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Metro Approves Crenshaw/Green Line Operations Plan Pushed by Hahn, South Bay

The Metro Board of Directors approved operations plans for the new Crenshaw Line, which are intertwined with Green Line operations. On a split vote, the board approved a motion championed by County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

The 8.5-mile Crenshaw Line is under construction and now expected to open in mid-2020. The subsequent Crenshaw-LAX airport connection is forecast to open in 2023.

Last June, Metro staff proposed a Crenshaw/Green Line operations plan (now called alternative "C-1") that would have run a ~24-mile L-shaped line from Expo/Crenshaw to Norwalk. Under this plan, the remaining ~3-mile portion of the Green Line would run just from LAX to Redondo Beach. This plan encountered opposition from South Bay interests, whose relatively small portion (18 percent per Metro) of Green Line riders would need to transfer at LAX to get further through the Metro system.

At the urging of Supervisor Hahn, the operations plan went back for further discussion and study. At the end of this process, Hahn and the South Bay endorsed alternative "C-3" operations plan, which would run the ~24-mile Expo/Crenshaw to Norwalk line, interlined with an ~11.5 mile line extending from Redondo Beach to the Rosa Parks Blue Line Station in Willowbrook.

Alternative C-3 is more expensive to operate than Metro staff's recommended C-1 alternative. C-3 is also projected to see lower ridership than C-1.

Today, Metro operations staff raised concerns about traction power constraints on the Green Line. That line was built in the 1990s, and does not have sufficient electrical power to run the frequent three-car trains that the Crenshaw Line is being built for. Staff called running C-3 operations "risky" and "a high wire act," citing dire scenarios where trains could lose power.

Supervisor Hahn lined up six co-authors on a motion to implement alternative C-3 operations as a one-year pilot. Hahn called on Metro to serve existing South Bay riders, and not "ghost riders" forecast to ride the Crenshaw Line. She emphasized that she is willing to consider revising operations in the future, stating, "A one-year pilot is all I'm asking."

More than a dozen South Bay and Gateway Cities representatives turned out in support of C-3 operations. Only a couple of speakers supported C-1.

County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a long-time champion of the Crenshaw Line, opposed the Hahn motion due to its impacts on Crenshaw Line operations. Under C-3, the Crenshaw Line would operate with two-train cars (instead of three-train cars, as under C-1). L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also expressed concerns over the C-3 operations; he and his Metro board appointees - Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Mike Bonin, and Paul Krekorian - all opposed the Hahn motion. The board failed to approve a Garcetti motion to postpone the vote.

Ultimately, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger's vote resulted in the Hahn motion passing. With Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl abstaining, the final vote was 7-4-2.

Split votes like this are uncommon at Metro.

It is perhaps encouraging that the South Bay was willing to push hard to retain transit service. It is not a good sign, however, that farther-flung suburban interests won the day to the detriment of core urban riders. Today's vote is likely to result in crowded trains for the Crenshaw Line, and, if Metro staff's predictions come true, reliability issues on the Green Line.

Hopefully, the pilot is indeed a pilot. Data gathered will inform any changes needed as operations plans are revisited, especially when the LAX connector station opens circa 2023.

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