Trains don’t kill, people do — that’s perfectly clear from the latest Metrolink tragedy and the terrible record of carnage on the Long Beach Blue Line.
Here’s the facts: Metrolink has “one of the worst fatality records of any commuter rail system in the nation” with 74 fatalities this decade and the Blue Line has recorded 90
fatalities, 64 involved pedestrians, 26 vehicles, none train passengers.
That’s what happens when you do things on the cheap. Safety last might well be the motto for the L.A. transit system.
The blood on the tracks around L.A. is the inevitable consequence of building a rail system at grade for the most part in a heavily-congested urban area. Subways, trenches, elevateds, grade separations are the rule almost everywhere else but not L.A.
And since we refuse to learn from our past mistakes, we are condemned to repeat them. The Expo Line now under construction from downtown to Culver City and the Westside is a prime example.
Damien Goodmon of the Fix Expo Citizen’s Campaign has organized the community into an effective force to fight against street-level crossings, particularly in the area around Dorsey High School where hundreds of students have to cross the tracks every morning and afternoon.
He warns of the certainty of deadly accidents in the area and recently wrote: “MTA/Expo Authority don’t have public support for their unsafe street level crossings…We
need mass transit solutions, but it has to be done right, and done
safely, and the impacts should be equitable across all directly
adjacent residential communities.”
His campaign has been so successful that the Expo Authority, set up by the MTA as a separate agency, is fighting back with its own organizing and information operation run by Dakota Communications, the same firm that used such hardball tactics in the Sunland-Tujunga/Home Depot controversy that the community became inflamed and became highly organized.
I talked at length recently with Expo Authority spokeswoman Samantha Bricker who argued Fix Expo was engaged in a campaign of “disinformation” and the record had to be set straight so Dakota was hired for its expertise in community outreach.
She patiently and carefully took me though how the costs of Phase I of the project had jumped a third to $860 million and how it was now on track in terms of budget and completion in 2010. As she explained it, the reasons seemed rational enough as did why the line goes underground at Flower and above ground in Culver City.
What interested me most was the idea that some kind of bizarre concept of social equity is in play:
“We’re meeting all the requirements of state and federal agencies for safety at the crossings,” she told me. “But even apart from the costs involved, it wouldn’t be fair. We had to use the same standards that applied to the Gold Line and the Blue Line.”
Isn’t that the point? Isn’t it why the community around Dorsey High is up in arms and Westsiders are already organized and ready for war over design for at-grade crossings for Phase II of the Expo Line?
We got it wrong in the first place because our leaders don’t care about the consequences of their actions.
They built the Blue Line on the cheap so they could put most of the money available into the subway from downtown to the Westside. But they only got as far as Hollywood since the Westside didn’t want it for reasons that we don’t need to go into.
They only got just over the hill to the Valley because they used community opposition to save money for the Gold Line. So they built the Orange Line busway on the cheap at grade.
And now they want $40 billion in sales taxes to build the “subway-to-the-sea” while leaving everybody else at risk of death when they cross the tracks and stuck in traffic congestion because the public transit system is grossly inadequate.
That’s not a vision for easing traffic congestion or for protecting the lives of the people.