Students, Professors Acitivsts Call for Grade-Separated Connector

3_31_09_metro.jpgImage: Metro.net

Last night Metro, kicked off a week of public outreach for the environmental studies for the Downtown Connector,aka Regional Connector, with a meeting at the University of Southern California.  This marked the first time that they held a meeting at USC as previous efforts had focused on the Downtown and Chinatown.  For those new to the project, this project will connect the Blue, Gold and Expo Lines providing one-seat rides from Pasadena to Long Beach and vice-versa.  The connector could save riders up to 21 minutes if a rider from Long Beach needed to get to Pasadena and had to transfer multiple times and buy multiple tickets.  For more details of the project, go to the project’s official website or check out this great article from Blogdowntown.

There wasn’t a lot of news from last night’s meeting.  The same four alternatives that the Metro Board passed in January are still on the table, despite a quick lobbying effort from City Councilman Tom LaBonge to have the connector run along the Alameda  instead of the current route along Flower and Second Street. 

At this point, there are basically two alternatives to build the line being studied as well as a no-build option or Transportation Demand Management option.  A TDM option is basically using more buses and modern intersections to increase traffic flow.

Meanwhile the two alternatives would have trains running along identical routes, up Flower Street, take a right at 2nd through the Downtown until connecting with the Gold Lne Station in Little Tokyo.  However, the at-grade also run up and down Main and Los Angeles Street to connect to Temple Street before heading into Little Tokyo.

At previous meetings, concerns over the light rail’s traffic impacts and the construction of a new station in Luttle Tokyo were the key points of testimony; but weren’t mentioned last night.  In addition to LaBonge, the public testimony included remarks by USC Professor
Najmedin Meshkati, various students and other rail activists.  Professor Meshkati, an outspoken opponent of at-grade crossings for the Expo Line, warned Metro to build this project correctly the first time, i.e. to build it below grade. 

Meshkati, an expert on factoring human behavior into transit planning, pleaded with Metro not to build at-grade light rail because he didn’t want to spend hundreds of pro-bono hours fighting with them again, "I would give the plan for Expo a C-, if I was feeling generous…I plead with you not to do this again."

Meshkati’s remarks were echoed by all of the half dozen speakers who joined him, including Justin Walker who represents the USC Chapter of CALPIRG.

There are still three more public meetings on the project this week.  Or if you can’t make it out this week but want to have your say; you can send testimony to regionalconnector@metro.net  before the May 11 deadline.

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