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Please, just pick a color

September 01, 2006

AT FIRST, THE WHOLE AQUA vs. cardinal vs. rose debate seemed kind of funny. Board members at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have been hopelessly deadlocked over the symbology of color, unable to decide on a visual designation for the new light-rail line that will run down Exposition Boulevard from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City beginning in 2010 at the earliest.

But now that the argument has eaten untold hours at half a dozen MTA committee and board meetings since March, we're no longer laughing.

Some want to call the train the Cardinal Line because it runs past USC, whose colors are cardinal and gold. Others favor the Aqua Line, to symbolize the ocean, though it won't yet go that far. (It's hoped that the tracks will eventually make it to the coast in Santa Monica somewhere, but the route hasn't been planned.) Still others favor the Rose Line because of Exposition Park's famous rose garden.

The great color debate reached its apex of absurdity last week when the MTA board, after about an hour of pointless discussion, deadlocked on a vote that was intended to resolve the matter.

With cardinal apparently out of the running, the battle is now down to rose and aqua. The latter color is favored by the MTA staff, which has been using it for years on maps. But City Councilman Bernard Parks frets that aqua doesn't "resonate," whatever that means. He has somehow persuaded half the MTA board to take his side, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who should know better.

In the meantime, the project will simply be known as the Expo Line, making it the only MTA line named after a street rather than a color. On maps, it will probably show up as a broken black line.

This debate is as pointless as it is silly. It's not as if the five existing transit-line colors symbolize anything. The new color needs to have two qualities: It needs to stand out on a map, and it needs to be different from the other colors.

Last we checked, the rainbow still had seven colors. Some innovative transit planners -- including in L.A.! -- have even gone beyond the basic seven and chosen a color outside the rainbow. Maybe at their next meeting the MTA board could hear a presentation from Sherwin-Williams.

Our position on the hue review: We couldn't care less. Flip a coin, play a game of rock-paper-scissors, pick a color out of a hat -- and move on to more important business, such as expanding the subway down Wilshire Boulevard. Thousands of commuting Angelenos will be tickled pink.

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