WESTWOOD/VA STATION: For obvious reasons, a lot of attention has been paid to the Westside Subway Extension’s Century City station and the subway alignment in Beverly Hills. There’s no need to belabor those issues here.
But one of the more overlooked stories involving the subway project involves the Westwood/VA Hospital station. In the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report, released Monday, Metro staff recommend placing the station on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, just east of Bonsall Avenue and just west of the 405 freeway.
This is the last station on the line. Why? Measure R and Metro’s long-range plan have funding for the subway to reach Westwood but not beyond. It’s a tough situation because not much farther west, just beyond San Vicente Boulevard, are thousands of residents — many of whom will probably want to use the new train.
Let’s back up a step. The best part about this station location is its proximity to the VA Hospital entrance. I think most of us would agree that our nation’s veterans deserve the best healthcare we can provide for them — and they also deserve first-class transit to help them reach medical facilities. The subway will accomplish that.
And every sign points to an escalating need for health-care for our soldiers. From the New York Times last month:
The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.
Even if the subway goes farther west — and one day it might — I think there’s a pretty compelling case that can be made for building a station in front of the hospital. We take care of our own, it’s the right thing to do. Period.
The station actually gets beyond that great barrier known as the 405 Freeway. Everyone knows how awful traffic can be on the east-west streets approaching the 405, even before the current 405 widening began. This station should reduce some of the traffic that would otherwise come into highly congested Westwood if the line ended there.
Of course, the station will also have to serve as the gateway to and from the Purple Line subway for the many people who live and work west of the 405 freeway along the Wilshire corridor. There are several challenges here: it’s (for example) a .4-mile walk from the corner of San Vicente/Federal and Wilshire (i.e. the closest residences) to the station entrance, there will not be any public parking at the station and this section of Wilshire is particularly congested, in part because of traffic entering and exiting the 405 freeway.
This is where the bus, bike, pedestrian and drop-off connections become critical. The buses running on Wilshire have to quickly get people to and from that Westwood/VA station. It’s a classic example of what transit planners like to call “first mile/last mile” connections — in other words, how to get people to and from transit stations.
One thing that should help is the Wilshire bus lane project which is adding an eastbound peak period bus lane between Centinela and Sepulveda and a westbound lane between Federal and Centinela. The bus lane is due to be built in the next three years.
It’s going to be a while until the subway arrives in Westwood — the best case funding scenario has the subway completed there in 2022. That’s not easy to swallow but there is one upside: that’s a good decade for Metro to continue to work with the VA and others on connections to the new subway station and ensure it meets its full potential.
GOING TO COURT?: In the past few months, I’ve seen occasional postings on websites that say that if a lawsuit is filed against a particular transit or road project, a court could end up deciding where stations are built, etc.
Not so, people. Lawsuits filed against transportation projects typically allege that the environmental impact reports did not meet the requirements of state law know as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). As a result, courts rule on whether the process was followed in compiling reports. They don’t rule on whether a particular station should be here instead of there or whether a rail grade crossings is okay at street level or needs to be on a bridge.
What that means is that at the end of the day, Metro will make the final decisions on its projects. The process may be challenged in court — but not the actual decisions. Something to keep in mind.
GOLD LINE RIDERSHIP: I’ve lived near the Gold Line for its entire eight-year existence and trains are as crowded as I can remember seeing them.
I’m sure gas prices are a big factor. But I suspect an equally important reason is that trains run so often during peak periods — every six to seven minutes from 5:40 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bottom line: those traveling on the Gold Line during rush hour, spend the bulk of their time actually traveling and not waiting on a platform.
More coverage of the subway’s FEIS/R: