With the new Metro Gold Line extension to East Los Angeles as an inspirational backdrop, low-income students living near the alignment have been taught by a Metro planner how to put the trains to work in creating a community vision that will transcend poverty and gang violence.
Twenty-four students from “Mujeres y Hombres Nobles Continuation High School” in East Los Angeles recently explored urban planning and transportation options as part of The HeArt Project, a 10-week course taught by Metro planner James Rojas after the grand opening of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension.
Some of the students, many from low-income families who are transit dependent, witnessed the construction of the light rail line to East Los Angeles as part of their daily living experience.
During the course, students created a community model along the eight stations of the new six-mile alignment according to their own vision and needs. They focused on a variety of topics such as mobility, open space, architecture and geography. Each class held open discussions about land use and accessibility to the region and learned about model building.
The students took into consideration such factors as businesses, homes, churches and parks. To build their models students employed a variety of recycled materials including construction paper, colored blocks and bottle taps to design a three-dimensional model of a futuristic Metro Gold Line Eastside community.
Other issues that students considered in the planning process were gang territory, busy streets and lack of open spaces. Some students added parks and entertainment areas to their models, reflecting their own personal desires of what should be around stations.
The class culminated with a field trip to Chinatown via the new Gold Line from East Los Angeles. There the students showed their excitement about what they had learned about planning and were able to witness these lessons first hand by using the train. Students realized the meaning of urban planning, architecture, and transportation and came away with a greater understanding of how they can participate in the creation and development of a community.