Group uses ad to push for subway to Santa Monica

Part of LA Neighbors United's ad in the L.A. Times today promoting a subway line to downtown Santa Monica. Click above for a larger image.

Print readers of the Los Angeles Times saw something unusual in their morning paper today: a full-page ad imploring the Metro Board of Directors to vote on Thursday for a route that would take the Westside Subway Extension all the way to downtown Santa Monica. The ad was purchased by a group called LA Neighbors United.

The group’s website describes itself as “a loosely knit organization of individuals and groups concerned about a variety of community issues. LA Neighbors United helps ensure citizens’ views are heard and respected by policymakers.” The group was also featured in this recent LA Business Journal story about a dispute over changes to the city of Los Angeles’ planning code.

Attentive readers already know that the Metro Board is scheduled to vote at their meeting on Thursday (9 a.m. at Metro headquarters in downtown L.A.) on a route for the subway extension project and to also launch a final environmental study for the line. The Metro planning staff has recommended to the Board a route that would take the subway from its current Purple Line terminus at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue to a station near the VA Hospital in Westwood, mostly via Wilshire Boulevard.

Here’s a brief Q&A on the subject:

Why is the subway only going to Westwood?

The short explanation comes down to one word: “money.”

Between expected federal funding and Measure R sales tax dollars, Metro only has the funds at this time to build the subway to Westwood. Extending the subway all the way to downtown Santa Monica and adding a line between Hollywood and Beverly Hills via West Hollywood were also studied to see how much they would cost and how they would perform.

How did they perform?

Click above to see a larger image.

Actually, pretty well by federal standards — but not quite well enough to meet the criteria for federal funding of the project. Generally speaking, the issue is that both lines would certainly attract riders, but not enough to justify the cost of a subway, which is far more expensive than, say, street-level light rail or a busway. The chart at right shows the ridership projections.

And after the jump is a page from the subway’s draft environmental study comparing the different alternatives on a variety of measures.

How much would it cost to build those other alternatives?

In 2009 dollars — it will cost more when the subway is actually built — here are the costs:

Alt 1 (Wilshire/Western to Westwood/UCLA): $4.036 billion.

Alt 2 (Wilshire/Western to Westwood/VA Hospital): $4.358 billion.

Alt 3 (Wilshire/Western to 4th/Wilshire in Santa Monica): $6.116 billion.

Alt 4: (Wilshire/Western to Westwood plus WeHo line): $6.985 billion.

Alt 5: (Wilshire/Western to Santa Monica plus WeHo line): $8.747 billion.

Does this mean that a subway to Santa Monica or through West Hollywood will never be built?

No. But a lot of funding is going to have to be found to do so.

And at this point, that money is tied up in other Measure R transit projects, including the Expo Line to Santa Monica. A Wilshire subway in Santa Monica and the Expo Line — running down Colorado Boulevard — would only be one-half mile apart.

Related: An earlier Source post on all the staff recommendations for the Westside subway project.

Click above for a larger image.

18 replies

  1. I have heard this excuse about the Expo and the Subway being only half a mile apart. But how far apart are they when the subway ends at the VA? Are riders and tourists supposed to take a bus down to Olympic which 1.5 miles. Or if they want to get to the Promanade – do they take a bus down Wilshire? And how much time would that add? Is the planning board familiar with the traffic on Wilshire/Santa Monica/Olympic/ Pico, etc, just west of the 405? People getting off at the VA wishing to get to the Promanade will be stranded. Additional buses will just further congest already overwhelmed streets. And once they get on a bus the ride in traffic will be at least 40 minutes during rush hour, maybe more. Look at the congestion – that is where the subway should go under. And the congestion is well west of the 405. If you want to use the ½ mile excuse, then end the subway where it is only a half mile from the Expo line (14th street) and provide a shuttle.

  2. Just a thought.

    I wonder if Metro consolidated having two stations at 16th and 26th Street each to one station at 20th Street if the cost-effectiveness wouldn’t perform better. 20th Street is a good north/south street to run connecting buses. That would reduce the cost of getting the Purple Line to 4th Street. But would 4th Street, 20th Street and Bundy be too far apart.

  3. The fact that the two stops be a half mail apart is even more of a reason to push for the subway construction to continue to Santa Monica. It would create a near complete link between the two lines and further encourage ridership.

    I believe the current projections for ridership of the line if built out to Santa Monica are unrealistic. The Westside communities are full of people looking for ways off the freeway and out of the car, but we work all over the city, including many of us in Westwood and along Wilshire.

    The 405/10 interchange is one of the busiest in the country. A large end-of-the-line parking lot and bus station will further add to the congestion. Moving the end of the line past the VA hospital can only improve the situation.

    With an estimated added cost of 1.758 billion to extend the line to Santa Monica, this option is not cheap. However, a .25% sales tax increase in Santa Monica for a fixed number of years, fundraising within the private sector and possible federal funds matching could make it happen. Very unlikely anyone will propose such a thing. Wish we cared more about our cities future.

  4. I see how the “overlap” would be a cause to await additional funding. I do not see any reason Metro can not decide the full route and leave the portion from the VA to the Promenade for a last phase when more funding is found. Here is the major issue I have with this – I do not ride through downtown LA for every trip I want to take. I already can not go from BH to Hollywood. And this does not help me get between the areas I spend most of my time unless I decide to take a jaunt over to downtown. I love using the subway and light rails. But unless I am going back and forth between 2 destinations, it prevents me from moving about town as I would in a car. I love the options that are coming up. Keep pushing to add the WeHo line and fill in some north/south connectors. It is really lame to have to route through downtown for every trip, but it’s fine as long as the rest of the lines are being pushed forward.

  5. The fact that the Expo Line and Wilshire subway in Santa Monica will be close to each other is a good thing. In fact, the two lines should meet at 4th and Colorado, allowing an easy transfer–and greater ridership–for both when built.

  6. PLEASE vote for subway alternative #3.

    Do not stop at Westwood. What is the point in leaving the largest metro area on the westside unserved by the subway.

    The problem is that the subway now, is that it goes from nowhere to nowhere. Why use it. Make it go from Downtown LA to the sea and watch it *FINALLY* become a success!

    Board of Directors: Think BIG or go home, by car..

    Please do not make me wait 30 years until I am in a wheel chair and can no longer drive.

    PLEASE vote for subway alternative #3.

  7. Ok first of all, the claim that the current subway goes from nowhere to nowhere is just plain false. The SFV Valley is not nowhere, and Downtown LA and Union Station are clearly not nowhere, and I’m sure the 150,000 people who use the subway daily will agree with me.

    2nd, the Purple Line probably will make it to the sea at some point, and I agree that terminating at the VA is undesirable. But the fact of the matter is, Santa Monica will be getting a parallel rail line (From the sea to Downtown LA) and within the next 5 years at that. That’s way better than most areas of the county. Sooo, the moral here is, I’m sorry that you’re going to have to wait, but you are, and you shouldn’t discount the Expo line: it’s going to be great.

    That being said, I wish the residents of Beverly and Cheviot Hills shared the enthusiasm for rail of Santa Monica (and also West Hollywood)!! It’s very refreshing. Please stay involved in the ongoing discussion, and maybe try and spread some of that zest for rail to those loud and annoying NIMBY’s =)

  8. Yes vote YES for alternative #3, I agree that it is and will cost alot of money, but if we would have done this 30 years ago it would have ben cheaper and done, but if we wait 30 more years, it will cost way more than it will today, and we will most likey be in the same position as now, voting to build or not. Remember folks, 30 years ago was plans to have the 710 fwy. connect with the 210 fwy., it was to be completed by the year 2000. Here it is the years 2010, I still see the same weeds growing where afwy should be, and yet still wasting money on “vote and study” projects. Do not let Alt. #3 turn into “the 710” VOTE YES.
    I love this comment by a guy name Fred
    “Please do not make me wait 30 years until I am in a wheel chair and can no longer drive.”

  9. As I understand how the Federal Funding rules work, if Metro were to propose a project without a plan for complete funding of the project, they would be disqualified from the needed Federal Grant monies. In other words, the Fed’s will not dedicate money to a project that doesn’t have all the resources needed to be completed. This is why the final (SM)phase will need to wait until the complete funding plan can be identified.

    Also, there is no connection in the rationales between the I-710 gap and this one. The I-710 has been stalled due to agressive opposition by the neighborhoods and communities affected, not by funding. If the SM neighborhoods continue their vocal support, the project will come.

    Lastly, I also have to disagree with Fred. Anyone (such as myself) who uses Metrolink to get to LAUS knows and understands how successful the Red/Purple lines are at getting commuters from 6 counties (Ventura, LA, SBdo, Riv., Orange & SD) to their downtown destinations just by watching all the riders heading to/from the subway. Not to mention the Valley Commuters who connect at NoHo via the Orange Line.

    A final thought: If Purple Line Construction is able to be accelerated as some desire, will Metrolink have the additional rolling stock and service improvements in place prior to the Purple Line opening to handle the increase in ridership that will come with the expanded subway?

  10. Metro Board, you MUST vote for alt #3. I will only be restating what others have already said, but it’s imperative to finish what was started so long ago. Another disingenuous subway to … Westwood won’t change the car dynamic enough to make the subway a success. Why spend 4.2 billion for half a line when you can spend the 25% more and get the whole thing? How can you justify, even in monetary terms, leaving out the city, the sea, to which this whole subway was based on. Alternative #3 is the only way to go!
    Please don’t let the city of Los Angeles down.

    Few things bring LA together besides the Lakers, the completed subway to the Santa Monica is one of them. VOTE FOR ALTERNATIVE #3 !!!

  11. Just so none of this shouting is giving false hope to the City of Santa Monica, the chances of the Metro Board voting for alternative 3 tomorrow at the meeting are more or less zero. Money does not grow on trees, or appear out of thin air. Every single dollar of Alternative 2 already has an identified source, whereas none of the additional money that would be needed for alternative 3 does, and no amount of saying “Please vote for Alternative 3!” is going to change that by tomorrow. So don’t get your hopes up.

    But, like I said above, don’t give up hope either. Nobody is saying that the extension to the sea shouldn’t be built when the money comes in. And please please please, do not discount the Expo line! Providing direct service between Downtown, USC, and the Promenade is going to dramatically alter access to your city. Get excited for it!

  12. Many people genuinely want the subway to go to Santa Monica, whether or not it has funding.

    However, based on other anti-urban, pro-road statements made by this organization, I suspect the group’s true motive is to kill the subway project altogether. They are using the “Build it right or don’t build it at all” language, where “right” is not feasible. This leaves “don’t build it at all”.

    For now, focus on Alternative 2. When the money becomes available, build the Santa Monica segment.

  13. the Expo line will be great. But the subway and the Expo will travel two completely different paths: North of the 10 and South of the 10. They might as well be two different worlds – and the two shall never meet. And the subway would make the trip FAR faster than the Expo line. There will be many more “places of interest” on the subway. Culver City will be a great stop for restaurants and nightlife for the Expo line. But what else is there between Culver and USC? Even USC has far less to offer than Westwood for non-students or football fans. Expo will be nice. Subway will be awesome.

  14. Most cities have only one line coming to or through them if any train at all,for all the money it would take to have two lines in santa monica does’nt seem sensible,when there are many cities a rail line does’nt even come close to.

  15. Santa Monica is a jobs center (Water Garden, Yahoo Center, Google, RAND, Bergamont, etc, etc.. People need to get to the jobs. People don’t want to drive to Santa Monica anymore b/c the traffic is terrible. Where do the people live who work in Santa Monica? The Westside along Wilshire. Not along the Expo line. Many, many more people will take the Subway to work in Santa Monica (if it’s ever built) than the Expo line.

  16. The Expo line ought to have turned and gone southwest down Venice Boulevard all the way to the waterfront. Now, the subway will not extend as far as it needs to.

    Not having a station on the south side of Wilshire at Sawtelle would be so representative of the idiotic way that things get done in L.A.

    UCLA is a major concentration of urban activity considering the numbers of students, staff and faculty, plus visitors. And so the idiots would have a station way south on Wilshire Boulevard. All of those highrises along Wilshire do not begin to compare with the daily population up on campus.

  17. I was living in Shanghai in ’95 when they opened the 1st subway segment of a few miles. This year, they are surpassing NYC in distance. Where’s our vision? BUILD THE SUBWAY ALL THE WAY TO SANTA MONICA!!! Is the US finished?