Metro CEO responds to motion asking for new station and underground segment on Crenshaw/LAX Line

One of the big Measure R projects moving toward construction is the Crenshaw/LAX Line, a light rail project that will run from the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards south through Inglewood to a connection with the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport.

In April, County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted a motion that asked: 1) an additional station be added to the line in Leimert Park Village at Crenshaw and Vernon Avenue, and; 2) the section of the line between 48th and 59th streets through Park Mesa Heights should run underground instead of at street level because of safety concerns.

In late April, Ridley-Thomas sent a nine-page letter to Metro CEO Art Leahy requesting again those changes to the line be made, seeking more information about the line and suggesting possible funding sources for the changes. Leahy has responded in a lengthy letter that defends the project as it is currently being planned.

Here are both letters together in a single pdf document.

The motion is scheduled to be considered by the full Metro Board of Directors at their meeting this Thursday. I expect it to be a lengthy discussion, to say the least. The Crenshaw/LAX Line is already deep into the planning process – Metro staff are working toward finishing the project’s final environmental impact statement this summer — and any changes need to be made sooner rather than later.

Let’s briefly take a look at the issues.

•Ridley-Thomas writes that “Leimert Park is the undisputed cultural and commercial center of the Crenshaw Corridor…As such Leimert Park Village is probably the most appropriate place to have a station on the entire Crenshaw Corridor.”

•The Leimert Park Village station would have to be underground as that segment of the line is planned to run beneath street level. There is already an underground station planned at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, a half-mile away that Leahy writes provides better transfers to bus lines, is adjacent to the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza and would likely get more ridership than if the station had been put at Crenshaw and Vernon.

•Leahy also writes that Metro tries not to put underground stations within a half-mile of one another because of the cost involved. In this case, the cost of adding a station in Leimert Park Village is an estimated $131 million. Leahy writes that one alternative may be to move the station at Crenshaw/MLK closer to Leimert Park Village.

•As for the Park Mesa Heights section, Ridley-Thomas expresses concern over the line’s proximity to schools and its impact on traffic. He also writes that Metro’s own studies show that a tunnel here would reduce travel time on the train, increase ridership by 760 boardings per day and avoid disruptions to local businesses.

•Leahy writes that Metro has built — and is building — light rail lines that can operate safely at street level, specifically citing the excellent safety record on the Gold Line. He also adds that more than half of the Crenshaw Line is already planned to be built above or below street level, an unusually higher percentage, and that the reductions in travel time (about a minute) and increases in ridership are too slight to justify the $269.4-million cost.

•Money is the biggest issue of all. Leahy writes that the estimated cost of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is about $1.7 billion, $100 million over estimated cost in the agency’s long-range plan, federal resources are scarce and getting scarcer and diverting money from other projects funded by the Measure R sales tax to the Crenshaw/LAX line has legal obstacles.

On the money front, it is appearing increasingly likely that the northern section of the line between Exposition Boulevard and 39th streets will have to be built underground due to nearby developments in the area. The draft environmental study recommended that part of the line be built at street level but left open the option of a grade separation if it was required.


14 replies

  1. I do support a ‘Leimert Park’ station. But the more I hear about it, maybe this *should* be combined with the station at Crenshaw/King. The station could be located right in between King and Vernon, with exits on both ends. This new combined station would provide access to the entire stretch of Crenshaw between King and Vernon.

    The Park Mesa tunnel, however, is simply not necessary, and should not be built. Locals may want to have the train in a tunnel, but so does everybody else. There is no money for it.

    Metro should not be treated like a bottomless feeding trough. Its money is finite, and it is supposed to serve the entire region in something like a proportional way. As the above post says, this project already has more than its share of grade separations, and is already overbudget. Enough is enough.

  2. I thought there were plans to extend it beyond wilshire and connect it to the hollywood/highland red line station. I know that’s currently unfunded but i think its in the plans. That would be the smartest thing to do with this line in terms of extending it and would generate excellent ridership.

  3. Ronny is right. This project is already over budget. If a subway is approved in this wide area of Crenshaw, then the funds have to come from other projects. Also, at grade light rail is probably done in this city.

    Finally, people need to stop asking the Crenshaw project to tie into the Expo Line. It is not physically possible as the downtown section will be at capacity with Expo and the Blue Line.

  4. I don’t mean to rag on this project, I do believe it is important. I just feel any additional money “improving” this line would probably better spent extending it north towards wilshire

  5. If metro can somehow at least find funds to place a station box for a station at vernon I would be okay with that.

    On the other hand I can’t justify the extra 200+ million to save 1-2 minutes in moderately dense area. This project already is on its way to being grossly over budget (cost close to both expo phases combined for only an 8.5 mile line).

    Yes subways are fast but they are expensive and only densely populated locations can support such an investment. This is evident in the Red Line whose success is partially due to its speed (the green line is faster) but more so to the residential and employment destination along the line.

    Elevated is still an option but people usually don’t go for it most likely due to all the blight caused by all the elevated freeways criss-crossing the region.

  6. If we’re deciding that the more money we spend on this, the better, then we might as well plug the Crenshaw line in to the Expo right of way and head downtown.

  7. This should be underground if it means a better pedestrian environment. That is one impact that does matter in terms of planning mass transit. Also if its at grade then it may not have signal preemption. Until LADOT comes to their senses, grade separation should be pushed for wherever possible. And even though time savings may be small, every bit counts and that time is better used actually moving rather than sitting at a light. Also this is a key connector to the airport so it needs to be particularly rapid.

  8. What does the design of the transfer station of the Crenshaw/Expo Lines look like? Is it be similar to the Imperial-Wilmington-Rosa Parks transfer station of the Green/Blue Lines? Or does it (most likely!) resemble the North Hollywood Red/Orange Lines transfer set up whereby one needs to cross a major boulevard by foot? Or, does it provide the convenience of sharing the same platform as the Blue/Expo Lines at the the Pico station?

  9. I think the train should run underground and there should be a Lemeirt Park Station. That section of crenshaw is congested with foot traffic as well as automobile traffic. An above ground design would cause additional surface traffic /congestion. I have lived in the area for twelve years and I am excited to hear about the Martin Luther King Station.

  10. I think Crenshaw is wide enough from Exposition to just north of MLK and the line should be at grade there. It should be absolutely connected to the Expo line thus able to offer direct service from downtown. Instead of wasting money undergrounding under parts of Crenshaw that are amply wide for at grade service, underground the line from Aviation near Century directly into the airport with 3 stops there. The line would run under the exit road which is between the parking lots and structures. One stop would serve Terminals 1 and 7 , the second stop would serve Terminals 5, 6 and 2 and the 3rd stop would serve 3, 4 and Bradley. Moving sidewalks would connect the stops to the teminals in no time at all. There could be a stop in Lot C obviating the need for the shuttle buses which get caught up in the congestion and add to it. Also a link could go to the major car rental facilities. In addition to Metro funds, airport funds could be used. Imagine the ridership if you had a line directly from downtown utilizing the regional connector and connecting Staples Center, the Convention Center and USC to the airport. The ridership would be great!