October 18, 2012
LAWT Staff Report
When light rail trains on the Crenshaw/LAX Line begin gliding through the heart of South Los Angeles toward one of the world’s busiest airports, they will ferry more than commuters eager for faster transit through some of the region’s most vibrant cultural enclaves and emerging commercial districts. They are also expected to spark economic development and improved mobility, in areas where there is an increasing demand for transit alternatives.
Service on the Crenshaw/LAX Line is due to start in late 2018, giving commuters direct access to Metro’s growing network of subway and light rail lines serving downtown, East and West L.A., Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Just as importantly, the line will transport riders from those areas into South L.A. and neighboring communities served by the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
Linking the existing Exposition and Green Lines, Crenshaw/LAX trains will provide service to six confirmed stations: Crenshaw/Exposition, Crenshaw/Martin Luther King Jr., Crenshaw/Slauson, Florence/West, Florence/La Brea and Aviation/ Century. Metro planners are also working actively to secure funding for a stop in Leimert Park Village.
To outgoing Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Michael S. Jones, the possibilities are endless. Having served for two years on the Crenshaw/LAX Leadership Council, which he praises for “providing the community with a way to voice its concerns,” Jones has had the opportunity to become very familiar with plans for the rail line.
As the leader of an organization devoted to economic development in the Crenshaw Corridor, Jones welcomes the Crenshaw/LAX Line for both the jobs it will create, and the new customers it will deliver. His sense of possibility is heightened by firsthand experience with how improved rail service has benefited other parts of Los Angeles.
“I’ve been on the Expo Line between Culver City and downtown, and I think the Crenshaw/LAX Line is really going to be just as beneficial in connecting Crenshaw to the rest of the city,” he said. “The Crenshaw economy is coming back, and the rail line will be a magnet to bring more people in to experience that. The line will certainly allow people to have a cultural experience, by visiting the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Eso Won Books in Leimert Park Village, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, and Post & Beam Restaurant — just to name a few. I can’t say enough about how that [area] has been transformed with free concerts, top restaurants and other new businesses.”
Indeed, the job-creating capacity of the Crenshaw/LAX Line will be in evidence long before the train begins carrying passengers on its 8.5-mile route through South L.A., Inglewood, Hawthorne, El Segundo and sections of unincorporated L.A. County.
More than a thousand construction, manufacturing and other jobs will be generated as the Crenshaw/LAX Line is being built. For its part, Metro is setting aside a substantial portion of employment opportunities for workers living in economically disadvantaged areas, with job-training assistance and apprenticeships standing as key elements of that commitment to targeted hiring of local workers.
Minority and women contractors are encouraged to take advantage of Metro’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program, which provides opportunities for small businesses to win contracts during the Crenshaw/LAX construction phase.
The potential for jobs and development excites stakeholders throughout the area, who expect the rail service to bring an economic boost to their communities.
“With the Crenshaw LAX line, we hope to attract entertainment, retail and housing to downtown Market Street, which would have the same feel as Old Town Pasadena,” said Inglewood Mayor James Butts. He calls the rail line “a good opportunity” to spur economic activity in areas that city leaders have eyed for years as potential engines of commercial development.
The start of construction can’t come quickly enough for Larry Robinson, who owns and operates a Jamaican restaurant near one of the planned Crenshaw/LAX stations. “I am happy to hear there is going to be a stop at Florence and La Brea. It will definitely bring more foot traffic around here, so I’m looking forward to that bringing me some new customers,” said Robinson, 51. “It’s what we need around here — more business, more foot traffic. And there’ll be construction, so we look forward to feeding work crews. I’m getting excited about it.”
In the Crenshaw District, barber Bryant Noldon, 24, predicts he will be “cutting more hair” once the train starts to roll by his shop near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. “It will make transportation easier and more reliable,” he said. “I think it will be very positive. It will help people get around more easily from Hollywood to the opposite side in the El Segundo area. The more transportation, the better.”
Population growth in Los Angeles County has resulted in dramatic increases in traffic across the Crenshaw Corridor — a trend that experts predict will, within the next two decades, lead to rush-hour automobile traffic that moves slower than 18 miles per hour. When traveling at street level, the Crenshaw/LAX Line could reach a steady pace of up to 35 miles per hour.
For 22-year-old Joneil Robinson, the prospect of a speedier commute is no less than life-changing. The mother of two children under five-years-old, she uses Metro as her primary mode of transportation, explaining that she takes buses and trains “everywhere.” A resident of Mid-City West, Robinson rides at least two buses each day to her job as a youth organizer, at a location close to a planned stop on the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
“A rail stop at Florence and West would make my life so much more convenient, just for the simple fact that this new rail line will be faster and more accessible for me,” said Robinson. “Economically, a train would help businesses, because it would bring in a lot more people. The train would impact everybody’s lives.”