Sunday, August 1, 2010

Crenshaw Subway Motion APPROVED!

Posted by Fix Expo Team On December - 11 - 2009 1 COMMENT

YES WE DID!

We came in busloads and caravans. We came in numbers so great that the MTA had to open up their overflow room. Hundreds of us descended upon the MTA board meeting and we walked away with a major battle victory: the MTA Board UNANIMOUSLY approved the Ridley-Thomas Crenshaw Blvd. subway motion. (LA Times article)

For the first time in the history of the current process, MTA will now conduct a study and identify a funding strategy to keep the entire Crenshaw Blvd portion of the Crenshaw-LAX Line in a subway. A full Crenshaw Blvd. subway would allow our children, elderly and the public at-large to walk/drive across the street without having to negotiate with 225-ton trains, preserve over 200 parking spaces crucial to the commerce of local small businesses, provide some basic equity to the system, and reduce the travel time of the train ride by 25% (from Jefferson Park to the future LAX people mover in just 15 minutes – faster than cars!).

THANK YOU AND CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL, and to SUPERVISOR MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS!

How Did We Do It?

It began as lead member organizations of the Fix Expo Campaign attended MTA Crenshaw Line meetings early in the process (2007) and submitted comments requesting an underground light rail. We diligently followed the process for the next two years, consistently articulating an underground alignment and, procedurally, keeping underground options on the table so that they could be environmentally cleared, a crucial requirement.

In October ‘09, when the MTA released the draft study for public comment, over 100 of us attended the hearings in our community at West Angeles and Transfiguration Church, and we flooded the MTA staff with comment forms and emails (not just petitions) with a strategically-focused message requesting a subway in the section that, at the time, had no underground option (48th to 59th Streets). Our numbers were so large and consistent that MTA staff recognized it in their staff report to the board.

We spent the month of November pushing the issue on the streets, in the papers and through the airwaves. Our elected officials, many of whom we established relationships with through our Fix Expo advocacy, took note and each of them, from City Hall to Sacramento to Washington D.C. similarly requested that the entirety of the line on Crenshaw Blvd be built in a subway, citing community requests.

The political champion along the way was County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who as an MTA Board Member kept the project on the drawing board, strategically positioned it to be eligible for hundreds of millions in federal funding, and brought the community, business, labor, faith-based and political groups together, as only he can. Ridley-Thomas welcomed the opportunity to use his board seat to represent our community for safety, equity and jobs and offered the Crenshaw subway motion.

In the lead up to yesterday’s MTA Board meeting, we flooded the board secretary’s email box. Then when the meeting was called to order, with the senior staff of our elected officials by our side, we – the community – articulated a message in unison and so impassioned that even westside Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, an opponent of subways anywhere except around his Fairfax District home, had to vote for it.

At each stage, everyone of you, through your conversations, phone calls, emails and presence played a critical role in our victory yesterday. It would not have been possible without your diligent attention and actions.

What’s Next?

Within 6-months, MTA staff will present a report on building a subway in the segment between 48th and 59th Streets to the MTA board. We will likely need to be at that meeting as well. MTA staff will also be conducting community meetings about things such as station area planning, likely in the late winter/early spring. And on the contract (jobs) front, the primary contractor for the $10 million study, Hatch Mott McDonald, has been directed to diversify the make-up of their primarily Orange County-based team. We will continue to monitor this process closely, and remain prepared to protest if the changes are not sufficient at this stage in the process.

On the Expo Line front, another CPUC Public Hearing, similar to the one held two-years ago (YouTube video), will be conducted to receive community input on the Farmdale crossing at Dorsey H.S. As reported in this week’s L.A. Times article, that decision is still being made, and we’re still fighting the Expo Authority in the courts. The Fix Expo position is that additional cost and delay to the project are acceptable ONLY for safety improvements in South L.A., something the MTA has long known are necessary. All other cost overruns are unacceptable and a product of waste, fraud, abuse and incompetence. It is why, among other reasons, we’ve requested that Expo C.E.O. Rick Thorpe be fired.

We all must continue informing our fellow citizens about these two major projects in our community.

(Front page image courtesy WalkingInLA)

Popularity: 20% [?]

Fix Expo to Expo Board: Fire Thorpe

Posted by Fix Expo Team On October - 29 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

On the heels of Rick Thorpe finally being kicked out of his job at MTA after a tongue lashing by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Fix Expo Campaign sent an email to the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors (which is a subsidiary of MTA), with CCs to the MTA Board of Directors and elected officials who oversee the project, requesting the Expo Board fire Thorpe, CEO of the Expo Construction Authority for gross incompetence, failure to meet project goals, the rampant use of manipulating tactics, and a history of disregarding rail safety in minority communities.

The full text of the email is below.

Expo Authority Board Members:

I write on behalf of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line and with the unanimous support of the United Community Associations board to specifically request the immediate termination of Expo Authority CEO Rick Thorpe.

It was a relief to read that Mr. Thorpe resigned yesterday as MTA’s Chief Construction Officer on the heals of intense media scrutiny and specific disgust expressed by MTA Board Member and County Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding outstanding rail safety issues on the Eastside Extension light rail project.

It would be inaccurate to assume that any person who has watched the Expo Line closely over the past few years could not express even greater and more detailed criticism of Mr. Thorpe’s performance and total disregard for rail safety. I regrettably nodded my head in agreement as Supervisor Molina said at last week’s MTA board meeting that:

- She “didn’t trust [MTA] staff”
- Certain members of MTA staff, “only work for some board members”
- She’s had difficulty dealing with Mr. Thorpe to attempt to resolve the outstanding safety issues

Indeed, I nearly shouted out: “If that’s what you’re going through and you’re a board member, imagine what we must go through as a community in South L.A. on Expo.

In response to criticism regarding the lack of safety on the Eastside Extension, Mr. Thorpe has hidden behind the California Public Utilities Commission process, neglecting to mention that he has become a master in manipulating the CPUC.

The Pasadena Gold Line was built by Mr. Thorpe, and the Del Mar crossing was approved in a split decision, in which the dissenting Commissioners stated that Thorpe’s Construction Authority “has not provided full information about several issues to the Commission and other parties throughout this case,” (pg. 42) that there were “last minute changes” (pg. 43) and that “the CPUC should not reward [the] Construction Authority’s lack of disclosure on Del Mar by looking the other way at real safety issues.” (NOTE: The Pasadena Gold Line was originally titled the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line, hence the reference in the decision to the Blue Line Authority).

The dissenting Commissioners proved to be correct in their assessment that grade separation was needed at the crossing to make it safe, as a horrific accident with an elderly driver occurred at the Del Mar crossing, ironically, on the opening day of CPUC Farmdale evidentiary hearing:

Additionally, other at-grade crossings that were contested before the CPUC and approved, resulted in even greater carnage:

Avenue 50:

and [others] in Highland Park:

It’s worth noting that while MTA continues to operate the deadliest light rail line in the country, the Blue Line, as of 2002 the second deadliest was the system built by Mr. Thorpe (San Diego).

Specifically, regarding the Expo Line, Thorpe hired a former Enron lobbyist, Sandra McCubbin, to attempt to unwind the decision by an Administrative Law Judge and Commissioner Timothy Simon, which was crafted after a two-year legal proceeding, and denied the Expo Authority’s street-level 55 mph crossing at Dorsey HS (video) that the former National Transportation Safety Board chairman of all-rail accident investigations in the country said was a catastrophic accident waiting to happen (pg. 7).

Of many conversations I have had with CPUC engineers, the one comment I will never forget came from a staffer who said, “You won’t believe how many times we get shot down from above.” While we may not know who within the CPUC does the shooting, we clearly know who supplies the bullets.

Indeed, astonishingly Mr. Thorpe continues to state that the original CPUC application for the Expo Line to run 55 mph past Dorsey HS is “safe,” even after the CPUC denied it, even after former MTA light rail operators have come out expressing strong opposition to it.

The question before the Expo Authority board, which is primarily made up of South LA’s elected representatives, is whether you will continue to turn a blind eye to this disturbing past, and ignore the warnings of a County Supervisor and previous CPUC Commissioners regarding Thorpe’s tactics. It’s a question of whether you will continue to force the public to ride in a car with a reckless driver or make him pull over and hand over the keys.

The Phase 1 project is nearly a year behind schedule, hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget, has failed to meet it’s local hire requirements, and now the criticism and tactics of the Expo CEO has grown to include a colleague, regarding rail safety of a crosstown light rail project built by Thorpe. Add Supervisor Molina to the former NTSB chief investigator, the public and former light rail operators.

Expo Board Directors Wesson, Yaroslavsky, Ridley-Thomas, Parks, Perry, O’Connor and Maslin: by allowing Mr. Thorpe to continue to serve as the CEO, your concern for student safety and competence as an oversight body and as elected officials is firmly in question.

Sincerely,
/s/
Damien Goodmon
United Community Associations, Chair
Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, Coordinator

CC:
Congresswoman Diane Watson
State Senator Curren Price
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
Assembly Member Mike Davis
LA City Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl
MTA Board Members
LAUSD Board Members
Rick Thorpe, Expo CEO

BCC:
Press & Community

Popularity: 100% [?]

The following is the Fix Expo press release requesting Congressional investigation and hearings of MTA, the nation’s deadliest light rail system.

Los Angeles, CA – Following two separate Blue Line train accidents yesterday, which left a 45-year old male pedestrian dead in South LA and a 49-year old woman in critical condition in Downtown LA, rail safety advocates are requesting Congressional investigation and hearings into MTA’s rail safety and planning. They say the failure of MTA to address safety deficiencies on the light rail after 18 years of operation, along with the expansion of the proven defective design in more complex urban environments in South LA and East LA are the product of a failed rail safety culture that is leading to preventable deaths on Los Angeles’ streets. The two accidents on the Blue Line, which travels at street-level between 35-55 mph in dense urban areas from Downtown LA through South LA, Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton en route to Long Beach, bring the train’s death count up to 93 from over 826 accidents. It is the deadliest light rail train in the nation.

In a January op-ed in a Los Angeles newspaper, the creator of USC’s Transportation Safety Program, Professor Najmedin Meshkati wrote “These numbers, which are significantly higher than national average rates of accidents and fatalities along the MTA rail network, attest to the dire state of rail safety in LA, which is primarily caused by MTA’s outdated and messy safety-related policies, procedures and practices.”

“There have been years where the Blue Line was responsible for half of all light rail deaths in the entire country, and MTA has repeatedly refused to appropriate the funds necessary to make the system safe,” said Damien Goodmon of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line. “Clearly, MTA is indifferent to the safety of the members of the public who must interface with their trains. Absent Congressional intervention and oversight to require MTA quickly implement necessary changes to their rail system and internal processes, MTA will continue killing on the tracks with impunity. How much longer must these preventable tragedies continue to occur?”

But rail safety advocates and experts say significant blame also falls on the California Public Utilities Commission and Federal Transit Administration, the state’s railroad regulatory agency and federal transit appropriation agency, respectively. “In addition to allowing the unsafe conditions on the Blue Line to go unaddressed for nearly two decades, the CPUC has granted approval and the FTA has provided funding for light rail designs that are nearly identical to the Blue Line and run through even more complex urban environments in South LA with the Expo Line, and in East LA with the Eastside Light Rail Extension,” said Goodmon.

“The CPUC actually gave MTA approval to double the number of trains that run on the most accident prone section of the Blue Line in Downtown beginning in 2010,” Goodmon continued. “At a public hearing on Expo in July a parent of a Foshay School student questioned the credibility of the CPUC by highlighting their refusal to do anything about the Blue Line. In response, the CPUC’s administrative judge said to the amazement of the audience, ‘The Blue Line is safe.’ There’s a problem when the state’s railroad regulatory agency equates the word ‘safe’ with the train line that is by multiples the deadliest light rail in the country – a line that has a fatality rate 98 times greater than even the cars.”

Following the tragic Metrolink Chatsworth accident in September, Meshkati wrote, “[T]he current regulatory, oversight and operational structure for ensuring rail safety in California is not working.”

Popularity: 13% [?]

CPUC Rejects MTA’s Dorsey Crossing!

Posted by Fix Expo Team On February - 22 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

On Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission REJECTED MTA’s proposal to build the at-grade holding pen contraption at Farmdale Avenue right next to Dorsey High School.

From the Decision:

“[The MTA/Expo Line Construction Authority's] application for an at-grade rail crossing at Farmdale Avenue in the City of Los Angeles is denied.”

This is the biggest victory yet for the community, school district, parents, teachers and rail safety advocates, in our long fight for more grade separation on the Expo Line Phase 1, and against the unsafe, unequal, primarily street-level rail line in South LA.

We came together and fought back the MTA and particular Westside interest groups and politicians, who have treated our community like nothing but a go-between and failed to show any concern for our well-being, not even the safety of our children.

But now the question is, “WHAT’S NEXT? IF MTA CAN’T BUILD THE HOLDING PEN, THEN WHAT WILL THEY BUILD?”

At this stage we just know what WILL NOT be built at Farmdale (the at-grade proposal). What WILL be built at Farmdale is to be determined. Contrary to the LA Times article, the CPUC DID NOT and COULD NOT approve any of alternatives to the at-grade application:

  1. train undercrossing
  2. train overcrossing
  3. street closure with a pedestrian bridge

From the decision:

Though we deny the application for the proposed crossings at Farmdale, we cannot authorize the construction of any of the alternative design options.

The CPUC could only decide whether to approve or deny the street-level crossing, and they shot MTA down.

According to the decision, the CPUC must now facilitate MTA’s environmental review process, to see if MTA’s desired alternative, which just so happens to be the cheapest of the three options (closing Farmdale and building a pedestrian bridge) complies with environmental laws. Only after the EIR process is complete can another application be submitted to the CPUC for their approval or denial.

So we look forward to participating in that process and we will call on you to participate as well.

Popularity: 31% [?]

What Happened to the Foshay Bridge?

Posted by Fix Expo Team On February - 22 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

The initial proposed decision denied MTA’s application at Dorsey and at Foshay, and required MTA to build a pedestrian bridge at Foshay that would have cost $5-8 million to construct. That proposed decision was written by Administrative Law Judge Kenneth Koss and the assigned CPUC Commisioner Timothy Simon, who both have been monitoring this case for the past 2 ½ years. It was they who attended the public hearings at Dorsey in November 2007 and at Foshay in July of 2008. It was they who presided over the week long evidentiary hearing that involved the testimony and cross-examination of over a dozen expert witnesses.

Proving once more that there is truly no low that MTA will not go to push their unsafe design, after the Koss/Simon proposed decision was made public, MTA/Expo spent taxpayer dollars hiring a former Enron lobbyist, Sandra McCubbin, to work to overturn it.

McCubbin and the Expo’s high-paid attorney initiated nearly two-dozen backroom/off-the-record meetings with the CPUC Commissioners and staff, and convinced Commissioner Rachel Chong, to author an Alternative Decision to Simon’s, that would remove the pedestrian bridge at Foshay that Simon originally found necessary at the end of the trial.

Then Westside politician Zev Yaroslavsky, who doesn’t represent any community within miles of Dorsey or Foshay pressured the Commission (pdf) to overturn Simon’s previously required pedestrian bridge at Foshay and adopt the Chong Alternative.

Zev Yaroslavsky has advocated for a $5-8 BILLION dollar subway under his community of Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills and Century City, yet he opposes a $5 million bridge at Foshay to protect the South LA students.

Unfortunately, the Zev Yaroslavsky/MTA/Enron-lobbyist pressure worked as the Chong Alternative was approved in a 4-1 decision, with Simon, the only African-American on the Commission, and the Commissioner most intimately familiar with the case being the dissenting vote.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Next Meeting: Mon Jan 11

Join us at our first community update and organizing meeting in the new decade as we discuss the on-going Farmdale controversy and Crenshaw subway effort.

Campaign for Stimulus & Measure R Funds to Grade Separate the South LA Portion of Expo

MTA now has more resources that by law has to be spent on rapid transit expansion. Now is our time to request these resources go toward FIXING EXPO!

Responding to MTA Spin & Deception

A comprehensive response to the spin, red herrings, and half-truths delivered by MTA/Expo, complete with agency memos, testimony, studies, pictures, videos and all.

Separate & Unequal: Expo Phase 1

Compare the design of the Expo Line Phase 1 west of La Cienega to that in majority-minority South LA and it’s clear that Expo Phase 1 is textbook environmental racism.

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