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MTA approves Spanish translation of Gold Line

April 23, 2009 |  5:06 pm

Despite some misgivings, the MTA Board of Directors voted today to use a Spanish translation as the name of the Gold Line’s Eastside rail extension, a first for the transportation agency.

The entire light rail line, which stretches from Pasadena to the eastern edge of East L.A., will still be called the Gold Line. But the segment that opens this summer, traversing Boyle Heights and East L.A., will also be named La Linea de Oro, Edward R. Roybal in Spanish-language MTA literature and brochures and on station signs. In English materials, that segment will be called the Edward R. Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension. It is the first time the name of an MTA facility, rail or bus line has been translated in any way from English to Spanish.

In her motion, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina said that community members had asked that the light rail line be referred to in Spanish, which she called a “cornerstone of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles.”

But reflecting the diversity even among the Eastside’s residents, many Latinos said they disagreed with the proposal. Art Herrera, 72, a lifelong Boyle Heights resident and member of the Resident Advisory Committee for the Eastside extension of the Gold Line, criticized the motion.

“To tell you frankly, my kids aren’t going to say, ‘Dad, let’s take La Linea Roja to Hollywood’ either. They’re going to say, ‘Let’s take the Red Line,’ ” Herrera said. “If we go to Mexico, they’re not going to change names to English. This is ludicrous.”

Molina could not be reached for comment. L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar voted to support the compromise motion -- which was put forth by County Supervisor Zev Yarolslavsky -- but he said it bothered him that no community input was taken before Molina’s proposal went before the MTA board.

“I’m OK with the compromise, but it seems to me this compromise was hatched up at the last minute at the board,” Huizar said. “It would have been great to hear a public discussion. This line has been under construction and discussion for years . . . and to name the final product at the last minute without public input bothers me.”

Maya Emsden, an MTA executive who oversees signage and the design of maps, said a policy on “property naming” passed by the board in 2003 stated that there has to be a public discussion. But the MTA board can go against a policy, Emsden said. The 2003 policy also stated that MTA properties could be dedicated to people but not named after them. Molina’s proposal officially asked that the Gold Line be named La Linea de Oro, Edward R. Roybal. Emsden said that though it remained unclear, it appeared the board also voted to at least name the line after the late congressman in “official documents.”

“The board always has the prerogative not to follow their own policy,” she said, adding that MTA officials are still trying to figure out what all of this will mean in terms of marketing, signage and other aspects.

Emsden said she did not know of any other light rail line in the country with two names, let alone in different languages. When it comes to naming properties, the approved motion also breaks new ground for the MTA. “We don’t translate proper nouns,” Emsden said. “This is a first.”

-- Hector Becerra

Photo: L.A. Times