On Transportation column, May 23: Alan Thomas, Westside Subway Extension, Go Metro to the Stanley Cup Finals (really!)

ALAN THOMAS: The slaying of Metro bus operator Alan Thomas on Sunday was — like so many crimes — beyond senseless. Alan was driving a bus in West Hollywood detoured by a bike race when a lone passenger, for reasons we may never really know, fatally shot him.

Public transportation is like so many other public spaces. It relies on public trust to work. To see that trust violated is enormously dispiriting.

It’s perfectly natural in the wake of such a crime to try to put it in a larger context.

Many bus operators have spoken to the media about the inherent dangers of their jobs. Their concerns cannot be taken lightly. It’s also important for the public to know, however, that Metro does take steps to ensure operators are well trained and have the tools needed to quickly summon help.

As for the public conversation, it’s hard to know where to start in the wake of a crime that was apparently random and happened on a quiet Sunday morning in West Hollywood — not exactly a place known as being dangerous.

That said, I think Alan’s death is a reminder that the prevalence of mental illness and the sheer number of deadly weapons in our society are a combination that have already led to too many similarly sad outcomes in too many schools and workplaces.

BOARD MEETING: There are two big items on the Metro Board of Directors’ agenda for Thursday’s meeting: they are scheduled to discuss selecting a route and station locations for the second and third phase of the Westside Subway Extension while also have a discussion about a possible Measure R extension.

As for the subway issue, I think it’s pretty clear that Metro’s staff, consultants and experts believe there is abundant physical evidence that tells them that building a subway station or tunnel along Santa Monica Boulevard would be a bad idea because of earthquake faults along that street.

A fault is like a seam. Seams tear. And that’s the simple non-scientific reason that building along faults is undesirable.

It’s also pretty clear that Metro staff, consultants and experts have not seen any physical evidence to convince them that Santa Monica Boulevard is a safe place to build.

Obviously, Beverly Hills feels differently. They want more studies done. They don’t want a subway that will tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus to reach a Constellation Boulevard station in Century City — as per the proposal by Metro staff.

I don’t like to guess what the Metro Board will do, so we’ll see. I will guess that the conversation will involve this question: if litigation is inevitable, is it better to get to that unfortunate step sooner or later? A judge will either uphold Metro’s studies or ask they be re-done. A judge isn’t likely to draw a line on a map and say “the subway will go here.”

One other thought: some of the rhetoric and name-calling coming from both sides of the issue is ridiculous. It also just goes to show that many adults have no ability to control their impulses when seated before a keyboard, internet browser and comment board.

I’m trying to keep the discussion on The Source focused on the issues at hand. There’s no denying that Beverly Hills and Metro are in a mighty big dispute, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a civil discussion about it.

As for the Measure R extension, I also have no idea which way the wind is blowing on that issue among the Board. The issue boils down to this: without massive federal help, Metro staff believes the best way to accelerate Measure R transit and road projects is to ask voters to extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax beyond its 2039 sunset (Metro staff report here).

There are, as usual, a myriad of issues on the table, including Metro’s ability to handle debt created by selling bonds against future Measure R revenues, making it clear which projects would be accelerated (staff proposes the ones funded already by Measure R) and the agency’s willingness to return to voters relatively soon after the original Measure R was approved by voters in 2008.

Staff is asking the Metro Board tomorrow to adopt “Measure R extension principals.” They are:

1. Continue Measure R until Los Angeles County voters decide to eliminate the sales tax

2. Accelerate Measure R transit and highway project schedules, consistent with the “30/10” Board Initiative, and modify the Expenditure Plan dates accordingly

3. Preserve existing Measure R commitments including:

funding for projects and program categories
b. restrictions on transferring funds between projects and funding categories

4. Preserve geographic equity

Allow Board to fund Long Range Transportation Plan Projects after Expenditure Plan Completion

Board must vote for specific financing plans for project acceleration

DOWNTOWN SPORTS WEEKEND: I stepped onto a Gold Line train in Pasadena about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday to find it filled mostly with hockey fans. In May. In Southern California.

It’s great to see people using the region’s growing transit system, especially for big events. As for the Kings, they’ll be hosting games 3, 4 and 6 (if necessary) of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 4 (Mon.), 6 (Wed.) and 11 (Mon.), respectively. Holy cow!

The games are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. local time — a really great time not to be driving in downtown Los Angeles. Consider this the first of several reminders: Take the Expo Line, Blue Line (Pico station for Blue and Expo) or Red/Purple Line (7th Metro or transfer to Expo or Blue Line) to Staples Center and get there early and enjoy the crowds. It should still be light out when the games are over and there will be plenty of trains running in all directions.

On a related note, if you catch the hockey bug — and it’s highly infectious — and want to go skating, the Green Line’s Mariposa Station is adjacent to the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, which also happens to be the Kings’ practice facility. The Gold Line’s Del Mar station is a two-block walk from the Pasadena Ice Skating Center, located next to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

And if you are an adult and want to learn to play hockey — it’s never too late — listen to this blabbermouth guest on a recent segment of “Which Way L.A.?” about whether the Kings can make L.A. a hockey town.

4 replies

  1. Concerning the very sad and senseless death of Alan Thomas, amen to your your final thought on the matter. Guns do not belong in our cities.

  2. Although you alluded to it in your post, folks coming from the north taking public transportation to the Kings game should seriously consider walking from 7th/Metro to the Staples/LA Live complex. It’s only a couple of blocks longer, it’s downhill from 7th/Metro, and you miss the crowded cars on the Blue/Expo Line cars.

  3. “…[A] crime that was apparently random and happened on a quiet Sunday morning in West Hollywood — not exactly a place known as being dangerous.” Actually, West Hollywood has the 7th highest property crime rate and 23rd highest violent crime rate out of 209 LA neighborhoods according to the LA Times Crime Mapper. It is ranked 23rd overall, one spot behind Compton.

  4. “A fault is like a seam. Seams tear. And that’s the simple non-scientific reason that building along faults is undesirable.” You are absolutely right. This statement is totally unscientific. This is no more scientific than “Subways, schools, and methane gas don’t mix.” The latter came from a PTA group attempting to raise community involvement. The first comes from the official blog of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and is unforgivable.

    Why does Metro choose to ignore the science presented by the City of Beverly Hills or at least find out where the faults exist and if they are indeed active? But no, they prefer rushing this decision and as a result delaying the project for years as it gets bogged down in the courts.