Wed, Aug

Supporting a Train Through Your Neighborhood May Result in Being Taken for a Ride

THE VIEW FROM HERE - As a long term mass transit advocate I was thrilled to learn that a train was finally going to be operating close enough to our community to be useful.  I accepted a position on the Crenshaw Line Leadership Council to help make it a success.  

Imagine my extreme disappointment when I learned that the train will run along our residential area but will not be stopping to allow us to board!  We’ll have to travel two plus miles east or a mile and a half south if we want to ride.  

The southern station serves LAX.  What resident in their right mind would enter the LAX highly congested area to pay airport parking prices just to board a train?  Such is our saga of the Crenshaw Line renamed the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

No one in Westchester gave the Crenshaw Line much thought.  Crenshaw is far to the east, so, why would we care?  It turns there is a good reason; the train will run from the Green Line, south of LAX, north along the Harbor Subdivision train right-of-way through eastern Westchester, then east through Inglewood along Florence, and north on Crenshaw to the Expo Line.  

Many years were consumed planning the Crenshaw Line route.  MTA held loads of meetings, but all were advertised in Central LA and Inglewood newspapers; never Westchester.  Then, two years ago, MTA presented its soon to be released draft EIS/EIR plan (environmental review) at our Neighborhood Council.  It was the first time we heard that this train impacted us.  

We were definitely shocked to learn that not only would the route go through our neighborhood, but that there was a plan to wipe out a whole section of our community serving businesses in order to construct a maintenance facility adjacent to homes.  

We protested loudly about the maintenance yard.  MTA agreed to find another location.  They appeared to work with us to find a better solution—another Westchester site in an industrial area.  As a show of good will we supported their choice.  On-going discussions also resulted in an improved station location at Aviation/Manchester.  

As the planning process progressed, money got tight so MTA designated our station “optional,” but continued to ask detailed questions about what the station should look like and what kinds of transit oriented development we’d like to see.  Another station, Leimert Park, was also deemed “optional” so we didn’t expect what transpired subsequently.

After a big fight at an MTA Board meeting it was agreed to meet the Leimert Park residents part way and allow for a below-grade station “if money were found to pay for it.”  No one talked about the only other “optional” station which would serve Westchester residents.   We figured that we had the same deal, but it was “unspoken.”  

Since MTA estimated our station to be far less expensive we expected that, if money could be saved, formal construction estimates were lower than expected, or alternative funding found, our station had as good or better change of acceptance.  

Recently we discovered that MTA’s cost estimate for our station was increased substantially and that MTA staff had no intention of including it in the construction bid requests.  That, of course, effectively kills our station.  When confronted, they told us that the preliminary engineering drawings do not include our station at Aviation/Manchester and that it would take major changes to include our stop.  

Further, additional review would impact overall program cost and schedule making it unacceptable “at this late date.”  They’ve offered a less expensive alternative station near their originally planned maintenance yard, but again it’s “optional.” They tell us that it could be incorporated some day in the future “if funded.”  They made it clear that only with specific Board direction would they do any further work on a Westchester station.

Here are the lessons we learned:

(1)    Even if a project doesn’t appear to impact your community be sure to have someone keep abreast of it to ring an alert bell.

(2)    “Optional” means be suspicious about planning efforts; it means NO.

(3)    Cooperation, friendliness, and politeness are interpreted as acquiescence.  Be proactive and scream and yell!  

Our plight is now a political, not technical, issue.  Would anyone on the MTA Board PLEASE PUBLICLY speak up for us and offer a motion to keep us in the bidding process?  

Our LA City Council member went to the last MTA Board meeting and spoke up on our behalf.  He spoke clearly of his concern and determination to help find funding for our station—all in the one minute he was allotted.

(Denny Schneider is President of ARSAC - Alliance for a Regional Solution For Airport Congestion and a board member of Neighborhood Council Westchester Playa.) -cw

Tags: Westchester, City Council, Crenshaw Line, Central LA, MTA

Vol 9 Issue 80
Pub: Oct 7, 2011