By Ken Alpern, October 3, 2014
ALPERN AT LARGE-From Whittier to Westchester, from Montebello to Ontario, and from Downtown LA to Anaheim, we are witnessing an embrace of the future that is cause for both hope and concern, and bodes well for an electorate (not NIMBY's but YIMBY's … Yes In My Backyard) that strives for a future with more mobility and quality of life when it comes to rail transit.
There are lots of bad opportunists out there (and you know who you are), and we residents and taxpayers must be on our guard.
1) ...Witness the crowds in both Montebello and Whittier, who both clamored for the Eastside Gold Line Light Rail Extension to go through their neighborhoods.
This extension of the Gold Line isn't as well-popularized as the Foothill Gold Line that parallels the I-210 freeway, but this Gold Line extension would extend the MetroRail network beyond the Eastside and potentially into Whittier.
I admit to having serious (VERY serious!) misgivings about the project in the past, because it did appear to be merely drawing lines on a map, and to do so merely to create geographic balance--a sort of politically-correct but ill-advised version of including the entire county into MetroRail's expanding system.
Yet the idea of extending MetroRail into the suburbs (which are so dense in L.A. County as to be more appropriately called "urban") does appear to catching hold outside of the City of Los Angeles.
A few days ago, when I saw a crowd of over 100 people in Whittier at a Metro outreach meeting overwhelming and enthusiastically favor a Washington Blvd. routing, I couldn't help but think of my own past Expo Line efforts, back when that line was considered science fiction that would neeeeeeever happen.
The option of having this light rail instead extend down the SR-60 freeway to the I-605 freeway is one that I long favored, because it was cheaper and had quasi-Metrolink benefits as an alternative to our overtaxed freeway system.
Yet those many residents from the Whittier region in unincorporated eastern L.A. County felt that Washington Blvd. development and job access was vital to their future, and to their children's future.
A simple show of hands showed they WANTED this rail line down Washington Blvd.
Having learned that a crowd in Montebello at a previous Metro meeting was equally enthusiastic about the SR-60 routing, it dawned on me yet again that Supervisor Gloria Molina really has underserved her constituents by not being a better advocate for the full potential of the Gold Line...and for Eastside transit advocacy in general.
The Eastside Gold Line Extension will cost roughly $1.5-$2.0 billion in today's dollars, but will apparently face a Hobson's Choice of choosing between two routes that serve decidedly different regions.
It also does NOT coordinate or connect with Metrolink or our freeway system by emphasizing parking and intermodal transportation linkage; I've been told that Metrolink and MetroRail serve different purposes, but I doubt that few taxpaying commuters buy that line of baloney, or any excuses why they won't connect.
There is also no linkage being discussed with the eastern portion of the Green Line in Norwalk, and it appears that little if any discussion (at least to MY knowledge) with Whittier's neighbors in Santa Fe Springs and Norwalk as to whether they want "in" to MetroRail.
The Westside didn't have to choose between the Expo and Wilshire Lines, and the Eastside shouldn't have to choose between the SR-60 and Washington Blvd. routes if both routes have overwhelming local support. Things have changed in the eastern portion of L.A. County, just like they did in western LA County.
It's hoped that the Metro Board, when it reviews this project in November, consider that this change mirrors that of the Westside, and take advantage of the years of waiting for this project by studying a larger project that is phased to include both routings, as well as a duo of lines that links to an Eastside network of rail, bus and freeway connections.
2) ...Witness the enthusiasm of federal, state and local support for the Downtown Light Rail Connector Project, an underground light rail that will tie the entire MetroRail light rail system together to Downtown in a manner that arguably makes THIS the most important project of Metro's rail planning for the early 21st Century.
It's easy to debate whether this project is more or less important than the combined LAX Airport Connector and Crenshaw/LAX light rail line projects, and maybe that's a debate that's both silly and moot...but it is evident that the two major endeavours are being fought to achieve completion circa 2020.
It's also evident that City Hall and the Downtown region really wants this project, and that the whole county wants IN (more YIMBY's!) to tie our four light rails, our Red Line Subway, and our Metrolink network together.
It's hoped that this project, as well as the Metrolink Union Station Run-Through Project, will allow better east/west and north/south flow for rail commuters that has been overdue for decades.
It's also evident that the money for this sort of project should be coming more from Sacramento, and the debate between so much transportation money being diverted to the California High Speed Rail Project goes on.
Putting so many chips on one square, so to speak, is never a good idea--even if one still favors the California High Speed Rail Project after so much controversy.
3) ...Witness the enthusiasm of the Inland Empire to take over Ontario Airport from LA World Airports, despite the efforts of the latter to fend off local legal action of Ontario and the Inland Empire to wrest control away from LA World Airports.
References to the "inbred Inland Empire" by LA World Airports officials are both regrettable and should be investigated--perhaps they were taken out of context--but it's difficult to understand why those running LAX would care if the Inland Empire took over Ontario if they believe regionalization is a waste of money and time.
As it stands, airfare prices are so weighted towards flying into/out of LAX that it makes it very difficult to use Ontario Airport.
Riverside, San Bernardino and north Orange County residents would certainly prefer Ontario to LAX, and Westside/South Bay residents would also prefer that their neighbors to the east use Ontario, so it's very difficult to flesh out the hype from the reality as to what would work.
LA World Airports believes that regionalization of more flights diverted to Ontario is a bad idea, and the Inland Empire believes that the opposite is true--so why not just dump the financial burden on them and see where things end up?
LAX-adjacent Westchester has been accused of NIMBYism with respect to northern LAX expansion, but that region is also embracing the future Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail station at Hindry, and made no bones about having the rail yard in Westchester.
So is Westchester "NIMBY" or "YIMBY"... or just reasonable and balanced?
Meanwhile, the Foothill Gold Line Rail Authority has made it very clear that their ultimate eastern terminus is Ontario Airport...and, as with Whittier and Montebello with the Eastside Gold Line, the cities along the Foothill Gold Line route deserve inclusion and realization of their stated goals and dreams.
Transportation and associated planning is a difficult and contentious issue, and is both thorny and complex. This has been made much more complicated by the City of Los Angeles that all-too-often bends, if not breaks, the law through "variances" and changes of policy that thwarts all sense of legality and propriety.
But "YIMBYism" is potentially good, while fraught with peril and unintended consequences, for a Southern California that wants a better economic, environmental and quality lifestyle for the 21st Century.