UPDATED 10/31/14: Lancaster city officials announced today they were canceling the Nov. 5 scoping meeting for the proposed closure of the Lancaster Metrolink Station. The meeting was canceled because the city is working with Metrolink, Metro and Los Angeles County to resolve outstanding issues, and the city has suspended its consideration of closure of the station. View the cancellation notice here.
LANCASTER – The public is invited to a scoping meeting next week on the proposed closure of the Lancaster Metrolink station. Lancaster city officials are hoping to receive public input regarding environmental concerns associated with closing the station as the city’s prepares an Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project.View the public notice here.
“The City of Lancaster is proposing to close the existing Lancaster Metrolink station in order to address issues that are occurring in the downtown Lancaster area,” the notice states. “Service to and from Lancaster by Metrolink would cease, leaving only the Palmdale station open for Metrolink riders in the Antelope Valley.”
City officials are proposing two alternative options in the Initial Study for current Metrolink commuters. The first would be for riders to drive to and board the train at the Palmdale station, while the second option would be to consider setting up a shuttle service between the Lancaster station and the Palmdale station for Metrolink riders.
At the council’s Aug. 26 meeting, city leaders argued that downtown Los Angeles was actually sending transient individuals via Metrolink to access homeless services and resources from the city of Lancaster.
“I’m thinking it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that 67 homeless people a day are being shipped from downtown to us,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said at the August meeting.
At that same meeting, Lee D’Errico, Lancaster’s Public Safety Manager, told the council that he formed a recent evaluation team to study Metrolink riders whose destination was Lancaster. According to D’Errico, he encountered on one particular day “over 67 individuals that were coming here for transitory services to be provided.”
Residents rallying to ‘Keep Lancaster Metrolink open’
The Democratic Club of the High Desert (DCHD) has called on Lancaster city officials to cease and desist with their plans to close the Metrolink station, saying that the city’s reason for the action is based on “conjecture taken from a clearly unscientific survey without any transparency as to its methodology, controls, or results therein.”
The Club issued a resolution, demanding that the Lancaster City Council only utilize research, studies, and surveys for public policy and planning that are transparent for all citizens to access. View the resolution here.
“The membership feels that this issue is the red line in the sand, and that Mayor R. Rex Parris and Vice Mayor Marvin Crist need to sit down with LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and his staff to work out a viable solution to the homeless issue in that area,” Democratic Club of the High Desert President Johnathon Ervin said in a released statement.
According to the DCHD, closing the Lancaster station would represent an extreme hardship to those who can least afford it, as “ridership statistics for the Lancaster Metrolink station show that there are 71,000 people, including veterans, elderly, the poor, and disabled, utilizing said form of transportation.”
Other concerned citizens of the Antelope Valley have taken to social media to protest the city’s proposed closure of the station.
Lancaster resident Ron Hall created the Facebook group, “Keep Lancaster Metrolink Open“, a forum that allows residents to question the City Council’s decision to close the transportation hub.
Currently at 311 members, Hall describes the group as an online petition to keep the Lancaster Metrolink station open.
“500 plus people every day use this station to get to work,” Hall stated in a post in his forum. “Closing it will be a hardship and disconnect a growing city from Los Angeles. Please join this group and let Mayor R. Rex Parris know that closing this station would hurt the city he has pledged to support.”
Another online effort to save the Lancaster station is an actual petition, hosted at Causes.com, that is collecting signatures to be presented at the Nov. 5 scoping meeting. Created by Lancaster resident Alex Branning, the petition has collected more than 700 signatures so far –including one from Jeff Lustgarten, the chief spokesperson for Metrolink.
“As the Director of Public Affairs at Metrolink, I want to thank the organizers of this page for giving a voice to the residents who rely on the Lancaster Metrolink station for travel into other parts of southern California,” Lustgarten is quoted as saying on the petition site. “We are planning to meet with the city later this week to discuss their concerns, and we will certainly have a presence at the scoping meeting on November 5. …it will also be very important for the Council to hear directly from residents on this issue as well.”
BLVD merchants pushing for relocation
But not everyone is on board with keeping the Metrolink station open. The BLVD Association is pushing for the relocation of the Lancaster Metrolink station out of concern for the downtown area’s businesses and patrons.
“As we have continued to develop and strengthen our individual businesses and the downtown area as a whole, we have consistently faced the challenge of addressing the issues associated with the homeless/ transient population that frequents the downtown district,” Tim Anders, President of the BLVD Association, stated in an Oct. 6 letter to the Lancaster City Council. “Their activities, including panhandling, smoking immediately outside businesses, foraging in public trash cans and leaving the trash on the sidewalk, and more, diminish the ambiance of the BLVD and discourage patrons from enjoying the downtown and frequenting our businesses.”
About the authorJim E. Winburn is freelance reporter covering news of public interest. –
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