In Crenshaw, Overwhelming Enthusiasm for Leimert Park Station

For Residents of the Crenshaw Corridor the issue has nothing to do with Measure R Funds, they just want a station at Leimert Park. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/waltarrrrr/5530946509/##Waltarr/Flickr##

A recent motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas calling for grade separation for nearly the entire Crenshaw Corridor and a second station at Leimert Park, has become one of the most controversial Metro proposals in recent memories.  Transit advocates across the region worry about the impact on other Measure R projects, especially because the motion wants to look at moving funds for expansion of the Green Line or Expo Line to fund the additional projects.  You can read more details about the proposal, here.

But in news papers up and down the Crenshaw Corridor, there is unanimous support for the ideas of both grade separating the line and especially for the Leimert Park Station.

An editorial in the L.A. Sentinel asks the question, “why isn’t there a station planned for Leimert Park?”  The park and businesses surrounding it is viewed by many as the cultural center of South Los Angeles, and seems to be a natural fit for a rail station, above or below ground.  The editorial is full of supportive quotes from politicians and advocates, but this comment by the Michael Jones of the Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce captures the argument for both Leimert Station and a grade-separated Crenshaw Line:

There are two things involved here. One is Metro is saying they don’t want to do it because it cost too much money; so that’s a concern that they have.

However, when you look at Leimert coming up … the Vision Theater, the renovated shops and the businesses that will follow, for that train NOT to stop at Vernon and Crenshaw, will be a travesty to the community. The other part is that the train must run underground between 48th Street and 59th Street. Why? Because the time it will take to build two train tracks in the middle of Crenshaw, the businesses will be affected in a very, very bad way.

Our Weekly has published Opinion pieces in each of its last two editions by a pair of Ph.D.’s promoting the Station and grade-separation.  Last week, Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad makes the same point slightly more succinctly.

Urban centers are designed around two things: schools and mass transit. Business comes where the transit stops, and homeowners come where the schools are. The money then follows both.

Until our community understands that mis-designing mass transit is a detriment to the economic development prospects of our community, we will never see the change we desire.

When we get it, they get it.

This week, David Horne calls for the Corridor’s black community to come out and support the Ridley-Thomas motion at this month’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors.  He notes that the early morning schedule for the meeting makes attendence difficult, but this may be the community’s only chance to get the station, and separation, they want.

But the board will have to be convinced to do so. In order for that proposal to be successful, we all need some real booties in the balcony. Black folk need to be seen in the aisles, halls and in the seats to demonstrate our sustained interest in the supervisor’s proposal. No people, no pressure, and no positive vote. That’s how it works. So get there.

Last, but never least, Damien Goodmon writes in The Wave that building the Leimert Station isn’t just good for the Crenshaw community, but the entire city:

The plight of the Crenshaw business community should concern us all. If Los Angeles is a salad bowl filled with a mixture of cultures from throughout the world, Crenshaw must be the dressing. Our region should no more welcome the destruction of the Crenshaw business community than it should Little Tokyo or Chinatown. Crenshaw is as much a part of our unique identity as a multicultural city, as any other ethnic center. We must both preserve it and enhance it with the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line.

One thing that doesn’t appear in any of these opinion pieces is a broader discussion of Metro finances or an analysis of whether the Crenshaw Line is more or less important than the Expo Line or Green Line.  The issue isn’t about the larger Measure R picture, its just about an effort to get the rail line that they feel makes the most sense for the community.

  • Yuri

    If the businesses along Crenshaw want to tax themselves to grade separate, they are free to do so. But taking money away from the Expo and Green lines to do it is bad policy.

  • There should be a station at Lemiert Park. There doesn’t have to be an underground station at Lemiert Park.

  • I’m torn. Obviously there should be a station in Lemiert Park. But stealing from other projects sets a bad precedent and will surely come back to bite the city later. Can’t we sacrifice some other station to build a station in Lemiert Park?

    In regards to running the train underground through that section- I don’t think fear of shopkeepers losing business justifies the tremendous costs of doing so. There’s ways of minimizing the traffic disruptions.

  • Little Logic

    The Ridley-Thomas motion doesn’t specify where the money comes from it simply identifies potential sources. If there are other sources (and there are) Metro staff should propose them. Metro moves money around for these projects almost on an annual basis.

    Among the potential sources of money is the I-405 on/off-ramps for Arbor Vitae that no one wants. I thought spending highway money on transit was considered a good thing on this board.

    Another is the Green Line to LAX project, whereby the $200M price tag for the tunnel by the LAX runways is coming out of the Crenshaw-LAX budget. At the least the Green Line to LAX project should share the cost.

    Another is not Expo Phase 2, but this mysterious undefined “Expo Phase 2 substitute project.” Expo Phase 2 is already fully funded, which includes a contingency. So what is the “substitute project”? Ask the politicians and the Metro staff and you get no answers.

  • J.Reyes

    That change on the Arbor Vitae ramps would take more than just a board vote to make that change it needs to go to the State Assmebly to make the transfer of funds happen because of the language between Measure R and the Feuer Bill that created measure R.

    Expo Phase 2 substitue project, send the link, becvause I’m not sure what that means.

  • Little Logic

    In response to J. Reyes, this is the language on page 13 of the LRTP:

    “Specifically, $611 million in Measure R funds forecasted to be released from the Exposition LRT project will instead be used for an as yet-to-be-determined alternate project in the Westside sub-region in the third decade of the LRTP.”

    And the Arbor Vitae on-ramps aren’t part of Measure R.

  • Ronrueda

    Sure the Ridley Thomas Motion does not specify exactly where the funds come from just a list of potential sources. But on the other hand with Metro cutting bus operation funds and the Expo line coming in almost 2 years later than it was originally proposed and with an increased budget it would be rather unwise for Metro to just simply add money to project that is rather low on the cost-effective charts especially the grade separation through Park Mesa Heights. I do wonder though how much it would cost for Metro to build the station box at Leimart Park and to open it later when more funds are secured.

  • Marcotico

    This article highlights the importance of two things. The positive mission the community is on. As Damien says, nobody is talking about “stealing” from other projects, they are talking about making the best Crenshaw line as possible. So the dialogue should be engaged in that spirit. The second is that in LA, community support and engagement is a major factor in decision making. Yes there are technical policies and analyses, but this is not a machine we are building its a city, so the feelings and support a community has for a project should be a (not THE) factor is how we prioritize resources. Measure R for better or worse is the de factor vision plan for the system. But within that framework Metro has to be somewhat flexible.

  • Yuri

    This is fine, but what I don’t like is how the proponents try to rationalize the grade separation by saying it’s unsafe, when there’s no evidence that at-grade light rail is any more unsafe than at-grade motor vehicles. In fact, it probably is safer since it moves along a fixed guideway.

  • Scott Mercer

    The station at King/Crenshaw should be moved to Leimert Park. It’s only 1/2 mile away. But this comes down to planning. Should we reward the post World War 2 suburban sprawl supporting model represented by the shopping (though I belive the mall is older), or should we support the “urban village” concept represented by Leimert Park? The answer is obvious. (Undergrounding the line that Ridley-Thomas wants to do is not necessary.)

  • I just spoke with Roderick Diaz who is Project Manager for the Crenshaw light rail project. My purpose was to ascertain whether a station for Leimart Park is feasible at grade. Turns out topography, station planning parameters and the line’s profile (involving a below to surface transition) means nothing could be placed closer than 48th St. Which is only marginally closer than the stop at King Bl.I hope either Damien or Steve Hymon interviews Diaz so he can provide a fuller explanation (with maps and pictures) why at grade a station near to Leimart Park isn’t possible.BTW, when Anthony Asadullah Samad states “Now, if you look at community cultural centers all over the city, public rail transit stops there” to justify having a station for Leimart Park he evidently is unaware that this isn’t always so. For example the Gold Line has stops near Old Town Pasadena but due to various engineering issues there isn’t one as it crosses under Colorado Blvd. and the heart of that entertainment district. Choices must be made, money isn’t infinite and sometimes various factors such as occurs in this case prevent station locations from being where some folks will endlessly claim one “must” be.
    http://www.ourweekly.com/features/crenshaw-rail-line-let%E2%80%99s-avoid-being-taken-ride

  • Jerard Wright

    J. Reyes asked for a link to that document. I have a copy of the LRTP and no where on Page 13 does that quote even appear.

  • Jerard Wright

    Its true that it should be engaged in that spirit however, when the first component of the motion is to shift funding from other projects that the author of the motion Director MRT has indicated publically a fear of that same component being used against his project to fund the Purple Line extension to Westwood. Therefore we must discuss that in all sincerity and seriousness along with the Leimert Park station as this will have reprocussions on future projects in the Measure R list.

  • Wouldn’t grade separation over this short stretch use cut-and-cover construction? If that’s the case, wouldn’t the construction impact on businesses be just as bad or perhaps even worse?

  • Jerard Wright

    This the only link that relates project funding to Exposition LRT, It’s on page 14 note ‘b’ http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2011/04_April/20110420F&BItem2.pdf

    “Systemwide ridership projections indicate the need for a Regional Connector downtown, Expendature plan assumes that project Metro LRTP funds freed up from Exposition Phase II by passage of the sales tax will be redirected to the Regional Connector project by the Metro Board”

  • Little Logic

    Go to Metro.net search “long range transportation plan” and it takes you to the page: http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/lrtp/lrtp.htm The first link on the page “Board Report Approving the 2009 LRTP.”

  • Jerard Wright

    Little Logic,

    Thank you for the link and it suspected what I thought it was all along. That line is a funding assumption based upon another project not to be used for what is being thought of. The full quote reads, “The LRTP funding strategy relies on certain funding assumptions about the implementation of Measure R sub-region equity rules. Specifically, $611 million in Measure R funds forecast to be released to the Exposition LRT project will instead be used for an as yet-to-be determined alternative project in the Westside sub-region in the third decade of the LRTP. Similarly, $182 million in Measure R funds forecast to be released from the San Fernando Valley North-South project will be reserved for an as yet-to-be determined alternative project in the San Fernando Valley sub-region in the third decade of the LRTP.”

    Looking at the LRTP recommended plan to which there are specific date projections to parallel with this, there’s only one project that fits that description and that’s the San Fernando Valley I-405 Corridor connection between Van Nuys and West LA with a projected opening year of 2039 because it’s in the strategic funded plan.

  • Mr. Diaz has shared with me a clarification regarding issues relating to an at-grade station at Leimart Park:

    The factors related to the curves and the grade of the track mean the closest location to Vernon Avenue for an at-grade station is likely south of 48th Street. There is a design option for a below-grade station, which considers an open trench station just south of Vernon Avenue in the triangle bound by Vernon, Crenshaw and Leimert Boulevard.

  • Mr. Diaz has shared with me a clarification regarding issues relating to an at-grade station at Leimart Park:

    The factors related to the curves and the grade of the track mean the closest location to Vernon Avenue for an at-grade station is likely south of 48th Street. There is a design option for a below-grade station, which considers an open trench station just south of Vernon Avenue in the triangle bound by Vernon, Crenshaw and Leimert Boulevard.

  • These are two separate issues.  Leimert Park station I think is a good idea, due to its central and important location in the community.

    Grade-separation through Park Mesa Heights is another matter.  I don’t really care if the community supports it – wouldn’t virtually every community prefer a subway over at-grade rail? The issue isn’t whether they want it, but whether it is necessary and whether funds exist for it.  The answer to both of these is no.  The Crenshaw Line is already projected to be the most expensive light rail project in L.A., one a per-rider basis.  We cannot afford to gold-plate this thing any more.

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