Los Angeles Metro Regional Connector

I am a fan of public transportation, but particularly of public transportation that works.  For it to work, it needs to be efficient, timely, and expansive – that is, it needs to cover the majority of a city, so that folks of all demographics, from all areas and neighborhoods, can have easy access.

I, then, was excited to hear a KPCC interview with Damien Newton of LA Streets Blog about the Regional Connector.  That’s a proposed mass-transit rail project to create a new metro corridor through Downtown.  The corridor will connect all of the LA-area metro lines.  Imagine being able to get from the South Bay to Little Tokyo or Hollywood with only one transfer.  Beautiful.  

From the interview, it sounded like the Community Connector Coalition has been at work on this proposal for a number of years, conducting environmental impact reviews, community surveys, etc. etc.  However, just last month, Eli Broad, an LA-philanthropist with lots of money and tons of influence, wrote them a letter proposing that they make adjustments to the routes and/or stations at Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo, and Broadway Civic Center.

The letter states that the Coalition’s main concern is Bunker Hill.  They propose moving the planned station from the current location below Bunker Hill to the top of Bunker Hill.  The primary argument is that pedestrians will have to walk up the hill to get to the cultural institutions that sit atop it.  However, it’s pretty clear that the real, underlying argument is that a station at the top of Bunker Hill will empty out  right near the steps of Eli Broad’s soon-to-be-built contemporary art museum.  How convenient.

Broad’s influence is such that his letter has put the project into the public eye, in a way it wasn’t before,  and people are inclined to agree with Broad simply because of who he is and how much money he has.  However, moving the station is no easy feat.  The coalition will have to re-do all the ground-work and research that they put into determining the original proposed location, and this could set the project back by another five years or more.

I admit, I have a lot more research to do on this project in order to feel fully informed.  But here is my immediate reaction: the top of Bunker Hill is all that many people know of downtown.  Angelenos who don’t live or work downtown know little of the wonders that exist below the hill.  Grand Central Market, the historic theatres of Broadway, the numerous bars and restaurants and musical venues, as well as the discount shopping options that many low-income families frequent.  And let’s not forget those that do live Downtown – it’s a very diverse area, demographically speaking.  Eli Broad is concerned about patrons to his museum having to walk up the hill to access his museum – but what about the 40,000+ residents of Downtown LA who will have to walk up the hill to access the transit station at his proposed location?

Listen to the interview with Damien Newton here.

Read Eli Broad’s letter here.

I want our local transit to grow, and to work, and I’m glad that our city has people like Mr. Newton leading the way.