a Bus-Only Lane to connect Century/Aviation, and although the LAWA-funded People Mover Project is yet to be announced, with its own outreach/EIR process, it’s safe to say that if we want a truly modern airport for the 21st Century, a bunch of buses won’t do the trick.

The LAX People Mover will be as high a capacity transit line as any MetroRail project, and therefore an elevated Fixed Guideway using either light rail, monorail or rubber-wheeled propulsions systems should be considered.  But throwing down a few buses to impress business and leisure travelers how modern and first-rate LAX is as they travel to the Rental Car Facility or to MetroRail and remote locations?

Let’s not kid ourselves—when the TIMING is right to weigh in, we’ll want LAWA to come through with decades-old promises and build something cost-effective but first-rate to meet the needs of workers, commuters and travelers to/from LAX.

Example #4:  What the heck is going on with the “done deal” of the Downtown Light Rail Connector?    

Talk about bad TIMING!  All of a sudden Eli Broad and a “Community Connector Coalition” is revisiting the First vs. Second Street alignment of the Downtown Connector and demanding portals to this downtown light rail subway be changed. (Link).  Pretty eleventh hour, don’t you think, Mr. Broad?

Or is it?  Did Eli Broad and his fellow Downtown power players at or near Bunker Hill try in vain to bring this up before, and were rebuffed by those planning this project?  

Whether Mr. Broad and his colleagues are dead right or dead wrong, one thing remains clear:  the TIMING of this just stinks, and if this ends up costing more and going over budget, then it’s up to the big pockets Downtown aristocracy to come up with the extra funding to make sure this project is done on time and under budget.

TIMING is everything, and it’s time for us to build these projects after discussing them for decades.

Let’s get moving, LA!

(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] The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw

Tags: LAX, Metro, Westchester, light rail, Mid-City, Westside, South Bay, Crenshaw, Roderick Diaz, Eli Broad, Downtown LA

Vol 9 Issue 75
Pub: Sept 20, 2011