In South Central Los Angeles, a better, safer ride is on its way
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 NevinThanks to a $39 million grant from California’s Climate Investments Program, big changes are coming to a community in Los Angeles that has long needed a safer way to stay connected.

The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station is the fourth busiest station in the Los Angeles Metro system, with nearly 30,000 people through it every day. It is the transfer point between Metro’s Blue Line (Long Beach - Downtown Los Angeles) and Green Line (Norwalk - Redondo Beach), as well as the connection spot for six different Metro bus lines and several community shuttles. The station is a transit lifeline, connecting people to work, health care, school, and more.

But this regional hub for LA’s public transportation network can be dangerous and difficult to navigate. If you could avoid the station, you would; the community of Willowbrook has no other option.  

Willowbrook is an unincorporated community in South Central Los Angeles, tucked between Watts and Compton. For many, it is a challenging place to live. 31% of Willowbrook residents live below the poverty line.  And Willowbrook has been historically excluded from important investments in basic infrastructure, including transportation. This leaves very few options for getting around safely and reliably. It should be a comfort that Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station is nearby, but in its current state, the station is far from it.

More than 30,000 people pass through Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station every day. These riders - particularly those who also live in Willowbrook - deserve a safe, clean place to catch the train or bus. Flickr: Edward Conde

More than 30,000 people pass through Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station every day. These riders - particularly those who also live in Willowbrook - deserve a safe, clean place to catch the train or bus. Flickr: Edward Conde

The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station has one of the highest crime rates in the entire Metro system. According to the Los Angeles Times, an average of 103 felonies were reported at this station each year between 2012 and 2014. That’s roughly two serious crimes per week – crimes such as rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary.  It can be the difference between someone making it safely home from a late-night shift, or not.

In addition to crime, the station is difficult and dangerous to navigate. Its narrow platform creates “human traffic jams” that make it hard for people to safely make their transfers. For the elderly, people with disabilities, parents with children, and bicyclists trying to take their wheels with them, moving through the station can be nearly impossible.  

Thanks to the $39 million awarded through the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), those who rely on riding Metro to and from the Willowbrooks/Rosa Parks station can soon look forward to a safer and easier trip.

“I am grateful to the State for this support which will go a long way toward funding this very worthy project,” said Metro Board Chair and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The riders that use this station deserve to have first class amenities and services. I look forward to beginning the hard work of renovation and making this station a gem among Metro’s stations.”

Passengers wait for the train on a narrow platform at the current station. Flickr: Jeffrey Beale

Passengers wait for the train on a narrow platform at the current station. Flickr: Jeffrey Beale

A mock-up of the new station shows a cleaner, better-lit, and more welcoming station. Photo: LA Metro

A mock-up of the new station shows a cleaner, better-lit, and more welcoming station. Photo: LA Metro

The goal of the project is to make the station a clean, safe, and attractive place for everyone to use. New sheltered canopies will provide a more comfortable space for people to wait for trains. The station’s signage, landscaping, stairs, elevators, and escalators will all be upgraded to make transferring between Metro lines and buses easier. Better lighting and increased efforts by community law enforcement will help reduce crime and heighten security. A Mobility and Bike Hub inside the station will help connect people with resources on how to get to and from the station without a car.

These and additional improvements to train operations will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an incredible 86,207 metric tons over the project’s life. Less greenhouse gas emissions means less harmful pollution that can cause health problems, like asthma and cancer.

Everyone deserves to travel in dignity. People riding the bus should not be the exception. The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station project is an important step in bringing safer, cleaner, and easier public transportation to the people who need it most.  

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The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station project is just one of the 13 projects funded by the state’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program. To see where these projects are located, and how they’re impacting communities throughout California, visit www.ClimateBenefitsCA.org and search Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program

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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.