Friends 4 Expo Transit
An open letter to Kevin Hughes, Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association President, and Colleen Mason Heller, CHHA Light Rail Chair, concerning the CHHA "Light Rail Update" dated 3/27/07.
We are responding because it contains a number of demonstrably false statements on important points of the Expo Line phases 1 and 2; it cites "Friends4Expo members" among its sources; and in keeping with Ms. Heller's earlier CHHA letter professing an interest in "facts" over "feelings".
Following is the entire CHHA text, in quotes, with our added factual corrections.
"The Cheviot Hills Homeowners' Association light rail committee has spent 2 months researching, meeting with politicians, talking with transit authorities, and Friends4Expo members. We have met and formed a working coalition with area Homeowners' Associations (Neighbors for Smart Rail), Expo Phase 1 residents, and Metro Gold Line residents. Here is what we've learned:
False. Phase 1 was "Not Rated at this time", not "not recommended". The FTA stated a strong case for the Expo Line including, "The Exposition Corridor parallels the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) which currently maintains traffic volumes exceeding 300,000 vehicles per day. I-10 is often cited as the most congested highway in Los Angeles." (FTA 2006 Annual Report on New Starts, Appendix A, dated November 2004.)
To avoid further delay with the drawn-out FTA process, the MTA dropped its request for federal New Starts funding in 2005, and the FTA approved release of the Final EIS/EIR. The Expo Line is therefore not listed in the 2007 and 2008 Annual Report on New Starts. Feeder buses made up only a small part of the Expo Line's excellent projected ridership, documented in section 5.2.1 of the Final EIS/EIR.
We at Friends 4 Expo Transit are taking a keen interest in the design and construction of Phase 1. We're pleased that it has well-planned urban design and extensive landscaping for its route through both residential and commercial environments, and will be a good model for phase 2.
False. Hardly designed "on the cheap with minimal mitigation", phase 1 has extensive mitigation specified in its Final EIS/EIR, including soundwalls (mapped in Appendix J) and three grade separations determined according to the 2003 MTA Grade Crossing Policy (Appendix E): an underpass at Flower-Figueroa-Exposition and overpasses at La Brea and La Cienega-Jefferson-Ballona Creek.
Phase 2 grade separations will be determined in the upcoming environmental study according to the same objective standard. They will likely include at least National-Washington-Venice, Overland and Sepulveda (if on the right-of-way option), Sawtelle-Pico, Bundy, and Lincoln-5th.
False. The environmental study addresses grade crossing safety and receives extensive public input. There is no need for the CPUC to drag out standard grade crossing applications for as long as two years, delaying construction and raising costs. There will be few gated grade crossings in phase 2, probably at most eight. The only street crossing by Cheviot Hills is Overland, which appears to exceed the 2003 MTA Grade Crossing Policy standard for a grade separation.
False. Incredibly, the cited September 28, 2006 LAUSD letter didn't even know the final route of the Expo Line! Two of the five schools listed are on Hill Street, which is not on the final route adopted the year before. The third is by Exposition Blvd. where the Expo Line will go beneath Figueroa. The Final EIS/EIR documents noise and pedestrian safety mitigations for the remaining Foshay Middle and Dorsey High Schools (sections 4.6.3 and 22.214.171.124).
False. Grade crossings in urban areas are the norm in all cities with light rail lines. To call this "criminal" is uninformed and inflammatory. Designers of the Pasadena Gold Line learned from the Blue Line, and built a fast and safe project. The Gold Line is not slow; in fact, its average speed is even faster than the Blue Line's. Crossing gates at a typical grade crossing are only lowering and down for about 30 seconds the same as typical traffic signal red lights everywhere. The Federal Railway Administration regulates freight railroads, not urban transit lines.
False. The route adopted by the MTA Board on 12/15/05 specified an underpass at the congested Flower-Figueroa-Exposition intersections. That is what is to be built. Tracks will then come up to grade at the Trousdale Walk pedestrian crossing from USC to the Exposition Park Rose Garden. USC sought a longer underground section, but that was never approved. Culver City is seeking to move its phase 2 aerial station into phase 1.
False. The Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (not MTA) is building a "World Class" light rail line based on quality planning and extensive input from many stakeholders, to meet a critical need in the horribly-congested Santa Monica Freeway corridor. If the CHHA prefers other cities' light rail as models, why have they not cited any?
Friends 4 Expo Transit's position on the phase 2 route options is to seek thorough environmental study of station locations, cost, travel time, ridership, and environmental impacts and mitigations, to enable an informed selection.
For more information on light rail and the Expo Line see our website www.friends4expo.org. The entire phase 1 Final EIS/EIR is available online. See Chapter 4 in particular for detailed discussions and specified mitigations for environmental issues including noise and safety (sections 4.6.3 and 126.96.36.199).