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Responding to Spin

Responding to Spin

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A comprehensive response to the red herrings, half-truths and outright lies delivered by MTA/Expo in the October 2008 LA Sentinel
A comprehensive response to the red herrings, half-truths and outright lies delivered by MTA/Expo in the October 2008 LA Sentinel

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06/16/2009

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CITIZENS' CAMPAIGN TO FIX THE EXPO RAIL LINE
 Led by Save Leimert, Expo Communities United & Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Homeowners' Coalition
P. O. Box 781267 
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Phone & Fax: (323) 761-6435
www.FixExpo.org 
 
- Page 1 of 18 -Fix Expo Campaign is a project of United Community Associations – an all-volunteer South L.A. Nonprofit.
 
RESPONDING TO MTA/EXPO’s SPIN, RED HERRINGS, AND HALF-TRUTHS INOCTOBER’S L.A. SENTINEL
(ver. 12-22-08) 
 
In October, the Expo Line Construction Authority, which has been placing expensive full-page ads in black newspapers, held a "Q & A" with the editors of the LA Sentinel. As will be explained further on our website, thisis a component of the spin and smear campaign currently being waged by Expo through their $167,453 "publicrelations" contract with the firm Dakota Communications, a specialist in Astroturf and other dirty public relationstactics.The following is a comprehensive response to MTA/Expo’s red herrings, half-truths and outright lies.
MTA/Expo Spin:
This project has been on the drawing board for many years. Metro acquired the Exposition railroad right-of-way from Southern Pacific railroad in 1991.
 
THE FACTS:
From the beginning through the end of the environmental review process, the community has hadthe same concerns with the design of the Expo Line that every informed community has with light rail lines:safety, traffic impacts, noise and vibration, and community division. MTA’s own Expo Line environmental reviewdocuments show comments about safety and requests for grade separation were recorded as far back as 1993.
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 The people spoke. The politicians didn't listen. The politicians didn't lead.The bigger point however, is that there is a vast discrepancy in the way the politicians and MTA/Expo respondedto the concerns of Culver City vs. the way they responded to the concerns of South LA. The major concerns werethe same; they were equally legitimate. But the manner of response by MTA/Expo and the resulting communityimpacts for the next 100 years are as different as night and day.
MTA/Expo Spin:
The line will include the same safety features as the Pasadena Gold Line, which is one of the safest light rail lines in the country.
 
THE FACTS:
1) MTA/Expo is not building a Pasadena Gold Line; they’re building a Blue Line, which with more than 821accidents and 91 deaths is the deadliest most accident-prone light rail line in the country. MTA/Expo knows it andthey refuse to admit it.
2
  As has been proven by international experts in transportation system safety,
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the Expo Line and the PasadenaGold Line have more differences than commonalities, and it is the differences on the Expo Line that pose thehazardous risks and community impacts to South LA. MTA/Expo’s claim that the lines are similar is inaccurateand deceptive. Essentially, MTA/Expo is claiming that if a little Ford Pinto has seat belts and a Hummer has seatbelts, the Pinto is just as safe as the Hummer.2) MTA/Expo's definition of “safe” is tragically different from the rational definition of safe, as evident by theiroperation of the deadliest light rail system in America, and Metrolink’s operation of one of the deadliest commuterrail networks in America.
Only MTA/Expo considers this "safe":
(Pictures of MTA’s Pasadena Gold Line accidents at at- grade crossings) 
 
 
- Page 2 of 18 -Fix Expo Campaign is a project of United Community Associations – an all-volunteer South L.A. Nonprofit.
Most reasonable people consider this safe
:
(Underground train crossing) 
 
(Elevated train crossing) 
MTA/Expo Spin:
When the light rail is “street running” the line travels parallel to the street and the train operates with the traffic signals. [….] No gates are necessary in these street running sections since the train will be moving with parallel traffic. The street running section is roughly from the Pico Station downtown to Gramercy.
 
THE FACTS:
According to MTA's June 2008 Summary of Blue Line accidents, 92% of the 647 recorded
vehicular 
accidents on the Blue Line, the deadliest most accident-prone light rail line in the country, have occurred in thestreet-running section, and 76% of the 821
total 
accidents recorded on the Blue Line have occurred in the street-running sections. Again,
76% of the total accidents and 92% of all vehicular accidents
occur in thestreet-running section, despite the fact the section only accounts for 25% of the line’s length.The bigger point of course, is that
a 225-ton train traveling 35 mph will kill you just as dead as a 225-ton traveling 55 mph.
 In fact, the picture on the top right of this page is from an accident where a Gold Line train traveling just 10 mphstruck and crushed an SUV like a potato chip bag, derailed the train, and sent 7 people, including the trainoperator, to the hospital. All of the Pasadena Gold Line accidents pictured are of accidents where the train wasoperating between 10-20 mph. And the Blue Line traveling at 10 mph killed an elderly couple:  “Two people were killed Thursday night when their car collided with a Blue Line commuter train in LongBeach authorities said. [….] Authorities said the train had slowed to 10 m.p.h. in preparation for a stopat the Transit Mall Station, near the southern terminus of the commuter line. The impact crushed the caragainst the station platform, RTD officials said.” 
MTA/Expo Spin:
The Blue Line was built almost 20 years ago and technology has advanced substantially since then.
 
THE FACTS:
The age of the Blue Line is a red herring, intended to distract the public from the actual reasons theBlue Line is the deadliest light rail line in the country, which were identified in MTA's own 1998 document, in thesection titled, "What Makes the Metro Blue Different from Other Light Rail Systems?” 
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- Page 3 of 18 -Fix Expo Campaign is a project of United Community Associations – an all-volunteer South L.A. Nonprofit.
There is absolutely no mention of system age among the factors listed in the 1998 MTA report. The causesdetermined are all behavioral or environmental and have to do with the operation of the line. The conditions onthe Blue Line are replicated or worse on the Expo Line.The fundamental difference is that in major American cities like New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.lengthy urban rail systems with frequently running trains intended to carry nearly 100,000 people a day are builtprimarily grade separated (no street crossings and primarily underground or elevated) in the urban core.
MTA/Expo Spin:
The Blue Line has 104 crossings, while the Expo Line has only 38 crossings, including 11 grade separated crossings where the trains are separated from vehicles and pedestrians.
 
THE FACTS:
Expo has 57 crossings, including 19 that it shares with the Blue Line from 12th/Flower toWashington/Flower. Indeed, the Flower St section of the Blue Line is the most accident-prone section of light railin the country. In that 0.6-mile portion 154 accidents were recorded in 18 years - an average of 9 per year in just a little over 1/2-mile. It's a testament to MTA's callous disregard for safety that, not only have they neglectedthe problems in this portion, they now propose DOUBLING the number of trains in the most accident-pronesection of light rail in the country! And what exactly is MTA/Expo's point in comparing the number of crossings? Are they insinuating that we'll
only 
 have half the number of deaths on the Expo Line as the Blue Line?That the Expo Line will
only 
be the SECOND deadliest light rail line in the country?That instead of 500 deaths and 4500 accidents in the 100-year life of the project (the current pace of the BlueLine), Expo will
 just 
have 250 deaths and 2250 accidents?MTA/Expo's line of reasoning can only be defined as legally insane. Additionally, even MTA's own report shows they're expecting accident rates on Expo to be
HIGHER 
than the BlueLine. (More about that on the website).
Light-rail fatalities, 1990-2002
City Miles of track WeekdayridershipFatalities
Los Angeles (Metro Blue Line) 22 70,000 61San Diego 47 75,000 22Portland, Ore. 38 81,000 14Sacramento 21 31,000 14San Jose, Calif. 31 30,000 9San Francisco 73 164,000 8Philadelphia 69 84,000 7Boston 51 231,000 6Denver 17 35,000 6Salt Lake City 18 28,000 5Baltimore 29 24,000 4Dallas 44 39,000 3New Orleans 16 14,000 2St. Louis 34 42,000 2Pittsburgh 18 25,000 2Buffalo 6 23,000 1Cleveland 15 15,000 0Newark, N.J. 9 8,000 0If age and lack of "technology" arethe primary reasons a rail line ismore deadly, then one wouldexpect other systems, which aremuch older and have FEWER safetymitigation measures to have moredeaths and accidents, correct? Butthe stats show that this is NOT thecase. In 2002, USA Today surveyedthe American Public Transportation Association statistics on light raildeaths from the Blue Line’sinception date in 1990 to 2002 andfound that in all categories the BlueLine was by far the deadliest lightrail system in America.
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(The graphfrom the article is to the left.) Almost all of the systems areOLDER than the Blue Line and havefewer or similar safety mitigationmeasures as the Blue Line, yet theyall have a fraction the number of deaths as the Blue Line.
Graph is from the referenced USA Today article citing  American Public Transportation Association statistics 
 

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