Highlights from the Metro Board: Crenshaw Grade Separation, Bikes on Trains, Bus Cuts

The April 2011 Metro Board Meeting has come and gone.  At the start of the meeting, John Walsh commented that nobody was going to cover the issue of service cuts fairly in the room except for La Opinion.  I guess he noticed I was listening on the phone.

Crenshaw Subway – While the Board didn’t take action on Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ motion to grade separate the line in the Park Mesa Heights community from 48th Street to 59th Street and construct a station at Leimert Park, they did select a locally preferred alternative for the Crenshaw maintenance yard at the Arbor Vitae/Bellanca site and receive and file a report from Metro staff affirming that the at-grade route makes the most sense for the Crenshaw Light Rail project in Park Mesa Heights.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks with L.A. City Deputy Mayor for Transportation Jaime de la Vega at the press event announcing the federal loan for the Crenshaw Line last October.

To fight the perception that light rail won’t work along the Crenshaw Boulevard, staff reminded the Board that the old Yellow Car lines used to run in the Crenshaw Right of Way sixty years ago.  While traffic patterns and the community character have changed quite a bit since then, this point was used to demonstrate that the Boulevard is wide enough to support a light rail line.  (Update: The Source has a picture of the old yellow car lines on their roundup of today’s Board Meeting.)

Damien Goodmon blasted the staff report, especially a line that stated there would be no safety benefit to running the line below-grade rather than at-grade.  “How many of you actually believe that?” Goodmon asked the Board.  There are many arguments to running light rail at-grade along this corridor, that the line will be involved in an equal number of crashes as those running below-grade is not one of them.

The motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will be voted on at next month’s Metro Board Meeting.

Bus Cuts – Just because Metro passed a 4% reduction in bus service, that will begin in June, doesn’t mean the issue won’t remain a controversial one.  Over two-dozen speakers dominated the “public comment” portion of the meeting pleading with the Metro Board to reverse the cuts.  There was a couple of wrinkles in the arguments as speakers contrasted the conditions of the inner city bus route cuts with a proposal to examine transit options for Antelope Valley that was on the agenda.  The Bus Riders Union’s Sunyoung Yang also noted that Metro is about to undergo a federal civil rights review in response to a BRU complaint.

Staff responded by claiming that the problems with bus service at Metro isn’t the amount of service but the quality and predictability of the service.  However, they did propose to examine how bus lines are working every three months instead of every six months.

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Bikes on Trains – The Metro Board also quickly passed two resolutions relating to finally removing the rush hour ban against bicycles on certain trains.  The motions would end the ban, create dedicated bike or bulk item space at the back of rail cars and require Metro to monitor and update the Board on how removing seats to create that space is impacting ridership and the quality of people’s commutes.

Staff will report back on the impact of seat removal before any seats are removed.

In a nice touch, staff and members of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition were joined by Yang from the BRU and LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery supporting the lifting of the ban.  Mowery spoke not as LADOT staff, but as a Blue Line commuter that would save twenty minutes per trip if she could bike to the train instead of having to take the bus.  Mowery also reminded Board Members that the motion would create space for a lot of other items such as strollers, wheel chairs and cats.

Active Transportation – Santa Monica City Council Woman Pam O’Connor’s proposal to create an “active transportation agenda” for Metro sailed through the Board with a unanimous vote after almost no debate from either the Board or audience.  While all her proposal does is call for the creation of an agenda and outline some goals, it doesn’t have a project list attached to it.  That will wait until November.

O’Connor deserves credit for pushing this issue without a constituency actively pushing her to do so.  Too often, walking and bicycling issues don’t advance at Metro or other government bodies without someone loudly insisting that they do.