•The Board approved a motion by Board Chair and Supervisor Mike Antonovich that Metro take a position of support for a federal loan application for Desert Xpress project, which proposes to connect Las Vegas, Victorville and Palmdale by high-speed rail. The motion does not involve any financial support for the project from Metro. California’s high-speed rail project is also planned to have a station in Palmdale, which could allow for transfers between the two rail systems. At this point, federal officials are still reviewing the loan application from Desert Xpress.
•The Board also approved a motion by Antonovich that calls for Metro to develop a plan to improve transfers and schedule coordination with other transit agencies — for example, between Metrolink and local bus service. Another motion by Antonovich, also approved by the Board, requires Metro to develop a regional airport connectivity plan to connect Metrolink and Metro to LAX, Bob Hope Airport, Ontario Airport and Palmdale and Long Beach airports
•The Board approved a plan to proceed with the construction methods on Flower Street for the Regional Connector that was approved as part of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report. That would involve using a tunnel machine north of 4th Street and cut-and-cover method to dig the tunnel for the train between 4th and south of 6th.
The general manager for the Westin Bonaventure hotel, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the project’s environmental studies, said that his client would drop its suit if tunneling extends past 5th Street on Flower. Otherwise, the attorney said that the hotel could lose over half of its business and half the staff could lose its jobs.
However, an attorney for Thomas Properties told the Board that her client did not support ending tunneling at 5th Street due to disruptions it could cause. She said that her client was planning on filing a federal lawsuit in addition to the state lawsuit it has already filed challenging the project’s environmental studies.
Both parties also committed to keep discussing any potential compromises with Metro staff. As a result, the Board committed to discussing the issue further at their Aug. 6 meeting.
•Metro Board Member and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky submitted the following motion to be considered at the Aug. 6 meeting:
The Metro Blue Line opened in July of 1990. For the first 12 years of its operation, the line averaged 50.9 accidents per year. The rate dropped significantly over the past 10 years, to 27.9 accidents per year. Moreover, the last four years, 2008 through 2011, account for 4 of the 5 lowest accident totals in the line’s history.
However, things have changed this past year. Tragically, the Blue Line is on place to have more fatalities in 2012 than in any other year. If numbers generated in the first half of the year are any indication, by year’s end there could be more fatalaities and twice as many suicides than any other year in the history of the rail line. Suicides alone account for a major portion of the increase in overall accidents.
To ensure public safety and prevent further loss of life, MTA should examine possible causes for the spike in accidents and fatalities on the Blue Line and propose preventative and corrective actions to ensure this increase in incidents does not become a long term trend.
I, THEREFORE, MOVE that the Board directors the CEO to convene a Metro Blue Line Task Force with staff and safety/rail experts to investigate and report back on:
1) Causes for accidents along the Blue Line, including but not limited to adequacy of current safety procedures, operational concerns, structural concerns, signage, and traffic conditions;
2) Potential suicide prevention strategies.
3) Solutions to the issues that are identified as well as plans for implementing those solutions;
I FURTHER MOVE that the Blue Line Task Force report back to the Systems Safety and Operations Committee and the MTA Board in November 2012.
Between January 1 of this year and July 25, there have been 20 accidents involving the Blue Line, ranging from the very minor to fatal. Thus far in 2012, there have been six fatalities. Of those, three have been ruled suicides by the coroner and another is under investigation and is believed to be a suicide by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies.
The Blue Line has thus far traveled more than one million miles this year with 10 million-plus boardings.