By Bill Hendrickson
Some 150 residents and stakeholders of Eagle Rock jammed the town’s City Hall on Tuesday night to hear what Metro had to say about its plan to put bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes up and down Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. The stretch along Colorado Boulevard would be one small part of a route connecting North Hollywood and Pasadena (NoHo-Pasadena).
Most of the people who spoke opposed Metro’s so-called “street-running route” on Colorado Boulevard, saying it would worsen traffic and parking, harm businesses and ruin the look and feel of Eagle Rock. Instead of a street-running route, they wanted Metro to run the BRT on the 134 freeway above Eagle Rock, with stops at both ends of town near the freeway on- and off-ramps.
Their opposition turned to dismay and anger when the representative from Metro, Scott Hartwell, said that “no options being studied involve bypassing Colorado Boulevard.” Hartwell was referring to a recent decision by the Metro Board to advance the plan for a street-running BRT route to the next stage, in which it will be the only plan to undergo a draft environmental review study.
Then, Hartwell really stunned the crowd, saying that Metro had favored the street-running route over a freeway option in part because it had found “broad community support” for putting the BRT lanes on Colorado Boulevard.
To be sure, a minority of the attendees at the Tuesday meeting were in favor of the BRT on Colorado Boulevard. They argued for supporting the BRT on environmental grounds and on generational grounds – saying that younger people are more open to taking the bus than their elders and less likely to have a car, let alone two. They also argued for the BRT on equity grounds, saying that the generally lower-income people who use the bus would surely like a faster, cleaner BRT, but probably couldn’t attend the meeting to advocate on their own behalf because of long hours they spend on the bus getting to and from work and home and school.
But supporters of the plan were far outnumbered by opponents, many of whom said they felt bamboozled by the process.
“Broad Community Support?”
So, where did Metro get the idea that Eagle Rockers support BRT lanes on Colorado Boulevard?
At the meeting on Tuesday night, Hartwell said that Metro’s claim of “broad community support” was based in part on the results of a public meeting that Metro held on the BRT at the Eagle Rock Plaza on Saturday afternoon, October 13, 2018.
And yet, Metro’s own data (See page 25) show that only 38 people attended the meeting at the Eagle Rock Plaza – and their feedback consisted of 11 comment cards, 24 public speaker comments and 70 “Roll Plot” comments, which are post-it notes stuck to maps of the proposed routes.
Another show of support that Metro might point to came in 2016 when Metro was in the early stages of planning for the NoHo-Pasadena BRT. A presentation that Metro made to the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council indicated that the proposed BRT would either go down Colorado Boulevard or skip Eagle Rock entirely as it traveled the freeway from Glendale to Pasadena. Based on that information, the ERNC sent a letter to Metro, expressing support for BRT lanes and stops on Colorado Boulevard. But the information that the ERNC was operating on did not take into account the possibility of a freeway-running BRT with stops on either end of Eagle Rock. As a result, the support expressed back then hardly seems relevant today.
So, can anything be done?
The upshot of the meeting on Tuesday evening was this:
Public comments are still being accepted on the proposal to put BRT lanes down Colorado Boulevard and those comments will be included in the environmental review study. But if you want to comment – for or against – you have to act soon. The public comment period opened on Monday, June 17 and closes on Wednesday, July 31. You can submit a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Metro at 213.418.3228.
Metro will also hold a community meeting on the BRT street-running route on Saturday, July 13 at the Eagle Rock Plaza, Suite #236, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. At the meeting, you can submit public comment for the record.
Will speaking up now make any difference to the outcome?
The fact that the Metro Board has authorized an environmental review of the BRT street- running option gives that route a leg up over alternatives that would use the 134 freeway.
But the Metro Board is made up of elected officials who can call for changes to the Metro plan. The NELA politicians on the Metro Board are L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
For opponents of the plan, it would have been better if NELA’s elected officials had engaged the issue earlier. The Mayor of Pasadena, for example, objected to Metro’s proposal for BRT-only lanes on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena between the Gold Line and Pasadena City College – and got the lanes removed from the plan before it advanced to the environmental review stage. Still, better now than never for Eagle Rockers to weigh in with their elected officials. You can reach Garcetti here and Solis here.
As for working through Eagle Rock’s Councilmember José Huizar, a representative from his office at the meeting on Tuesday said that Huizar had “no opinion” on the issue and was waiting for the environmental study review. Be that as it may, it can’t hurt to let him know your opinion.
Before and during the Tuesday night meeting, community residents who oppose the plan began organizing. Cherryl Weaver, Spokesperson for the Better BRT Group, has accumulated 300 signatures on an online petition at eaglerock411.com. The petition states the case for putting the BRT on the 134 freeway. Another attendee at the Tuesday meeting started a petition then and there to present to the Metro Board.
Clearly, the community is at the outset of a fight. But you could also look at Tuesday’s meeting as a first step toward a solution that works in the best interests of Eagle Rock.