Thursday, June 24, 2010

One Seat Ride to the Beach or to LAX?

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.

Your thoughts?


Ray said...

This post is Great !!!!
It' s useful / helpful to everbody.

Big thanks

Darrell Clarke said...

My leanings are toward Crenshaw to Hollywood via San Vicente (as in the map!), but I'm interested in what others suggest.

Jody said at tonight's meeting to be sure to comment on the DEIS (this summer) 'not to preclude' future north-south lines.

Anonymous said...

With money and attention tied up for at least the next 30 years, fast tracking the streetcars is the best option. They could end up being completed first, and have a huge effect in our lifetimes. Once the street cars are up and running, actual foot traffic will increase as people move freely in and between neighborhoods, unencumbered by traffic and parking. The roads built by the public should belong to the public first, and private cars second.

David G said...

I'm for this idea, as it gives a one-seat ride to the airport and doesn't have the scheduling issues with that awkward Purple Line spur, and it could also hit a major destination that the Purple Line will miss (Farmers Market & The Grove), but I do NOT like the moniker "Pink Line" (and I'm not the only one that has complained about it).

Calling a line a "pink line" just because it cuts across a traditionally gay part of town just reinforces stereotypes about gay men ... that they like "feminine" things, such as the color pink. And even before we launch that debate, naming the color of a line after a demographic is not recommended anyway ... why no "black line" through South Central or "yellow line" through Chinatown? We should focus the debate on this project as neutral as possible ... coloring it "pink" politicizes it, and turns it into a pro-gay or anti-gay issue, which it should not be. It's all about mass transit and a more walkable, liveable city.

cattylibrarian said...

I hope the Crenshaw line will connect to West Hollywood! The hardest drive into WeHo is not from the beach, but into the rest of the city...I live in Hyde Park, and I can vouch, San Vicente was the original "mainline" between LA and West Hollywood, and should be so again!

irwinc said...

Psychologically, it would be a great loss to not have subway running under Santa Monica Blvd.

Realistically, the Crenshaw line extension is probably the best option. It will be cheaper and thus more likely to be funded.

Obviously, in the long run, I hope we find the money to do both!

Tobias087 said...

It would potentially look something like this, but with Crenshaw routed along San Vicente/La Cienega and Santa Monica north of the Purple line instead of on La Brea

Anonymous said...

Great post.

But I don't know that either an extension to the Crenshaw Line or a streetcar would be anymore feasible, however. I think that the best course of action is to continue lobbying for a subway extension, and to aggressively seek innovative funding mechanisms beyond Measure R.

One possibility: Metro is implementing a congestion-pricing pilot project next year. If that scheme gets expanded countywide , it could generate significant new revenues-- potentially in the billions of dollars annually. Congestion pricing could be a funding source for major new transit projects, while of course relieving freeway congestion at the same time.

Given strong political support, it would be realistic to roll out such a plan within the decade, and to construct the West Hollywood subway a lot sooner than 30-plus years from now.

Dan Wentzel said...

"We should focus the debate on this project as neutral as possible ... coloring it "pink" politicizes it, and turns it into a pro-gay or anti-gay issue, which it should not be. It's all about mass transit and a more walkable, liveable city."


Are you that naive to believe that demographics hasn't influenced who gets transportation alignments and where? Perhaps you missed the "Oro" line through East Los Angeles. Do you think that demographics have nothing to do with the Crenshaw Line?

While I certainly agree that transportation dollars is fundamentally about creating a "liveable, walkable" city, I think the idea of bringing rail service to the heart and soul of the gay community in Southern California is a legitimate issue and the gay community has nothing to feel ashamed about mobilizing to do just that -- and not a few people resent the gay community standing up for itself any time it does.

Other demographic groups fight for transportation dollars and resources. The gay community is just as entitled as any other demographic group to do that.

The people I have seen who are trying to downplay this angle are not the gay community, but people who want transportation resources to go to other alignments and resent that they cannot sabotage a Santa Monica Blvd. alignment without publicly looking hostile to the gay community. Tough for them.

The term "Pink Line" brought attention to this corridor from a branding perspective, and was one of the few available colors left.

That said, I don't believe the lines should be named after "colors" anyway. Los Angeles County should use letters and/or numbers like other major metropolitain cities around the world.

Another thought: Why not do what London does and give the alignments proper branding names: "Bradley Line, Muir Line, Sherman Line, Chavez Line, etc."

Josh said...

I think option 2 is the most viable... as it's cheaper than heavy rail and more practical. And while santa monica is busy corridor, it's not quite as busy as the wilshire corridor and can probably get away with light rail instead of heavy.

However, on the suggested alignment going up san vicente, it would be nice to see it deviate a bit to hit farmers market/the grove/cbs, then head to the bev center

A streetcar would be also nice, but i think there are many stretches of santa monica where there just isn't room for it. Plus you'd have to get rid of the aesthetically pleasing median that runs through the weho stretch of it

Jeff said...

I would like to suggest renaming the WeHo extension the "ArC Line." This refers to the arcing route the extension would take as it travelled from Wilshire/San Vicente to Hollywood/Highland via Santa Monica. The ArC Line also stands for "Arts and Culture," highlighting West Hollywood's role as a hub for arts and culture in the LA region. I know this doesn't fit with Metro's color scheme but I think it could work quite well.

Anonymous said...

This is how the Purple/Pink/Red should be done. The right, full way with connectivity for all the major regions in LA.

A great graphic:

David G said...

There is no "Oro" line through East Los Angeles. It is the Gold Line, and have never seen any materials calling it anything else. Naming it after the demographic would have been the "Brown" line anyway.

Once again, not all gay men associate with "pink", in fact many are repulsed by that stereotype, and it will just distract from the agenda of a subway, and be the butt of endless tasteless jokes if the project gets publicized as such. And the Crenshaw Line has already been dubbed the "Rose Line" by the County Supervisors anyway, in case you were out of the loop.

Dan Wentzel said...

"not all gay men associate with "pink", in fact many are repulsed by that stereotype"


I come from the school of gay militancy and empowerment that turned the "pink triangle" nazi symbol of persecution into a sign of empowerment. If some queen has internalized homophobia issues about being associated with the color pink, that is their problem. There is nothing intrinsically masculine or feminine about the color pink or any other color.


"And the Crenshaw Line has already been dubbed the "Rose Line" by the County Supervisors anyway, in case you were out of the loop"


I am in the loop on this and I think it goes to show how ridiculous it is for the transit authority of large metropolitan area with expanding rail service to designate this service by colors. I look forward to the "Chartreuse Line", the "Teal Line" and the "Burgundy Line".

I also think it insults people to give busways official colors as if they were as good as getting rail service. The Orange Line and Silver Line are not as quality as riding rail lines. Just ask anyone who actually rides them. People know that bus service, even bus rapid transit, is not equivalent as rail service. Giving busways official status at the same level as rail to make the Metro map look bigger isn't fooling anyone.

However, if the SanVicente/SantaMonica Blvd. alignment became the northern extension of the "Rose Line" and I had a one seat ride to LAX in my lifetime, I would be thrilled no matter what name it was called.

I would be thrilled if the name "The Pink Line" only became associated with the name of my blog because Metro had moved on from a box of crayolas.

I wish Metro would drop the whole color scheme and go to a numbering and lettering system like other world class metropolitan areas.

I would give HRT/LRT rail service numbers and streetcars letters, and leave bus service on the busways to regular bus numbering system without insulting people's intelligence by giving it "rail branding".

For example:

1 - LRT Long Beach to/from Pasadena (former Blue Line)
2 - HRT North Hollywood to/from Union Station (former Red Line)
3 - HRT Santa Monica to/from Union Station via Wilshire corridor (extended former Purple Line)
4 - LRT Norwalk Metrolink to/from LAX (extended former Green Line)
5 - LRT Union Station to/from Montclair (former northern Gold Line)
6 - LRT Hollywood to/from LAX via West Hollywood and Crenshaw corridor
7 - LRT Santa Monica to/from Whittier via Culver City (Exposition Line)
8 - LRT Sylvmar to/from LAX via Sepulveda Pass
9 - LRT Warner Center to Pasadena (upgraded and extended Orange Line)

A - Broadway Streetcar
B - Sunset Blvd. Streetcar
C - Sunset/Santa Monica Blvd. Streetcar
D - Ventura Blvd. Streetcar
E - Venice Blvd. Streetcar

ThomasD said...

I support your June 30, 2010 posting about transit naming. Make the numbers and letters functional like the New York Subway or assign endpoint names like the SF Bay Area.

Boston, Chicago and DC have to learn this lesson too.