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Ending Expo Work Would Cost $90M, Agency Says

Neighborhood group seeks stay on construction as part of its case against the light rail's connection from Culver City to Santa Monica.

A motion brought by a local neighborhood group to halt Expo Light Rail's construction from Culver City to Santa Monica would cost thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars if granted by the California Supreme Court, government officials said Monday.

Neighbors for Smart Rail—a group of Westwood and Cheviot Hills homeowners—is seeking a stay as part of its case, which currently under review by the state high court, accusing the Expo Authority of not preparing a proper environmental review of the trains impact on its neighborhood.  If construction wraps up before the court rules, and the decision is in the group's favor, NFSR has argued the damage will be irreversible.

But delaying the project for a year would cost $90 million and result in the loss of more than 4,000 "direct and indirect jobs," according to Expo Board Member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

"The harm to the economy, local jobs and our efforts to build a modern transit system would be substantial," he said in a statement.

Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority filed their opposition to the stay on Monday.

The first segment of the Expo—between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City—opened to riders in the spring of 2012. The second stretch to Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica is expected to open in 2016.

See: [PHOTOS] Expo Rail Making Its way to Santa Monica

Major work underway is already underway to link the train to just short of the beach includes construction of bridges at Centinela Avenue, Motor Avenue, Sepulveda Boulevard, Olympic/Cloverfield Boulevard, National/Palms Boulevard and Bundy Drive.

In its suit, NFSR contends the Exposition Metro Construction Authority improperly used hypothetical 2030 traffic conditions as a baseline to measure the Expo Line's effects on traffic and air quality on the Westside. The petition for review also argued that the Expo Authority failed to mitigate anticipated parking problems around proposed stations.

An appeals court disagreed, ruling that using present-day traffic and air quality measures to gauge the need for the second phase of the Expo Line would "yield no practical information to decision makers or the public."

Judges also agreed the Expo Authority's proposed parking mitigation measures were sufficient.

Neighbors for Smart Rail appealed, and the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Eric October 23, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Its way past time for LA to have a proper rail system. Stop this NIMBYism and lets push the rail to sea
Glenn E Grab October 23, 2012 at 04:22 PM
who in the heck is in the NFSR?.......this will get thrown out of court....
Brenda Barnes October 23, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Not so. The California Supreme Court, which takes only 3% of petitions it gets, has taken their case. In many cases people don't even petition, given how difficult getting a hearing is. When the Supreme Court takes a case, it has to be significant. The NFSR has been fighting Expo about those on-grade crossings since Expo first suggested them. On-grade crossings of major streets are just ridiculous. The Expo commission did not consider environmental consequences of stopping traffic 26 times an hour on Overland, Westwood, and Sepulveda, all three major North-South boulevards in West LA.. Instead, they tried to project what consequences of the Expo line would be in 2030. That is not what the law requires. Expo did the same regarding stopping traffic on-grade on Olympic, Colorado, and Lincoln in Santa Monica. This kind of boondoggle is what environmental review is supposed to prevent. Instead, people think because an idea is a good one, execution details can be overlooked. Whatever it costs to stop this construction now will be a drop in the bucket compared to undoing it and building it again if the Supreme Court requires Expo to do that. Calling people names and assuming just because we all favor public transit Expo did environmental review correctly (or tells the truth about what the detrimental effects of its not doing so could be, which is what the article is about) are neither one proper responses to this story.
Glenn E Grab October 23, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Brenda, you're right.....in the Valley, the bus lane that parallels Victory Blvd causes traffic jams and slows down all the major north-south streets,,,,,
Dwight Sturtevant October 24, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Sepulveda and Olympic will not Be at Street Level and Will Be Over Head Bridges Folks Need to Check there Facts
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 01:04 AM
That's the kind of thing, Glenn, that environmental review is supposed to consider, before anyone has to sue, and before any construction starts and has to be stopped. Ignoring the environment is against the law, and citizens are finally learning how to sue about it.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Sorry, Dwight. The only streets where construction's being stopped is an issue are ones where crossing is at grade level. If that is not so about Sepulveda and Olympic, then it isn't. I really don't know where people are supposed to check their facts--do you?
Gary Kavanagh October 24, 2012 at 02:10 AM
This isn't about the environment and I doubt few buy that cover. This is driven by entitled homeowners who don't want to play nice and fear exaggerated claims on traffic complications. Gasp, waiting at a light could happen at some point! "Smart Rail", more like neighbors for killing rail (again), and while we are at it, let's try to kill doing an adjacent bikeway too, because people should be forced to drive every where and create the congestion we hate so much. Adding a grade separated crossing is enormously expensive, and the ones already planned in the route consume the vast majority of the budget. We can't grade separate everywhere unless we are prepared to pay up. Metro is I would say already grade separating more than necessary preciously for fear of lawsuits. At grade light rail runs in cities all over the world, and the world didn't end. As for the suggestion that people are finally learning to sue over environmental reviews, the truth is the environmental review process is used to sue projects all the time. It so happens often against projects like rail lines and bike paths in already urbanized areas, the very projects we need if we're ever going to become less dependent on far more environmentally harmful automobiles. Projects to dump toxins into the poorest neighborhoods, those sail through, because lawyers don't live there. But dare work on alternatives to driving through a rich neighborhood, and every lawyer is on the case.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 05:58 AM
This is obviously the point of view, Gary, of someone who does not believe in concerns about the environment's being real. "Cover"? I can't believe anyone would believe such nonsense. Being against stopping traffic 26 times an hour up to 20 hours a day is just the cover of a few entitled homeowners for not wanting to play nice? The noise, the exhaust fumes, the danger to children and seniors--all just cover and smokescreen to you? I feel very sorry for you, that you can care so little about the world that you would sacrifice everyone else for your little hobbyhorse. No one is against public transit, but if it can't coexist with the neighborhoods it goes through, then it's designed wrong. By the way, I live in the poorest neighborhood in Santa Monica, and I have learned how to sue about the environment because that is the only way to stop these obscene, badly-designed, ideas of some people, that their idea of "progress" is worth sacrificing everyone else's homes for.
Gary Kavanagh October 24, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Yup that's me, not believing environmental concerns are real, that's why I sold my car and spend nearly all my free time volunteering and campaigning on sustainability issues. I've been in this process, I volunteer my time to be on the citizen Bicycle Advisory Committee for the Expo Line Phase II project. I don't always agree with Metro and city agencies involved, in fact I publicly and vocally punch at them often, particularly on bikeway and bike parking planning issues and details of station design. But ultimately the region needs this project and it needs it yesterday, and I do everything in my power to be involved toward making the project the best it can be given the constraints, but I do not want to see the process delayed. Our CEQA process is what it is, but it also highly flawed and ultimately needs reform. The contention about at the at grade crossings is entirely over arguing the details of LOS, level of service. LOS is measured for motorists, but level of service concerns for people walking, riding a bike, or taking transit are not relevant to this measure. So it pushes us toward privileging cars even when we are developing alternatives to driving. Secondly, predicting traffic outcomes is not an exact science in the slightest but many people treat it like it is. People change routes, and choose other ways to get around in highly unpredictable ways, and the long term trends are all toward less driving, with US miles driven declining since 2007.
Glenn E Grab October 24, 2012 at 08:12 PM
yesterday afternoon about 2 PM I was driving north on Corbin Ave.,,,,I had to stop at a light just south of the busway and wait for the left turn signal.....it took 6 minutes, even though there was almost no traffic in either direction...this is typical ofv the traffic congestion caused by the busway, same thing happened going north on Canoga Ave...this time in the right lane going north...although it was "only" 4 minutes...
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I agree with Gary that the CEQA process is flawed. However, as in every other comment I have seen him make, the solution to that problem is to make a better process that takes into account MORE consideration of the environment, not putting in projects that are terribly designed just to have some project as an alternative to cars. I am in favor of public transit. I ride the BBB and Metro when their routes and timing are in any way feasible, and I take Expo under the same conditions. I am NOT willing to sell my car and take three hours to get places I can drive to in a half-hour just to be fanatical about my concern for the environment. Neither do I think being fanatical does anyone a service. I work for the environment. I also live my life normally today, not as I wish I could live it in 2030 And when a project is designed badly today, it should be improved, not worshipped..
Fred Alexander October 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I would like to know why the Expo Line was approved costing XX billions when we already have fast track double attached buses following similar routes that appear empty every time I see them.
Gary Kavanagh October 28, 2012 at 11:10 PM
First of all, at peak times some of those double length East/West arterial buses in LA are packed standing room only for much of their route despite their massive size, and running on tight 5-10 minute head ways. By size of ridership, the LA MTA bus system is the most ridden bus system in the United States outside of New York. Anyone who rides the bus at all, knows only someone who never rides the bus can think no one is riding them. The Big Blue Bus on some of it's popular routes like the #3 gets packed in like sardines at times, to the extent it is unpleasant and hazardous, which is why BBB is starting to introduce double length buses into it's own fleet. Secondly, rail lines with dedicated rights of way attract more ridership than bus systems typically do, and on the the most high traffic corridors are the only way to maximize carrying capacity because trains are capable of seating more people than buses can. If you increase bus frequency too much, it requires more drivers, and staffing is typically the biggest ongoing operating cost in a transit system. So for the corridors with highest ridership potential the economics of rail begins to make more sense over time by being able to carry more people with lower operating expense for drivers. I am fully confident the Expo Line, once completed to Santa Monica, will meet and quickly exceed initial ridership expectations.
Brenda Barnes October 29, 2012 at 12:49 AM
If the same people planned Expo who plan bus routes and staff them, the Expo trains would be empty too. That is why I say badly-designed systems must be improved, not worshipped. I took the Expo from Culver City to DT LA the other day, and this was the first time I was on it and noticed it stopped at a red light! I guess I must have been reading or talking to someone all the other times I took it because I never noticed that b/4. So the advantage of trains over buses--that they are below or above intersections so do not get delayed by traffic, is missing here. You have the built-in disadvantages of public transit--it's not door-to-door where you want to go, the way your car or even a bicycle is--and then you also have the disadvantages of a car, being stopped at lights? Great planning.
Brenda Barnes October 29, 2012 at 12:55 AM
One of the City Council candidates--I believe it was Seldon--says he rejects the premise of Expo, that it is going to reduce traffic. I agree with him completely, especially to the extent it crosses intersections on-grade. That is just ridiculous. Whatever it costs to go above or below intersections has to be done eventually anyway, since people will not take a system that is not faster than cars, and if it stops for traffic it won't be. Instead, Expo is an excuse to OK more development next to transit stations. It is so bad that the SM City Council is using it as an excuse when properties are more than 25 minutes' walk from a station. They claim they'll have shuttle buses or free jitneys or something to get people to the station without using cars, which they would have to do because there will be no parking to speak of at the stations in SM, unlike the one in Culver City. So if they can have all these connector lines, why don't they have them now for the buses?

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