Wednesday, June 9, 2010

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.

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

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

Press & Community

Popularity: 100% [?]

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: 9% [?]

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: 12% [?]

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% [?]

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.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Fix Expo Statement on This Week’s Blue Line Fatalities

Posted by Fix Expo Team On November - 29 - 2007 ADD COMMENTS
November 29, 2007
Delivered By Damien Goodmon, Coordinator

The Fix Expo group has come together to support changing your Expo Line design through majority-minority South LA from the Exposition Park trench at Figueroa to the La Brea overpass to below grade in trench, cut-and-cover or bored tunnel.

We speak during public comment to mention the two people your Blue Line killed just this week – as I see there is no mention of their deaths on your long agenda.

This brings the total of Blue Line deaths to at least 90 – at least 29 of them in the past 5 years, which along with your 800 accidents in 17 years is multiples more than any other light rail line in the country in the same 17 year span of time.

Some claim we’ve gotten too emotional about this issue. I ask, how can one not?

How can one not feel deeply about the betrayal and abandonment by those elected to represent us on an issue as important as environmental racism, death and injury.

Indeed there are few things elected officials can do to ensure near absolute safety and investing in grade separation is one of them.

To this end we will fight and pursue all legal and political avenues to ensure our children won’t be added to your unnamed unacknowledged list of at-grade light rail victims.

Popularity: 1% [?]

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.