Mixed Reviews on Crenshaw Corridor LRT Plan from Community Leaders

11_10_09_crenshaw_corridor_meeting.jpgCommunity turnout was strong at public meetings on what to do for the Crenshaw Corridor. Photo: Wad/Flickr

In what can only be considered a win for County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas the Metro staff is now recommending that light rail, not Bus Rapid Transit, be brought to the Crenshaw Corridor. Ridley-Thomas has been active behind the scenes and in front of the microphone pushing for adequate funding for light rail for his district.

However, just because a politician supports an idea doesn’t mean it necessarily has the support of the communities he represents. For example, remember the vitriolic exchanges between Damien Goodmon and City Councilman, and former Ridley-Thomas opponent, Bernard Parks. So will Crenshaw run into similar opposition as Phase I of Expo? It depends who you ask. While some activists are thrilled to be getting light rail instead of "more buses," others question the proposed alignment.

At the Times’ LA_Now blog, the Los Angeles Urban League gives the project a thumbs up:

"We do consider it a victory," said Trevor Ware, chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Urban League.

"Look at the transportation options that we have now. We have buses on Crenshaw and we see other neighborhoods that are developing other types of transportation options," Ware added.

"To have a decision made that we will have light rail – that’s so much faster and will have so much more of an economic impact – we need that too," he said.

This morning, I exchanged emails with Goodmon, who seemed supportive of the numerous below-grade crossings and stations for the project but also vowed to push on for further below-grade construction:

We applaud the inclusion of options into the Base LRT design, specifically the below grade Hyde Park portion, and the continued study of the remaining options. Our current focus is on getting the EIR to study the remaining portion between 48th and 60th that is not currently being studied for below grade, so as to avoid future delay from a supplemental environmental process.

For a list of all the grade crossings, visit the agenda for next week’s Planning Committee meeting and head to page 5.

Goodmon also noted that there are other areas that might concern the community. Namely that the staff’s recommended contractor is not from South L.A., undercutting Ridley-Thomas’ boast of 8,700 new jobs and that any at-grade alignment is against the stated position of the City of Los Angeles and the Crenshaw Corridor Specific Plan. The resolution was sponsored by local City Councilmembers Parks and Wesson. A full copy of Goodmon’s statement is available after the jump.

On behalf of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, and
South Los Angeles Neighborhood Council’s Joint Committee on Rail Transit
Delivered by Damien Goodmon

We agree with MTA staff’s recommendation of light rail over bus rapid transit, the inclusion of the below grade (underground) sections along some parts of Crenshaw, and the recommendation to continue study of underground options and stations elsewhere along the route.

However, the portion on Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 60th St, in Park Mesa Heights, will be a rallying point for our community. Staff is recommending the section, which abuts View Park Prep School and is just a block away from Crenshaw High School only be studied as street-level with no option for underground. We disagree, and want to avoid the problems articulated by Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding Eastside Extension safety issues, and the tragic record of MTA’s Blue Line, America’s deadliest light rail line.

Staff’s recommendation for street level crossings in the Park Mesa Heights community will increase safety hazards to school aged children and the public at large, result in the removal of hundreds of parking spaces important to the area’s commerce, the removal tall median trees that are crucial to Crenshaw Blvd’s scenic highway status, increase congestion at heavily traveled cross streets, such as of Slauson and 54th, slow down the overall speed of the line, and impair an otherwise good economic development opportunities. From traffic, parking, safety, economic development and procedural standpoints, it is a mistake. As requested by the community, the neighborhood councils and the Los Angeles City Council, an underground option from 48th to 60th Street must be included among the other options under study, so when funding becomes available it can seamlessly integrated into the Crenshaw Line project without delay. MTA should avoid the mistakes of Expo while building Crenshaw.

Additionally, we disagree with staff’s recommendation for the design and preliminary engineering contract. It appears Metro staff wants the board to throw aside a perfectly capable and eminently qualified team that included businesses owned by people who live in the Crenshaw Corridor, in favor a team led out of Orange County. The largest public works project in the history of South L.A. should not be designed from Orange County.

Staff is recommending the Hatch Mott McDonnell’s team, over the PB Americas team, which included among others Terry Hayes of Terry Hayes Associates and Roland Wiley of RAW International. These local African-American business leaders have done all the preliminary work to date for this project going back to the early ’90s, have deep roots in the Crenshaw area, have volunteered their expertise on numerous community projects, and most importantly have a strong understanding of the pulse of the Crenshaw community, because they live here.

I don’t yet know why the PB Americas team was not selected, but the MTA board should overrule the staff recommendation to ensure that the promises made by elected officials to generate more jobs and a leadership role for the community are kept.

We will be working in the coming weeks to persuade the MTA Board to address these issues promptly so our region and the Crenshaw corridor communities can receive what is necessary and what we are due: a fast, safe and reliable alternative to the traffic that is clogging our streets and polluting our air.

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  • Mahatma

    How is the LRT better than BRT when the latter, by Metro’s own predictions, would be longer, carry more riders, and be half as much money?

    INSANITY, plus the childish romance of trains.

  • Spokker

    Maybe the BRT option carries more riders because it’s longer? If the LRT option connects to the Wilshire subway, it would blow BRT out of the water.

  • DJB

    “We . . . want to avoid the problems articulated by Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding Eastside Extension safety issues, and the tragic record of MTA’s Blue Line, America’s deadliest light rail line.”

    I’ve heard this so many times it must be true :) There’s a problem with this: the ambiguity of “America’s deadliest light rail line”. Deadliest measured how? I can think of several possibilities, most of them flawed:

    1) Total number of deaths (flawed because it ignores the fact that some lines have existed longer than others)

    2) Deaths per year (flawed because, for example, some lines are longer than others)

    3) Deaths per mile of track per year (flawed because the amount of train travel is not taken into account)

    4) Deaths per mile of train travel – This falls short as well, even in comparing light rail systems to each other (since they have differing ridership). It should not be compared to vehicle miles traveled since it ignores the fact that trains carry many more people per mile of travel than cars, and that, absent the train travel, people would be using other modes of transportation which would create threats (this builds on an unfinished discussion from earlier)

    5) Deaths per passenger mile. This is the best measure to use. It takes into account all of the issues listed above.

    Note, I don’t have any data on this. I just want to make sure we’re using solid methods. Also note that I like grade separated rail, I just haven’t been convinced that at-grade rail is less safe than driving.

  • Mahatma

    “Maybe the BRT option carries more riders because it’s longer? If the LRT option connects to the Wilshire subway, it would blow BRT out of the water.”

    Sure. Also, if we built it to the Valley it’d have even more riders! Unfortunately neither your LRT scenario or this one are on the table.

  • Buses don’t solve congestion problems and are almost never on time because of the unpredictability of traffic; by contrast I have only seen very rare instances where the subway, green, and blue lines are late. I rely on two buses, ONE OF WHICH IS THE 710 DOWN CRENSHAW, to get me to Union Station on time to catch the last Metrolink to Orange County every day and (especially lately for some reason) it doesn’t always live up to what it needs to.

    There are a ton of people up and down Crenshaw that deserve a solid and reliable mode of transportation rather than the slew of half-broken buses that currently serve it. It would benefit greatly from a light rail line, and simply throwing more buses at it just delays the inevitable need for a real mass transit option.

  • Erik G.

    Buses get stuck in traffic.

    And the 8th-grade shop projects from Hungary that LA Metro uses as buses have a real knack for breaking down.

  • Mahatma

    BRT is not equal to “Metro Rapid.” Have you even read their alternative analysis? Oh right, you haven’t.

  • Mahatma

    To clarify, both of your comments relate to buses being stuck in traffic.

    Any mode of transit performs awesomely on its own dedicated right of way, and with good reason — it has no competition. Having your own lane on the freeway is the same as the red line having its own lane. Same concept with BRT.

    That said, right of ways are extremely expensive, especially at the utilization level of our current dedicated underground right of way for the red and purple lines. That’s also why this ham-handed proposal ends at Expo whereas a BRT could hop off its right of way and give you a one-seat service to the existing Purple Line. Instead, we get another disjointed “almost there,” overpriced service.

    If you want a train so bad, for practicality reasons, build one in your garage.

  • Mahatma:

    I understand your concerns, but to clarify the BRT option proposed by Metro involved several assumptions and really was no better than the Rapid bus that already exists on Crenshaw Blvd. If anything it was the wasteful of the two options, with mixed flow running north of Exposition and likely in the Leimert Park area. In fact, many of the assumptions as to time travel were predicated on approval from LADOT and community. Both were clear that such approval would very likely not be given. The lack of compatibility with the mode of transportation on the Harbor Subdivision corridor was also a major impediment to BRT for this particular corridor.


    We’ve done an extensive amount on the FixExpo.org website citing stats and studies that explain that the Blue Line is far more likely to get in an accident than with a car, it is by far the deadliest rail line in the country in raw data, as well as per rider and per track mile, and in the last recorded year had an accident rate 275% higher than the national average for light rail.

    RE: The rest

    People are right to assume that when the Crenshaw Line is extended north to Wilshire, and possibly to Hollywood via the Pink Line alignment currently understudy in the Wilshire subway extension, it will blow not just BRT, but also very likely the Blue Line out of the water as far as ridership is concerned. Furthermore, extensions into the South Bay are funded in Measure R as well.

    What we’re looking at is Phase 1 of a two to three phase project that when completed 20 years from now will very likely be a 100K riders/day light rail line.

  • I am really sad to see the myopia of moving people dominate this discussion. Crenshaw is a commercial corridor as well as a travel corridor – and I don’t think that focusing on numbers of people moved at X rate per hour is the proper way to design for uses in the right of way.

    I think it is foolish to talk about BRT versus Light Rail – when the basic discussion of how to bring “the good life” (as mentioned in the ceiling of the Hall of Mayors in City Hall) to local residents. Clearly, an auto-only focus on Crenshaw needs to be dealt with.

    Instead of throughput, why not focus on things that actually affect the quality of life and the impact that travel has on local commerce?

  • Wad

    Mahatma wrote:

    Any mode of transit performs awesomely on its own dedicated right of way, and with good reason — it has no competition.

    The Orange Line performs fabulously because it has its own right of way.

    At the same time, Metro has maintained that the Orange Line has been over capacity ever since it opened. Ridership has been in the 20,000 range.

    If that’s the capacity limit of buses on their own guideway, L.A.’s ridership is too high to allow for other similar busways.

    El Monte’s capacity is much higher, but that’s because it is fully grade separated and buses can only enter through 3 points.

    That’s the capacity limit of Orange Line at its current schedule. Metro can always propose to bump up service, but there’s a throughput issue here and LADOT will now allow the Orange Line to back up signals for north-south streets in the Valley.

  • The BRT proposal would have been a lot of money for no significant improvement over what we have now.

    Rail and bus are not the same thing and a seat on a bus is not the same as a seat on a train. Buses do not attract choice riders or economic development.

    Metro made the right choice.

  • From a long term perspective, light rail on Crenshaw will enable meaningful integration of all of LA’s rail lines and add more users to the system (netowrk effect) that BRT will not be able to match. With Crenshaw line in place, it will be possible for Metro to run trains from East LA all the way to Redondo Beach via LAX. Think about what that means in terms of uniting different neighborhoods and enabling transit mobility in LA County that buses (no matter how separated from mix flow traffic) will never be able to match.


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