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Viewpoint: Welcome to Claremont’s new Gold Line and Metrolink stations

by Mark von Wodtke, FASLA

It is often said, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” Claremont is considering a proposal by Metro Gold line for a raised rail through the city. If this were to happen, we could get something that would both politically and physically divide Claremont. The raised rail would in effect be a wall between north and south Claremont.

Instead, Claremont could wish for Gold line and Metrolink stations that would weave our community together and make Claremont an even better place, while increasing public transit ridership.

Imagine the 2020s when Claremont has access not only to light rail on the Metro Gold line, but also improved access to Metrolink and local buses. The Claremont eco-Village could become even more of a destination. This transit hub could be at the center of a tree-canopied pedestrian environment with thriving shops, good restaurants and entertainment venues. The Claremont Farmers and Artisans markets, Village Venture and other events could flourish with more people coming by public transit for enjoyable family outings.

Motorists should be encouraged to drive to the Claremont eco-Village and not through it. There could be secure railroad gate crossing so that Claremont could be a “quiet zone.” No longer would we endure train horns at 4:30 in the morning.

Pedestrian bridges over the tracks could provide safe access to the train stations as well as elevated parks offering wonderful views of Claremont’s urban forest and the surrounding mountains like we see from the top of the parking structure. The existing parking structure on First Street could be linked by a pedestrian bridge to a new parking structure along the south side of the tracks, tying Village West to Village South. Construction of a pedestrian bridge over the tracks near the Packing House could link the new Keck student housing, the Claremont business park and southwest Claremont to the eco-village. None of this will be possible if the Gold line rail is elevated.

The new Gold line and Metrolink stations should have small parks over the rail right-of-way with elevators on either side so that pedestrians and bicyclists can come to the station from north and south Claremont.  Southeast Claremont could be linked to the new Metrolink station by walkways and a bike path through College Park. There would no longer be a “wrong side of the tracks.”

Good access from both sides of the tracks would make the railroad more of a seam than an edge. Elevated parks, which should cost less than an elevated rail, could also provide shelter for people waiting on the platforms so they’re not standing in the hot sun or rain waiting for departure.

In the 2020s, a new parking structure along First Street south of Pomona College should include shops, just like the existing parking structure in Village West. There could be a shop with maps and navigation devices, so people can find their way to all that Claremont offers. 

Guide services should offer safe excursions to hiking, biking, snowshoeing and skiing in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Claremont could become a major gateway for this attraction and, in doing so, encourage more people to hike in the region. This would take pressure off the Claremont Wilderness Park so we can retain its balance as a local resource while still attracting more people to enjoy our eco-Village.

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