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Posted by Fix Expo Team On November - 23 - 2009 1 COMMENT

Please bare with us as we improve our web home.  Some links may not yet be operational, and content may be hidden, all of which will be fixed within the week.  In the interim to be added to our newsletter email:

Popularity: 15% [?]

Nov 23 Mtg Recap

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

UPDATE #2: MTA Board Meeting Information

We came together to discuss the on-going Farmdale Avenue crossing issues and to organize around the Thursday December 10, 2009 MTA Board Meeting vote on the Crenshaw Line.
The meeting will take place on the 3rd floor Board Room at 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Tall building behind Union Station)

Buses are leaving at 8 a.m. from the Jefferson Park and Inglewood area. To RSVP for a seat, please email: or call: 323-761-6435

UPDATE #1: with the presentation on the Crenshaw Line portion of the meeting and the meeting handouts

Community Mtg 091123

Community Mtg 091123 Handouts

On Monday, November 23rd we will be coming together to discuss the on-going Dorsey HS crossing and Expo Line issue, and organize for the upcoming MTA Board vote on the Crenshaw Line, currently scheduled for Dec. 10th.

Please join us at:

3731 Stocker St Suite 201
Los Angeles, CA 90008

6:30 – 8:30 pm

A light dinner will be served.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Mayor: South L.A. Not Even 3/5 "Man"

Posted by Fix Expo Team On August - 21 - 2009 1 COMMENT

The following letter was sent to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today. It is clear from his actions, he’s treating South L.A. like we’re not even 3/5ths of a “Man.”

An Open Letter to L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:
What Value Have You Placed on South L.A. Lives?

Mr. Mayor:

I must admit that I was somewhat taken by the article in today’s Los Angeles Times, where you call on the elected politicians of the county to “put aside their differences” so that the Wilshire “Subway to the Sea” can be built more quickly (L.A. Mayor Wants to Speed Up Work on Subway to the Sea). At $6-9 BILLION dollars, the Wilshire subway will cost more for just one mile ($500 million), than it would cost MTA to change the Expo Line in South LA from street-level to underground.

By spending our tax dollars to put the Expo Line underground, like the Alameda Corridor trench, the South LA community would be saved from the hazards and adverse impacts of street-level crossings that MTA’s own study shows will result in 52 accidents per year on Expo.

52 ACCIDENTS PER YEAR ON THE EXPO LINE – as many as the worst of years on the deadliest light rail in America, your very own Blue Line, which slices through Compton, Watts, Willowbrook and South LA.

What do you intend to say when those accidents on the Expo Line result in a loss of limb?

…a loss of life?

…the death of a single mother?

…the death of a child?

Children like Lavert Baker Jr. (LA Times: Boy, 14, Killed by Train is Mourned)
Children like Angela Barahona (USA Today: Blue Line Takes a Troubled Route)
Children like Gilberto Reynaga (LA Times: 13-Year-Old Boy Hit, Killed By Blue Line Train).

Unfortunately, Lavert, Angela, and Gilberto are just a few of the over one dozen children among the 94 deaths in the 836 Blue Line accidents that have occurred on your watch.

Do you not cry for Lavert’s father?

Do you not pray for Gilberto’s friends?

Do you not dream what Angela would be doing today if politicians stood up when the Blue Line was being built for what is right, what is wise, what is safe?

Even if you don’t cry, don’t pray and don’t dream, do you not at least fear what will occur to your political life and the city budget if you let the Expo be built at street-level and the first child is killed?

With MTA’s forecast of 52 Expo Line accidents every year, for the next 100 years surely some of them will involve children and some of them will be killed.

Explain to us why that’s okay to you.

Help us understand why you take comfort in ignoring the warnings of international rail safety experts (Meshkati & Quimby), national vehicular causation experts and former MTA light rail operators (Hollins).

Reconcile for us why you have not responded to the over 5000 petitions and letters collected and the requests of dozens of community groups, civil rights organizations, neighborhood councils, School Board members, the UTLA, Parent Collaborative and child advocacy groups requesting you put the funds into Expo so we can avoid those accidents from occurring in South LA.

It can be done. The South LA Grade Separation Project is possible. You have the money. All MTA has to direct it to South LA to extend the trench at Figueroa by U.S.C. to Dorsey H.S. Expo’s own chief engineer estimates it would be a fraction of the cost of the Wilshire subway – less than 5%.

Mr. Villaraigosa, why don’t you believe South L.A. lives are worth 1/20th the value of lives on Wilshire?

Mr. Mayor, you’re not even treating us like 3/5ths of a “person.”

Damien Goodmon
Coordinator, Fix the Expo Rail Line Campaign

Popularity: 11% [?]

We’re Hitting the Streets!

Posted by Fix Expo Team On March - 30 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

On April 4th, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we’re going to March and Rally from Foshay Learning Center to Dorsey High School to request Obama Stimulus package funds and/or Measure R funds go toward the South LA Grade Separation Project (adding grade separations to the Expo Line from USC to Dorsey High School.)

The march will begin at Foshay at 9 a.m. (Western/Exposition) and we’ll make it to Dorsey (Farmdale/Exposition) by noon for the rally.

Be there!

Popularity: 2% [?]

Video Footage of CPUC Public Hearing on 11/5/07

Posted by Fix Expo Team On November - 28 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

On November 5, 2007, at the CPUC Public Hearing at Dorsey High School, about 500 residents, students, parents, teachers, administrators and child advocates packed the auditorium to deliver a message to CPUC Commissioner Timothy Simon and CPUC Judge Kenneth Koss about the Expo Line’s proposed primarily at-grade design through South LA.

The hearing was covered in the media in particular by Fox 11 News:

We recorded several more of the statements. In addition to the statements by LAUSD Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, former City Councilmember Nate Holden, and delivered on behalf of Congresswoman Diane Watson, comments from the public can be viewed on the Fix Expo YouTube page:

Continue for videos…

What Would Jesus Do?
Breeves Brogan, an area resident, pleads with the CPUC Commissioner, “So please, in the name of Jesus don’t kill any children today. Their blood will be on whoever’s hands makes the decision.”

Why Not In South LA?
Sharon Rogers of the New Frontier Democratic Club and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee states, “Culver City children won’t have to walk across tracks with 225-ton trains traveling at 55 mph coming up to 30 times per hour, why should ours?”

Other Side of the Tracks
Michelle Colbert of Save Leimert and the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Council states, “If we accept the line at it’s current design South Los Angeles will literally be the other side of the tracks. There is data that shows that black and brown communities are more likely to have hazardous conditions placed in their communities. This dilemma wreaks of environmental racism, and an inferior diminished quality of life. Everything about the current design of this train is egregious and terribly wrong.”

Build Smart Transit

  • Prof. Najmedin Meshkati, the creator of the USC Transportation system safety program, quotes Metrolink CEO David Solow, “Every grade crossing is an accident waiting to happen.”
  • Irwin Davidson, a local property owner reminds MTA that, “It’s not acceptable. We’re a rich country. We can afford better than the very minimum. What is cheap today will be expensive in the long run.”
  • A native New Yorker states, “It’s incomprehensible that you would consider bringing something as important as mass transportation to Los Angeles in the 21st century and having it doing this up and down sort of thing.”
  • A local resident asks, “If the MTA Blue Line was kind of flawed why put another flawed system in?”
  • Mark Jolles reads from an article that quotes former LACTC Commissioner regarding the Blue Line deaths, “It’s not fair to blame motorists. It’s a terrible cop-out to blame pedestrians or kids to say they are at fault.” Mr. Jolles concludes his personal statement with, “It’s not the citizens that are causing problems. It is a low standard of engineering of the crossings.”

Dorsey HS Alumni Association
Steve Bagby, president of the Dorsey HS Alumni Association: “As former Deputy of Transportation for the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald to have overseen the Alameda Corridor as I have, I’ve seen the cut-and-cover – I’ve seen it be below grade in the communities of Compton and Lynwood, and the city of Los Angeles deserves no less. You cannot put a price on a child’s life.”

Student Learning & We Wanna Pick Them Up in the Afternoon

  • Andrea Canty the VP of the Dorsey HS Alumni Association: “The tracks will be so close to the bungalows that are here, which will impede student learning.”
  • Jackie Conkelton a Dorsey surrogate parent and foster parent: “I raise other people’s children; I don’t want anything to happen to them. And the people who have their own children, they don’t want anything to happen to them. We take them to school in the morning and we want to pick them up in the afternoon.”

Dorsey Students
  • Tinisha Brooks, president of the Dorsey Senior Class ‘08, “If a train going 25 mph can turn a Ford F-150 into a tincan, your child has no hope.”
  • Shellea Daniel of Dorsey ASB, “What if a train derails into this queuing area?”
  • Afolabi, Dorsey student, “Once the line is operating everyone is going to get distracted.”

Kids Will Be Kids
  • Rev. Donald Wilson of Dorsey Motivated Men: “An Expo Light Rail Line is needed, I do agree with that…but I want this committee to strongly consider how you want to bring it through here through Farmdale…at ground level. This is a very dangerous situation.”
  • Harold Washington of the Sutro Block Club: “It’s not safe. I’m a former alumni of Dorsey High, class of ‘61. I would [have been] the first one to jump that fence and end up being hit by the train.”
  • Thabiti Ambata: “There is no way you can build a gate high enough. Testosterone rules these children.”

North Area Neighborhood Development CouncilMike Ureña, president of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council: “I understand the logic of the design, but I think in practice it simply is not going to work. I also want to point out to you that when I was a kid as when you were a kid, we thought we were going to live forever.”
Treat Us RightNelle Ivory, a passionate veteran Leimert Park activists responds to MTA’s proposed holding pen at Dorsey HS, “I asked the manager of Expo – he said they were going to build a holding pen at Dorsey to keep the kids in. That’s insulting! I know what a holding pen is, we used to put our cattle in there before we sent them to slaughter. Is that the same thing they’re going to do to our kids?”
West Adams Neighborhood CouncilHattie Babb of the West Adams Neighborhood Council, which covers the area around Dorsey delivers the neighborhood council’s findings and concludes: “Be it resolved that the West Adams Neighborhood Council supports beginning to build the Expo Line below grade from USC trench through South Central Los Angeles as far as the existing $640 million budget will allow.”
They Don’t Tell Us – We Tell Them
  • Marta Zaragosa of the East Culver City Neighborhood Alliance begins with, “This is not about moving people out of their cars, [off] of the freeways. It’s about developers who have been buying property along the line for the last 15 years. And these same developers have given money to our politicians who have run for office.”
  • Julia Ansley, “Our elected representatives in this community, laid down, took a walk, because they want money paid to their campaigns.”
  • Tut Hayes, “You got to recognize that MTA and Expo they don’t build transit. This is million dollars worth of construction there’s big money in this.”
  • Jackie Ryan of Save Leimert and Leimert Park Business Association states, “You – the community – you here tonight are going to determine how this railroad is going to come.”

Popularity: 5% [?]

The MTA/Expo Authority and our elected officials claim they’re building an Expo Line that will have a safety record more like the Pasadena Gold Line, which is far from what most reasonable people consider “safe,” but less deadly than the Blue Line (the deadliest light rail line in the country). Their statements would be laughable if the consequences – failing to address serious safety hazards – were not so severe. In fact, in July of 2007, Fix Expo sent a letter to MTA/Expo Authority executive Rick Thorpe, essentially requesting he admit the differences, and he remarkably refused to answer our questions.

In his prepared testimony before the California Public Utilities Commission, Professor Najmedin Meshkati, an internationally renowned expert in human factors in complex technological system failures and the creator of the USC’s Transportation System Safety Program, identified the following six differences between MTA’s proposed Expo Line, and existing Pasadena Gold Line and Blue Line in explaining why the Blue Line is a far more appropriate comparison to the risks and hazards that will be present on the Expo Line. The following are extrapolations of his six bullet points.

1. Almost all streets with high vehicular cross-traffic volume are grade separated on the Pasadena Gold Line (“PGL”), while streets with comparably high vehicular cross-traffic volume on the Expo Line are at-grade.

Only the Colorado Blvd and Lake Avenue crossings on the PGL have high vehicular cross-traffic volume comparable to the Expo Line crossings at Adams/Flower, Vermont/Exposition, Western/Exposition and Crenshaw/Exposition. Yet, both Colorado Blvd and Lake Avenue are grade separated, while Adams, Vermont, Western and Crenshaw along with many other crossings with high vehicular cross-traffic volumes along the Expo Line are street level (at-grade) without even basic crossing gates. In fact, few cross streets have vehicular cross-traffic volumes as high as the above Expo Line crossings on even the Blue Line, yet accidents and deaths still frequently occur at the intersections.

2. Several long portions of the PGL are fully grade separated, while the overwhelming majority of the Expo Line from Downtown LA to Hauser Blvd is at-grade, like the Blue Line.

There are 41 grade separations on the PGL including a 3.7-mile portion where the train operates completely grade separated in the median of the I-210 freeway, like the MTA’s Green Line, a light rail line designed 100% grade separated (crosses no street). Indeed, after the PGL departs Union Station it travels over 2.5-miles on grade separated tracks (elevated and fenced off street-level tracks) before it reaches its first at-grade crossing at Avenue 33. In other long portions, like the 1.5 miles between Ave 36 & Ave 50, there is only one crossing.

3. The Expo Line at-grade stations are expected to serve large numbers of riders like the Blue Line at-grade stations, not like the low-ridership Pasadena Gold Line at-grade stations.

At 43,400 riders, the Expo Line stations are expected to serve a far greater number of riders per station than the PGL, even a greater number of riders per station than even the Blue Line. With the expectation of nearly three times as many riders per Expo Line station, the conditions around the PGL stations are completely different:

Expo: 43,400 riders / 10 stations = average of 4,340 riders per station
Blue: 75,000 riders / 22 stations = average of 3,409 riders per station
PGL: 20,000 riders / 13 stations = average of 1,538 riders per station

The additional pedestrians not only present more potential victims, they create more challenges, elements, obstacles and distractions when trying to safely drive, walk, and cycle around the stations to all pedestrians, motorists, and train operators. Coupled with the already tightly-wound and overburdened traffic system, unexpected pedestrian movements, such as slower crossing speed due to age and/or disability, or walking against the no-walk sign make the Expo Line crossings more complex and more likely to lead to accidents.

The high ridership of the Blue Line was cited in the MTA’s 1998 Booz-Allen Hamilton study as the primary contributor to the Blue Line’s astronomical grade crossing accident rate:

4. The [MTA Blue Line] has one of the highest ridership counts for light rail lines in the Country. This factor is perhaps the most important contributor to the grade crossing accident rate. The high ridership results in increased pedestrian traffic near stations as compared to other light rail systems. In addition, although MTA Operations does not allow high passenger loads dictate safe operations, there is pressure to maintain travel times and headway schedule requirements (e.g., passenger trip from Los Angeles to Long Beach in less than one hour).”

High ridership can be expected to be a factor in Expo Line accidents and fatalities as well.

4. The anticipated pedestrian activity around Expo Line crossings is expected to be high like the Blue Line crossings, not like the overwhelming majority of Pasadena Gold Line crossings, which have substantially lower pedestrian activity.

Even away from the stations, pedestrian activity is expected to be higher than most PGL crossings. The high pedestrian activity around the Blue Line was cited in the MTA’s 1998 Booz-Allen Hamilton study as one of four factors that explain why the train is the deadliest light rail line in the country:

1. The [MTA Blue Line (MBL)] travels through a high population density area with a diverse varied social-economic community. The high density results in increased pedestrian and automobile traffic as compared to other transit properties. In addition, the communities through which the MBL travels requires special attention to language and literacy issues when disseminating public outreach and education information.”

Coupled with the high pedestrian activity around the Expo Line are narrow sidewalks insufficient to handle the additional pedestrians that can be expected during surges such as the arrival of school buses and mass transit vehicles (train or bus), school dismissal and large extracurricular activities, and major entertainment events (Galen Center, Exposition Park, West Angelus Church, and Rancho Cienega Park)

5½ feet Exposition Blvd southside sidewalk at Hobart:

Limited sidewalk capacity leads to more risk taking behavior, like walking in the street to walk around crowds, or pedestrian spillover into the streets due to walk cycles that aren’t long enough to accommodate the pedestrian surges.

Foshay afterschool dismissal northside sidewalk:

High pedestrian activity around the Expo Line can be expected to be a factor in Expo Line accidents and fatalities as well.

5. The PGL crosses no high vehicular cross-traffic volume intersection in street-running design, while comparatively the Expo Line crosses several high traffic volume intersections in street-running design, like the Blue Line.

Of the 13.7 miles of track on the Pasadena Gold Line, only the ¾-mile section on Marmion Way in Highland Park from Avenue 51 to Avenue 57 operates in “street-running design” (the train operates without crossing gates directly parallel to vehicular traffic). This amounts to only 5% of the entire track.

Pasadena Gold Line in quiet residential Highland Park:

And in the Highland Park section, the parallel and cross street traffic is very low, as Marmion Way and the cross streets are 2-lane residential streets.

In fact, the speed of the trains is limited to 20 mph and traffic in all four directions is stopped when the train crosses an intersection. Yet, despite these low traffic volumes, slow train speeds and four-way red light, 40 – 45% of the MTA’s recorded accidents along the 13.7 mile PGL have occurred in this ¾-mile section, the only portion of the track without grade separation or crossing gates.

Pasadena Gold Line tracks in Highland Park without a car in sight:

Comparatively, roughly 3.4 miles of the 8.6 mile Expo Line alignment (40%) is in street-running design, where the train is proposed to operate without crossing gates, travel at 35 mph with parallel lanes of high volumes traffic on Exposition Blvd and Flower Street, and cross streets with high volumes of traffic (Washington/Flower, Adams/Flower, Jefferson/Flower, Vermont/Exposition, Normandie/Exposition, Western/Exposition, and Crenshaw/Exposition).

Old tracks on Exposition Blvd near Western Blvd to be replaced with two sets of new tracks:

This operation is comparable to the sections of the Blue Line on Flower Street and Washington Blvd in the City of Los Angeles (see below), and to a lesser degree to the City of Long Beach section south of the Willow Station.

Blue Line tracks in the median of busy Washington Blvd:

Blue Line train in the median of busy Washington Blvd:

Indeed the Expo Line will operate on the same tracks as the Blue Line on the Flower Street side alignment tracks from 7th Street Metro station to Washington Blvd, where the 0.6-mile at-grade portion from 12th Street to Washington Blvd has resulted in 154 accidents in 18 years of operation, an average of 9 accidents per year over just 0.6-mile. This is the most accident-prone section of light rail in the country.

Blue Line train on Flower Street

According to MTA’s March 2008 Summary of Blue Line accidents, 56% of all the recorded 647 train-vehicular accidents with the Blue Line and 47% of the total 813 accidents with the Blue Line, have occurred on Flower Street and Washington Blvd street-running segment despite the fact that it accounts for only 11% of the total tracks (2.5 miles out of the Blue Lines 22 miles of track). When adding the street-running segment in Long Beach, which has some differences, but more similarities with the Washington Blvd and Flower Street street-running segments, 92% of all vehicular accidents and 76% of the total accidents on the Blue Line occur in the street-running segments, despite the fact that it accounts for only 25% of the total tracks (5.6 miles out of 22 miles of track).

Additionally, because the Blue Line crosses several high capacity north-south streets in its Washington Blvd street-running section, north-south traffic is more dispersed, as opposed to funneled into one major arterial street. Comparatively, on the Expo Line the closure of several nearby crossings within a short radius of the major intersections, particularly around Western/Exposition, Normandie/Exposition and Vermont/Exposition, and the elimination of left-turns and U-turns at other streets, will divert more of the area’s traffic to already congested and problematic intersections resulting in more driver delay, and thereby driver frustration, which leads to more risk-taking behavior.

Driver frustration due to traffic around the Blue Line was cited in the MTA’s 1998 Booz-Allen Hamilton study as one of four factors that explain why the train is the deadliest light rail line in the country:

2. The [Metro Blue Line (MBL)] traverses through an industrial center of Los Angeles. The industrial center results in increased trucking and shipping traffic near the MBL. The increased truck traffic results in increased driver frustration due to slower street traffic speeds. This frustration may result in increased crossing gate running and illegal left turns.”

Driver frustration from increased traffic can be expected to be a factor in Expo Line accidents and fatalities as well.

6. The PGL operates almost entirely on an isolated right-of-way, while almost the entire Expo Line alignment is directly parallel to vehicular traffic like the Blue Line, including several sections in street medians and side alignment.

The PGL operates almost entirely on an isolated right-of-way with crossing geometry that is very different than the Expo Line crossings.

Pasadena Gold Line crossing intersections diagonally (each of the crossings have gates):

As explained above in #5, the PGL has no comparable street-running section or side street-running section like the Expo Line. Comparatively, there are sections of the Blue Line with similar crossing geometry and mitigation measures as proposed on the Expo Line.

Proposed Expo Line tracks on Exposition Blvd (no gates):

Washington Blvd section of the Blue Line (no gates):

The close proximity of contra-flow and parallel vehicular traffic movements relative to the entire Expo Line right-of-way provides very limited room for recognition, response and recovery for miscalculations, or alterations to unexpected movements of road-sharing motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, or even train operators. The limited margin for error can be expected to be a factor in Expo Line accidents and fatalities.


The behavioral, social and environmental characteristics along the Expo Line corridor individually and collectively make the Pasadena Gold Line an inappropriate comparison, and the Blue Line a more fitting comparison. The PGL can only be considered comparable and thereby a good barometer for judging Expo Line crossing safety hazards if one ignores: train speeds, track alignment, crossing geometry, volume of vehicular traffic, volume of pedestrian traffic, roadway infrastructure, sidewalk capacity, and the environment in which the train operates – basically almost all of the elements that every rail safety expert and rail accident investigator considers when evaluating grade crossing hazards or attempts to identify the leading contributors to train accidents and deaths.

In the MTA’s own 1998 Booz-Allen Hamilton study, which asked, “What makes the Blue Line the deadliest light rail line in the country?” the MTA identified factors that are behavioral, social and environmental around the system and crossings as the cause. And yet, in their PGL comparison, the MTA/Expo Authority has provided no information about any of these important elements around the PGL, because they are not analogous to the Expo Line. This is the major flaw – the Achilles’ heal, of the Expo Authority/MTA’s assertion that the Expo Line won’t be as deadly and accident-prone as the Blue Line and will have a safety record more like the Pasadena Gold Line.

Popularity: 11% [?]

MTA & Politicians Have Declared War on Our Community

Posted by Fix Expo Team On October - 23 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

On October 22, 2008 at the Los Angeles City Council meeting, the following statement was delivered by the coordinator of the Fix Expo Campaign, regarding the declaration of war on our community by MTA and our Council Members:

In a matter of hours the CPUC judge will render the draft decision regarding the proposed Expo Line crossings near Dorsey and Foshay, which will either be adopted or amended by the full CPUC commission in November.

It is disappointing that the community and children whose lives hang in the balance have to rely on a decision from a regulatory agency susceptible to political pressures.

For two years, we have been bringing to the Expo Authority board, which Council Members Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, Herb Wesson all serve on, what others have been bringing to them for 20 years.  We’ve presented the studies, testimonies, media reports, documents – including MTA’s own documents, showing that the street-level crossings will be unsafe and will worsen traffic.  We’ve given them the census tract racial breakdown map and shown them how the hazards and adverse impacts of Expo Line Phase 1 are ALL in the directly adjacent poor and/or majority-minority communities and none in Culver City community next to the track, which is white and middle-to-upper income.

These documents are not of our creation – I, and the Fix Expo Campaign, are simply a conduit.

We, and the documents we’ve presented, have been ignored.

But Council Members, the South LA community has not just been abandoned – these politicians and the Expo Authority have declared war on the very community they were elected to serve and the neighborhood council system in general.

We did not fire the first shot in this war.  We will never have the ammunition that they do.  We’ve tried negotiating to no avail.

Thus, we must forge on – against all odds, because this issue is too important.  At stake are life, limb, community, and, what the more elderly in our group have been fighting for their entire lives: equity and fairness.

And so we will begin coming to this Council meeting more regularly to submit to you the documents and concerns they’ve ignored, in part, because we have no other option.   Parks and Perry have refused to listen; they have refused to lead.

Popularity: 1% [?]

In their desperate attempt to justify building Expo Line street-level crossings that will result in countless preventable accidents and deaths, the Expo Authority staff and board members (in particular Councilman Bernard Parks, Council Member Jan Perry and Supervisor Yvonne Burke) have resulted to falsely claiming that the community’s concerns about public safety, child safety and requests for grade separation are new and untimely. The following are just some of the public comments regarding public safety, child safety and grade separation that can be found in MTA’s own Expo Line environmental review documents.

(We’ve added a 4-page fact sheet for print and distribution: download pdf)

Excerpts from the December 1994 MTA Expo Alternatives Refinement EIR Study

Pg. S-21 & S-22 – Design Enhancements to the Refined Alignment in the ROW:

Based on the community meetings there are additional operating and design features that could make the refined alternatives outlined in this section more acceptable to community groups and individuals. Two features, transit guideway depressed below ground level and additional grade separated crossings and underpasses at intersections are discussed in Section 3.7. [….] The additional enhancement features discussed below are not part of the recommended refined alternatives in this Report. Rather, it may be appropriate for these design features to be determined as mitigation treatments for adverse impacts of the project alternatives. [….]
Option 1: Grade Separate at All Major Arterial Street Crossings [….]
Option 2: Depressed Profile Through Residential Areas [….]
Option 3: Grade Separations at All Major Crossings Plus Depressed Profile Through Residential Areas

Pg. 3-2 – Public Input to the Refinement of Alternatives:

Major community concerns about implementing a transit project along the ROW [tracks] centered around the following: [….] Public safety especially for children where the transit project would cross intersections or operate near schools.

Pg. 7-2, 7-3, & 7-6 – Public Comments at Dorsey H.S. Community Workshop on May 4, 1993:

“An elevated line would open up more streets.”
“Do not put an aerial crossing at La Brea Avenue – do cut and cover.”
“Put the line underground or not at all.”
“Do grade separations at all major intersections.”
“Use below-grade crossings at intersections.”
“Separation should be underground at La Brea Avenue.”
“Where 7th Avenue is connected to the fire station the street should stay open.”
“Pedestrian crossovers are needed.”
“Student access will be a safety problem.”
“Children crossing the ROW [tracks] is dangerous.”

Pg. 8-2 & 8-3 – Public Comments at CA. Afro-American Museum Community Workshop on May 6, 1993:

“The entire line through this area must be aerial for safety reasons.”
“At intersections, the system should go underground.”
“MTA needs to grade separate at major cross streets, i.e., Crenshaw Boulevard, and Western and Vermont Avenues.”
“Speed is better with an aerial line.”
“Whatever is put in at Wilshire Boulevard should be treated the same at Exposition Boulevard – they should be comparable.”
“Hide an aerial system behind trees and shrubs.”
“Put a pedestrian bridge crossing at Harvard Avenue for school.”
“Noise from horns is a big problem; an elevated line means no horns.”
“Safety is a big concern.”

Excerpts from the Feb. 2000 MTA Mid-City/Westside Transit Corridor Study Re-Evaluation/Major Investment Study Report

Pg. A-5 – Community Involvement/Perceptions – Exposition LRT – Summary of Public Comment:

[S]ubstantial discussion occurred regarding safety at crossings and how design features could accommodate safety concerns, and about environmental issues such as noise and vibration.

Excerpts from the Oct. 2005 Expo Line Phase 1 – Final Environmental Impact Study/Report

Pg. 6-5 – Community Participation – Summary of Scoping Comments (May 23 – June 23, 2000):

The following provides a brief summary of the primary issues raised by commentors during scoping.

Public Safety. Members of the public expressed concern about the safety aspect of rapid transit, especially in residential areas, adjacent schools and at intersections, and indicated pedestrian safety at intersections and near schools as their most significant concern.

Excerpts from the Oct. 2005 Expo Line Phase 1 – Final Environmental Impact Study/Report
Volume 2-C Public Hearing Transcripts on the 2001 Draft Environmental Impact Report

Draft Environmental Impact Report Public Hearing Transcript – West Angelus Church on May 9, 2001:

Pg. 90 – John Freund: I am disappointed. What our present transportation authorities envision is basically what we have since the end of the 19th century. [….] This public transit I believe should not run on the surface. Below ground it is a little more expensive, as we know from the subway, but we can elevate it, we can put it in the air. And we can have monorails or we can also have what they call air bus, gliding at 30, 50 or 100 feet above us, no level crossings, no danger to pedestrians, no congestion on the street, more room, more space available under these corridors for commercial and public purposes. In short, something which looks into the 21st century.

Pg. 95 – 96 – Charles Adelman: As for the Exposition corridor, the proposal again, you have a choice of bus or rail. Rail is clearly the alternative that is much nicer…The only poroblem you have with it here again is that on the segment from USC down to…whatever the street it is, that it runs down the middle of the street in a residential street – Arlington I guess it is – it is a residential street. There will be people running across the street, and human nature being what it is, you will have accidents. So I think the desirable alternative, we need to find a way, to find the money to run it underground as a subway through that segment. And then when it gets off of the middle of the street and is on its own right-of-way, running the high-speed run there, but having grade separation at grade crossings so as to avoid the accidents like we have on the Blue Line all the time with the people who seem to think that they can beat the train. So I think that would be a greatly preferred alternative.

Pg. 100 – Presley Burroughs: Those homes east of La Brea, the right-right-of-way facility needs to be trenched, separated, and secured.

Pg. 101 – 102 – Evenlean Jackson: I have nothing against the MTA where they are traveling, but going through our community, like we said, we have schools. We have Dorsey High School, Foshay, and all the school kids.

Pg. 105 – 106 – Clint Simmons: There was a study done in France, as well, I think as Switzerland or one of the others, where they’re putting this type of rail in. And they have found the best way to go is underground. USC recognized it. They hav ea lot of technical people here, and they knew what problem that would – what they would experience, and that’s why they don’t want the so-called surface rail to pass through that area. They want it to go underground. Cheviot Hills knew it, and they didn’t want it to come through their area. But yet the MTA and I find people who live in the area can sit and tell us what is best needed. [….] If you’re going to put something in here, lets make it practical and make it compatible with the community. At the present time what I’m looking at is not compatible with the community at all.

Pg. 108 – 109 – Tony Clarke: The MTA does not have a very good track record as far as keeping people’s safety concerned concerning the tracks. What about Foshay? What about Dorsey? Are our kids less important than Palms’ aesthetic effect as far as they’re concerned? I think our kids should be thought of more besides the community in not going through there. You know. What about our kids? That’s the issue. Or at least that’s one of the issues that I have. You know, you guys haven’t thought about that, or from what I have read, it has not been thought out completely. You know. Like I said before, you guys do not have the best track record in trying to keep people safe. And I’d really hate to hear on the news that a kid got hit. That would be really great for you guys. You know. In conclusion, this should not go through anybody’s community. Just like Palms area it made a detour, if that’s the case, at least for our kids, detour it through our areas. Do not put our kids’ safety in jeopardy.

Pg. 113 – Evelia Cervantes: We do not need an elementary to get hit by a Metro or an MTA coming through. Kids crossing the street on San Pedro get hurt every day – just about every day just crossing the street, because the cars passing by. Just a car, let alone – let alone a train coming 10 miles per hour like she said. It’s going to hit somebody. It’s going to hit a car, it’s going to hit a truck, it’s going to hit something, and we do not want no problems.

Pg. 114 – Frederico Aguilar: [I]t’s going to be dangerous for our kids. We have a school on 28th and San Pedro. It’s a bunch of little kids going through those streets, and it’s – some of them are accompanied by an adult, and some of them are on their own. So it’s very, very dangerous for our kids, and it’s going to be not too good for our community.

Pg. 118 – Elizabeth Blaney: This route, this right-of-way will go right through residents’ backyards; it will be dangerous for children.

Pg. 120 – 121 – Jimmy Smith: I’m in favor of the project. Not as is. [….] It has to be built properly. If that means it has to be built with more money, so be it. An example would be Dorsey High. I live right next door to Dorsey High. I went there. It has to be separated completely from Dorsey High. If that means the same thing that has to be done at SC underground or whatever, that’s the way it has to be done.

Pg. 122 – Martha Vazquez: In your proposal the train is going to pass right next to our homes, and this is going to be very dangerous for our children.

Pg. 123 – Luz Vizcarra: I oppose this proposal because I have grandchildren and children that go to 28th Street School and this is going to be very dangerous for them.

Pg. 124 – Rogelio Macedonio: The community has informed me that there is 28th Street Elementary School with many children in this school, and the train running right next to it would cause many dangers to these children, and so therefore we are very much opposed to it.

Pg. 124 – Raul Elizariasus: This proposal will be running the train right behind our yards, and it’s going to be very dangerous for our children.

Draft Environmental Impact Report Public Hearing Transcript – Peterson Museum on May 7, 2001:

Pg. 27 – Rudyard Clark: I’m all for that light rail particularly. The only comment I have about the project would be if it were to – the subway portion near USC, if it possibly could be extended a little farther west for safety reasons and to help speed up the line. And also I have comments on other projects, too. The Blue Line, Long Beach to Los Angeles Blue Line, there’s been a number of fatalities there since 1990. If perhaps maybe grade separations could be added, maybe a subway cut, uncovered subway situation on the Blue Line between downtown Los Angeles and city of Long Beach.

Pg. 41 – Linda Bradshaw: I’m very gratified to know that you’ve got an elevated section over La Cienega…But I would wonder why you don’t have the elevated section going all the way down.

Pg. 61 – 62 – Chris Ford: One way to improve the speed, as has been mentioned, obvious is grade separations. Up in the Bay Area BART carries 450,000 passengers a day, and I believe succeeds in great part because its own its own rail; sometimes it’s raise like a monorail, sometimes it’s grade level, but it is fenced off, grade separated, there’s no way a human being or car can touch BART or its third rail, and you don’t want to. But the point is it goes on its own track, and nothing stops it except the rain. We could improve on that here, I think.

Pg. 63 – Bill Mullins: [T]he term seems to be grade separation, but if light rail or monorail or subways don’t have to stop with the traffic – I’m from Boston, and I think that’s the whole point. If you don’t have to stop for the traffic, it’s the one thing that gives the Blue Line a black eye. The Blue Line is great. But every once in a while some joker tries [to] beat the train.

Draft Environmental Impact Report Public Hearing Transcript – Veterans Admin. Hospital on May 15, 2001:

Pg. 218 – Jamie Corcio: Having a train, a light rail running on streets is not the safest. And we know. We’ve had accidents with the Blue Line. We’ve had terrible accidents there.

Excerpts from the Expo Line Phase 1 LRT Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement Supplemental Public Review Period October 14 – November 28, 2005

Pg. c-3 – City of Culver City – City Council and Redevelopment Agency:
Approximately 139 comments/issues were raised by the City of Culver City, including those related to parking (8), pedestrian crossing (1), traffic (3), transit (20), construction effects (10), land use (11), air quality (6), public safety (3), bus service (8), noise and vibration (33), water resources (4), bikeway/bikeway facilities (7), visual (1), geology and soils (2), and general comments (21).

Pg. c-8 – City of Los Angeles:
Comment. The proposed Project should be modified to extend the Flower Street Design Option Undercrossing to Vermont Avenue to eliminate the visual barrier of safety walls.

Pg. c-12 – University of Southern California:
Comment. A rail line between the park and campus would become a safety hazard to increasing number of students and visitors in the area.

Pg. c-17 – Natural History Museum:
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Museum) has expressed concerns regarding pedestrian and vehicular safety and access, and visual barrier posed by the Flower Street Design option.

Pg. c-19 – Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners Association:
BNHA’s safety and security concerns include the queuing areas that will be provided between the LRT tracks at Farmdale Avenue as well as the type of fencing proposed, the type of security that will be provided, and the at-grade crossings adjacent to Dorsey High School and Foshay Middle School.

Pg. c-21 – South Park Stakeholders Group:
The South Park Stakeholders Group stated their concern about the possible noise, vibration, pedestrian safety, and vehicle safety hazard impacts the Project may contribute to from increased LRT operations in the community adjacent to the existing Metro Blue Line located in the South Park District of Downtown Los Angeles.

Additionally at the September 18, 2002 MTA Planning & Programming Committee meeting, Mr. Clint Simmons, who was then leading a predecessor group, Concerned Neighbors Along Exposition Right-of-Way, had his presentation put on the record.  The presentation begins with the clear statement that one of the group’s primary concerns is “SAFETY FOR SCHOOL CHILDREN.”  Included in the presentation, which is part of the MTA meeting minutes (link to large file) are pictures of trench structures the group was proposing as an alternative.

Popularity: 5% [?]

At the CPUC evidentiary hearing at the crossings near Dorsey High School (Farmdale) and Foshay Learning Center (Western), Russ Quimby, an internationally renowned rail safety expert testified on our behalf.

The 1974 West Point graduate spoke about his integrity, his qualifications and background after spending 22 years at the National Transportation Safety Board (”NTSB”) as the Investigator-in-Charge or Chair of rail and rail transit accidents Investigation Groups. Quimby testified about NTSB studies, which determined that slowing down the trains “creat[es] as many problems as you solve,” how the Metro policy used to determine whether crossings qualify for grade separations “cannot seriously be described as a safety policy,” how the Western Ave crossing right next to Foshay, has “‘no time’ for safety,” as mentioned below, how the Farmdale crossing creates a notable risk of catastrophic accidents, and how the crossings near the school are not safe.

A 2-page brief excerpt of Russ Quimby’s testimony and qualifications has been added to our flyers list (direct link)

EXCERPTS FROM THE PREPARED TESTIMONY & CROSS EXAMINATION OF MAJ. RUSS QUIMBY (Ret.) - Delivered at the California Public Utilities Commission Expo Line Evidentiary Hearing on Dorsey & Foshay (Sept. 5, 2008)

I. Excerpts from the Prepared Testimony of Maj. Russ Quimby (Ret.)

Maj. Quimby’s background and qualifications (pg. 2):

From July 2007 to May 2008, I was Asst. V.P. for Operations, Planning & Analysis at Rail Sciences Inc., where I served as an expert witness in legal cases, conducted risk assessments of railroad operations, training, track, and equipment, and investigated rail related accidents.

From 1985 to 2007, I was a safety engineer and investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). While with the NTSB, I was the Investigator-In-Charge and/or Chairman of the Mechanical, Track, or Operations Investigation Groups for all severity levels of railroad or rail-transit incidents, accidents, and disasters. I conducted investigations, wrote and prepared factual and analytical reports for public record, examined witnesses at public hearings and depositions, and supervised simulations and equipment test by carriers, vendors, and manufacturers. I participated in 57 major accident investigations, 32 field accident investigations, 10 public hearings, 16 depositions, and 6 special studies. I personally wrote 11 major accident reports for publication, 8 field accident reports, and I conducted 10 sworn depositions proceedings. I was also the originator or major collaborator for over 157 NTSB adopted recommendations.

Maj. Quimby’s expert opinion on the Farmdale Ave. crossing, which abuts 2100 student Dorsey H.S. (pg. 5):

In my opinion, the proposed at-grade crossing at Farmdale Avenue is not safe because it poses an unreasonably high safety risk to the students at Dorsey High School.

Maj. Quimby describing the potential for catastrophic accidents at the Dorsey HS/Farmdale crossing (pp. 7 – 8):

By “catastrophic accident,” I mean an accident involving fatalities and/or injuries to a large number of people. As proposed the at-grade Farmdale Avenue crossing creates the notable risk that a catastrophic accident may well occur under one of several different scenarios. For example:

First, that a train will collide with a vehicle with sufficient force to either derail the train into and/or push the vehicle into the proposed ‘holding pens’ where several hundred students are trapped inside, killing or seriously injuring scores of students in a single accident.

Second, that a train will collide with a vehicle (particularly a truck or bus) rupturing and igniting a fuel tank which would engulf students in the holding pen in flaming diesel or gasoline.

Third, a combination of the above two scenarios where the students are crushed and burned simultaneously by vehicles and/or a derailed train.

Maj. Quimby describing the Western Ave crossing, which is 50 feet from 3400 student Foshay Learning Center (pg. 9):

This crossing lacks any safety margin for failure in human behavior. The timing is so precisely choreographed and tight that there was no time left in the design for the activation and movement of gates, so they were eliminated. This, in itself, tells me that this intersection has ‘no time’ for safety.

Any number of likely scenarios could trigger a delay in the crossing sequence resulting in an accident at the crossing, either separately or by interaction between vehicles and pedestrians, resulting in serious injury or fatality.

Maj. Quimby on MTA’s Grade Crossing Policy, which determines whether crossings are grade separated (pp. 10 & 11):

Metro’s Grade Crossing Policy is not a safety-based policy. In fact, as far as I can tell from [Expo Construction Authority CEO] Mr. [Rick] Thorpe’s testimony, the policy has nothing whatsoever to do with safety and is concerned almost entirely with Metro’s operational convenience regardless of safety concerns.

The policy cannot seriously be described as a safety policy because traffic volume and train frequency alone tell you very little about the safety of a rail crossing, particularly when traffic volume is reported on a per lane basis. As far as Metro’s Grade Crossing Policy is concerned, for purposes of grade classification, a crossing that intersects a single lane street going in one direction with no pedestrian traffic is analyzed identically to a crossing that intersects twelve lanes going in six directions with peak pedestrian traffic in the thousands per hour. As long as train headways and per lane traffic volumes fall within acceptable standards, a crossing will be designed at-grade with no need for further review or analysis.

The Metro Grade Crossing Policy is a logical operational policy from a rail perspective, but it does not nor should not replace a responsible, comprehensive system safety analysis, which should include a human performance study. The risky designs of these two proposed crossings illustrates the point that factors beyond train frequency and vehicle traffic must be taken into consideration to create designs that are reasonably safe for the public – and particularly for children. If the proposed crossings at Western Ave. and Farmdale Avenue do not qualify for grade separation from a safety perspective, then no crossings would.

II. Cross Examination from the Hearing Transcript (pp. 762 – 764)

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
I also gave [UCA/Fix Expo] a warning that after I reviewed the material, I may give them an opinion they might not like. [….] I emphasize the fact when I got into this business, I won’t trade my integrity for money.

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
And what happens is if you slow the trains down, your window of hazard lengthens. And then you get the condition, the population to believe, well, the train is slow. It’s hard to judge a train coming head on at you with a headlight on. And that basically causes the students, emboldens them to basically say, well, the train is only going ten miles an hour, I can beat it, and run across the tracks in front of the trains. I guess in [National Transportation] Safety Board studies that we’ve done you end up creating as many problems as you solve by slowing the train down. You just create a longer window of opportunity or hazard.

Expo’s Question:
And your statement that the students would be embolden to run across the tracks, what do you base that on?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
Well, they’re going very slow, and you got students who are impatient and standing there waiting for a slower train to go by, and they feel like they have more time to beat the train across the tracks.

Expo’s Question:
What about gates that go down, wouldn’t that?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
With pedestrians in particular, a lot of people feel, even if you have pedestrian gates there, they duck under them, walk under them, whatever. People ignore signs and gates. 25 percent of all vehicle collisions at grade crossings that had gates result in fatalities. I mean so if you’ve got 25 percent of the people being killed at crossings with gates, you know, they drive around them and things of that nature. So a gate is like – it’s more – obviously more active than a sign, but it doesn’t prevent behavior.

Expo’s Question:
Well, informing that opinion, wouldn’t it have been useful for you to observe whether or not that’s the case on other lines within Los Angeles?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
I saw that at the Vernon Station.

Expo’s Question:
You observed people crossing with the same sort of crossing barrier?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:

Expo’s Question:
And often, right, just all the time racing across?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
Pretty much.

Expo’s Question:
And you translate that opinion back to the same thing is going to happen at Farmdale?

Maj. Quimby’s Answer:
I would say most certainly. And it happens generally. I’m not a behavioral scientist, but generally speaking, the younger the population, the younger the person, generally the more apt they are to do that, because they’re physically able to. And I don’t know, when you’re young you don’t have the rationale and experience as you do as you get older where you’re more careful.

Popularity: 7% [?]

MTA Pleads the 5th on Expo = Blue Line Questions

Posted by Fix Expo Team On October - 7 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

On July 5, 2007, Save Leimert, a lead member of the Fix Expo Campaign, sent a letter to the MTA and Expo Authority Chairs requesting that they essentially admit that they’re building another Blue Line with the Expo Line design, and put to paper the design differences between the environment, track alignments, and traffic conditions, between the Expo Line and Pasadena Gold Line. (View the letter)

Expo CEO/MTA executive Rick Thorpe pleaded the Fifth to almost all of the questions asked (see below). “This request is outside the jurisdiction of Expo” was Thorpe’s response to 12 of the 14 questions in one form or another.

The fact that MTA/Expo believes they can sell the project as one thing, and then when confronted with facts showing it’s another, refuse to answer stakeholders questions, exposes their willful deception and disrespect of the community, which Expo Authority is supposed to serve.

To see Expo/MTA pleading the Fifth, continue reading…

Popularity: 2% [?]

True Rail Problem: At-Grade Deaths – Meshkati

Posted by Fix Expo Team On October - 2 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

Professor Najmedin Meshkati’s op-ed on grade-crossing deaths, titled “Grade-crossing Deaths Are True Rail Problem” ran in the Daily News:

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 74 people have died in Metrolink crashes since 1999 in California, out of which 20 have been killed in grade-crossing accidents. Ninety people have died on the MTA’s 22-mile L.A.-to-Long Beach Blue Line, which has had more than 821 recorded incidents between its inception in July 1990 and last July.

The above-mentioned, significantly higher-than-national average rates of accidents and fatalities along the Metrolink and MTA rail network attest to the dire state of rail safety, which is primarily caused by outdated and messy safety-related policies, procedures and practices.

One of the requisite pillars for the safety of any modern technological system’s safety today is transparent, total-system-oriented accident and incident investigations, including the reporting of them and unfettered access to them by analysts or any interested party. This pillar is either broken or missing at both Metrolink and MTA.

Other serious system-related problems that have plagued our rail safety include the tragically narrow MTA Grade Crossing Policy for Light Rail Transit and the woefully incomplete MTA Grade Crossing Preliminary Hazard Analysis, which has been used in the now-under-construction Exposition light-rail project.

If the link breaks, here is the full text of the op-ed:

Grade-crossing Deaths Are True Rail Problem
By Najmedin Meshkati

If there is a silver lining to the deadly Metrolink crash in Chatsworth last month, it is the heightened attention to rail safety in the country, and especially in Southern California.

At the federal level, the House of Representatives passed sweeping rail-safety legislation last week that requires more rest for workers and technology that can stop a train in its tracks if it’s headed for a collision. This rail-safety bill was passed by the Senate this week, and it is expected that President Bush will sign it into law soon.

At the state level, last week the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its board, chaired by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, voted unanimously to approve a series of safety directives for Metrolink. And last Friday, the Metrolink board of directors unanimously passed a wide-ranging measure to improve safety that included adding a second engineer to some of its trains, using technologies to slow or stop trains when a warning signal is not heeded, and appointing a panel of experts to recommend safety improvements.

These are all good steps. However, it’s unrealistic to hope that by showering our transit-rail-system operators with more cash and throwing high technology at their safety problems, we will be much safer.

The lion’s share of the earmarked funds are for new devices that could only slow down or stop a train locally or remotely, as in the case of positive train controls. They would not have any impact whatsoever on the other major causes of deaths on the tracks on our light-rail and high-speed commuter rail systems, which are grade-crossing accidents.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 74 people have died in Metrolink crashes since 1999 in California, out of which 20 have been killed in grade-crossing accidents. Ninety people have died on the MTA’s 22-mile L.A.-to-Long Beach Blue Line, which has had more than 821 recorded incidents between its inception in July 1990 and last July.

The above-mentioned, significantly higher-than-national average rates of accidents and fatalities along the Metrolink and MTA rail network attest to the dire state of rail safety, which is primarily caused by outdated and messy safety-related policies, procedures and practices.

One of the requisite pillars for the safety of any modern technological system’s safety today is transparent, total-system-oriented accident and incident investigations, including the reporting of them and unfettered access to them by analysts or any interested party. This pillar is either broken or missing at both Metrolink and MTA.

Other serious system-related problems that have plagued our rail safety include the tragically narrow MTA Grade Crossing Policy for Light Rail Transit and the woefully incomplete MTA Grade Crossing Preliminary Hazard Analysis, which has been used in the now-under-construction Exposition light-rail project.

Villaraigosa has already offered good and specific policy recommendations for transportation safety in a report titled “After Sprawl: Action Plans for Metropolitan Los Angeles (2003).” This report, which I had the privilege of contributing to in 2002 is, according to his official mayoral biography, “a policy blueprint for addressing the issues facing many urban centers.”

What he now recommends concerning the major safety improvements of the MTA and Metrolink rail network in the Southland is precisely what he suggested previously in his report. We are simply asking him to put the money where his mouth is by helping implement his vision.

Najmedin Meshkati is a professor at the University of Southern California. He teaches and conducts research on the safety of technological systems and created USC’s Transportation Safety Program in 1992.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Accident Rates: Freeways vs. Light Rail

Posted by Fix Expo Team On September - 29 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

As the stats show, trains pose a significantly greater safety hazard than any other vehicle on the road.

The reasons why are not difficult to understand:

  • MTA’s light rail trains are much heavier than anything else on the road (no 225-ton motor vehicle would be allowed on the streets.  The Army’s Abrams Tank is comparatively 70 tons)
  • MTA’s light rail trains can’t stop on a dime
  • MTA’s light rail trains don’t have steering wheels, so they can’t turn to avert or lessen impacts
  • MTA’s light rail trains have couplings at the front of the train (see below)

MTA tries to spin this fact primarily one of two ways: deceptively comparing raw data between cars and trains, and by using stats that tell nothing about the hazards street-level light rail vehicles pose to fellow motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

1) MTA compares raw data between cars and trains.

MTA claims that significantly more people die from car accidents every day than light rail, thus “light rail is safer.” But there are millions of vehicles on the road every day, while there are only 250 Blue Line trains during a week day, and only 185 during the weekend. The amount of Blue Line trains that travel across a busy intersection in Downtown LA in an entire day (250) is equal to the number of cars in just one lane of traffic, going in just one direction, across just one intersection in just 30 mins during rush hour. Simply, there are exponentially more cars on the road, so of course there are going to be more accidents and deaths with cars, just as there is sure to be more violent deaths in the Canada (population 33,000,000) than there are in Compton (population 95,000).

How hard would you laugh at the suggestion that Compton is safer than Canada?

2) MTA uses passenger mile accident/fatality rate statistics instead of train mile accident/fatality rate statistics.

Train miles is the distance a train travels, while passenger miles is the combined distance passengers on the train have traveled.

For example, if one Blue Line carrying 50 passengers travels 10 miles it will have traveled:
10 train miles, and
500 passenger miles (50 passengers X 10 miles = 500 passenger miles)

If the train has one accident, the accident rate is 1 accident per 500 passenger miles, which looks a lot safer than 1 accident per 10 train miles.

But a 3-car train carrying 10 people will kill a pedestrian, motorist or cyclist just as dead as a train carrying 100 people.

MTA’s spin tactics regarding the hazards of at-grade rail are a statement to their desperation and deception in selling these street-level projects. At Fix Expo, we believe in dealing with reality. We believe the increased hazard of light rail trains requires increased safety mitigation measures, especially grade separation in dense urban areas, which requires a capital investment that our politicians are not currently willing to make (unless you’re a city like Culver City that will threaten to oppose the project legally or politically).

Instead, MTA pushes at-grade rail and forces local cities and communities to fight for upgrades, all so they can give the appearance of doing something about traffic. (In reality they’re making it worse!). Simply, our politicians have falsely translated our region’s desires for traffic relief into a light rail system built on the cheap and unsafely. It is a culture that does not value lives.

  • Blue Line accident rate from the June 2008 MTA Summary of Metro Blue Line Train/Vehicle and Train/Pedestrian Accidents (July 1990 – June 2008)
  • Freeway accident rate is from CalTrans, as reported by the LA Times’ Steve Hymon: link

(UPDATE: We composed a flyer comparing the accident and fatality rates of roads, freeways, light rail and commuter rail.)

Popularity: 4% [?]

A Culture that Doesn’t Value Life: MTA & Metrolink

Posted by Fix Expo Team On September - 28 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

In the wake of the tragic Chatsworth accident, Southern California’s rail transit agencies have undergone increased scrutiny (for some inexplicable reason, the rail safety oversight body for the state, the California Public Utilities Commission, has been spared).

In so many categories, Metrolink (commuter rail) and MTA (light rail) have operated systems that even in comparison to their peers are far more deadly.

A comparison of the major commuter rail systems fatality rates from 1993 (the first full year of Metrolink operation) to 2007 (the most recent full year of Metrolink operation) from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Safety Analysis database is below:

As mentioned in a previous post, in 2003, when USA Today compiled the American Public Transit Association statistics for light rail fatalities to compose their article, Blue Line takes a troubled route, in every category the Blue Line was the deadliest light rail system in the country. Here’s a graph that compares light rail system deaths from 1990 (the Blue Line’s first full year of operation) to 2002:

In an op-ed published in the LA Times titled “Rail Safety’s Human Error Excuse,” USC Professor Najmedin Meshkati, an internationally recognized expert in transportation system safety who testified on our behalf at the CPUC Evidentiary Hearing stated:

Are we to believe, for instance, that all crossing incidents were because of negligence when the death rate is so much higher here than almost any other place in the nation?

Regarding the Blue Line, MTA and predecessor agencies have spent billions building new rail lines: the Red Line, Green Line, and Pasadena Gold Line and still they haven’t gone back to add grade separation to the black-eye of rail transit safety in the country, which is slicing through South LA, Compton, Watts and Willowbrook killing people (many of them children), on a consistent basis every year.  Instead, MTA proposes to replicate the most accident prone sections of the Blue Line in East LA on the Eastside extension and in South LA with the Expo Line.

In the $30-40 billion dollar measure put on the ballot by MTA there is not one penny for grade separations on the Blue Line, additional grade separations on Phase 1 of the Expo Line, or Metrolink safety upgrades. The transportation measure that is intended to set the course of the MTA for the next 30 years and there is not one penny to fix the current problems.

The reality is the culture of MTA and Metrolink, which are governed by our region’s politicians, does not value lives. 

Our politicians have falsely translated our region’s desires for traffic relief into a commuter rail and light rail system built on the cheap and unsafely.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Delivering Quimby’s Testimony to the Board of Supervisors

Posted by Fix Expo Team On September - 23 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS
September 23, 2008
Delivered by Damien Goodmon, Coordinator

We in the Fix Expo family have closely followed the catastrophic Metrolink accident in Chatsworth with deep pain, and we can only offer our condolences to the victims and their families.

The deceased were human beings who other human beings loved and needed.

In an op-ed published last Friday in the Daily News – which you have before you – we cautioned that solely focusing on actions of the train conductor distract us from discussing other contributing factors in the accident such as the technology and board policies, indeed our politicians rail-safety cost-benefit analysis.

For that reason we applaud Supervisor Antonovich for offering the Metrolink safety motion that will be discussed at Thursday’s MTA board meeting.

We at Fix Expo have been working on the issue of rail safety on the Expo Light Rail Line under construction in our South LA community. We have identified among our many opinions that we hold equally high concern for the safety hazard that the nearly three-dozen street-level crossings pose.

We have been fighting with you all requesting additional resources in South LA for life-saving grade separation.

To date we have received no support from any member of this board regarding even the most problematic street-level crossings on the rail line in front of 3,400-student Foshay Learning Center at Western and 2,100-student Dorsey High School.

Continue reading…

We came to you with the community organizations and you refused to change course.

We came to you with the LAUSD and you refused to change course.

We came to you with the UTLA, Parent Collaborative, and Neighborhood Councils and you refused to change course.

So I come today to bring you excerpts from the CPUC hearing testimony of an international rail safety expert – Major Russ Quimby.

Russ Quimby is THE international rail safety expert with impeccable credibility – a 1974 West Point graduate. In the 22 years he was at the National Transportation Safety Board he was the Investigator-in-Charge and/or Chairman of the Mechanical, Track, or Operations Investigation groups for all severity levels of railroad or rail-transit incidents, accidents and disasters.

He is the originator or major collaborator for over 157 NTSB adopted recommendations.

If Maj. Quimby hadn’t retired from the National Transportation Safety Board in 2007, he very likely would be the Investigator-in-Charge of the Chatsworth tragedy.

Here is what he’s said regarding the Farmdale crossing just 10 feet from Dorsey HS where over 700 students walk across the tracks in the 15 mins afterschool in surges up to 108 per min:

“[T]he proposed crossing at Farmdale Avenue…poses a higher risk of a catastrophic accident.”

“By ‘catastrophic accident,’ I mean an accident involving fatalities and/or injuries to a large number of people. As proposed, the at-grade Farmdale Avenue crossing creates the notable risk that a catastrophic accident may well occur under one of several different scenarios.”

Quimby then goes on to describe one scenario where a train hits a car and the car is lodged into the holding area where hundreds of children would be standing and/or the train derails. Another involves a car being hit by a train, rupturing the tank and fuel spraying onto children standing in the holding area. The third involves a combination of the two.

In the January LA CityBeat when saying why the Farmdale crossing must be built at street level, Supervisor Yarslavsky said, “The goal is to produce a product that your critics will come back to you and say, ‘You were right, we were wrong.’”

We fight at Fix Expo because Supervisors we don’t want to hear you say to us in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years after many have died, “The rail safety experts and community were right, we were wrong.”

We implore you Supervisors to Fix the Expo Line. Prevent tragedies. Save lives.

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Next Meeting: Mon Jan 11

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