As the population of Los Angeles continues to flourish at an accelerated rate, the need for adequate transportation will remain a hot topic.
Councilmember Jan Perry (CD-9), the featured speaker for the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum, addressed the need for a viable public transit system.
Although the tentative completion date of the Expo Light Rail Line is scheduled for 2010, a sizable amount of dissention surrounds the issues of traffic congestion, noise pollution, and especially safety and other environmental concerns in the neighborhoods that the line will traverse on its way to the ocean. These include the areas governed by the Councilmembers Bernard Parks (CD-8), Herb Wesson (CD-10) and Perry.
Perry pointed out that the line itself will be built on the existing decades old Southern Pacific railway. Some of the primary concerns include safety particularly in the area around Dorsey High School, which to the line comes as close as 100 feet.
When Perry mentioned that the exorbitant increase to a construction budget already reaching $800 billion plus renders the possibility of a tunnel (which would significantly improve safety) out of the question, a member of the audience said that the proposed subway to the sea (an extension of the Red Line already in place) is predicated on tunneling. Perry then pointed out that approval for that venture is still pending (not to mention complicated by the prospect of drilling through large pockets of methane gas), with cost being a key worry.
Safety concerns will then be addressed by way of crossing gates, fences, and landscaping. Towards this end, Perry noted that the already in operation Gold Line has been in existence for four years, and by passes at least one school, South Pasadenas S.E.E.D.S. School (research indicates that S.E.E.D.S. was a private school which closed as long as three years ago).
A logical offshoot of this discussion includes the possibility of minority job opportunities. Adrienne Sasser-Gardner, Jobs Program Manager for the joint venture design-building contractors, FCI/Fluor/Parsons (FFP), informed the crowd that 30 percent of the employment opportunities have been reserved for people determined to be at risk. Of these approximately 200 jobs, 30 percent have been earmarked for inhabitants of the Expo Corridor, which translates to 75 jobs for community residents.
The population explosion of Southern California and Los Angeles in particular, dictates that rail expansion is certain. An additional factor in the whole equation is the latest (2000) Census data that shows nearly 30 percent of the households along the Exposition Corridor do not have access to an automobile. This merely adds to the on going debate weighting community benefits versus tax payer costs and safety concerns affecting residents living in those same neighborhoods.