Better days: Molina, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Villaraigosa, Former Metro CEO Roger Snoble, and Board Member Pam O'Connor at the Eastside Extension Groundbreaking. Photo: Metro Library
(Editor's note: Originally, this was going to be a post written by Dana Gabbard about Metro placing their public Gold Line Eastside Extension documents online. As I was writing the introduction, the story got away from me. A deep hat tip to Dana for his help with this article and you can see the Metro presentation on the extension at the Transit Coalition Website.)
As was noted in Streetsblog's coverage of the Metro Board Meeting, and more with its own article at The Source, yesterday County Supervisor Gloria Molina held the floor for roughly a half hour, delivering a powerful rant against Metro staff concerning the soon-to-be-opened Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension. Molina accused staff of pushing for the opening of an unsafe line for political reasons, and only doing work for certain favored members of the Board. Meanwhile her fellow Board members, and L.A. County voters, received a lesser tongue lashing for intentionally short-changing the Eastside.
While I admit that I find Molina's monthly displays of self-pitying on behalf of the San Gabriel Valley, where admittedly I don't live so I'm hardly an expert on the area, to be an exercise in self-promotion; this time she came armed with reports and concerned locals to raise the question: Is the Gold Line Eastside ready to be opened as a safe line? The evidence seems to say that it is not.
Yesterday's rant was hardly the first time people have raised questions about the Extension. Safety concerns have been raised by residents from Little Tokyo through the Eastside and into L.A. County. This summer, Metro began to go into communities to explain why and how the Eastside Extension would be safe. A good example of their public presentations can be found at Little Tokyo Unblogged.
Many in the group were equally dismayed at the lack of barriers or
gates to prevent an accident. MTA staff assured us, however, that gates
are being evaluated, and that a study on the issue will be released in
July or August...and there will be an opportunity for public comments.
other questions that came up time and again were the lack of
language-appropriate signage (some of the signs that were up did have
Spanish translations). Many in the group expressed concerns over how
local Japanese and Korean residents, most especially seniors, would be
able to read the warnings. The MTA is also going to take into account
the timing of pedestrian lights to enable seniors sufficient time to
The safety issued remained a simmering local issue as rumored opening dates came and went, but the arguments became more heated after Dakota Smith, the editor of the pro-development blog Curbed, which referred to the above quote from Little Tokyo Unblogged as "fear mongering," almost got hit by a train that was testing the tracks while she touring the future Eastside train stations. Dakota seemed even more annoyed by the somewhat bemused attitude of Metro staff even as they tried to explain how the incident was her fault and the crossings are completely safe.
While Curbed was annoyed, local concerns were still being raised causing Metro to bring in a group of rail safety experts from San Diego, San Francisco and Arlington, V.A., to review the preparations being made for the opening, currently rumored to be November 15. Their somewhat confusing findings could be summarized as: this line is safe, but here's what needs to be done to make it safer. For example, the safety experts noted that ""no trespassing" signs were placed in appropriate places but advised that the wording on the signs be larger. Yesterday, Molina admitted that she had no idea the status of these proposed changes, which undercuts her overall message that the staff isn't addressing safety concerns; especially since staff claims that they're working on it and the Board passed $4.5 million in funds to complete the improved safety standards earlier in the meeting. The major fix will be miles of fencing separating the tracks from the community. How they were planning on opening that line without fencing is beyond me.