Parks Aims to Derail ‘Aqua Line’

Times Staff Writer

Some public transit advocates are seeing red about rose.

That’s the color that City Councilman Bernard C. Parks wants to use on maps to trace the route of a light rail line being built west from downtown.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has suggested calling the light rail along Exposition Boulevard the Aqua Line, and using that color to mark its path. It already uses aqua on planning maps, and transit buffs seem to like it.

“It’s just ludicrous,” Roger Christensen, a member of Friends 4 Expo Transit, said of Parks’ proposal. “Metro itself has been using the color aqua for ages.”


Parks has further riled some in the transit world by ignoring the MTA’s long-standing practice of designating rail lines by colors -- Red, Blue, Green and Gold. He wants the route called the Expo Line.

The hue and cry, which began in March, has reached such proportions that some MTA board members would not talk about it.

The MTA board is set to pick a color for the line as early as next week.

“I’m looking forward to this color controversy being put behind us so we can focus on the construction and funding of the entire line to Santa Monica,” said Ken Alpern, president of the Transit Coalition and a Mar Vista Neighborhood Council member.

For four years, MTA staff has drawn an aqua line on maps to indicate the first phase of construction, an 8.5-mile railway between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City commonly referred to as the Exposition Line.

During that time, the MTA has received more than 2,000 comments on the proposed rail line, mostly about safety, sound barriers and landscaping.

“We never had any comments on color designation whatsoever,” said Maya Emsden, the agency’s deputy executive officer for creative services.

Aqua fit the MTA’s map color criteria. “It has to be bright, legible and easy to pronounce,” Emsden said.

Advocates say they like the way it echoes the hues of several landmarks along the proposed route, including a band painted around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Los Angeles Convention Center, Al-Khattab Mosque, Ballona Creek and Dorsey High School.

Not to mention the train’s proposed final destination: the ocean.

But Parks, whose City Council district will be bisected by the new rail line, doesn’t like the Aqua Line, or another MTA suggestion: the Purple Line. Nor, for that matter, does he like the selection process -- which failed to ask residents for their color choices.

So, what’s wrong with aqua or purple?

“Those are colors that don’t resonate,” Parks explained.

He also said the MTA doesn’t listen to his constituents in South Los Angeles as much as it does to those on the line’s proposed Westside end.

“It seems to me that the folks who supported aqua seemed more affiliated with Phase II, not Phase I,” Parks conceded.

Construction has begun on the first phase of the light rail line.

A second phase of construction, from Culver City to Santa Monica, is on the drawing board.

In recent months, Parks said, he has sought the opinions of his constituents and four other members of the Los Angeles City Council, which he said will contribute $40 million to the first phase of the $640-million transit project.

“We just asked people to give us some ideas of colors,” Parks said. Their suggestions could fill a paint store: amber, aqua, copper, olive, plum, rose, sienna, gray, lemon, lime, pink, purple, salmon, sky, tan, teal and violet.

Rose represents Exposition Park’s rose garden, the city councilman said. It was his second choice.

Parks and others decided his first recommendation -- gray -- was too similar to the San Gabriel Valley’s new Silver Streak, a rapid 40-mile bus line from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles.

Alpern, who lives in Sherman Oaks, took issue with Parks’ characterization that Westside residents were dominating the debate. “Regrettably, Bernard Parks is being an army of one on this issue,” he said, noting that the color aqua has widespread support from people living all along the proposed rail line.

The Friends 4 Expo Steering Committee and the Mar Vista Community Council Board of Directors endorsed the color aqua.

Darrell Clarke, co-chairman of Friends 4 Expo, offered several reasons for rejecting Parks’ color choice, including that it had not been vetted by the public.

The color rose also “is most identified with Pasadena -- the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade -- on the other side of town,” Clarke, who lives in Santa Monica, wrote in an e-mail to members of his group.