As a frequent rider of Metro Bus line 81, I have expressed to friends and family that “I hate L.A. Metro.” I have frequently ridden a train sitting next to stinky men, experienced buses arriving two minutes off schedule (atrocious, I know) and once had a bus break down twice while I was on it.
It is on that note that I begin this piece as a defense of the system that I love to hate, but in reality makes my life cheaper and easier.
This weekend, a tragic accident occurred at the Expo Line stop in Exposition Park that left a dozen injured and one in critical condition. Despite the fact that the traffic light was red, lights were flashing and the “watch for trains” sign was visible, a car turned left into the oncoming Metro train. The train car hit had bright yellow banners wrapped around it to warn drivers of the train.
Many are using the accident to claim that L.A. Metro needs to do more for the safety of drivers and pedestrians. Some even claim that in order to maintain safety, pedestrians and cars have to be separated from trains with physical barriers or by putting trains above or below traffic.
If the city were to operate under that logic with other forms of transportation, we’d have to put gates on crosswalks to protect pedestrians from drivers who don’t take the whole red light situation seriously. After all, Los Angeles does have the second highest rates of pedestrian deaths in any city in America.
According to the Railroad Administration’s acting administrator Sarah Feinberg, “ percent of grade crossing accidents are linked to a driver’s behavior.”
The reality of the situation is that there are thousands of other trains in big cities that function safely among the urban sprawl.
“You can’t build a bubble around the rail system,” Metro spokesman Marc Littman said in response to the accident this weekend.
Los Angeles is already taking big steps to making trains, buses, cars, bikers and pedestrians even more compatible and safe. In late February, Los Angeles released the newest version of an incredibly comprehensive plan for the Metro system. Their goals include putting safety first, creating world-class infrastructure, giving access to all Angelenos, maintaining a clean environment, and collaboration, communication, and making informed choices.
One of their main goals is to implement “enhanced networks” in which different modes of transportation are given priority on certain roads. Such networks will certainly decrease accidents like the one this Saturday by putting cars in fewer positions where they need to cross rail tracks.
Additional initiatives involving the L.A. Metro system include adding more bike racks on buses and implementing “first-mile, last mile solutions” that make travel to and from transit locations safe and easy.
This new plan, titled “Mobility Plan 2035,” is still in its formative stages and is currently open to public review. The plan is such a giant overhaul that it is expected to take 20 years to complete, but in its perfect form, it will solve a lot of crucial safety issues being raised by Metro critics.
L.A. Metro, you are not perfect. But without you, I wouldn’t be able to get to my internship or fully experience all the crazy people in Los Angeles. Once the Mobility Plan is fully in effect, you will just be even more lovable.
Claire Cahoon is a sophomore majoring in English. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Tuesdays.