Expo Friends Say Goodmon Got It Wrong

Originally appeared on LA CityWatch 5/23/08 (direct link) and The Front Page 5/28/08.

The Expo Line light rail from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City and Santa Monica will provide a fast, comfortable, safe, quiet, exhaust-free, high-capacity alternative to horrible I-10 traffic.

Friends 4 Expo Transit is a group of grass-roots volunteers from along the Expo Line corridor and beyond.

Popular support made a big difference for Metro’s 2001 decision to approve this project.

We are concerned that Damien Goodmon's (5/16/08 CityWatch) column makes a number of claims about safety, community impact, and “environmental racism” that require correction.

The design of the Expo Line was finalized in 2005-06. Contracts were signed, it’s under construction to Culver City, and environmental study is underway for the second half to Santa Monica.

Are there flaws so severe as to call for stopping the project?

Just the opposite!

Yes, tracks will be mostly at ground level (“at-grade”), with occasional bridges or underpasses (“grade separations”) where necessary. That’s the standard of modern light rail in many cities including Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Dallas, and Los Angeles’ own most-recent Pasadena and Eastside Gold Lines.

Conversely. there is no recent U.S. light rail line built in an extended trench as Mr. Goodmon advocates between Vermont and La Brea.

Light rail trains do not operate at 55 mph without gates. Standard operation for light rail trains is 35 mph with traffic signals in boulevard medians, like the new Eastside Gold Line (opening next year, that passes three LAUSD schools), or 55 mph on private fenced right-of-way with crossing gates, like the Pasadena Gold Line.

Concern over traffic and safety resulted in Metro developing a consistent Grade Crossing Policy to evaluate all intersections. It specified grade separations at the busiest: Flower-Figueroa, La Brea, La Cienega-National, and Venice-National-Washington.

The claim of “environmental racism” is indeed disturbing.

Especially since the Expo Line meets or exceeds the standard of light rail in other cities, has extensive safety measures and other mitigations, and there are actually more grade separations in Los Angeles’ minority communities than in Culver City.

The same Grade Crossing standard applies to phase 2, where the city of Santa Monica requested study of at-grade tracks in the median of Colorado into its downtown instead of aerial.

We look forward to timely completion of the Expo Line to Culver City in 2010, and subsequently to Santa Monica around 2015.

To not finish this critical transportation improvement would be a tragic loss in mobility!

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