Metrolink toots its horn about improvement at Cypress Park rail yard

Metrolink maintenance center is located in Cypress Park and across the river from Elysian Valley/Google Maps

Official with Metrolink on Thursday night described several measures – from less train bell ringing to reduce noise and increased use of electric power to cut locomotive emissions – the commuter rail service has adopted at its Cypress Park maintenance yard  in response to community complaints and concerns about air and noise pollution. However, some residents of Cypress Park and Elysian Valley expressed disappointment that Metrolink has not committed to undertaking a study of the health risks posed by the maintenance facility that services more than 30 locomotives on weekdays only a few hundred feet from homes.

The meeting at the Los Angeles River Center provided the most recent update about how Metrolink is responding to requests to reduce noise and emissions at the rail maintenance center  in Cypress Park across the Los Angeles River from Elysian Valley.  On week days, about 33 Metrolink locomotives descend on the yard after their morning runs for about 45 minutes to an hour of testing and maintenance before they return to service in the afternoon.

In recent months,  Metrolink has started a “plug-in program” that allows the trains  to run on electric power instead of idling and running on diesel power when they are being serviced. About 25% of the engines are now plugged in during their time at the yard but Metrolink eventually wants all trains to be plugged in while at the yard.

The agency has also adopted a policy that required train operators to ring warning bells only when trains begin moving or in the case of an emergency. That changed – adopted in January – had reduced the sound of clanging bells by about 70%.

Metrolink is also looking for funds to purchase new locomotives that would generate less air pollution as well as installing “hood technology,” which would capture a large amount of the emissions from the trains as they idle in the yard.  In addition, the agency is exploring the possibility of planting more trees and using other natural materials to help reduce noise in surrounding neighborhoods.

However, Metrolink once again resisted calls for the agency to conduct a health risk assessment of the facility.  Some people at the meeting, according to one who was present, said such a position was “disrespectful” to the community.

Metrolink said the the Southern California Air Quality Management District is better suited to assess the impact of the rail yard on air quality.

It is our understanding they intend to have a monitoring station in this neighborhood and they plan to begin this study in the very near future,” Metrolink  said in a statement. “We believe we should allow the experts, AQMD, to proceed with their studies.


  1. The homes in Elysian Valley straddle the 5 freeway, and they are worried about a few trains that take cars and commuters of the road.

    • Stephan, It’s not a few trains at this facility.
      It’s over 30 Tier 1 trains Monday through Friday.
      These trains are over 20 years old, are the dirtiest trains in the county.
      They run their engines approx. 5 hours each burning on average 33 gallons of diesel fuel per hour each.
      That’s around 3, 950 gallon a day only 400 feet away from homes.
      So Elysian Valley and Cypress Park get the freeway AND the Metrolink facility.
      Your argument is all the more reason Metrolink should clean up their act.
      One of the figures Metrolink presented at the meeting was $30 million for the Capture Hood Technology which would clean the air substantially. I don’t know how they came up with that figure unless they were to purchase 3 to 4 units. 1 unit would be be roughly 8 million and can service a number of locomotives at one time. They rather show the communities inflated prices so they can say they cant afford it as it seems.
      MUCH MUCH more needs to be done at this facility.
      This follow meeting was a big disappointment for many of us in the community.

      • You won’t be happy until the facility is shut down and commuter rail is gone. Yet continue to use the freeway and pollute other people’s neighborhoods you hypocrite.

        They met you halfway, and there’s not a single thank you or even acknowledgement of the progress made. This shows your true colors.

        • Name calling isn’t very polite Spokker.
          You are wrong as well. You didn’t attend the meeting as proof of this statement.
          Actually I did thank them publicly in front of over 100 people who attended the community meeting. Thanked them for ALL their efforts one by one! In return I was thanked back by Metrolink’s Chair person Richard Katz twice for recognizing their efforts in the last 4 months. The changes were only implemented after the community’s out cry. It wouldn’t have happen otherwise. They were showing NO regard to its neighbors for many years..
          The meeting will be posted soon at http://www.lametrolinkpollution.com as proof of this if you think I’m full of it.

          I’m ALL for Mass Transit. Mass Transit is a GREAT GREAT service and I’m first to recognize it as that. The Metrolink will be growing for many years to come. I’m all for it.
          We’re asking them to recognized the problems associated with the pollution and to step up to the plate and comply to a Heath Risk Assessment and make it a much safer place for people to live. It’s all about taking responsibility for their actions.
          I’m not asking them to relocate. Perhaps thats down the road if they don’t make more changes. If that can not than they don’t belong in that area.

  2. David De La Torre

    Tiring/disrespectful and clearly out of touch with reality is Metrolink’s Board and the AQMD staff who collectively showed zero regard for community calls for a “Health Risk Assessment Study”. It was apparent during last night’s meeting that both Metrolink and AQMD are in lock step in opposing an area study. AQMD personnel (the very people we rely upon to safeguard the public’s interest) repeatedly went out of its way to align itself with Metrolink and excuse the need for an area study. Elysian Valley, Cypress Park and other neighboring residents deserve to know the extent to which the Metrolink maintenance operation yard is impacting their health. To rely on any other data source is equivalent to letting the the coyote guard the chicken pen-simply not wise.

    Metrolink’s board Director took offense to calls for not in my back yard (NIMBY) when residents addressed the daily 40-60 minute engine revving and idling times-a heavy source of particular matter contaminants to area residents. I am certain that the feeling would be much different if said operation was occurring in their back yards.

    The Metrolink Taylor Yard operation is clearly driven by the “bottom line”. They have shown more concern for the profitability of their operation than for the general welfare of area residents. The remedial effort taken thus far fall short of public safety/welfare needs and are frankly simple tokens of appeasement-a poor effort to excuse their need to do more.

    In view of the above, I call on area residents and area political representatives to step-up the pressure on Metrolink’s Board to make immediate arrangements to fund and independent “Health Risk Assessment Study” without further unnecessary delay-anything short of this is unacceptable.


  3. Metrolink’s excuse that they aren’t in the business of conducting Health Risk Assessments (HRA) is pretty lame.

    If you want to open a gas station or a dry cleaning business, you have to do a HRA. Those businesses don’t conduct their own HRA, they pay for one. $30,000 for a HRA is a drop in the bucket compared to $120-140 million to upgrade 30 locomotives.

    It sounds more like Metrolink is afraid of lawsuits than safeguarding the community’s health – especially since no one seems to be able to find the original EIR for the yard.

    Just because it’s always been a rail yard is no excuse to ignore the plethora of studies that have come out over the past 10- 15 years proving just how unhealthy it is to live next to a diesel rail maintenace yard. The community has been there just as long as the orginal Taylor Yard.

  4. I know Taylor Yards has been here forever, but — as this whole area becomes an increasingly dense, mostly residential area — maybe it’s not the best place for a maintenance yard.

    Historically, the LA River was considered an eyesore and zoned for industrial and light industrial uses. It is time to reconsider that. As it is, the Rio de Los Angeles park is permanently cut off from the actual river.

    There are ways of incorporating trains and train-tracks into urban areas without blight (and without insurmountable barriers to pedestrians). Lots of cities have figured this out — LA can too.

    • Maybe it’s not the best place for an increasingly dense, mostly residential area. If the yard is so bad, why do people keep moving in?

      Yes, there are ways to incorporate trains and tracks into urban areas, but a yard is pretty huge by necessity and if we want public transit, they need to go somewhere.

      • No one said to get rid of the trains. The residents just want clean air. Isn’t that what you want to by getting cars off of the freeways?

        The residents want clean air and “quiet zones” for trains. Many said it could not be done including Councilmember Ed Reyes office and his staff person, Sonia Jimenez. If it weren’t for Grove, nothing would be done.

        I was the first person asking for “quiet zones”. No one even knew what that meant. Do some research on “quiet zones”.

        You mention that residents are moving in. That is really not true. Elysian Valley and Cypress Park residents have been there for generations. It was not smart that Cypress Park & Glassell Park residents fought for 20 some years and finally got a high school put on the train tracks. It is also not smart that Councilmember Ed Reyes put condo’s along the river in Lincoln Heights next to train tracks. I knew that sooner or later people will complain that a high school or condos were put on the train tracks because it was a low income area or it was based on race, when it was the residents that wanted it.

        People need to take responsibility for their actions. Councilmember Ed Reyes gets all the credit for putting condo’s and a high school on the railroad tracks in the middle of a rail yard.

        Thanks to Metrolink for doing the right thing and cleaning the air and making about area quieter.

  5. Spokker asked: If the yard is so bad, why do people keep moving in?

    Heath Risk Assessments are always required when implementing such facilities as Diane mentioned above. The public can only assume such studies have already been conducted therefore believing it’s a safe area in which to live/move.
    People who live near the facility are not the only ones at risk. Recreational activities have dramatically increased because of the new LA Bike Trail which is now National Recreational Trail as of about 10 weeks ago.

    Interesting enough Metrolink implemented additional public safety measures for its locomotives only AFTER 5 people were killed in 2005 and 25 in 2008.
    This issue is a public safety issue much like it is for it’s passengers. Not cleaning up their act “metaphorically speaking” is another train wreck in the works. Seems Metrolink hasn’t learned from their past mistakes when it comes to safety issues.

    • Mitch O'Farrell

      The World Health Organization has classified diesel exhaust as a dangerous carcinogen, more dangerous than second hand smoke. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/health/diesel-fumes-cause-lung-cancer-who-says.html

      First of all, this should not be framed as an either/or issue. Wether or not people move into the area knowing about air pollution risks from the 5 freeway, heavily travelled Riverside Drive, or from the idling, diesel trains at Taylor Yard, does not mean that Government doesn’t have to be responsive to the health and welfare of the residents it serves. People are concerned and have every right to be. I am in complete solidarity with Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, and other affected communities that are understandably concerned. Either all engines in use at the yard need to be converted from diesel fuel or the maintenance facility must be relocated entirely to an area that does not cause the same problem somewhere else. The good news is that the community has coalesced around this cause – and – metrolink is responding, with a plan for significantly reducing the use of diesel and reducing idling trains. So far they have shown a good faith effort and we can build from that. No one person seated at the table the other night created this problem so blame does not need to be part of this discussion – but a solution does. Where metrolink does not get a pass is behaving as though community members are NIMBY’s and taking comments so personally. Nor do they get a pass for being resistant to a Health Risk Assessment study. How else are we to be informed scientifically, and devise a mitigation plan?

      The organizing group has built a great framework of collaboration; residents, government officials, and metrolink. A sense of urgency and a demand for results is the other part of the equation. Government must be responsive to this aspect of the issue.

  6. from the http://www.lametrolinkpollution.com website:

    “As reported to us by the AQMD inspectors: Over 28 locomotives are each being serviced for one and a half hours each on weekdays during business hours, as well as overflow traffic after 6:00 pm. Often times these locomotives are idling for hours just waiting to be serviced during the week. Often trains idle for hours during the night. Other locomotives also idle up to 30 hours on weekends. This is a minimum of 80 hours of locomotives idling per week with multiple locomotives running at once. The noise generated by these locomotives can be as loud as 80 decibels.”

    That sounds pretty severe. At the very least, it makes a significant health risk assessment sound like a good idea.

  7. First of all Grove deserves most of the credit for all the work and all the accomplishments that he got Metrolink to do. He shares credit with Tin (sorry, I know I didn’t spell his name rights). Without them all the changes would not have come about.

    And, Spokker, it is not about all new people coming into the neighborhood. Most Elysian Valley and Cypress Park residents have lived in the neighborhood for generations, and generation after generation. That is why a lot of residents think it is just the way it is. That makes dealing with this issue especially difficult.
    This is a quality of life issue and a health issue.

    Metrolink has been very cooperative in seeking solutions and making some HUGE changes. Without Grove, that would NEVER, EVER have happened.

    After all, I asked Councilmember Ed Reyes several times over the last 8 years for the same thing, but my request fell on deaf hears. I am glad that Grove got listened too.

    Metrolink needed to make some changes. They are making changes and working on others. The residents at the meeting ALL thanked them and were happy with their progress.

    But the sleeping giant, Union Pacific, was not there. And, they are a much bigger program than Metrolink.

  8. Union Pacific is a much bigger problem than Metrolink. They blow their train horns all night long. And, they pollute the air much more than Metrolink does.

  9. I think I have an idea that everyone will accept. Lets convert Metrolink diesel locomotive to electricity! No more emissions, noise level will go down about 80%, maintenance on locomotives will go way down, etc. Of course, the only way to do it is by increasing funding, ie, federal grants, or a ballot measure, etc. So there you go, a ” simple” solution.

  10. Actually David they are working on some electrical stuff., including electric trains. Grove knows more about that then I do. Hope you can attend the next meeting.

  11. Why couldn’t the eastside put some photos up of the last meeting? I am sure they must have been there. We need press that shows the community was there and the support for this issue. Please post photos.

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