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?
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.