'Music Center or bust!' by train and bus
On the map it looks simple enough: The train brings you to 1st and Hill, you walk two blocks west to 1st and Grand and -- voila! -- you're at the doorstep of Disney Hall, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is across the street.
On your feet, it's grueling, unless you're into urban mountaineering. Would-be transit riders eager for a fix of music, theater and dance must essay a steep, sweat-inducing grade that calls to mind the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the poor fella who was doomed to eternally push a boulder up a hill in Hades. Here in L.A., they forgive you the boulder.
But starting tonight, eternity will have an interruption -- limited, yes, but real enough. Instead of tucking in its 25-cents-a-ride downtown DASH buses for the night after rush hour, making them useless to Music Center patrons, the city's Department of Transportation will provide free service on Friday and Saturday nights for the rest of the year, as well as on New Year's Eve, which falls on a Wednesday.
Which means that folks who can't or won't climb Bunker Hill, and who don't want to drive and pay the 8 bucks to park in the Music Center's lots, can avail themselves of mass transit, taking the train and then DASH-ing it to a Music Center drop-off. Buses are scheduled to leave every 10 minutes from the Civic Center Red Line station; Blue Line riders who want to save on a transfer fare can catch DASH at the 7th Street/Metro Center station. The free shuttles will run from 6:30 p.m. until 3 a.m., making a looping route that extends from the Convention Center and LA Live, northward to the Music Center. A consortium of downtown businesses, including the Music Center, chipped in to cover the $23,000 bill for the experimental service.
Extending the service year-round would cost $180,000 for weekends only, and $1 million for nightly DASH runs, according to transportation officials -- money they say would have to come from private sources, because the city doesn't have the dough.
Which means, of course, that most of us will continue to have to drive -- and park.
So here's an update on the automotive front, where closure of the Department of Water & Power's customer parking lot on Hope Street for after-hours security reasons caused much consternation a couple of months ago, depriving Music Center patrons of about 350 prime spaces.
Although Councilman Tom LaBonge has asked DWP officials to reconsider whether they can reopen the lot for cultural events without compromising security against hypothetical terrorism, department spokesman Brooks Baker said Friday that "the situation is unchanged. The issue remains under review."
To prevent parking jams, the county has made the underground lot that serves the Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse available when the 1,000 spaces under the Chandler/Taper/Ahmanson complex are filled (Disney Hall has its own ample underground lot). Nick Chico, chief of parking services for the county, said that typically happens when there are simultaneous shows at the 3,200-seat Chandler and the 2,000-capacity Ahmanson, and on three occasions since Nov. 12, most of the 300 overflow spaces were needed. Since the two lots connect beneath Grand Avenue, it's an easy matter to channel cars to the overflow spaces.
One last word for you downtown pedestrians, especially those headed for the Taper and Ahmanson: You can avoid the steep hill by approaching the Music Center from Temple Street. But I forgot my own tip the other night, hurried up the Matterhorn -- uh, 1st Street -- and spent the opening number of "Spring Awakening" wiping sweat from my face and fog from my glasses.
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Top, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Disney Hall look lovely from above, but make for a hard climb from below. Bottom, arriving on foot at the Music Center looks idyllic in this illustrator's conception of a Grand Avenue walkway intended for the not-yet-begun Grand Avenue project.
Credits: Photo by Robert Millard / L.A. Opera; illustration from Music Center