By Eve Kaufman ‘20
Despite being the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles isn't exactly known for its public transportation system- that is unless you account for notoriety. Generally considered a mess, the LA metro is highly limited, and in need of serious improvement. LA as a city was built on the foundations of car culture- the open road- and is therefore inaccessible as a city. That being said, there are still some ways to get around by using public transport: buses, the metro light rail lines, and the commuter rail, also known as the Metrolink, which is run by Amtrak.LA has undergone various metro expansion projects, including the extensions of the Red Line in Hollywood and the popular recently opened Santa Monica line.The next project announced, involving the Metrolink, will also have a serious impact on the way LA county residents commute, hopefully taking LA transportation to yet another height.
The Metrolink allows for people from suburban areas and smaller cities around LA to commute downtown for work, school, and culture. They connect communities that would otherwise be isolated, including our city, Claremont. However, Amtrak is a private railroad company with a lot of political sway. They own and operate many tracks across the country, including ones that could serve a more public purpose. Los Angeles Metro recognizes this, and wishes take advantage. The Metro has plans to make a contract with Amtrak, giving the Metro full access to the rights of the rails, and effectively allowing a government takeover.
The proposal promoted the extension of the Gold Line to East LA county along the San Bernardino tracks, an Amtrak entity, all the way to Montclair. This past June a memo was released delineating a new proposition- the Gold Line Foothill Extension Phase 2B. This project aims to extend the government operated Metro East, sending the Gold Line out as far as Montclair, running along the previously existing San Bernardino Metrolink Line. This would mean $1.75 trips to and from the city, and trains running all day long and through the night. While this will certainly be a step forward, the Metro’s construction proposal could hinder accessible transportation. Furthermore, it makes one question why there would be a need to work on preexisting lines when there are dozens of other needs that have yet to be met.
The cost of this project will be around $1.4 billion dollars, a fund that could easily be used toward places that don’t even have Amtrak rails, which is something the whole extension seems to revolve around. Furthermore, co-opting existing rails instead of building new ones will, unfortunately, mean that commuters in the San Bernardino area will no longer have fully functioning lines while construction is underway. In fact, a consequence of this progression may be detrimental to our community.
There have been many discussions around the closing of the Claremont station- a closing which is projected to last until 2026. Trains are vital to any city, as many can't afford cars and other means of transportation. Every day at least 400 people commute from the station, and this would effectively strand those dependant on it.
So what does one do when it becomes apparent that societal progression will come at a cost? In the long run, the Claremont community will benefit greatly from, but for the eight years it takes to do so, many people, especially those without any other means of transportation, will, unfortunately, have to take the brunt of the burden.
The question is then raised about why the government would even consider an option that will negatively affect the population. Shouldn't the government be protecting everyone under its auspices, rather than taking a more utilitarian approach, excusing the wreckage brought onto other people's lives by comparing it to the benefits that the whole society will reap? Why sacrifice the livelihoods of anyone you have a responsibility to?
It seems like a logical solution to such a complicated problem would to simply find an alternative to the plan at hand. It is uncertain what steps would need to be taken to reconcile this reality, but the current plan will have serious consequences. But what would be some possible solutions to this problem? There are some obvious ones, such as setting up a shuttle, like the ones we have between CGU and Scripps, between the Claremont station and another station that isn’t at risk of suffering a similar fate. Another option, which was proposed by Claremont City Council, is to make a separate temporary station, thereby keeping the Metrolink in operation, and potential separating the Metrolink from the Light Rail altogether.
Regardless of what recourse is taken, it is imperative that it be done in a timely and effective fashion. The Claremont City Council understands the seriousness of the situation, however, LA Metro, although holding good intentions, doesn't think in a very small scale. The final verdict will eventually be announced after numbers have been crunched, and costs have been analyzed. Though this is a step in the direction that LA transportation desperately needs, it's important it be done in a conscious way that doesn't negatively impact locals and those that depend on public transportation.