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Westside subway won't relieve much traffic, according to MTA's draft environmental impact report


While the proposed Westside subway extension is expected to provide substantial benefits to transit riders, the multibillion-dollar project -- contrary to one of its selling points -- will do little to relieve traffic congestion in West Los Angeles, a new environmental review shows.

Released Friday, the subway’s draft environmental impact report states that the project will give transit users more options and allow them to travel across town much faster than the municipal buses that serve the densely populated Wilshire corridor.

Transit officials estimate that a one-way subway trip from downtown Los Angeles to Westwood would take about 25 minutes, something that is now difficult to do in a car at rush hour. Buses make the trip in at least 50 minutes, a time that will only lengthen as Wilshire Boulevard and parallel thoroughfares become increasingly choked with traffic.

The report shows, however, that in 2035 the subway extension will only result in a tiny reduction in autombile use -- around 1% -- and that the San Diego Freeway, the Santa Monica Freeway and major streets along the line will remain heavily congested due to population growth.

“Remarks that transit relieves traffic congestion are common, but they are without a factual basis,” said Tom Rubin, a transportation consultant and former transit agency executive in Southern California. “The roads in Los Angeles are so far over capacity, it is difficult to get improvement from new transit projects.”

Traffic relief has been one of the goals of the light rail and subway projects planned and built by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Elected officials and MTA board members, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have repeatedly said that the Westside subway extension as well as other proposed rail projects are needed to alleviate congestion and gridlock.

Though traffic congestion will remain a vexing problem, MTA officials say the Westside subway extension will provide a large incentive for motorists to break their automobile dependency because of shorter travel times and a longer route with stops at job centers, tourist attractions, cultural institutions and UCLA.

“We have shown that when we give the public new options, people get out of their cars,” said David Mieger, the project manager for the Westside extension. “The subway will be a good alternative to the automobile. Why would you continue to drive?”

The release of the subway’s draft environmental impact report marks the start of the document’s 45-day public comment period, which includes five hearings between Sept. 20 and Sept. 29. Written comments can be submitted to the MTA until Oct. 18.

To obtain information about the hearings and to view the draft report, the public can visit the MTA’s website at www.metro.net/westside.

The environmental review analyzed a no-build option and five proposed subway routes including a nine-mile extension to Westwood, a 12-mile route to Santa Monica, and a 16-mile option that includes spurs to Santa Monica and West Hollywood. The estimated costs of the alternatives range from $4.2 billion to $9 billion.

A final environmental impact report will be prepared after MTA officials select a route for construction on Oct. 28.

-- Dan Weikel

Photo: Traffic at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in November 2008. Credit: Alan J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (79)

Yes, but think of life on the Westside with and without this in ten years. The obvious conclusion is that we need this to join the ranks of world-class cities that have a usable public transit system. Until then, L. A. is a one-bus backwater.

Anyone surprised with this? Billions for 1% ? What a joke. Of course they will try and force you out of your car. To live like they want you to live...all the while doing nothing to control what the real reason for these problems....Too many people moving into in a relatively small area that is already overcrowded.

Control the growth you control ALL the problems concerning pollution, traffic, energy use, on and on.

Did they have to do study on this? The problem is not the subway but the connection from the subway. Once you get to your destination and you get off subway you still will need somehow to get to your final destination. That is where the main problem is. You will either have to take a bus or get a taxi? Unless the final destination is within walking distance it is not really an option. That is the main reason that subway is not going to sole much of our traffic problem.

I wonder where the "1%" figure comes from - i.e. if it factors in what happens if other proposed rail/subway projects are built. The problem is that critical mass hasn't been achieved with these various rail lines - until they really increase their coverage of the city, etc. they're just trains from "A" to B" and unless you live near the route and need to go somewhere along that route, they're of limited use to you. But, for instance, with the proposed "regional connector" and for instance the envisioned extension of the Red Line from Hollywood / Highland through West Hollywood, then south to connect with the Purple Line extension, the usefulness of the rail / subway system starts to increase exponentially.

Regardless, this very important project will give greater options to millions of people who need to commute to and within the Westside. The real problem is that we have neglected building mass transit for so long that just ONE subway line won't fix all of our problems. We should also have a subway parallel to the 405 and along other major thoroughfares in the region.

Buses that run later at night.
Bus lanes vs. car lanes.
More car sharing programs
Incentives for families to rent closer to their work vs home ownershp

Aand how many billions of our tax dollars is this boondoggle costing us???

And what happens without the subway. If building it means only a 1% drop in congestion 27 years from now, what is the increase in congestion without it? That potential increase minus the drop is the real net benefit.

The terrific rail systems in New York or Paris or Tokyo have spared gridlock in none of those cities. They have, however, allowed people without deliveries to make or bulky packages to lug to get around town quickly. I wish we had such a system now to get in and out of the Westside without having to sit in a car or bus stalled in gridlock. Unless our local economy completely implodes and we stop building new commercial and residential developments, I cannot even imagine getting in and out of the Westside in 2035 without such a system.

Assuming there is, in 25 yearas, an adequate amount of petroleum to fuel the supposed automobiles of a larger human population. Likely not. And then what?

What may not have been factored in is the price of gasoline.

In 10-15 years when gas is $10 a gallon, you can bet that will change habits.

For better or worse, the region's movers and shakers determined that automobiles would be the preferred method of transit and invested accordingly. Now, it's far too late to consider any other alternative that doesn't include spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to begin to address the problem even if the money magically becomes available. Unless someone can figure out a way to get Scotty's transporter up and running, we're stuck with the way things are. Spend the money on something useful like education or roads.

Anyone who thinks they are entitled to a low-density, suburban lifestyle in the middle of a major metropolitan city needs a time machine back to Sam Yorty's Los Angeles more than anything we can offer them in the real world.

What the Purple Line extension will offer is a valuable alternative to spending hours a day looking at the back end of the car in front of you.

I cannot wait to ride this line every day as soon as it is built.

The subway ride "may" take 25 minutes but getting to and from the stations, will make the entire trip take even LONGER than driving. I tried to commute via bus to my job in Beverly Hills. The trip home to Marina del Rey took almost 3 hours. Of that 3 hours I spent about 45 minutes actually riding the bus. The rest of the time was spent waiting for the connecting bus. Never again. If I can't drive I'd just as soon walk. It would actually be faster.

It's going to destroy Santa Monica.

LA needs a subway to the westside, and not yet another subway to a dingy suburb. It is an embarassment that there is not a subway that goes to UCLA, Santa Monica, Venice, and the airport... with stops along Wilshire on the way.

It's not about relieving traffic, it's about creating an alternative for the 1% of residents here who are smart enough to use it.

This city is in desperate need of reliable transport unaffected by traffic. I commute from the valley to downtown 4 days a week and have been using the red line because it is for the most part, a consistent way of getting there. I arrive the same time almost everyday within a minute or two.

The bus system is subject to traffic conditions, so it won't sway me to abandon driving my car. Subways and other public transportation that can eliminate the stress and variability of traffic will. Just wish it didn't take so long to build them.

Metro just doesn't want to spend the money. They're broke.

When we hit peak oil we'll need the subway--so get cracky-acking on those subways!

The Westside subway extension is not a complete rail system, just the beginnings of one. If there's nothing else to get you where you want to go, then people won't ride it. I think the change will happen when we reach a critical mass of viable alternatives to driving. We aren't there yet.

All major cities, even ones with amazing public transit, have bad traffic. The point of the subway is that you won't HAVE to sit in traffic if you don't want to.

I ride the Red Line and Metrolink to and from work every day. I see the fluctuations in ridership. Back when gas was around $5+ per gallon, ridership on the rail system substantially increased. Now that gas is back down around $3 and change, ridership has dropped off.

In 10-20 years, the controls we have in the US on the price of gas will have lost their grip - even if we still have enough gas to fuel an SUV for every garage. When gas prices permanently go crazy, which they will, the rail systems will take more and more of the traffic.

Even aggressively accelerating building of rail and subway systems isn't going to be enough.

And honestly, I seriously question that 1% figure in the impact report.

maybe not short term, but what about in 10-25 years having more than one subway...That's an idea! Making the investment now for a system that starts to interconnect the city, you know a complete public transportation system.

The main difference: Los Angeles removed their already wonderful public transit system and allowed the city to grow without it while other “world-class” cities allowed the city to grow around the system and adapted where needed. Los Angeles will NEVER be a New York City for this very reason, no matter how much money we throw at it or how much we pray that people will begin using it!

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