Thu, Aug

Civility Is Not the Same as Acquiescence

ALPERN AT LARGE - By and large, transit advocates have been pretty civil with, and supportive of, Metro in trying to expand the reach of MetroRail, Rapid Bus and other Metro programs throughout the county, and in large part we’ve been helpful in vetting, promoting and passing the Measure R projects.  

Unfortunately, with respect to the Crenshaw Line/LAX Project, it’s deeply regrettable that the same civility was not returned by Metro staff, and—in particular—the Metro Board.

It’s important to remember that the grassroots success in keeping the Expo Light Rail Line alive (often despite years of extraordinary hostility from local, state and federal political figures and agencies) led to a similar grassroots effort to create a LA County rapid transit network that culminated with the passage of Measure R.  Measure R, the countywide sales tax initiative, required a 2/3 majority of the vote and still enjoys that same amount of popularity among voters.

It therefore behooves Metro staff, and—again, in particular—the Metro Board to remember that future transportation initiatives depend on returning the same civility to grassroots boosters as shown by these boosters towards Metro.  Unless, of course, Metro wishes never to see another local, state or federal Measure R-type initiative any time soon.

There are very good reasons why the optional elevated Manchester/Aviation station was not included in the baseline plan of the Final EIR submitted by Roderick Diaz and his Metro Crenshaw/LAX Rail Project Team (who, overall, are stuck with an unenviable task of meeting the needs of different regions, competing agendas, and a rather inflexible FAA to connect the Green and Expo Lines to each other and to LAX via a connecting Century/Aviation station.)

However, the safety, engineering and financial issues with the 405-freeway-adjacent Manchester/Aviation station could have—and SHOULD have—been brought up at least six months ago instead of surfacing over the past 2-3 months just as the Final EIR was being submitted.  No matter how it was or will be spun, the $80 million price tag for the station was 2-4 times as high as was being publicly promoted until very recently.

Westchester residents, and grassroots Westside transit boosters, would have confronted those problems and would have evaluated the much cheaper (and overall less desired) Hindry Ave station with a price tag of $15-20 million.  

And if the Metro planners thought that EITHER Westchester option was a POOR addition to the Crenshaw Line, perhaps that opinion would have been appropriate for public airing when the community showed up (at Metro’s invitation) in great numbers to evaluate adjacent land use options for a Westchester station.

By and large, however, the shock (and, to a large degree, feelings of betrayal) will be met with civility in Westchester and by Westside transit advocates.  There will be no lawsuits, no screams or threats, and no need to call for a police presence when Westchester and the Westside will be given a second chance for a LAX-adjacent Westside MetroRail station as Mr. Diaz and his team start work on their complementary Green Line to LAX Rail Project.

As noted by Metro planners for years, we prefer to be partners with Metro—and, to date, they have been our partners as well.  However, civility is not the same thing as acquiescence.

It is to be reminded to the Metro Board that they are supposed to serve the taxpayers, and not the other way around.  The screaming and threats of lawsuits and accusations of racism and classism by politicians and grassroots leaders of other parts of the Crenshaw LAX Rail Line helped no one—particularly to the Westside, which has been rightfully accused of exclusionary tactics to keep members out of other communities out of their neighborhoods.

It is also to be reminded to County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas (normally a consensus builder and this line’s political supporter-in-chief) that Westchester is part of his supervisorial territory; were they represented well with respect to urban renewal, light rail access and neighborhood enhancement as well as other areas of the line were represented?

It is also to be reminded to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (also normally a consensus builder and Measure R’s greatest advocate), as well as to the various individuals wishing to succeed Mayor Villaraigosa, that the Westside was one of Measure R’s greatest regions of support, and that a little love and respect from time to time isn’t inappropriate (and might actually be politically smart).

Finally, it’s to be reminded to all transportation planners that the Crenshaw/LAX Line (which I still overall support), now has a rather notable two-mile gap between Century/Aviation and Florence/La Brea that includes a lack of a 405-freeway adjacent station.  Such a station could have been located on either side of the freeway to enhance ridership not only of Westchester residents, but Inglewood residents and all sorts of 405 freeway commuters.

Moving forward, which we really have to do now that the Westside (and all transit advocates everywhere) has had to endure this sudden and unexpected slap in the face:

1) There is a need to explore if an at-grade Hindry or another 405-adjacent location can be built for this line, even if it takes years; those hurt the most by this lack of a station are not the Westchester homeowners who fought for this station but the transit-dependent riders who will now not have ideal access to Westchester and adjacent regions

2) There is a need to preserve—and, if indicated—widen the Metro-owned Harbor Subdivision Right of Way so that BOTH this Crenshaw/LAX line AND a future direct LAX-Union Station Line (perhaps Metrolink, perhaps some other rail technology) can utilize this vital rail right of way that connects the ports to LAX to Union Station

3) There is a need to ignore (or at least strongly reduce) the role of race in any transportation project; as with the King-Drew Medical Center crisis, race or ethnicity is a poor focus on how public policy should be run, and any focus of race distracts from the main benefits of the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Project, which is the economy, environment and quality of life for all members of the greater region

4) Friends of the Green Line (www.fogl.us) is now back in full force, now that previous years of advocacy for the Green Line Extensions to LAX and the South Bay, as well as the Crenshaw Line, have not yielded the partnership with Metro it once enjoyed (perhaps the fault of transit advocates, perhaps there’s plenty of fault to go around)

The new focus of Friends of the Green Line will be to achieve consensus for Westchester, LA World Airports, Metro, the LADOT and other affected and/or interested parties towards a comprehensive, countywide LAX-MetroRail linkage.

No lawsuits, no screaming, and the only color to be brought up is GREEN.  GREEN as in dollars and the economy.  GREEN as in the environment and providing cleaner alternatives to accessing LAX and the adjacent South Bay, Westside, South L.A., Mid-City and Southeast L.A. County Cities.  And GREEN as in providing a “Green Light” after a job well-done for further expanding the MetroRail system by more neighborhoods who want better access to a first-rate MetroRail system.

There will be civility and cooperation with Metro and all parties.  But this preferred and proper approach will not, and cannot, be the same as acquiescence.

(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 also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw

Tags: civility, MetroRail, Rapid Bus, Metro, Metro Board, Metro Crenshaw/LAX Rail, LAX, Green Line

Vol 9 Issue 80
Pub: Oct 7, 2011