For Westside Subway Extension supporters, this is our dream:
I count myself as the BIGGEST support of a Santa Monica Blvd. subway project, colloquially nicknamed the "Pink Line".
However, only the first three minimum operating segments (extending the Purple Line west from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax, to Century City, to Westwood) of the Westside Subway Extension project are likely to go forward for Federal funding at this time, in no small part because of the money that was already thankfully approved by Measure R for that portion of this project and not the other portions, and because the cost-benefit ratio for the first three minimum operating segments meets current federal guidelines for matching funds.
Alternatives 4 and 5 have the West Hollywood subway spur included. (This chart is also not good news for the City of Santa Monica which wants the full extension of the Purple Line to the beach which is in Alternatives 3 and 5).
Therefore, because of the above chart, this is what will likely be constructed within 10 years if Mayor Villaraigosa's 30-year plan goes through.
Supporters of MOS-5, the segment of the Purple Line west of the V.A. grounds, have little choice but to pursue Federal funding later and keep lobbying for Metro to build the full extension to the beach.
Those of us who support MOS-4, the West Hollywood spur, have a couple of options, if Metro abandons us (even though West Hollywood voted 83% in favor of Measure R, more than any other city).
Option 1) Continue to lobby for the Purple Line spur between Beverly Hills and Hollywood along Santa Monica Blvd. seen above, understanding that we are not part of Measure R funding, and are unlikely to be constructed within the next several years if not a few decades.
Option 2) Lobby for the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment to become part of the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line, which Measure R will see constructed as light-rail between the Expo Line and LAX. The tradeoff would be a one-seat ride to/from LAX instead of a one-seat ride to/from the beach. While the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station is not funded by Measure R north of the Exposition Line transfer, and as this is a light-rail project rather than the heavy-rail subway extension of the Purple Line, and as it will not all be underground, and therefore likely to be less expensive, it may be more easily funded and built sooner.
Here's a map showing the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment as an alternative to link the Crenshaw Line at Expo/Crenshaw to the Hollywood/Highland station as light rail:
Here is how it would look from a larger perspective:
For many people, the tradeoff of having a one-seat ride from West Hollywood to LAX may be acceptable for not being part of the Westside Subway extension. However, there is no guarantee that the this would be the approved alignment of the northern extension of the Crenshaw light-rail line, which may end up simply going north on La Brea or Fairfax towards Hollywood/Highland instead of via San Vicente then Santa Monica Blvd.
3) Another option comes from the realization that for 30 years Metro is going to be financially focused on Measure R or paying off a federal loan that fast tracks Measure R construction projects. Unfortunately, this means that there might not be ANY funding for am underground Santa Monica Blvd. rail project for at least thirty years.
What if we brought streetcars back to this corridor? Not the historical red cars of yore, but the new modern streetcars such as the ones we see in Portland or in the Cryodon borough of London -- and then run them in transit only lanes?
Here are pics of what a modern streetcar looks like:
Just in case you think the era of the streetcar is over, you should go to LA Streetcar's website.
Streetcars are coming back to downtown Los Angeles in a few years and when that happens, demand for the them will grow everywhere.
Here's is my original proposal that runs a modern streetcar from downtown to Sunset Junction on Sunset Blvd., then down Santa Monica Blvd. via the unused right-of-way in the back end of Beverly Hills. A variation of this could have on the western end the route head south on La Cienega and then southwest on Venice to the beach.
To be effective, streetcars on Sunset and Santa Monica Blvd. would probably require eliminating parking and/or a lane of traffic in each direction. I'm totally fine with that, but some motorists and small business owners may object. It may also require adjusting the annual gay pride parade and Sunset Junction street festival by moving them or an agreement to run alternative buses on those days. In fact, as part of a modern streetcar project, we should create transit-only lanes for them to run on, limited to streetcars and buses. In Seattle, buses and rail share the downtown transit tunnel effectively.
Of course, we all want to see subway service on Santa Monica Blvd. and see it soon. However, it is not looking good for seeing it within the next 30 years if Metro decides not to pursue federal funding at this time, which according to their own studies is starting to look unlikely. While the City of Santa Monica will get the full advantage and use of the Exposition Light-Rail Line in the meantime until MOS-5 is hopefully eventually built, the City of West Hollywood and the Beverly Center areas may be left with nothing for decades.
Metro has already spent a lot of time and money studying the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment and knows it needs "something". Plus I believe having the largest vote in favor of Measure R has brought West Hollywood some good will from Metro. It must be refreshing for Metro to deal with a community that says, "build here, build here, build here", rather than the NIMBYs who selfishly have been trying to obstructing the Purple Line and Expo Line projects in Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Cheviot Hills.
So now that you know where we appear to be with a Santa Monica Blvd. rail alignment, which course of action(s) do you think Santa Monica Blvd. rail advocates should we take if Metro doesn't go forward with MOS-4 of the Westside Subway Extension Project for Federal funding as we all hope?
1) Keep lobbying for a heavy-rail subway extension from the Purple Line anyway and hope that somehow the money will come from some unknown source somehow, sometime, somewhere?
2) Begin strongly lobbying for the northern extension of the light-rail Crenshaw Line towards Hollywood to run along San Vicente, then Santa Monica Blvd, still not knowing where the funding will come from and knowing it is not certain that this would be the alignment of this extension, but knowing it will require less funding as a light-rail project than as a heavy-rail subway?
3) Lobby for modern streetcars to run down Santa Monica Blvd. in transit-only lanes, trading ultimate hope of eventual grade separated rail in decades for at-grade rail within years?
Keep in mind, I really want a subway running on Santa Monica Blvd., so I support the Westside subway extension. I just want to give you a realistic picture of where we stand at the moment at least on paper.