THE EXPO LINE--Memorial Day, my son and I had the pleasure of a quiet, enjoyable walk in the area where so much hullabaloo over the Expo Line occurred over the past two decades. That highly-disputed region between Overland Avenue and the 405 freeway. The trains were quiet, and pretty much hidden behind the sound walls. The main noise coming from children on their roller skates and a considerable number of bicyclists.
Is this widened right of way, particularly near the Westwood/Rancho Park station, the "Palms Park West" that some Expo advocates (including myself) fought for? No. But the pedestrians, bicyclists, and skaters now have a nice new place to travel, and I dare say the children and their parents from Rancho Park and adjacent neighborhoods will be the biggest winners. (Photo above: Palms sound wall.)
Is this widened right of way one big parking lot? No--there is a lot of need, and very short supply, of good parking spaces (not free, but affordable and to enhance overall community access to this new light rail line) for the Expo Line. This is particularly true for the "regional" stations at Bundy/Olympic, Exposition/Sepulveda, and Venice/Robertson but not so ideal for the "local/neighborhood" stations at Westwood/Rancho Park.
The private sector can and should be expected to come up with transit-oriented residential development that requires parking spots for long-distance Expo Line commuters who live far away, but with financial incentives to keep those living near the line to minimize use of automobiles . Workforce housing and senior/student housing advocates also have a golden opportunity for affordable and transit-oriented housing.
The biggest problem, arguably, is the poor quality of the sidewalks on major thoroughfares such as Westwood and Sepulveda Boulevards:
1) Pity that all the screaming that Rancho Park and Cheviot Hills did, to the waste of hundreds of thousands of legal dollars from dues-paying homeowners associations, wasn't focused on redoing and repairing the sidewalks on Westwood and Sepulveda Boulevards between Pico and National Blvds. Pity also that consensus for a rail bridge over Overland Ave. wasn't fought for, but at least we can fight for better sidewalks and bus stations.
2) Pity also that both the City Council and City Attorney haven't been able to come up with a legal answer to prevent the homeless from setting up quasi-permanent residence on the Sepulveda Blvd. sidewalks below the I-10 freeway overpasses. The Exposition/Sepulveda station, however, is clean and free from graffiti, homeless encampments, and other urban blight...and we should keep it that way.
The Mar Vista Community Council just unanimously voted for expedition of repairing our City's sidewalks from a woefully-insufficient 30-year schedule to a 7-10 year schedule, and starting with our sidewalks (particularly near our transit stations) would be a true no-brainer.
The need for high-quality smart bus benches for the transit-dependent on Sepulveda and National Blvds. would also be a step up for those who must, and those who want, to access transit and mobility without their cars. Until that happens, it's just not fair to expect anyone to use bus transit unless they're financially forced to do so...and it's not like other cities and counties don't have quality bus shelters/benches.
And while speeding up the line with signal prioritization Downtown for the trains is an issue, the ridership is still very high for the Expo Line (at least 45,000/day and counting) because Santa Monica, West LA, Culver City, the Mid-City, and Downtown LA are all key locations to access. It's worth pondering how future Laker, Clipper and other sports teams' games will be impacted by the presence of the Expo Line.
It's no secret that the first step is always the most painful...and hence we needed an Expo Line Authority to get this legally-difficult piece of infrastructure done at all. It's also no secret that the reason that insufficient speed and mitigation for the Expo Line rests almost entirely on those who opposed the line, and not on Metro and the LADOT, who just wanted a convenient, safe, and attractive ride for those who wanted a new mobility option.
But for now, as of last Memorial Day, it was a nice day to walk, roller skate, bicycle, or just sit down on a bench and take in a new stretch of open space that used to be nothing but weeds and sawdust--and it's my guess that all the rumors of property values in Rancho Park and adjacent neighborhoods going UP are absolutely true now.
The best end to a fight is often a calm, pleasant silence as a final "statement" and "resolution". I'm glad we can finally enjoy this golden silence for now, and hopefully for the indefinite future.
(Ken Alpern is 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 is co-chair of the CD11Transportation 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.