Crenshaw District residents, business owners and all those with a stake in seeing that the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line will be a first-rate project have an opportunity to let the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hear their voices.

A petition urging the Metro board to include important design features that will enhance the commuting experience for all county residents is now in wide circulation. It calls for two critical developments: a station stop in Leimert Park Village and running the light rail underground along Crenshaw from 48th to 59th streets.

The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor project is the first major transit project managed by Metro to be financed primarily by the half-cent sales tax on purchases in Los Angeles County (Measure R). Upon completion, it will serve all county residents by providing a rail transit connection to Los Angeles International Airport. According to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, voters along the corridor were among the most supportive constituents of this tax.

A Metro study concluded that a below grade (underground) alignment would:
1) Improve travel time for all passengers to LAX airport
2) Increase ridership on the line by 700 passengers per day, a 4 percent increase (over the above-ground option)
3) Reduce potential safety concerns at schools and other sensitive areas
4) Minimize disruption to local businesses
5) Prevent gridlock on surface streets

Inclusion of these two design elements is critical to ensuring that this Measure R project is built in a manner that is both responsive to community concerns and does not miss an opportunity to serve some of the most historic neighborhoods in the region.

Measure R includes a variety of projects and categories with the overall intent of improving mobility in the region. The federal government has taken note of this transit project and awarded L.A. County a Transportation Infrastructure, Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan last summer. It is believed that incorporating these final two elements in the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor will ensure the maximum potential for providing a rail transit connection to the airport to all Los Angeles County; relieve congestion; improve air quality; and promote economic development for a community that wholeheartedly endorsed Measure R.

More than 1,000 people have already signed the petition, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas encourages everyone who is able, to join the movement. The goal is to present thousands of signatures to the Metro board before its meeting at 9 a.m. on May 26.

“Let Metro know that running a train down the middle of the street in Park Mesa Heights is unacceptable and that a station in Leimert Park Village is a must,” the supervisor said. “Each signature sends a message. The petition conveys the unity of the region’s concerned citizens and their insistence that the Metro board vote yes for safety, financial opportunity, and the community’s future growth.

“For generations, the South Los Angeles community has seen transportation-related construction bisect and scar our neighborhoods, hindering business and destroying property values. Seeking a station stop in Leimert Park Village, the cultural and business heart of the corridor, is seeking neither a favor nor an advantage. It is a just return for years of sacrifice by communities that are still waiting to see the economic benefits of millions of taxpayer-funded rail projects,” said Ridley-Thomas.

The petition can be accessed on the supervisor’s website: http://www.ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/Transportation/?p=126
At the mid point of the line, community activists are also pushing for improvements that will benefit their neighborhoods.

Daniel K. Tabor, an advocate of the community and the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Line said, “I view this as a transformative opportunity for Inglewood and especially the Market Street area, where it can definitely be good for economic development and positively alter the neighborhoods. I have been working with LANI (Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative) to deal with pedestrian access and in addition to ensuring safety, make sure that there are clear paths getting to and from the train, and that all of this gets included in the initial planing rather than being added on later. We have to make sure the residents have a voice.”

Tabor identified several key points that are pertinent to having the line work successfully in Inglewood, specifically having a grade separation at West Boulevard and Florence Boulevard. He believes that a train stopping there, at grade, every eight minutes, would negatively effect traffic flow during peak hours.

Tabor also said MTA needs to be convinced of a grade separation at Florence Boulevard and Centinela Avenue.

“We (also) really need to support what Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is doing, especially with regards to putting a station stop at Leimert Park. It is a historical neighborhood in the community and not only with African Americans. The person who designed Times Square in New York City designed it, so it is really a historical landmark for everyone. I also agree that the line needs to go underground from 48th to 59th streets. Crenshaw is one of the most heavily traveled streets in all of Los Angeles, and putting a train in the middle of that would only cause more congestion.

Overall, the line could be designed to benefit the schools and businesses in the area,” said Tabor.