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Officials choose path for long-awaited subway to the Westside [Updated]


Development of a long-awaited subway link from downtown Los Angeles to the Westside took a giant leap Thursday when county transportation officials selected a general route from the Wilshire-Western station to the veterans hospital in Westwood.

The decision by board members of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority sets the stage for the trickier business of going block by block to establish the precise path and determine where to place stations.

Construction is set to begin in 2013 after a final environmental impact review.

MTA staff had recommended the 9 1/2-mile route to the veterans' hospital because of higher ridership projections. The estimated cost of that option is $5.15 billion.

Four other options were under consideration by the board, which included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has stressed the need for a Westside "subway to the sea" throughout his tenure as mayor.

Those included a nine-mile extension from the Wilshire-Western station to Westwood-UCLA; a 12-mile alignment to the beach in Santa Monica; a route to the veterans hospital campus plus a spur to West Hollywood; and a 12-mile link to Santa Monica plus the West Hollywood spur. The estimated costs of the projects ranged from $4.2 billion to $9 billion.

Also under consideration Thursday was a $1.37-billion regional connector through downtown Los Angeles that would allow light-rail users to travel across the county without time-consuming transfers.

[Updated at 1:08 p.m.: Board members also subsequently approved that plan by a 10-0 vote.]

MTA officials have said both projects would provide an incentive for motorists to break their long dependency on cars by offering more access to key destinations and faster travel times, especially during rush hour.

The regional connector alone, officials said, could boost the number of subway and light-rail users anywhere from 5% to 18% depending on the line.

[Updated at 1:08 p.m.: Both approvals are a milestone in the region’s transportation history, one with the potential to shape where people live and work as well as shorten the time of their commutes, experts said.

The connector would make all parts of the system faster and more usable. And the Wilshire corridor extention to the Westside finally fills in a gap that, based on traffic patterns, was among the highest priorities all along.

“This is a big moment,” said Genevieve Giuliano, director of the METRANS Transportation Center at USC. “A subway is the single biggest item on the transit construction list, and this is the single busiest corridor in the entire region. If there should be a subway anywhere it should be there.”

Transit systems have exerted a huge influence on transportation and beyond when the change was from horse-and-buggy to trolley, but less so in Southern California when modern transit systems have faced competition from cars, said Eric Morris, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA and a transportation blogger for the New York Times.

“In our current world, the auto provides point-to-point, high-speed travel,” Morris said. “It’s flexible and it’s convenient. But I can see a subway project in that corridor being competitive. The Wilshire corridor is so dense. There are a lot of jobs within walking distance. If any project has the ability to reshape travel patterns it’s this one.]

[Updated at 2:12 p.m.: Even the project’s supporters, including USC’s Giuliano, raised funding concerns, noting that money has not been identified to operate the system, for which fares provide well under half of operating costs.

That concern was echoed by critics, including organizer Eric Romann of the Bus Riders Union, which advocates for the rights of low-income bus riders. He cited the project’s environmental impact report as evidence that the multibillion-dollar cost would provide limited returns in terms of ridership compared to other potential projects.

The Bus Riders Union has persistently criticized subway construction for leading to higher bus fares and more limited bus service, especially in difficult economic times. Romann also raised a civil rights issue. The subway, he said, would serve disproportionately white and prosperous commuters at the expense of low-income black and Latino residents who rely on bus service. But difficult economic times also offer an economic advantage to this moment, said Giuliano, in terms of lower construction costs. That’s why Villaraigosa’s efforts to accelerate the timetable for construction are so crucial, she said.]

[Updated at 11:55 a.m.: Here is a map from Metro on the selected route, which is in purple. It would run largely along Wilshire Boulevard. See more maps at Metro's Source blog.]


-- Howard Blume and Dan Weikel

Photo: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (64)

light rail is the answer..NOT AN UNDERGROUND TOMB!!!

I can't wait to hear the uproar when residents learn that major traffic arteries are gonna be torn up for long periods of time. Sure glad I don't live in L.A. any more!

A great day for LA.

One thing I would say is they should have subway entrances on multiple corners (at least 2 where possible) of the street for each station like they do in NY, this small thing would do a lot to speed up movement of people. That way you don't have bunches of people waiting at corners as well the wilshire/western frogger scenario we have now where people run against red lights to get to waiting bus's on the other corner.

YES! I can't wait to start taking a train to work instead of sitting on the 10 for 90 minutes from SGV.

I think they need to find ways to connect the trains together. You should not have to go downtown from Pasadena to get to the Burbank train..Also, not sure why they would not work to bulid a train down the 101 freeyway. They have a lot to do and this is one of the few things I would pay higher takes for..

Three suggestions.

1. Put that first Westwood station nearer to the University. Businesses come and go, but UCLA has been there forever, and it is a major destination.

2. A loop through West Hollywood, up San Vicente to Santa Monica cross over to Sunset to Hollywood and Highland. Picks up all the SM Blvd foot traffic

3. Extend the Wilshire Line to the Promenade or PCH and the beach, with stations parallel to the ones on Colorado and Olympic. That would open up all of Santa Monica and the beaches to visitors.

With 1 mile spacing, they could really cover the area well and get people out of their cars. Or they could make a big mess of a good thing. Time will tell

Awesome news! Though this should of happened years ago.

"Subway to the VA" has "FAIL" written all over it.

It should go to the beach.

Wow, looks like they're still on schedule. That's a very nice surprise. Any idea when it will be completed?

Just great! Another Boondoggle of a project that spends $11 billion or so to move 10% of the population in the Downtown area that the rest of the County and the state are going to have to pay for....

You'd think we would focus more on trying to repair city roads that are full of potholes or syncronize signal lights to improve surface traffic flow. Or maybe even subsidize drivers to carpool or promote business to allow their employees to work flex hours or even tele-commute.

Implementing these few suggestions would help reduce congestion in the downtown area at a fraction of the cost to building a monument to Villaraigosa.

Can someone name me any of the great cities in the world that DOESN'T have a strong mass transit network?

This looks great!

Sad thing is we'd have something like this today if it weren't for Henry Waxman. To his credit, he lifted the subway ban in '07 to allow this to happen, but we're talking a 20 year delay. It is staggering to consider how positive it would have been for LA to have had this in place for the last decade or so.

Well, better really, really late than never. Can't wait for this thing to open.

I love the progress, but why not ALL THE WAY to Santa Monica?!

Well, another project costing millions to taxpayer. How many of you currently use the subway system here in LA? Yep! That's what I mean. The bigger the government the smaller the citizen!

I think I'm going to cry!!! This is great news for not only LA, but the entire country because for enough people in LA to be enlightened that we need another alternative to the automobile (in the most disgustingly car obsessed city in the country), it means other cities (especially Sun Belt cities) will now look to LA as a model for their own transit planning.

This news alone makes me feel like everything I've done to promote transit in LA was worth it!

I love LA!

JoMad, we all pay BILLIONS of dollars for ROADS that not all of us use. I pay for SCHOOLS I don't use, COPS and FIREFIGHTERS I don't call, and give plenty of money to hospitals and old people, neither of which I'm currently using.

Try not to over-simplify things. (And who mandated that "Boondoggle" would always be the buzzword to invoke for disliking transit. Find a new word.)

How about this: Moving people saves time and money and gets people to work. This is how a megalopolis stays competitive in a global market. You think a city stays cutting edge driving 10mph?

This is not enough. We're already way behind. Waaaaay Behind. This is the second largest city in the US.
THE largest metropolitan area in the US.
We approved Measure R for a reason. What's with this cop-out?
Why doesn't this reach SM?
Why is there no connector through Sunset/La Cienega.
I am totally disappointed but I guess not surprised.
Out of the 5 options, they chose the second most limited one.


How about a monorail system starting in Santa Clarita going over the I-5 / 405 into the South Bay, with stops at Rinaldi, Nordhoff / Roscoe, Burbank, Ventura, Mullholland, Sunset/UCLA, Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic / Pico, Venice, Washington, Century, El Segundo, Rosecrans and Manhattan Beach Blvds?

When it rains, ridership will skyrocket.

Once again, the San Fernando Valley gets screwed.

It sounds great in theory, but we simply can't afford it. Neither the County, State nor Federal governments has the funds to build this project and debt levels are so high that no new debt should be issued. If you can't afford an addition to your home, you make your current arrangement work, tighten your belt, and save to add the room at a later date; government at ALL levels, needs to do the same.

Nathan is right, thank Henry Waxman for this one. What would this have cost to build 15 years ago, when it should have been built?

Are there plans to extend it to Santa Monica in the future?

Can anyone name a major city in the world with a smaller subway system than Los Angeles? It's about time we did this.

So much for the "Subway to the Sea".

Anyone who deals with westside traffic would recognize that stopping at the VA instead of Barrington is simply foolish.

So we'll have to wait another generation for cool heads to prevail and finish the job.

I won't be here to pay for it.

We survived the construction of the Red Line, which went through areas that were just as densely populated as Wilshire. (In fact, we have already had construction under Wilshire east of Western Avenue.)

We will survive construction of the Purple Line to Brentwood just fine.

The gentleman from the Bus Riders' Union is wrong. This line will not disproportionately serve riders of a certain race, class or income. Many of the people using the line will be low income riders who work on the Westside or in Santa Monica, (and live elsewhere) including laborers, janitors, housekeepers and the like. They deserve a fast ride to work too, or does Mister Romann think that low income people are not deserving of decent transit options?

Nice to see that L.A. CITY residents are given the "lion's share" of transportation planning, while those of us living in L.A. County, OUTSIDE the city of L.A. STILL GET STRANDED AT BUS STOPS, AND WONDER WHEN OR WHETHER THE BUSES WILL EVEN SHOW THE HELL UP! In case anyone was wondering, the "MTA's" OFFICIAL NAME IS: Los Angeles COUNTY Metropolitan Transportation Agency. God forbid, ALL of L.A. County should benefit at the same time from the BOONDOGGLE that this "subway to the sea" WILL TURN OUT TO BE!

if any of you think you are going to live to see this finished you are kidding yourself.... this is another big gov. debacle.... light above ground rail is the answer, and is much cheaper and quicker to build..... like the orange line in the valley, it could be built and finished in two years, there are still old rail right of ways the city owns.............. mayor photo-op strikes again........... bet he is getting a fat contract from the developers when he finally quits....

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