An informational meeting for MTA’s Expo Line Phase 2, held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on Monday, October 22, drew a large audience who had much to say about the planned extension of the Expo Line to the Westside and beach areas.
Steve Polechronis, Project Director for the Expo Line, explained the options being studied for Phase 2. (Phase 1 from downtown Los Angeles is now under construction, with its western terminus located in Culver City).
At previous community meetings, feedback was taken regarding options for routes to meet transportation needs in Phase 2. These included light rail transit (LRT) routes using the existing Exposition Boulevard right-of-way (ROW), or using the ROW with a brief detour onto Venice and Sepulveda Boulevards, or using a dedicated bus route (BRT) on the ROW. Other options originally offered for community feedback included Transportation Systems Management (adding improvements such as more frequent buses to existing transportation systems), and “No Build” (making no changes to the existing system).
Since the initial scoping meetings, the Expo team has studied other options, such as an LRT route along Venice Boulevard to Venice Beach, an LRT route on Venice turning north at Lincoln Boulevard and terminating in downtown Santa Monica, an LRT Web with several light rail routes on major boulevards, a monorail on the ROW or Venice/Sepulveda, and “personal rapid transit,” which uses small train-like vehicles.
Initial studies, said Polechronis, resulted in most of these options being rejected because of high costs and negative environmental impacts. Approved for further study were an LRT route on the ROW, an LRT on Venice/Sepulveda returning to the ROW in Westwood, a BRT on the ROW, an LRT on Venice Boulevard to the beach, and the Transportation Systems Management and No Build options.
Polechronis said that the feedback received during this phase of community meetings would be delivered to the FTA (Federal Transportation Authority) by November 1, and the next phase of community meetings would focus on more specific issues.
During the public comment session that followed, people talked about the function of the proposed alternatives in their neighborhoods, with safety for children at crossings, efficiency at alleviating traffic, and environmental impact on residents among their concerns.
Most people seemed to support the idea of using the Exposition ROW LRT route. But many mentioned the need for grade separation (i.e., providing access to pedestrians and street traffic at intersections crossed by the light rail or dedicated bus lanes).
Some people wanted grade separations at specific intersections; some felt there had not been enough grade separations allotted in Phase 1; some people felt that grade separations at major intersections would result in traffic tie-ups. There were also pro and con opinions about the use of aerial solutions (elevated tracks) for the LRT options, examples of which can be found on the Metro Gold Line.
The meeting became noisy at times, with speakers shouting each other down. Two men expressed anger at the MTA and FTA for “rushing [Phase 1] through on the cheap” and said that government policy regarding mass transit in low-income communities was actually “environmental racism.”
Polechronis repeatedly assured the audience that the meeting was only for the purpose of collecting feedback, that federal funding is yet to be allotted, and that many suggestions would be studied during the coming months.
Feedback will be used to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) which the public will be able to comment on during the next series of meetings during the winter. The locally preferred route will be adopted next spring. For more information on Expo Line Phase 2, call 213.922.expo or go to buildexpo.org.