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County supervisor moves for study to eliminate Claremont Metrolink station

LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis would like to explore future options for the Claremont Metrolink station—one of which is eliminating it entirely.

Ms. Solis introduced a motion at Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee meeting on Wednesday requesting a study to look into eliminating the Metrolink station from Claremont.

Ms. Solis, who is vice chair of the committee, directed Metro to “evaluate the benefits and/or impacts related to eliminating the Metrolink Claremont station.”

The study, which was supported by fellow committee members Kathryn Barger, John Fasana and Ara Najarian, will evaluate ridership, parking, impacts to Metrolink riders who use the Claremont station, travel times, fare revenues and determining a formal process to get rid of the station should the city of Claremont agree to it.

“The city of Claremont was not notified of the MTA Planning and Programming Committee meeting or of the substitute motion which was going to be presented by Supervisor Solis until after the meeting already took place,” city staff said in a press release.

The proposal for the Claremont Metrolink station study will proceed to the Metro board of directors on Thursday, September 28.

“City of Claremont representatives will be attending the meeting in Los Angeles to demand that the city of Claremont be a party to the study as it is developed,” the city release said.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza said the idea of doing away with the station came up about a year ago when the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) was studying the corridor shared by the Gold Line and Metrolink.

“There were a lot of discussions but it’s hard to pinpoint when it came up or when it became official,” Mr. Pedroza said. “But what if removing the Metrolink station is in the best interest of Claremont? That’s a really valid question. What will serve Claremont the best? That's what the study is for.”

The study, which will cost $750,000 in Measure M funds, will include a look at a change in Metro Gold Line fares in relation to parking pricing and transit ridership.

Also of interest to Ms. Solis is the cost savings to the Gold Line extension construction, should the Claremont Metrolink station be eliminated. Ms. Solis instructed Metro to come back with a final report, including findings and recommendations, to the board within 60 days.

Mr. Fasana, a Metro board member and vice mayor of Duarte, noted during the meeting the Claremont station is unique in its close proximity to the Montclair transit center.

“I recall when that station was placed there, at the time there was not a thought the Gold Line was anytime near being constructed,” he said.

Traffic and Transportation Commissioner Zach Courser emphasized that removing the Metrolink station would negatively affect Claremont commuters who depend on the trains. He characterized the motion as an “extreme, surprising and frankly disappointing” development.

“I feel strongly Metrolink should have a station,” he said. “I will do what I can as traffic and transportation commissioner to preserve things as they are to make Claremont a Metrolink stop.”

Mr. Courser submits that the station is on the chopping block due to a perceived competition between the Gold Line and Metrolink. Mr. Pedroza disagreed.

“The ridership is different than that of Metrolink, so it shouldn’t be characterized as competition,” Mr. Pedroza said in an email on Wednesday.

The motion is another development in the nine-year quest to get the Gold Line through Claremont. The current plan is to move the Metrolink station from its original location in front of the Claremont Depot to an area between College Avenue and Claremont Boulevard. The future Gold Line station will take its place at the Claremont Depot.

According to the agenda report, ridership on the Metrolink’s San Bernardino Line is down since the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa opened in 2016. As three new Gold Line stations will be built in Pomona, Claremont and Montclair, ridership is expected to decline even further.

The construction plan calls for re-routing the tracks used by Metrolink and freight trains to make room for light rail construction. When everything is finished by 2026, four tracks—with two Gold Line tracks to the north—will run side-by-side through the rail corridor.

Mr. Pedroza said if the Metrolink station were to be removed, it would not affect tourism in the city, as Claremont would still be a destination point for Metro.

“There will still be a connection with either the Montclair or Pomona stations if those stay in the study as well,” he added.

A representative of Ms. Solis’ office did not return a request for comment. Metrolink spokeswoman Sherita Coffelt said that she was not aware of the motion until the COURIER contacted her Wednesday afternoon. 

“It would be premature to comment before we’ve had time to have some internal discussions,” Ms. Coffelt said.

Metro, who manages the Gold Line, currently owns the land the tracks sit on, and Metrolink maintains the tracks they use, Ms. Coffelt said. Metro funds almost 50 percent of Metrolink’s operations through five counties, Mr. Pedroza said.

Ms. Solis put forward the motion after a presentation by Jeanet Owens, senior executive officer for regional rail at Metro, on evaluating the relationship between the Metrolink San Bernardino Line and the upcoming Foothill Gold Line extension.

Ms. Owens highlighted a particular stretch of the shared corridor—from the Metrolink Pomona North station through Montclair—where the Gold Line is proposed to run side by side with Metrolink. The corridor will have a total of eight shared crossings once the Gold Line extension is built, Ms. Owens said.

On an average weekday, approximately 417 people board the Metrolink at the Claremont station, according to Metrolink. The Montclair station averages 340 people on weekdays.

The Claremont Metrolink station has 19 departures and arrivals scheduled each day Monday through Friday, basically on the hour, with 10 on Saturday and seven on Sunday. Average ridership on the San Bernardino Line, which includes Claremont, is 9,218 people on weekdays, 3,848 on Saturday and 2,604 on Sunday.

A 7:34 a.m. weekday departure from the Azusa Gold Line station will get a rider to Los Angeles Union Station at about 8:22 a.m. for $3.50 or $1.50 for seniors over 62, the disabled or those on Medicare, and includes free transfers to other Metro Rail lines for up to two hours.

If a rider boards the Metrolink in Claremont at 7:41 a.m., they arrive at Union Station at 8:36 a.m. Round-trip fare is $18.50 to Union Station and back to Claremont.

When asked if the city would support getting rid of the Metrolink station, Mr. Pedroza said it was “too early for us to tell.”

Further, the request by Ms. Solis on Wednesday was unexpected, Mr. Pedroza said.

“If residents feel surprised, you can amplify that to council members and city staff where the city is pushing for the information. We’re in the same boat. In the transportation world, it’s a bunch of organizational bodies who say, ‘This is good for the whole system.’ The process isn’t something we’re comfortable with in Claremont.”

In the end, the amount of power Claremont has is “yet to be seen,” he said, explaining that although Metro funds the operation, the city may have a say on a political level through local governing bodies such as SCAG.

“It’s not like these decisions would be made in a vacuum without our involvement,” he said.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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