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MTA must view Crenshaw subway in a regional context

Damien Goodmon | 4/27/2011, 5 p.m.

On May 26, the MTA board of directors will consider Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' motion to keep the entirety of the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line underground on Crenshaw Blvd. and add a station at Leimert Park Village. The implications of the motion are significant.

While, it is of critical importance that the line is built underground on Crenshaw Boulevard in a manner that provides Park Mesa Heights merchants opportunity, not destruction, and provides travelers with the option to walk to Leimert Park Village, it is also important to view the rail line in the context of regional transportation.

The current Crenshaw-LAX project, from the future Expo Line Crenshaw station to the Green Line by way of LAX, is simply the first phase of the most significant north-south rail project in our county.

MTA's recently completed study/is currently studying extensions of the line all the way north to Hollywood, and deep into the south to the ports of San Pedro and Long Beach. The end product is a rapid transit option that will connect Hollywood, West Hollywood, Miracle Mile, Mid-City, the Crenshaw District, Inglewood, Westchester, El Segundo, Redondo Beach and Torrance all by one rail line to LAX, a train that will have transfer stations with four of the five east-west MTA rail lines.

The implications to the MTA system and regional transportation as a whole are huge.

In the South Bay, the line would provide an alternative to the I-405 Freeway. And in the north from Hollywood to the Expo Line, the line would have a total monopoly on high-speed transportation, because it would be 100 percent underground permitting trains to travel 55 mph between stations in a section of our region that has no freeway option. The result: traveling from Hollywood to LAX in a little over 30 minutes.

Ponder the thought.

The currently proposed median street-running segment in Park Mesa Heights from 48th to 59th streets would be the only impediment to fast reliable rail service for the entire line. In this section the train would have to compete with an already overburdened roadway.

At the major intersection of Slauson/Crenshaw, MTA's own studies reveal that rush-hour congestion is at its worst possible level and cannot be improved with a street-level crossing. The train would also have to stop at signals and travel with no crossing gates. Of the nearly 900 accidents on MTA's street-level Blue Line, the deadliest light rail line in America, 76 percent of all accidents and 92 percent of all vehicular accidents are at crossings with no gates.

If one of the goals of the public investment is to convince travelers that they can make their flights on time by "Go[ing] Metro"--that they need not clog the city streets and 405 to get to LAX, then surely it is wise for MTA to avoid designs that are known to be problematic and create significant delays to passengers. By keeping the Crenshaw/LAX Line underground on Crenshaw Boulevard, the Ridley-Thomas motion would avoid these foreseeable problems.

There's no denying that the Ridley-Thomas motion is important to the preservation and enhancement of the Crenshaw community. But it is important for MTA to recognize that it is also important to constituents in other parts of the city and county, who seek fast reliable rail service to LAX and the heart of the region's African American community.