Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Westside Mass Transit Dream

Isn't this beautiful?

This is my Westside Mass Transit Dream.

I was inspired by the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project public briefing meetings held last week. There are still two more for you to attend:

• Tuesday, August 11, Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills
• Wednesday, August 12,
Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

What we see here is existing Metro Rail on the Red and Purple Lines plus the completion of the Exposition Line.

In addition, we see completion of the Westside Subway Extension Project extended all five phases:

1) Extend Purple Line from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax;
2) Extend Purple Line to Century City;
3) Extend Purple Line to West L.A.;
4) Connect Hollywood/Highland and Purple Line through Santa Monica Blvd. (The "Pink" Line);
5) Extend Purple/"Pink" Lines to Santa Monica

The new map of Alternative 11 of the Westside Subway Extension presented at last week's public briefing contained two "new" fingers added to a possible northern extension of the proposed Crenshaw Light Rail Line. The previous maps only contained a possible light-rail leg to LaBrea & Wilshire. The new "fingers" at Fairfax/Wilshire and SanVicente/Wilshire seem to indicate that Metro wants a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line to head west of LaBrea. Most Southern California transit advocates see the Hollywood/Highland station as the ultimate northern terminus of the Crenshaw Line.

In thinking about this as to what I would select, I ruled out the SanVicente "finger" because there is no Purple Line stop there and I am sure Metro will want Crenshaw Line riders to be able to transfer to the Purple Line. I ruled out LaBrea because even though it would be cheapest and more direct for the Crenshaw Line to head straight up LaBrea, it would leave out numerous ridership opportunities such as the Grove and a stop on the Sunset strip. Since I see the Pink Line already serving the Beverly Center, therefore I opted for Fairfax/Wilshire for a transfer station with the Crenshaw Line. This would allow service at the Grove, West Hollywood, and it includes a Sunset Strip stop around Sunset/Gardener. I think the added ridership of the Fairfax alignment justifies it over the less expensive cost of the LaBrea alignment of the northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. If Metro heartbreakingly decides it cannot go forward with Santa Monica Blvd. subway alignment (Phase 4) because of funding, then heading to Fairfax/Wilshire instead of LaBrea/Wilshire becomes even more imperative.

What is so delicious about a Fairfax alignment is that Fairfax was originally the planned northern route of the Red Line from Wilshire towards Hollywood before NIMBYs and anti-rail idiots sabotaged the building of the Red Line. (Just think. If it wasn't for the NIMBYs and misguided organizations like the so-called Bus Riders "Union" we might already be riding a completed Purple Line.) It would be beautiful karma to see a Fairfax alignment rise from the ashes.

In Measure R, there is a Sepulveda Pass transit project connecting the Valley from the Westside. I envision for the health of a region an alternative to the parking lot that is the 405 Freeway with a Sepulveda based line moving north from LAX and the Green Line up to the Exposition Line, the Purple/"Pink" Lines, and into the Valley connecting with Ventura Blvd, the Orange Line, Van Nuys Metrolink Station and ultimately Sylmar Metrolink station.

What an amazing system this would be if this were all constructed and operating.

Now that I've showed you my dream for the Westside, and I am sure you all have your own transit dream, let me admit to some stone cold reality.

There is no funding identified for most of this -- and funding is what will determine whether a transit line gets built, and that is assuming you[ve gotten past the inumerable NIMBYs and competing interest gauntlets pulling at Metro to come to a heavy or light rail line preferred alignment proposal that Metro and the Community is strongly enough supporting.

What transportation capital funding there is will go towards constructing the transit lines and segments with the highest ridership. As passionate as I am about Phase 4 of the Westside Subway Extension Project, the Santa Monica Blvd. subway, I fully realize that Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the Westside Subway Extension (Wilshire plus Century City) and the super crucial downtown Regional Connector, come first, and then there are all the worthy competing Los Angeles County projects out there (i.e. finishing the Expo Line, extending the Green Line to LAX, upgrading the Orange Line to light rail, TWO Gold Line extensions, Crewnshaw Line, a Sepulveda Line, etc.)

Also, don't forget the need to maintain a comprehensive and robust bus system and the desire of automotive diehards to expand roads.

In fact, there is no shortage of need and desire, but not an abundance of transportation money for public transit.

The good news is that there has been a sea change of opinion within Southern California. Only the willfully delusional still believe that Los Angeles can preserve a car-only transportation system forever. In fact, the 67% vote in favor of Measure R demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of Los Angeles County knows better. $4.00/gallon gasoline and ever-worsening congestion beat a lot of people into reasonableness. We need alternatives. However, Measure R won't pay for all of my dream or your dream or anyone's dream. The State Budget is a basket case for the forseable future and if the State ever gets out of financial crisis, it really needs to put its transportation focus on transit operation (not capital) funds and seeing the needed High Speed Rail project into manifestation.

So, if you like my transit dream or have a dream of your own for the Westside or anywhere else in Los Angeles County and Southern California, you will need Federal dollars. Please join a transit advocacy organization such as Southern California Transit Association or The Transit Coalition (but not the misguided Bus Riders "Union"). Please write your member of the House of Representatives and our state's two U.S. Senators. Please write your County Supervisor and your city mayors and councillors and ask them all to support mass transit not just in words, but financially too.

Any transit dream without adequate funding is just a fantasy. So let's start advocating for transit dollars to start turning some of these dreams (many of which are absolute necessities for our economic and environmental future) into reality.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Alternative Pink Line through West Hollywood

Last night at Plummer Park in West Hollywood there was a community forum on the progress of the Westside Subway Extension Project. (You might have noticed drills on Wilshire and Santa Monica beginning to take soil samples.) This project is in environmental review. For more information about this project, please visit Metro's website at

There are still three more community forums within the next week and I encourage you to attend to learn more and to communication your support and suggestions:

• Thursday, August 6, Santa Monica Public Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica
• Tuesday, August 11, Beverly Hills Public Library, 444 N.
Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills
• Wednesday, August 12,
Westwood Presbyterian Church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

All the meetings are from 6:00-8:00 PM. The material presented will be identical at each meeting (though the crowds will be different), so pick the one that is most convenient for you.

I am still very hopeful that the Westside Extension will be build with Phase 4, which includes the Santa Monica Blvd. subway through West Hollywood, also known as Alternative 11:

There have been a couple of adjustments to the Santa Monica Blvd. alignment you should know about. As you can see from the above map, there was one alignment at La Cienega and one at San Vicente. The La Cienega alignment has been eliminated because of the inability to design that hard turn. The alignment will run south via San Vicente and the stop will be on Santa Monica Blvd. between La Cienega and San Vicente, right in the heart of West Hollywood. At last night's forum there was lots of comment about how and where to design the Beverly Center area stop. There will be specific Metro forum's this fall around specific stops. If you intersted in how the La Brea, Fairfax and west of La Cienega but east of San Vicente Santa Monica stops or any other stations along the alignments are designed, be sure and attend those upcoming Fall meetings.

This project is current divided into five phases:
  1. Extension of Purple Line from Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/Fairfax
  2. Extension of Purple Line to Century City
  3. Extension of Purple Line to West L.A.
  4. Connection of Purple Line and Hollywood/Highland through West Hollywood (The "Pink Line")
  5. Extension of Purple Line to Santa Monica beach.
Thank goodness Measure R passed. This will fund Phases 1 through 3. At the Forum, I asked the money question: What will determine if Phase 4 will get built? After all, there is rock support in the community for this project. West Hollywood voted 83% in favor of Measure R.

It basically comes down to money. Heavy Rail Subway is the most expensive form of transportation construction. Can Phase 4 be competitive for federal matching funds? That will be the determining factor to getting funding for this project. So start writing your letters in favor of federal funding for this project to Congressman Henry Waxman and Senators Feinstein and Boxer.

What happens if Phase 4 doesn't get the go ahead? That's pretty sad. A lot of people who supported Measure R and who support this project will be heartbroken.

There is an alternative that I have heard being whispered as a possible backup by various transit advocates. It would involve incorporating the Pink Line through West Hollywood with the Crenshaw Line project under study right now.

For more information about the Crenshaw Line project go to

Here's a map posted on the Transit Coalitions discussion forum by Darrell:

Instead of a Heavy Rail subway like the Red Line and Purple Line, in this alignment, the Pink Line would be a Light Rail alignment line like Blue, Green, Gold and Exposition Lines. This would not necessarily be all at ground level. Portions of the Blue, Gold and Exposition lines run underground and there will be grade separated crossings at the busiest intersections.

This northern extension of the Crenshw alignment would continue light rail up from Crenshaw/Expo up Crenshaw to San Vicente and then head northwest up San Vicente and resume the Phase 4 alignment in West Hollywood.

The advantage of this alignment is that light rail is cheaper to construct than heavy rail, therefore the numbers would be more advantageous for federal funding. Also, Metro will have already invested millions of dollars studying this corridor, received feedback and comment on station locations and design, and have a whole lot of heartbroken people on their hands. There is also a regional benefit. People in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and points south will more easily access LAX. Basically, West Hollywood and the Beverly Center area would be trading easier one-seat access to the Westside for easier access to LAX.

I still fully support Alternative 11 for the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project. That is why 83% of West Hollywood voted for Measure R. I believe it is the right one for the region's future. However, while this light rail alternative may not be the most preferred or most desirable rail service to this area, it is in my opinion fully acceptable and preferable than the alternative if Phase 4 is not constructed, which is nothing.