Expo Station Coming to Farmdale and Exposition?

3_23_10_curbed.jpgThanks for the overview, Curbed

The strange saga of the Expo Light Rail Line continued yesterday when Judge Maribeth Bushey of the California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed amendment to the environmental documents for the Expo Line Phase I that would allow the construction of a rail station at the intersection of Exposition Boulevard and Farmdale Avenue, right next to Dorsey High School.  The CPUC has previously ruled that the intersection has to have a pedestrian bridge because the proposed at-grade design was ruled unsafe.  You can read the full text of Bushey’s proposal, here.  If you’re just interested in reading about the design of such a station, post #872 on the Expo Forum on the Transit Coalition message boards has the details.

The addition of this station to the environmental documents isn’t expected to effect the construction schedule.  Until the station could be completed, if the Exposition Construction Authority and CPUC decide that’s the direction they wish to go, a "stop and proceed" system would be used for passing trains.  Why the "stop and proceed" couldn’t be a permanent, less costly, solution to the safety issues isn’t addressed.  However, with the contractor predicting the line not to be completed for 58 weeks after the original estimation, it’s going to at least be the summer of 2011 before Expo Phase I is open to the public.

Anyone expecting this proposed solution to be the end of the debate is going to be surprised.  Proponents for building the Expo Line as quickly as possible seem non-pulsed by the solution.  Proponents of grade-separated crossings were even more blunt.  Via email, Damien Goodmon wrote, emphasis mine,:

This is not a proposed decision to grant Expo the authority to build
across the
intersection.  Such will still require a hearing.  Rather it is a
proposed action to amend the EIR to
provide environmental clearance for two of the options currently
proposed by the Expo Authority at the Farmdale crossing, so should they
be adopted they can be built more quickly.  We are currently reviewing
the document.  On its face, we’re amazed that Bushey would propose
something without even allowing the public to comment.

The view of the community on this issue is well known.  Resurrecting the "holding pen" and adding palm
trees and a station to it doesn’t change the reality that
internationally-renowned rail safety experts with credentials and credibility far greater than any
Expo or CPUC politician or staffer have repeatedly warned that an
at-grade crossing at the intersection is a catastrophic accident
waiting to happen. 

As
a point of information, this is the same type of "pre-environmental
approval" that Expo could have obtained months ago for a grade
separated train flyover or under-crossing at Farmdale, but Rick Thorpe
and the incompetent and corrupt Expo staff and Board refuse to
recognize the inevitable.  I don’t see how they’re allowed to keep
their jobs while confidently pursuing additional and unnecessary delays
and costs to this project, instead of listening to the community and
resolving the issue.

  • Alex Kasperavicius

    Why does this guy Damien Goodmon assume the students at Dorsey are somehow inferior to the ones at high schools all over the world with streetcar crossings next to them?

    I don’t get it. It’s a streetcar line, they are all over the place. Why does he think this school’s students should be treated like they are retarded or something? I’ve been to Dorsey, it’s a great school, the students are bright, well adjusted kids – smart enough to respect a stoplight. What gives? I mean, is Goodmon using this as an attempt to get into politics or something?

    Something seems off.

  • Gokhan

    Well, it sounds like Damien doesn’t want to admit that his lawyers asked him not to be a party in the CPUC proceedings any more. It also sounds like he is not aware of what has been going on either.

    LAUSD wants this station and the community wants it as well. Everyone knows that a train stopped at a station and then slowly pulling across a cleared intersection a few feet ahead will not hit anybody or anything.

  • This has been in the works for a while

    http://la.curbed.com/archives/2010/01/extra_stop_at_dorsey_high_added_to_expo_line.php

    If concern for kids was the root of concerns as this is a fair compromise one would have hoped it would be accepted as such and celebrated by all parties. Sadly Mr. Goodmon reveals his all too obvious ulterior motives by continuing to agitate and mis-state. His chest beating has lost its power to impress. All his claims of expertise and environmental justice have failed–miserably.

    The link above to post #872 on the Expo Forum is incorrectly coded–here is the address to read it:
    http://transittalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?
    action=display&board=expoline&thread=74&page=35#14362

  • JRider

    This station is very upsetting. If the conventional planning processes didn’t for a moment consider it as worthwhile for a station, then it ought not be built.

  • Thanks, I fixed the link.

  • It’s perfectly fine for kids to cross 6 lane avenues every day, but heavens forbid they make it safely across two streetcar tracks. I for one demand that every child have a tunnel dug between their classroom and home to avoid any dangers present in the world. And make sure the tunnel is at least 12 feet high, we don’t want a 9th grade jumping and hitting their head.

  • Nathanael

    Goofballs opposing this. If there’s a station, the trains will come to a dead halt every time they get there; that’s one hell of a lot safer than a road intersection. I can’t think of ever hearing of anyone being hit by a train in a grade crossing adjacent to a station.

  • This isn’t quite a “street car”, but isn’t nearly as dangerous as the death pit meat grinder streets we build next to our schools here in Los Angeles.

  • A summary, station image, and decision timeline of Expo’s agreement in principle with LAUSD for the station at Farmdale / Dorsey – documented in Expo’s 12/18/09 Ex Parte Notice – is at
    http://friends4expo.org/cpuc12-09.htm .

    What was new yesterday – three months later – was the release of ALJ Bushey’s Interim Decision Certifying Addendum to Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Environmental Impact Report.

    Geted crossings on the Expo Line will follow the same safety standards that have given the Pasadena Gold Line its excellent record of ZERO accidental deaths (one suicide) in nearly 7 years of operation, including Glenarm Street where students from Pasadena’s Blair IB (middle and high) School cross it daily.

  • Hey, that looks like a pretty good lookin’ intersection Darrell – but no bike boxes?!

    Seriously though that reminds me of the intersection near the Heritage Square station (aka the ‘Jersey Park and Ride Station) of the Gold Line.

  • Erik G.

    I eagerly await the Farmdale Rapid Bus. The 705 will be stopping at this station, right?

  • Eric B

    So the station will take out a few parking spaces on the campus meaning Expo must buy and raze a motel in order to pave more surface parking near a transit station. You’re telling me that not even a handful of Dorsey staff will be able to take the new line to work? If I worked there I’d gladly accept a bonus equal to my share of the cost of the new lot’s construction in exchange for not driving to work. Time for us to get serious about travel-demand management (TDM) instead of paving over more areas near rail stations.

  • Eric B

    To elaborate on the actual idea: have Expo put into an endowment the cost of property acquisition and parking lot construction, then divide the interest evenly among all Dorsey staff members who don’t drive to work. Seems to be a no-brainer to at least evaluate this as an alternative.

  • Mr. Metro

    That’s great… instead of encouraging our kids to use the line to get to and from school in a safe manner, we scare them into thinking that it’s unsafe and going to kill them! Come on, let’s be serious… they are High School students old enough to make smart decisions (ie: Do i cross a track when red lights are flashing and bells are sounding???) Let’s not insult the future of tommorrow by saying they can’t. They’re sheltered enough already…

  • These delays are unnecessary and are getting tiresome. My only relief is that I know this line WILL open eventually and rail access between Downtown and Santa Monica is just a few years away.

  • Yuri

    Enough with the fear mongering about at-grade light rail. At least one can *predict* where a train will go. When crossing a street in LA I’m more worried about getting slammed by automobiles and buses, because distracted drivers are unpredictable. If I get hit by a train, I’m a distracted pedestrian and I hurt no one but myself.

    Anyone see the post of Fred Camino showing the streetcar going thru a pestrian-filled plaza in Bordeaux? http://thesource.metro.net/2010/03/23/a-pedestrians-view-of-the-blue-line/ No pedestrian crossing gates needed there. Also, the article has a good comparison of how deadly rail is versus cars for pedestrians in LA County. Automobiles are much more deadly and as a society we are ok with that. So, why the exaggerated obsession with at-grade light rail safety? There is no comparison in mortality rates even for the “Blue Line of Death”.

  • Geez, the opinion’s all on one side in the comments section. I guess I’ll put some weight on the other side.

    Making a new station doesn’t make sense. Grade separating the intersection makes sense. Cars are dangerous too. So what? Why shouldn’t we hold present and future transportation projects to higher safety standards than we have held past projects to? Especially so when separating the line is possible with a reworked Measure R expenditure plan that builds fewer miles of better rail.

    Speed, safety, noise, traffic. Make them all better with grade separations or spend the next several decades fighting the same battle over and over and crossing your fingers that nobody gets killed.

    If at-grade is so great, let’s bring the Purple Line up to Wilshire and finish it faster and cheaper.

    We’re going to have to live with Expo for a long time. It’s an important project. We need to get it right.

  • Alex Kasperavicius

    Chewie that’s a great idea, but we can’t use it right now.

    Your concept of “right” is very subjective to interpretation and not constant – it varies like the wind. You seem to assume that the city has endless time and endless money to address any possible concern from anyone, no matter how trivial.

    In the meantime we have people who have to get to their jobs and who have waited and waited – almost 60 years – for this line to get put back.

  • Jerard

    “Making a new station doesn’t make sense. Grade separating the intersection makes sense. Cars are dangerous too. So what? Why shouldn’t we hold present and future transportation projects to higher safety standards than we have held past projects to? Especially so when separating the line is possible with a reworked Measure R expenditure plan that builds fewer miles of better rail.”

    A reworked Measure R expenditure plan? I would like to hear how this plan is to come about.

    But building fewer miles of “better rail” is a useless phrase because it is so subjective as to what defines “better”. Sure we can grade separate some lines and only go a shorter distance but guess what, politically thats not feasible when the corridor in question has funding based on a voter approved measure to a specific destination and yet funding dried out someone will have to explain that disconnect. I hope your plan will explain that disconnect.

    The term “better rail” also has very little context as to what defines better. If better rail is only building the Foothill Gold Line to Azusa Citrus College instead of Ontario Airport then I would agree with that term as building the line past Azusa would not sustain any ridership for the extra costs, therefore building Better rail is building the rail project cost-effectively and safely. If “better rail” is building the same corridor with taxpayer dollars for 50% more money and going 50% shorter distance and moving fewer riders than a project going a longer distance to the destination, built at the same cost or built less expensively and move more riders. So is building fewer miles of “better rail” going to work here?

    Finally, this notion of building fewer miles of “better rail” also goes back to funding as you’re looking for other sources to fund said project and a criteria will look at this shorter “better rail” line and do its objective calcualtions to determine that the shorter “better rail” line would not sustain enough riders to make a dent in ridership thus losing a potential funding source to build said “better rail” project when you can build more miles of rail -at a reduced cost and still be safe-too meet those grant requirements thus enabling said dollars to be stretched further to build more of a better rail NETWORK rather than disconnected gold plated lines which creates no useful network at all.

    “Speed, safety, noise, traffic. Make them all better with grade separations or spend the next several decades fighting the same battle over and over and crossing your fingers that nobody gets killed.”

    We’ll be fighting other battles too such as where do we find the funds to build all the extra grade separation structures from the on-set before construction starts. Other battles such as trying to get FTA to understand why our project doesn’t meet cost-effectiveness criteria yet we’re asking for a large grant application while other projects in other cities are both cost-effective and receive smaller grant dollars should be pushed aside?
    Here’s another battle that you may have to fight that some communities who don’t want the grade separations AT ALL for fear they the structure will effect the character of their neighborhood. So do we throw more money going around that problem?

    So this battle about crossing fingers that nobody getting killed is absurd. We don’t go through this insane fearmongering everytime we hop on a plane and worry about being on the next TWA Flight 800 or American Airlines Flight 191. Or do we have these finger crossing exercises everytime we get inside our cars? You’re more likely to die from an auto accident then kids getting hit by the Light Rail. In fact, we should rename Streetsblog “the Death Doom Blog” and show posts of stories about kids getting hit every single day by nearby schools by DRIVERS who don’t pay attention and are driving erradically. That is not to say I don’t value safety but for the argument purposes here if we value safety too much we’re all be living in vacumn filled bubbles, living no life what-so-ever.

    “If at-grade is so great, let’s bring the Purple Line up to Wilshire and finish it faster and cheaper.

    We’re going to have to live with Expo for a long time. It’s an important project. We need to get it right.”

    Expo is on an existing railroad right-of-way. Wilshire has no such right-of-way and its capacity will be well utilized from the onset take a look at all the full 720 buses to make the point come to life. As the Wilshire Purple Line will serve many dense locations of activity where the heavy rail would be the best mode choice.

  • Eric B

    In summary, a “better” rail line that no longer gets me to my destination is not better at all. Seems like this station is the best compromise available, so let’s break ground.

  • @ Jerard

    What I mean by “better rail” I have explained in great detail in past discussions on this blog. The very very short version is rail that runs faster, poses fewer safety risks, has fewer noise problems and doesn’t disrupt traffic as much.

    Is that subjective? Of course. This is all subjective. There’s no objectivity in sight! Objectivity in public policy is impossible because public policy is based on value judgments which are subjective.

    Some people want as many miles of rail as possible as fast as possible, some people want fewer miles of grade separated rail, and some people think all transit is stupid, but they aren’t on this blog. I probably won’t convince you and you probably won’t convince me.

    Thank you for your novella of a response, I’m flattered.

  • Jerard

    “What I mean by “better rail” I have explained in great detail in past discussions on this blog. The very very short version is rail that runs faster, poses fewer safety risks, has fewer noise problems and doesn’t disrupt traffic as much.”

    My apologies, however I’m not on this blog every single day so I can’t recall don’t know what your opinion is on that item nor would feel I need to search through the Streetsblog to find Chewie and “better rail”.

    “Is that subjective? Of course. This is all subjective. There’s no objectivity in sight! Objectivity in public policy is impossible because public policy is based on value judgments which are subjective.”

    Hmmm maybe this is the reason we can’t have “better rail” because we’re making up more of the rules as it goes to suit a small need rather than for the greater good. Or when those rules are defined so that they are equitable no one likes them because they can no longer manipulate them.

  • Jerard

    “Thank you for your novella of a response, I’m flattered.”

    Don’t be. (smirks)

    I wrote it started to go short and sweet -as my normal approach on blogs- but something took over where I had to get this out because I know this will be a never ending conversation whether or not these lines are at-grade or grade separated and I figured what the hell let me get all of it out at first and not post again for a couple of weeks.

  • Yuri

    I’m starting to think Metro could have avoided itself alot of political fights, delays and costs by just not having a grade separation policy at all. Just build all light rail at-grade. If car lanes need to go to make space for it, then so be it. Light rail is called “light” not because the train cars are any lighter than heavy rail (they are actually heavier), but because they are lighter capacity and the infrastructure supporting them is generally lighter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_rail

    LRTs are articulated and flexible and designed to integrate with the fabric of the street. So why bother building ugly elevated structures and expensive tunneling? If you keep the design simple, you keep your costs per mile down and you stretch your dollars (Calgary was able to build theirs for $24M per mile). When the capacity of a 4-car LRT tops out at somewhere at 200-300k riders per day then look into building a fully grade separated HRT for that corridor (at something like $300M per mile?). I don’t forsee any of our LRT routes topping out in the next 20 years. In this way, you can grow your system to meet the density requirements of an HRT without putting in the heavy investment and then be disappointed by the low ridership and resulting high operating costs (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_rapid_transit_systems_by_ridership and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami-Dade_Metrorail ).

    @Chewie, you can’t have HRT operating at-grade because that would mean you have 8-10 car trains crossing intersections. HRTs also don’t have the flexibility that LRTs have to maneuver tight turns.

  • I JUST LIT A CANDLE FOR THE SOON-TO-BE-LOST PARKING SPACES AND WILL DEF. PRAY FOR THEM ON EASTER SUNDAY. NEVER FORGET! DORSEY PARKIGN SPACES RIP.

  • @ Jerard

    Here’s a link to a February conversation on this blog on the same subject: http://la.streetsblog.org/2010/02/25/ridley-thomas-expo-line-dooms-south-l-a-to-second-class-status/ in which I explain myself in more detail. Serach for “Expo” and you can find more of them.

    I actually started off on this blog arguing against Goodman’s claims that at-grade rail was too dangerous. I guess I can change my mind. It wasn’t easy or comfortable though. In the end I wasn’t convinced that at-grade rail was more dangerous than driving but I was convinced that at-grade rail was more dangerous THAN RAIL COULD BE. Then you add in the noise issues, speed issues, and traffic issues and I think there’s a good case for separations even where there aren’t tall buildings today (especially in South LA where density and ridership rates are high despite the suburban look of the place).

    I want you to know that I respect your position even though I disagree with it. I think the disagreement isn’t due to a lack of intelligence on anyone’s part but instead due to differences in the values that we hold and/or emphasize.

    I really don’t want to demonize anyone, because it just pisses people off and entrenches them in their positions. We’re at an impasse and it will take good ideas from multiple perspectives to resolve it.

    E.g. we almost all agree that the Gold Line has a much better record than the Blue Line. So why is that, and have the lessons been incorporated for Expo?

  • Just to be clear, I’m talking about the Gold Line’s record on safety, noise, and speed, not ridership, which is much higher on the Blue Line.

  • Chewie, I think I’ll go back to my standard line on this sort of thing: billion aren’t spent based on scrawls on the back of an envelope.

  • Jerard

    “I actually started off on this blog arguing against Goodman’s claims that at-grade rail was too dangerous. I guess I can change my mind. It wasn’t easy or comfortable though. In the end I wasn’t convinced that at-grade rail was more dangerous than driving but I was convinced that at-grade rail was more dangerous THAN RAIL COULD BE. Then you add in the noise issues, speed issues, and traffic issues and I think there’s a good case for separations even where there aren’t tall buildings today (especially in South LA where density and ridership rates are high despite the suburban look of the place).”

    There’s nothing wrong with a change of mind, you are human. Humans tend to do that with information presented in front of them.

    Noise issues is an interesting case because there are other light rail systems that operate at-grade and with similiar speeds like our Light Rail and they are quieter, Calgary C-Train is a system is one of the quietest I’ve heard at-grade at 50mph. So theres something to be learned about railway track engineering.

    In the case of LA -speaking hypothetically of course- if we built an elevated bridge, An elevated bridge would solve the traffic and speed issues that you mentioned but yet the tracks are still designed to make the same noise as at grade, how does that solve the noise issue? Should we then spend additional money putting this line in an open-cut trench when that same noise will trumpet out of the structure?

    “I want you to know that I respect your position even though I disagree with it. I think the disagreement isn’t due to a lack of intelligence on anyone’s part but instead due to differences in the values that we hold and/or emphasize.”

    Likewise, that is one of the advantages and freedoms that I love about my country.

    “I really don’t want to demonize anyone, because it just pisses people off and entrenches them in their positions. We’re at an impasse and it will take good ideas from multiple perspectives to resolve it.”

    Me neither, thats why I wrote it in the manner that I did because I want to take advantage of the few times I do rant on forums (smiles) however I also wanted to make some key points that you might not take but someone else on the blog could use.

    “E.g. we almost all agree that the Gold Line has a much better record than the Blue Line. So why is that, and have the lessons been incorporated for Expo?”

    A fair question to ask.

    Now I want you to look at the alignments for both the Blue Line and Gold Line on the sections along the railroad right-of-way and ask what is there directly parallel to the Blue Line but is not parallel to on the Gold Line or will not be directly parallel on the Expo Line.

    The Answer: Freight Tracks. The freight tracks are one of the biggest pieces that can cause confusion for motorists and pedestrians for at-grade crossings on the Blue Line, it is cited in a 1998 Booz-Allen study. I can send the document via email.

    Freight trains when its crossing gates are down take a long time to lumber across the crossing compared to the Light Rail which takes less than 30 seconds. That will create some antsy games that some peds and drivers will play at these crossings because they’re not sure which train will be coming.

    On the street running segments, the Expo Line will include more of the Flashing “Train” signs as well as clearer markings at the sidewalks for pedestrians to watch both ways while crossing the tracks much like the Gold Line. At gated crossings pedestrians will have Calgary style pedestrian gates at the crossings.

    http://transittalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=expoline&thread=74&page=14#6335

  • The noise issue on an elevated train has to be solved by the construction of sound walls adjacent to the elevated tracks, retrofitting the adjacent buildings for noise insulation, or else by some method I’m not aware of. I don’t know of any precedents for doing the former or what the cost would be, but there is a chance that it would be cheaper than tunneling, in which case it could be a good alternative. One sonic advantage of this approach is the absence of crossing gate bells and horn honks from the train.

    Also, I think these discussions would profit from readily and easily accessible information about the costs of doing certain things.

    What is the cost of an average mile of at-grade, above grade, and below grade light rail construction in LA and the respective stations (if I’m not mistaken there is some controversy on this point)? What are the maintenance costs (I assume they would be higher for grade separated stations because of the elevators etc.). I don’t think these are widely known facts and they could help.

    Also, have you seen Goodmon’s video of the Dorsey High students jaywalking after class? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXtY-33nX8c. I think that’s kind of disturbing.

  • Alex Kasperavicius

    I poked around and found some video of Goodmon online at a public meeting about Expo.

    He comes across as strangely combative and irrational. I just don’t understand why he would be so rude or, in retrospect, why this site would choose to feature him as the sole opposition source in an article.

    Here is the link:

  • just want to point out the obvious — nobody is going to use a ‘pedestrian flyover’ — aka ‘a gerbil run’. especially not school kids.

    so, i don’t know the details of the situation, but a pedestrian flyover is a fail because
    1) nobody will use it, thus doing nothing to alleviate the alleged safety problem, and
    2) it will be expensive and serve zero purpose, except to
    3) visually blight the area, and
    4) will probably make the crossing even more dangerous because train operators will be lulled into thinking that people *might* actually use the gerbil run instead of just walking directly across the tracks like normal human beings.

    if you’ve ever been a pedestrian, you know that nobody uses flyovers. you use it once just to check out the view, and then you never use it again.

    if one is forced to use the flyover because of a big, nasty fence that separates one side of the street from another, well that’s a whole other form of destructiveness/divisiveness. if you want the train to divide communities instead of bring them together, build fences, flyovers, etc.

    someone needs to get in there and mediate this thing. for reals. you solve this thing through mediation, everyone may come out a little unhappy, but everyone will be happier than what the court hands down at the end of the day. where my leaders at? I heard Jesse was in Portland recently — maybe he can swing by LA while he’s on the Left Coast?

    p.s. typo: ‘non-plused’ == ‘nonplussed’

  • Jerard

    Also, have you seen Goodmon’s video of the Dorsey High students jaywalking after class? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXtY-33nX8c. I think that’s kind of disturbing.

    I’ve seen that video and it’s highlighting the CURRENT Condition rather than the condition of the crossing with the gates, pedestrian crosswalks etc.

    What’s more disturbing is the fact that currently, they’re jaywalking because there’s no crosswalk lights, street signals, pedestrian crossing signals and its AT A SCHOOL. It’s complete chaos, however with the grade crossing, would create the order that is needed to reduce and prevent kids and pedestrians from jaywalking across the tracks and have them be more mindful of where they are walking and crossing.

  • @Peter just want to point out the obvious — nobody is going to use a ‘pedestrian flyover’ — aka ‘a gerbil run’. especially not school kids.

    Very true. The orginial proposal was for a pedestrian bridge that included closure of the Farmdale grade crossing, that would have forced pedestrians to use the bridge.

    Adding the station was a compromise that LAUSD was receptive to, to avoid potential traffic impacts of closing the street plus inconvenience and safety issues of the school kids having to go over the bridge.

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