By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The idea of a light-rail system is popular among bus riders and business owners in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, says Father John Moretta, who belongs to a coalition that favors rail over more buses. The Eastside has yearned for a train system since the MTA promised it a subway in the late 1980s.
The MTA bought about 100 Boyle Heights homes and razed them to make way for storage areas and subway sites. While the subway went to other parts of the city, the MTA never was able to find money for the hyped Eastside subway. The project was called off in 1998, after voters approved Proposition A, which prohibited spending local money on subway systems.
Light rail is the second most preferred choice after the subway in the Eastside, says Moretta, who is the pastor of Boyle Heights Resurrection Catholic Church. Though there are safety concerns, residents feel that electric trains would work well with the bus system. “The community has decided that they don’t want to be disrespected,” Moretta says. “We feel that it is all right to put a subway to Universal Studios and into the Valley but that somehow when it comes to the Eastside, to the worker and the backbone of labor, these people should be given more buses. We feel that is very prejudicial.”
The MTA owes the Eastside at least a light-rail system, say Councilman Nick Pacheco and Supervisor Gloria Molina, an MTA board member. When constructed, the trains would run through both of their districts.
Hopes for the subway are high in Mariachi Plaza, where a beautifully sculpted dome from Mexico was installed in a formerly rundown area of Boyle Heights. Home to the city’s mariachi community, the plaza would receive a boost with light rail. “I think that the light-rail project would help us all,” says Armando Salazar, the owner of Santa Cecilia’s Restaurant. “The trains are faster and can carry more people.”
Though he sides with the BRU in saying that more buses are needed, Councilman Pacheco also believes that the light-rail trains would be a plus for his district. He says that there is no reason not to have both. “They are not mutually exclusive,” Pacheco says.
The incident at the MTA board meeting was just the beginning of a yearlong campaign to rally community leaders to put pressure on the MTA to publicly admit that it is against the consent decree, BRU organizer Manuel Criollo says. Whether in churches or restaurants, activists and community leaders will be asked to take a stand. “A lot of people look at history and look at Alabama, Mississippi, but for us right now the central issue around civil rights lies here in Los Angeles around the multinational MTA board,” Criollo says. “Elected and community leaders, this is the line on the sand where you stand on civil rights.”
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