New Expo line to finally open to public

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MTA board member Richard Katz and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were on board the Expo line’s preview ride with the media.

The mayor hopped on the Expo line this morning to take a preview ride on the new light-rail train scheduled to open to the public on Saturday, April 28. The public will get a chance to try it out for free during that first weekend.

In the first phase of the line, which cost $932 million, there will be passenger service from downtown’s 7th Street Metro Center station to La Cienega/Jefferson, with an extension into Culver City to be completed by this summer. The line features a total of 12 stations with two shared by the Metro Blue Line in downtown L.A.

The second phase, which will lengthen the line 6.6 miles with seven stations and provide service to Santa Monica, is expected to be a reality by 2015.

“Everything we expand is just going to keep connecting us all over the region,” said mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during the train ride. “I remember when we had the red cars. It’s back, everybody!”

Villaraigosa referred to the PCC Streetcar service inaugurated on March 22, 1937 and which was completely eliminated by 1963. It has taken 50 years for the South LA area to see another “trolley” on its streets.

The old PCC “red cars” connected the city with the valley.

“This is a milestone. One that we’ve waited for a long time,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was on board during the preview ride along with the mayor and Art Leahy, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Construction on the line began in 2006. The opening date has been postponed multiple times due to technical problems uncovered during the testing phase.

“Safety is the number one priority,” said the MTA’s Leahy. “During the next month, we’re going to continue making sure all systems work and that every supervisor and every operator has been properly trained for when we have customers on board.”

The ride from downtown L.A. to La Cienega is about 30 minutes, with the train running at 55 miles per hour. The trains will run approximately every 12 minutes, stopping at each station for 20 seconds.

Carolyn Kelly is one of the train operators of the new Expo Line.

The frequency of the trains will increase depending on the ridership. Leahy points out that when the Blue Line opened, it only had about 10,000 riders a day. Now, it carries about 80,000 people on a daily basis.

Carolyn Kelly, from Compton, is one of the line’s operators. A 22-year MTA veteran, she has been participating on the testing phase.

“We’ve been testing in the morning, afternoon and evening – at all hours for a year to make sure everything is safe,” she explained. “There are many safety mechanisms in the train that prevent us from going over the speed limit in the different areas of the line.”

For example, as the train nears the Farmdale station, it cannot run at a speed higher than 10 miles per hour, because there’s a school – Dorsey High School – just feet away from the station. If the operator were to exceed the 10 mph speed limit, a warning beep will sound off. If it’s ignored, the train automatically shuts down.

MTA will operate the Expo Line seven days a week from 5 am to 12:30AM. The fare for a one-way ticket will be $1.50.

You can check out video of today’s ride here:
Video courtesy MTA


Metro begins tests for Expo Line, a controversial topic in South Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News story:


On Monday, Metro began testing its Expo Line tracks. A high-rail truck pulled an empty light-rail train to test side clearance and overhead.

image “This is just a slow walking speed type test,” said Jim Jasmin, Metro’s start-up manager. “When we get to an object, if it looks iffy, we’ll stop. We’ll move up slowly until we get to it and then check the measurements and go on.”

Jasmin and other safety officials wearing bright yellow vests with orange reflectors followed alongside the train.

“It’s a very long process,” Jasmin said. “It’s going to be a couple of days before we get this all done just in this short, start up section of the line.”

There are 10 new stations included in Phase 1. The stops include the University of Southern California, Exposition and Crenshaw, Farmdale and Culver City. The estimated travel time between downtown and Culver City will be 30 minutes, according to Metro officials.

But the Expo Line construction came with controversy. South Los Angeles community members and activists expressed concern over unsafe railroad crossings in low-income and minority neighborhoods, especially at the Farmdale station near Dorsey High School.

Damien Goodmon, coordinator of the Fix Expo citizens’ campaign, called for every intersection of the Expo Line to have a grade-separated crossing.

“We needed to do this for a variety of reasons,” Goodmon said. “There was injustice and injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. Dr King. And two, we had to establish that you can’t just assume that since you’re coming through a black and brown community that you’ll be able to build any kind of way.”

The California Public Utilities Commission Board voted in 2010 to support a plan that called for safety improvements. The improvements included station platforms and speed restrictions.

But the Federal Transit Administration’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether or not Metro complied with the Civil Rights Act. Title 6 states that any program receiving federal funding cannot discriminate in any way.

“And so that is one long fought for victory you can say,” Goodmon said. “From that standpoint, getting them to look at that project and maybe imposing sanctions upon Metro for violations, we would hope would lead to corrective actions that will prevent this type of disparity in future projects.”

The $862 million Expo light rail line is entirely funded by Metro. Metro has not yet set an official date for the start of passenger service. But they hope to be done with most of Phase 1 by November 15, 2011. Completion all the way to Culver City might not happen until early next year, according to Metro.

Bus riders protest cuts to bus routes and services

Listen to audio from Annenberg Radio News:


The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed reductions to the public transportation system in early February. Eleven Los Angeles Metro bus routes would be cut, while others would have their services and hours reduced. Crystal McMillan, a rider and member of the bus riders union, knows what this will do.

McMillan: I know what that means to a bus rider. That means instead of being able to take one bus all the way from my home to my work, I suddenly have to take three buses. That means my commute went from an hour to an hour and a half. That means I suddenly have to find a way to afford a pass because my commute is going to cost a lot more.

MTA officials say these changes are needed to better integrate services between Metro buses and trains and also to save money. Hector Garcia is a security worker and bus rider. Like many others, he depends on public transportation’s late-night hours to get to work.

Garcia: We can’t afford these cuts. Our jobs are not a regular, 40-hour, 9-5, Monday to Friday job. We work every day of the week around the clock. It’s a 24/7 job. We need the buses. We can’t afford these cuts.

Senator Boxer and Representative Mica will be in Los Angeles tomorrow morning to hold a bipartisan hearing on transportation needs. Members of the Bus Riders Union, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and transportation officials are expected to attend.

Photo courtesy of The Daily Trojan

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