MTA: GUILTY of Environmental Racism

Posted by Fix Expo Team

Any evaluation of the design of the Expo Line shows that MTA is guilty of environmental racism.

The Disparate Impact

In 1995, knowing MTA was planning the Expo Line, the City Council of Culver City adopted a measure in their General Plan prohibiting at-grade crossings within their city boundaries. Shortly thereafter, in 2001 MTA published their Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement for the Expo Line that had ALL at-grade crossings in Culver City. Culver City backed up their initial no at-grade crossings position with another measure in 2001, this time adding no elevated crossings next to residential areas.

Two years later, Metro adopted their Grade Crossing Policy, which is more of a political document to explain why MTA doesn't have to grade separate, than an evaluation of the hazards to determine where grade separation is required (see pg. 7 to 17 of the Reply Brief). The MTA Grade Crossing Policy, establishes an arbitrarily high vehicle count per lane per hour threshold that must be met for a street to receive grade separation. Even with the Grade Crossing Policy, MTA determined that both intersections in Culver City (Washington/National and Jefferson/National) wouldn't meet their threshold to require grade separation. They were to be built at-grade. Shortly thereafter, Culver City threatened to not sign-off on the project unless there were no at-grade crossings in their city.

The end result of the negotiation between MTA and Culver City was a decision by MTA to:
a) extend the Jefferson/La Cienega overpass 1,000 feet so it would cross Jefferson/National elevated, and 
b) essentially "move the goal posts" to force a grade separation at Washington/National, by pushing the future Venice/Robertson station a few hundred feet east.  

Both streets have less vehicular traffic than streets left at-grade in South LA. Crossings in South LA directly adjacent to parks where children play. Crossings in South LA directly adjacent to schools.

MTA chose not to apply the high standard they're using in Culver City throughout the entire line and the result is a disparate design where the bulk of the safety risks are placed in South LA, while comparatively Culver City assumes no risk.

The Fix Expo campaign supports the efforts of Culver City to fight for grade separations that eliminate the safety hazards and other adverse environmental impacts of Phase 1 of the Expo Line. But if grade separations are to be given to Culver City they must be given to South LA too. 

The Solution

MTA is building a 1/2-mile trench at Figueroa by USC.  Fix Expo believes the environmental justice issues that currently exist on Expo Phase 1 can be addressed by extending the trench 4 miles to La Brea.