Online Access To Environmental Impact Reports & Statements: Metro’s New Digital Library Of Los Angeles Transit Project Documents

Among the most vital core resources that tell the story of how Los Angeles’ transit projects were planned are those contained within our environmental impact report and environmental impact statement documents.

Now, many of them are found in our new collection of online EIRs/EISs which date back nearly 30 years.

This online library provides full-text digital access to  documents stretching back to the early 1980s when planning for Metro Rail began.

We have plans to continue adding key Metro documents as well as essential transit planning environmental documents from our predecessor agencies as well.

The collection is organized by project, so researchers can easily find the resources they need on a particular project.

Within each project, the EIRs and EISs are arranged chronologically to facilitate understanding of project evolution over time.

It’s also worth noting that the common name for projects is found alongside the official document titles, clarifying both confusing name changes (yes, the Metro Gold Line was originally known as the Pasadena Blue Line) as well as each project’s switch over to common vernacular language over time.

For example, it wasn’t long ago that the Expo Line was known as the “Mid City Corridor.”

Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find someone referring to the Gold Line Foothill Extension as the “Northern San Gabriel San Bernardino Valley Rail Transit Corridor.”

And be sure to differentiate between the Orange Line‘s original “San Fernando Valley East West Transit Corridor” and possible extensions found in the “San Fernando Valley North South Transit Corridor.”

But what is the story behind these stories — why do these documents exist?

We can look at these documents in terms of federal as well as state law.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Environmental Impact Statements of certain actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

These documents outline the positive and negative environmental effects of proposed actions, such as building a transit project.

They usually list one or more alternative actions that may be chosen instead of the action described in the EIS, and are designed to include input from the public so that decision-makers can arrive at the best possible conclusions for a proposal.

All EISs are filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which provides a searchable database.

Additionally, Northwestern University’s Transportation Library has one of the largest collections of environmental impact statements in the country.

In addition to federal requirements, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), passed in 1970, codifies a statewide policy of environmental protection.

It requires an Environmental Impact Report be submitted to the state for certain actions as well.

The EIR proposes mitigations and alternatives which may reduce or avoid negative environmental impacts.

The State of California provides the CEQAnet Database as an online searchable environmental database of the State Clearinghouse to find not only EIRs, but other types of CEQA and NEPA documents.

Many additional steps are part of the EIR/EIS process, but for now we wanted to share access to these truly “primary” resources.

As we have pointed out previously with other digital documents, online access ensures that they are not lost, stolen, misplaced, misshelved or damaged due to wear-and-tear — and more than one person can use them at a time.

Above all, since many of these documents are several hundred pages long, online keyword searching is perhaps the most valuable aspect of digital access — saving users time in searching for exactly what they need.

(Some of the larger files have been divided up into sections which can be accessed without loading the entire document).

You are welcome to explore the documents in the Library Research section of the Metro Transportation Library website.