In the future, students commuting to and from Los Angeles will not have to hop from the Metrolink train to the Metro light rail at Los Angeles Union Station to get around the city. The Metro's Gold Line expansion, which will integrate Claremont into the Los Angeles Metro system by 2026, will offer cheaper tickets than Metrolink and more frequent trains.
But Claremont residents and 5C students may not have a seamless transit transition. At a Sept. 28 meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis introduced a motion calling for a study to “evaluate the benefits and/or impacts related to removing the Metrolink Claremont station.”
The study, which was approved, will examine current and projected Metrolink ridership growth, the impact of eliminating the Metrolink stop on Claremont riders, cost savings related to Gold Line construction, impact to the City of Claremont, and more. The study will be presented to the board within 60 days.
If the Metrolink continues to stop in Claremont, the current station will be demolished to make room for the Gold Line station, and the new station would be built across College Avenue. If the stop is eliminated, no new station will be built when the current one is torn down.
While the study is yet to be conducted, the language of the proposal seems to acknowledge the possibility that Claremont could be without either train system for a period of time. The study, which will cost $750,000 in Measure M funds, will analyze the “length of time during which no rail transit options would be available in Claremont.”
Claremont McKenna College government professor Zachary Courser, who is also Claremont's traffic and transportation commissioner, said the motion's language might predetermine the results before the study is even complete. According to Courser, the motion says that eliminating the Claremont Metrolink “offers a shorter commute time on the Metrolink San Bernardino Line while the Gold Line provides more frequent light rail service and would reduce construction costs for the Gold Line extension.”
“The conclusion should be disturbing for those who feel there are many convincing reasons to maintain this stop and are concerned there will be a fair and impartial process in determining its fate,” Courser wrote in an email to TSL.
Solis said she is not calling for the elimination of Claremont's Metrolink stop.
“The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority will soon release a request for proposals to design and build the Gold Line project and is therefore at a critical juncture with respect to the Claremont Metrolink Station,” she said in a statement. “Before any final decisions are made regarding the Claremont Metrolink Station, I introduced a motion calling for more information in order to allow time for community input to be solicited, to avoid delays, and to prevent cost overruns to the Gold Line project.”
“There was never any intention to push for the elimination of the Claremont Metrolink Station,” she added, “only to prioritize this portion of the study in order to provide the public with more information as quickly as possible.”
The possible elimination of Claremont's Metrolink stop has caused considerable consternation among 5C students.
Milena Carothers SC’ 19, who used both Metrolink and the Metro to commute to her art conservation internship in downtown Los Angeles last semester, said she had better experiences on Metrolink.
“I have never been harassed on the train, and it happened a lot on the Metro,” Carothers wrote in a message to TSL.
Marco Iovino PO ’19 pointed out that the inaccessibility of Los Angeles without Metrolink might hinder the reputation of the 5Cs, which boast about being only “an hour away from the city,” he said. Like Carothers, Iovino relied on the Metrolink to reach his internship in downtown Los Angeles last semester.
“Without the Metrolink it would [have been] impossible for me to do so,” he said.
Additionally, many students rely on the Metrolink to get to Los Angeles International Airport. Along with the connecting bus service that students can take from Union Station, Metrolink offers a more affordable alternative to taking an Uber to the airport.
Some students expressed doubt about whether the Gold Line expansion would even make the commute to Los Angeles more convenient. There are five stops between the Claremont Metrolink station and Union Station, but 22 between the future Claremont Gold Line stop and Union Station.
“Taking the Gold Line down to LA might actually end up being less time-effective,” Iovino said.
What raised the most concern among students was the potential to be completely cut off from any trains during the time of construction.
“It would be awful for the Metrolink station to close before the Gold Line stop opens,” Arielle Jordana PZ '18 wrote in a message to TSL. “People without cars rely on it. Lower income people may not be able to afford to a car [or] use Uber.” She encouraged students to “write letters and attend public meetings to protest this.”
Courser also plans to be active in protecting Claremont's Metrolink stop.
“I think there's time to defend keeping the stop and educate the community that we stand to lose a great deal if, at the last minute, LA Metro deprives us of access to Metrolink,” he wrote. “I am working to organize a community group to advocate keeping our stop, and welcome student participation and input.”
The City of Claremont said in a press release that Solis' motion took it by surprise and that the city was not notified until after the meeting took place. Now, though, city officials are involved in the study.
“The Claremont City Council, staff, and community have been working for decades with the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority and Metrolink to ensure transportation services are available in Claremont that meet the needs of our residents and connect Claremont to the greater Los Angeles area for the benefit of our residents and those using public transit to visit Claremont,” the press release said.
Added city manager Tony Ramos, “Advanced planning efforts are important to designing a transportation system that makes sense for the entire region. Claremont supports such efforts provided that the impacted community and agencies are part of the process and planning is not just dictated from downtown LA.”