Expo Phase I – Coming June 1, “The Last Battle of Farmdale”

Screen_shot_2010_05_24_at_7.50.22_PM.pngA rendering of what a proposed station near Dorsey High would look like.

To say that the proposed rail crossing for the Expo Line on Farmdale Avenue near Dorsey High School is controversial would be like saying that a few cyclists have issues with the way L.A. designs its streets…it would be a gross understatement. Now, with a hearing date of June 1 set by the California Public Utilities Commission over a plan to build a station at the Farmdale crossing, the Expo Line might finally be facing its last hurdle before Phase I is completed.

The newest plan for the Farmdale was unveiled earlier this month after CPUC refused to allow previous plans for an at-grade crossing. The Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line had been pushing for a below-grade crossing for the intersection, and recent emails show the groups has not given up that dream. Meanwhile proponents of completing the Expo line quickly and within budget seem to recognize the station as a political necessity and some are referring to the June 1 CPUC Hearing as the "Last Battle of Farmdale."

However, for the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line, the new station is not a good idea. Writing for the group, Damien Goodmon points to two "international rail safety experts," Russ Quimby and Najmedin Meshkati who claim that building a station will make the intersection more dangerous than a simple at-grade crossing. The argument in brief: because the intersection is so complicated, even before the rail line is added, adding a station is just going to make the issue more complicated than is needed.

As stated by former MTA light rail operators, their proposal to add a station to the holding pen is even LESS SAFE than the original holding pen because it further complicates an already insanely complicated intersection (YouTube footage of Dorsey HS after school). We are going to continue to fight in the courts and in the streets to demand the same level of safety for Dorsey H.S. students as afforded students in Culver City, but we have an immediate problem that requires 2 minutes of your time RIGHT NOW!

But if June 1 is really the Last Battle of Farmdale, than Goodmon the tactician doesn’t like the battlefield. A June 1 hearing in the Dorsey Library is a bad place for him to rally the troops and is pushing for a change of venue and date.

There are several problems with this date and venue that will challenge the ability of important members of the Dorsey HS and surrounding community from actively participating, including among others: the limited capacity of the library (~100 people), the foreseeable parking challenge (a recital is scheduled in the Dorsey auditorium on the same night), elderly and handicapped access issues (the library is on the 2nd floor), and the potential that the hearing will coincide with Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Scheduling important meetings for a controversial project at times and locations that are unreasonable is a textbook public relations game that is played all too frequently in our part of town.

The first reaction of many people when they hear Goodmon’s complaints is disbelief that the potential scheduling of an NBA Finals game is reason to reschedule a hearing.  However, I’m sure Goodmon remembers back to August of 2008 when Goodmon and I made up 40% of an audience for a "congestion pricing" meeting that occurred the same time Team USA Basketball was playing an Olympic Game.

Regardless of the date of the hearing, if CPUC approves this design, Fix Expo will have only two options left.  Challenge CPUC’s decision in court, or accept the station concept and begin lobbying to get the best crossing that they can.  But trying to divine CPUC’s intentions isn’t as easy as it is with either the Metro or Expo Boards.  The independent body of state commissioners is more isolated from politics than the other Boards that have control of this project so the endorsements of Councilmen, Supervisors and Mayors isn’t as importation as it is in other phases of the project.

  • Vic Park

    “However, I’m sure Goodmon remembers back to August of 2008 when Goodmon and I made up 40% of an audience for a “congestion pricing” meeting that occurred the same time Team USA Basketball was playing an Olympic Game.”

    Can we just be honest for a second here and admit that if the NBA Playoff game is going to keep concerned parents from the “last battle” then clearly the safety of children is not an issue at all.

    Hmm… miss a basketball game or have one last chance to save my children from certain death by train?

    It’s not really Sophie’s Choice.

  • Sound like Goodmon is preparing all the excuses why the turnout of his supporters for the meeting is scanty.

    My memory is one early hearing got a turnout based on his inflammatory rhetoric but folks quickly lost interest and saw the whole thing as a non-issue. The photo on Goodmon’s website of a meeting of his “group” showed 12-15 folks seated around a table. Nothing to hint at a vast movement that a venue that seats 100 is inadequate to handle. All signs are the great crusade is fizzling — Goodmon has been AWOL for months from commenting on local blogs and seems to do everything now via e-mailed press releases full of big talk while events seem to be leading toward him being irrelevant. Heck, his website is way overdue to be updated.

    http://www.fixexpo.org/

    For a long time folks attacked me for questioning many aspects of Mr. Goodmon. And I kept telling them events would likely prove me right. I think we are at the point where it is blatantly clear such is the case. Goodmon has repeatedly made noises about lawsuits but given the latest word is his pro bono lawyers quit on him months ago I think he is trying to keep up appearances but won’t be able to do any such thing.

  • Jerard

    Wait a minute, Game 1 of the NBA finals statrt on June 3rd.

    Besides how can they start the finals one day AFTER a possible Game 7 of the Lakers-Phx Suns series.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=5173242

  • Joel

    What’s with the pedestrian gates? They have all the charm of a prison yard.

  • Spokker

    Safer without a station? Sounds great to me. There shouldn’t be a station there anyway. It would be way too close to the others.

  • Spokker

    “What’s with the pedestrian gates? They have all the charm of a prison yard.”

    Don’t you love safety?

  • Joseph E

    We discussed the station spacing, complete with painstakingly-drawn walking distance maps, on The Transit Coalition discussion board:

    http://transittalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=expoline&thread=74&page=38#15512

  • @Jerard
    There won’t be a Game 7. We’ll take it in 6.

  • Jerard Wright

    Even still during the game 4 LAL @ PHX telecast, they mentioned that since this will go 6 games that will guarantee that the NBA finals will start on June 3rd.

    The push for earlier start of June 1st was if the two conference finals ended up as 4-game to-0 sweeps as there will be more than a full week between games the ending of the Conference finals to that start of the NBA Finals.

  • Notes in response:

    * Russell Quimby admitted under cross-examination at a CPUC hearing that he had little experience with rail transit (vs. freight railroads); didn’t take into account CPUC General Order 143B (Safety Rules and Regulations Governing Light-Rail Transit); hadn’t talked with local police, fire, school principals, or LAUSD administrators; and only knew of the Metro Grade Crossing Policy from Rick Thorpe’s testimony about it.

    What is so complicated about the simple intersection of two 2-lane streets?

    * This paragraph from the Joint Settlement Agreement (page 10) emphasizes how the station is SAFER than both the original grade-crossing proposal and a pedestrian bridge:

    “These safety enhancements provided for in the Joint Settlement Agreement transform the at-grade crossing proposal into a superior solution both as compared to previous at-grade plans and as compared to the pedestrian overcrossing option. The safety and policing problems associated with a pedestrian overcrossing are not presented by the at-grade alternative, and the addition of Stop and Proceed procedures, station platforms accessible by convenient ramps, operating restrictions, and other safety enhancements described above all combine to make the at-grade solution proposed by the Joint Settlement Agreement the superior alternative.”

    * Students WILL have the same level of safety as students in Culver City. And Pasadena, where students have safely crossed the Gold Line at Glenarm daily for nearly 7 years now; there have been ZERO accidental fatalities (one suicide) on the Pasadena Gold Line.

    Or contrast with Santa Monica, where trains will cross signalized but ungated intersections at 30 mph, vs. Farmdale’s gated intersection at 15 mph.

    * The meeting has been moved to the cafeteria, and shuttle service will be provided from parking at next-door Rancho Cienega Sports Center.

    * The CPUC wants this to be finished, as indicated by new ALJ Bushey’s appointment last year and push for a settlement.

  • holsta4

    If putting the rail underground is going to cost “$30-100 million dollars” (quoted from the recent LA Times Article), why not think OUTSIDE THE BOX? Has anyone even considered re-thinking the school site itself? Why not invest in the school? Solve both problems? Spend the money on the RE-ALIGNMENT of the school rather than waste it on an underground railway or an overhead. Rodeo Road is certainly wide enough and several of the adjacent buildings already suggest a replacement site for a main campus entryway. If the students could enter and exit the campus from that section along Rodeo Rd. – that would allow the Farmdale crossing to close. Turn that section of the campus into a PARK, a community farm, for the benefit of the community and a learning environment for the students!

  • Has anyone even considered re-thinking the school site itself? Why not invest in the school? Solve both problems? Spend the money on the RE-ALIGNMENT of the school rather than waste it on an underground railway or an overhead.

    —————-

    Have there been any studies of this? It is an interesting idea.

  • Marcotico

    That is a pretty innovative solution. Unfortunately i don’t think the agencies involved have a good track record of collaborating.

  • holsta4

    Yes, actually, I did–I’m a student of Landscape Architecture and I studied this area for a project. I was initially examining Rancho Cienega Park and Dorsey High to create a better connection between the two and other surrounding destinations (of which there are few.) While I was studying the park, I became aware of this issue — I couldn’t figure out why on Earth, they hadn’t considered investment in the school. District 8 has only .43 acres of park per thousand residents, this is far less than the 5 acre national standard. We know, that these areas can gain a lot from small programs that get the kids involved. Why don’t these agencies think strategically? The addition of more parks, especially on or near school campuses can have the effect of reducing crime rates but more importantly getting the students involved with school and educated. These agencies had better shape up, but I guess they have no reason to do so (wasteful spending is part of their agenda.) The system doesn’t want to be fixed. I thought I’d pose the question so that somebody with some vestige of power, might actually take a worthy action. I’m just a student, what can I do? but ask questions?

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