Expo Line Inconvenient Truths

Posted by Fix Expo Team

The Expo Line Construction Authority, with the approval of the Board of Directors (which includes Bernard Parks, Yvonne Burke, Jan Perry & Herb Wesson) has distributed an Orwellian-titled flyer, “The Real Facts” of the Expo Line, filled with true lies and half-truths. The most astonishing aspect of the propaganda is that the piece attacks the South LA community. It seems unfathomable, but a public agency and publicly elected politicians, spent the public's own money to attack the public!

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best ammunition against lies is the truth." In that spirit here are just a few of the Inconvenient Truths about the MTA's Phase 1 Expo Line proposed design:

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The Pasadena Gold Line is a primarily isolated track, while the Expo Line track is directly adjacent to vehicle lanes on major thoroughfares and travels across major streets. Comparatively, the Pasadena Gold Line crosses no street at street level (known as “at-grade”) that has vehicular traffic volumes as high as those on the Expo Line like Crenshaw, Western, Normandie and Vermont (which don't even have basic crossing gates). On the Pasadena Gold Line, at similar high-traffic streets there are underpasses and an overpass (known as “grade separations”). In fact, there are 41 grade-separated crossings on the Pasadena Gold Line. There are ZERO proposed grade separations on the Expo Line from just west of Figueroa to just east of La Brea.

MTA uses the Pasadena Gold Line false analogy to distract the public from the clear resemblance of the Expo Line to their Blue Line. The Blue Line which travels primarily at-grade from Downtown Los Angeles through the communities of South LA, Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton en route to Long Beach is the nation's deadliest and most accident-prone light rail line in the U.S. at 89 deaths and over 798 accidents to date! (SOURCE: MTA's own Summary of Blue Line Train/Vehicle and Train/Pedestrian Accidents). A ProQuest Newsstand search of media reports of Blue Line accidents and deaths reveals that among the deaths and injuries are over a dozen young people under the age of 21 (there are certainly multiples more). And despite the implementation of numerous safety mitigation measures, all of which are proposed for the Expo Line, accidents still frequently occur today.

The MTA's lengthy 1998 Booz Allen Hamilton study proves that the MTA knows the conditions around the Blue Line that result in the high accident rate. These conditions are even more severe on the Expo Line corridor. Simply, MTA is knowingly and callously repeating the same fatal design in South LA, and they won't even admit to it, because they know by doing so, they'd be admitting that lots of people will die and be injured.
As the track exists today there are four street-level crossings west of La Cienega: Jefferson/National, Hayden/National and Washington/National (the tracks cross twice). The original plan was to cross each of the streets at-grade, but Culver City opposed the plan, as stated in the Federal Transit Administration's Record of Decision for the Expo Line Project specifies:
“The original [preferred Expo Line plan] adopted by the [MTA] in 2001 called for at-grade rail crossings at all intersections in the City of Culver City and an at-grade station at Venice/Robertson...This configuration conflicted with the adopted city General Plan that called for no at-grade crossings and full grade-separation of all crossings in that city. Primarily for this reason, the City of Culver City opposed the project...in 2001.” (pp. 17-18)
Four years later, after a “compromise agreement” between the City of Culver City and MTA, the final plan added a grade separation at Washington/National, an extension of the La Cienega/Jefferson overpass nearly 1000 feet beyond Jefferson/National into Culver City, and a complete realignment of National Blvd so the train would not have cross Hayden/National, nor any other street in Culver City at street-level. As a result of these changes and investments, WEST OF LA CIENEGA THERE WILL BE:

a) no children forced to walk across Expo Line tracks

b) no chance of train-vehicle accidents

c) no train horns or crossing gate bells

d) no blight/privacy impacts to residential communities (see Section 4.4-40 of the EIR/EIS)

e) no forced commuter detours
f) no delays in emergency services from crossing gates

g) no closed off parks

This is the polar opposite of how the Expo Line will impact South LA. In fact, the environmental impacts in the Culver City census tract are substantially lower than in any other census tract in the Phase 1 alignment. Additionally, the 2000 Census data reveals that the Culver City census tract, along with the USC census tract, happen to be the only majority Caucasian census tracks along the entire alignment (pink). The Culver City census tract is the only majority Caucasian middle to upper-income census track along the entire alignment. The remaining census tracts in Phase 1 are majority African-American (grey) and majority Hispanic (brown):

The upgrades from the Culver City negotiations and “compromise agreement” were not cheap. In fact, the MTA is spending more money for the 1 mile of the Expo Line from La Cienega/Jefferson to Venice/Robertson, than they are for the entire 4 miles in South LA from Vermont to La Brea. If the MTA spent the same amount of money per mile from Vermont to La Brea as they are in the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson they could build the Expo Line in a trench or tunnel through South LA as the community requests, and still have enough money left over to paint every house on Exposition Blvd.

The disparate design and environmental impacts in Culver City versus South LA are unacceptable to South Los Angeles community members and the basis of our claim that the Expo Line design is textbook ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM. It is immoral and illegal (see Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 12898).

To be clear, the Fix Expo Campaign applauds Culver City stakeholders for standing up to preserve their communities and protect their citizens. BUT MTA SHOULD NOT FORCE SOUTH LA TO ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS...AND WE WONT!

UPDATE: Added Census Tract Fact Sheet