U.S. Judge upholds federal approval of Purple Line Extension project

Some very good news for Metro and the Purple Line Extension subway project arrived on Friday: in a federal lawsuit brought against the Federal Transit Administration, U.S. District Court Judge George Wu upheld the FTA’s prior approval of the project.

What that means in non-legalese: Metro can move forward with finalizing a $1.2-billion federal grant and $307-million federally-backed loan to help pay for the project’s second phase between Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills and Century City. If Judge Wu had decided to vacate the FTA’s approval, that money could have been delayed or, even worse, lost and the project would have been delayed.

In order to build the subway, the federal grant and loan is being paired with money from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008 to fund a number of transit, road and other transportation projects. The first section of the subway between Wilshire/Western Station and Wilshire/La Cienega is currently under construction.

As a part of this ruling, Judge Wu is directing FTA to redo parts of the project’s environmental studies — mostly having to do with seismic studies and methane near the Beverly Hills High School and Century City. Metro has begun that work.

The federal lawsuit against the FTA was brought by the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. A similar state lawsuit by both plaintiffs against Metro was previously decided in Metro’s favor. The city and school district disputed the need for the subway project to tunnel under part of the Beverly Hills High School campus in order to avoid an earthquake fault along Santa Monica Boulevard.

Metro officials on Friday said they were grateful for the Judge’s ruling and that they look forward to delivering a project that will safely and quickly serve transit riders on the chronically-congested Westside.

45 replies

  1. Steve Hymon, in a journalistic turn worthy of the Minister of Propaganda in a banana republic, writes “US District Court Judge George Wu upheld the FTA’s prior approval of the project.” What actually happened was, as expected from the oral arguments, Judge Wu refused to vacate the ROD (Record of Decision). While Metro can continue to pursue federal grant funding, Judge Wu also adopted his tentative ruling, which found that the FTA and Metro acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and did not take the “hard look” required by NEPA.

    What that means in non-legalese: Metro and the FTA acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and failed to meet their commitments under federal law, something Judge Wu ordered to be remedied. Metro’s failings, as determined by Judge Wu, were distinctly not just a failure to “cross t’s and dot i’s,” as Metro’s spinmeisters have been contending.

    One can yet again guess that the utter arrogance reflected in Metro’s revisionist eliding of facts is a ultimately a consequence of the structural and systemic problem Metro has with its corporate governance, in which 62% of the County’s residents are not proportionally represented on the Metro Board. Until this fundamental problem has been addressed, something state Senator Tony Mendoza is attempting to do, it seems clear that an agency which claims a judge’s determination that it has acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner as a “victory” cannot and should not be trusted with additional taxpayer money, either from the federal government or from the taxpayers of the county.

    This attempt to insult the intelligence of its constituents is yet another reason why voters throughout the County should join cities like Torrance and Norwalk, as well as the Gateway Cities and South Bay Councils of Government in rejecting Metro’s November ballot initiative, which is a regressive money-grab of unparalleled scope. The initiative has first and foremost been tailored not to give the taxpayers the best mobility value-for-money, but to get the tax itself passed, as Metro seems more concerned with sucking up and spending money than with mobility itself. What this county needs is a transit agency which focuses first and foremost on mobility, not politics.

    And let’s not forget that Metro’s November sales tax scheme is a forever tax; and forever is a long, long time…

    • The most powerful NIMBY city lobby in LA county cannot forever holdback the transit that the other residents need. Who knows maybe 90210 will even finally get out of the car???

    • So….

      -Gets billions of dollars in federal and state investment in a new underground heavy rail rapid transit line to serve the mobility needs of a small but wealthy West Side hamlet.

      -Complains hamlet not getting fair representation by Metro and that Metro doesn’t care about mobility.

      Irony haha

      • No, not “complains,” but points out that Metro is more concerned with sucking up and spending money than mobility itself (see how Measure M has been put together not with mobility first and foremost in mind, but with the sole goal of getting the tax itself passed. Points out that Metro offers no viable first/last mile solutions and develops a pioneering program to solve the issue of local mobility. Points out that the Metro board has a structural democratic deficiency, designed to give the city of LA outsized voting power..


        About the only irony here is that one of the most well funded transit agencies in the US advises riders to “use Uber” rather than working on public transportation solutions.

    • The South Bay and Gateway cities are just mad that the expansion of the 5 freeway is far down the list for projects in Measure R2. I know they want to drive faster but I’m glad that transit projects are the first priority in this new Measure. In fact, I almost didn’t vote for Measure R because it had so much highway money. I mean we are talking about further expansion of a 6 lane highway into a 10 lane highway in the case of the 5 expansion. The second they relive the bottleneck it will save maybe 2-3 minutes a day per driver and in time likely no time will be saved due to induced and latent demand, something we see time and time again – see 405 expansion (granted slightly different problems are being addressed but both are for ease of driving). Let’s not pretend that these cities would be against this Measure if it front loaded their highway project. I think Metro did the right thing by front loading transit projects, god forbid that we get new or improved transit options in a county of million instead of doubling down on more driving.

      • Metro CEO Phil Washington says that Metro needs the Forever Tax because “we’re not just building for now, we’re building for the next 100 years.” If that’s the case, then don’t just look to the past, how about looking to the next 100 years? There are transformative transit technologies which can revolutionize public transportation beyond the traditional models and a forward-thinking transit agency which is “building for the next 100 years” needs to incorporate them as a major part of their plans for the future.

        The ridiculous $10 billion tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass — proposed by Metro to make political hay for Valley voters rather than to get the best value for mobility dollars — is the poster-child for outdated, backward-looking thinking and wasteful spending. Instead, Metro should be considering converting a portion of the 405 to autonomous-only lanes, in addition to integrating AV technology itself into public transportation. More efficient use of existing infrastructure, in addition to getting commuters to ride together in public transportation vehicles. Highways and roads are only a negative when they are not being used efficiently (something the one person/one vehicle paradigm can never achieve) or in an environmentally-friendly manner (something which can be avoided with green, fully autonomous vehicles),

        The ultimate goal and gold standard for public transportation needs to be on-demand, point-to-point mobility, something we are focused on developing for our own Community.

      • I’m not a big fan when massive governmental agencies act in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and fail to uphold federal environmental laws. Guess I’m just old-fashioned in that way…

    • So the Mayor of Beverly Hills resorts to name calling and personally attacking a journalist when he doesn’t get his way…. sounds like another certain Republican we all know that happens to be running for office…

      • I’m personally attacking the spin of an employee of a governmental agency. Just imagine if the IRS or the EPA or the DEA were held by a federal court to have acted in “an arbitrary and capricious” manner, having violated federal law. Would those agencies claim that as a “victory,” or would the perhaps look at it as a wake-up call to try to better in the future? The sheer arrogance needs to be called out.

        Actually, I’m also decrying the role of money in politics and a system which is rigged by special interests. I’d say that’s a bit more like a certain Democratic candidate who never had a chance because he wasn’t part of the Establishment…

        • This is the same language every other Media outlet is using. Steve is not putting a spin on this. See below.

          KPCC: “Beverly Hills loses its latest challenge to stop the Purple Line extension”
          LA Times: “Metro subway project through Beverly Hills can continue, judge rules”
          Curbed LA: “Purple line subway extension to Westwood beats another lawsuit”
          Streetsblog: “Metro Victory In Beverly Hills’ Anti-Purple Line Subway Lawsuit”

          You’re “decrying the role of money in politics”?? How about the millions of dollars your school system on spent fighting progress instead of improving education? That is money down the drain with nothing to show for it. And somehow you connect this to Bernie? Keep trolling a transportation blog, John. Very mayor-like behavior.

        • It’s probably worth noting, again, that John Mirisch also represents the government. He’s the mayor of the city of Beverly Hills.

          The Judge’s ruling is posted here and I encourage everyone to take a look to see what the Judge determined. There’s a fairly accessible explanation beginning at the bottom of page 11. Page 19 is also interesting. But I’d encourage you to read the ruling in its entirety as there are a lot of footnotes and other interestingness about the case.

          The gist of it, in one sentence from the ruling: “As to those errors, the Court did not find that the FTA had actually made substantive decisions (e.g., the selection of the location for the Century City subway station) that were demonstrably wrong.”

          There is more to it than that, but that’s the crux of it: the Court has ordered the FTA to redo parts of the environmental studies but the court didn’t find that the environmental studies reached a flawed conclusion. The plaintiffs have repeatedly tried to have the federal approval of the project (the ‘record of decision’) thrown out so that a new study may — key word ‘may’ — reach a different conclusion. The Judge upheld the ‘record of decision’ (i.e. the federal approval) for the project. That’s a good thing, allowing Metro to pursue a federal grant and loan for the project’s second phase, which will extend the subway to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

    • Mayor Mirisch,

      Firstly, if you explain something in “non-legalese” -not that you actually clarified anything at all; Steve Hymon did that for us- you’d want to avoid using the actual legal terms in your clarification.

      Secondly, your pseudo-intellectual rant is entirely about your right wing disgust of having to contribute tax dollars to a regional transportation problem you’d rather continue pretending doesn’t effect your constituents. Not only this, but you’ve strongly advocated for the expenditure of the now over 10 million dollars your school district is wasting on principle and lawyers rather than your children.

      Lastly, your reference and comparison of Mr. Hymon to a “Minister of Propaganda” is appalling. Worded and capitalized as you have done, it is an unmistakable comparison to the Nazi war criminal Joseph Goebbels.

      Steve Hymon deserves a public apology immediately.

      • Ever heard of Godwin’s law, Joshuah? Evidently not… My comment is quite clear. In calling out Mr. Hymon’s spin and claims of “victory” despite the court’s ruling that Metro acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, having violated federal environmental laws, my comparison is with the minister of propaganda of “a banana republic.” It has nothing whatsoever to do with WWII and your intimation is nothing short of absurd.

        Yes, I do think that principles matter. Yes, I do think governmental agencies should actually listen to the constituencies they are supposed to serve. No, I don’t think special interests should rule and I feel we need to eliminate the influence of money when it comes to public policy. And, yes, I do oppose arbitrariness and capriciousness in governmental agencies, and so should you.

        I am Swedish, so, no, I don’t mind paying taxes for the good of the region, but I do feel we have a right to expect the best value for those taxpayer dollars.

        The way to solve regional transportation problems is by listening to local communities and cooperation, not by arrogance, and it needs to be based on fair, proportional representation.

      • Agreed. This man’s language is disgusting. I’m shocked to see this from a sitting mayor of Beverly Hills

    • Complaining about the governing structure of Metro? You want proportional representation? Okay. The City of BH has 34,658 residents. (2013 est) Los Angeles County has 10,170,292 residents (2015 est) That gives Los Angeles County proportionally about 294 votes to each one of the City of BH.

      Maybe a better governing structure can be found, but it is a little bit rich that one of the smallest Cities in the Metro service area say it should have a bigger vote, which is what you are saying.

  2. Woohooo!!! Those schmucks and their reasoning behind opposing the line under BHHS are annoying to say the least. Everything they have to say is a bunch of malarkey!!!!

  3. Thank you Mr. Hymon for bringing that point forward. As I previously posted regarding the City of Beverly Hills, their ultimate goal is to be as isolated as possible from the rest of the county. They are one of the few cities that does not allow the City of L.A.’s ATSAC traffic control system to synchronize the signals along Wilshire Bl. They need to be exposed as to their true motivation. Fortunately, the commuters in this county won’t be required to suffer gridlock in the near future.

  4. It seems to me that the only people getting in the way of mobility is Beverly HIlls. You got allot of nerve opposing the Measure after the Beverly Hills School District used funds from Measure E to pay for these lawsuits. Beverly Hills High School has no problem with allowing drilling for oil, exposing the students to god knows what on top of being an eye sore. Yet tunneling underneath which would have almost no impact and benefit the entire county and all of a sudden the school has a problem. Its a double standard! You’ve wasted everyone’s time and diverted valuable resources just to have Metro cross their t’s and dot their i’s? Wasting yet more money and more time. I’ve never seen such poor governance.

  5. John Mirisch’s legacy work is bringing down the subway and Metro. History will not look kindly on him. And we’re seeing how successful his mission is going.

    • Nonsense. I don’t think anybody’s goal in BH was to “bring down the subway.” Nor is it to “bring down Metro,” but to get the agency to work in a way which focuses on mobility first and listening to the needs of the communities it is supposed to serve. In fact, on a local level, the goal of Beverly Hills is to develop a public transportation system which will provide on-demand, point-to-point mobility. Our goal is to turn public transportation into a first choice and to democratize public transportation in the process.

      Unfortunately, because of its governance structure, Metro seems to be bogged down into making political decisions, which don’t necessarily focus on mobility first and which sometimes create institutional arrogance. However, there are transit agencies out there like Contra Costa County which are forward-thinking and using transformative advances in transportation technology are looking to change the face of public transportation for the better..

  6. And it’s indeed funny/strange/ironic to accuse others of money grabs when you’ve used how much of your city’s construction bond money for a failing lawsuit? How many millions at this point?

  7. I definitely agree with the last two comments. This is just a sorry political snub at the city of Los Angeles and the rest of the county. Let’s not talk about lack of mobility in Beverly Hills vs cities like Torrance and Norwalk. Those cities are truly under served. In time hopefully those issues will be worked out to serve the residents of those cities Meanwhile, the city of. Beverly Hills has at least 2 bus routes with 24 hour service, 2 rapid bus routes,a subway under construction and other routes serving the city with 20 min headways or less. You are not under served by any means. Stop railroading the progress for the rest of the county just because you want to be an isolated city.

    • More nonsense. You yourself say that BH has bus routes, the subway under construction, etc. Nobody wants to be an “isolated city.” Nobody wants to “railroad progress.” We do, however, want governmental agencies which are supposed to serve us, along with the rest of the region, to act in a responsive, responsible and non-arrogant manner. We don’t want them to act in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and we do want them to adhere to NEPA.

      It’s clear that this behavior is the result of Metro’s undemocratic governance structure which underrepresents 62% of the county’s residents (including BH). Our interest is fair decision making which benefits the entire county, including Torrance and Norwalk, and we are supportive of their efforts (and those of other cities) to get fair and equitable treatment by Metro. Here is an article I wrote with the mayor of Torrance, expressing those views:


      While nobody wants to “railroad progress,” we can agree to disagree on what constitutes progress mobility-wise. An unnecessary $10 billion through the Sepulveda Pass doesn’t fill that bill for me. The money could be better spent elsewhere, including to serve communities like Torrance and Norwalk. Fixing the deficiency in governance which gives the city of LA outsized voting power (and disadvantaging the rest of the county) is at the core of the political problem, which leads to both bad decisions and arbitrary and capricious behavior, rooted in arrogance. Don’t get me wrong: LA is extremely important to regional transportation; but regional decisions need to be arrived at collaboratively, and in some cases the needs of other communities need to be prioritized.

      And, quite frankly, in my opinion, the very definition of progress means embracing new transportation technologies with a forward-thinking vision, rather than “same old, same old.” First/last mile solutions are a major piece of the regional transportation puzzle, and it is simply irresponsible for one of the most well-funded transit agencies in the nation to advise commuters to “use Uber” rather than present viable, public solutions.

      • Funny that you continue to focus on unrelated issues like the Sepulveda Pass corridor and the makeup of the Metro Board. This lawsuit involved only one thing: the Purple Line Extension. You say that you don’t want to be an “isolated city,” yet you continue to oppose the extension of the subway into your city. You say you want what is best for mobility, yet you are against the alignment of the Purple Line that everyone agrees leads to the best ridership and mobility (or at least better than the alternative your side has been advocating). You say you don’t want to “bring down the train,” yet you are clearly upset that the train is moving forward. You claim that Steve Hymon, as a government employee, is putting a “spin” on his reporting, when it is you who repeatedly focuses on one sentence and ignores the rest of the ruling. You decry the “focus on politics” instead of mobility, but keep changing the subject to other political attacks, while ignoring the actual issue surrounding the Purple Line: mobility. Nothing you are saying is logically consistent

  8. It’s sad that BH keeps up with their stall tactics but hilarious that they lose at almost every turn.

  9. I’m sorry to jump in here, but is the MAYOR of Beverly Hills honestly COMMENTING on this article? I understand the act of argumenting by comment is a right here, but it just seems like a perfect reflection upon Beverly Hills (and the NIMBYs of the nation), all talk and zero actual progress.

    If only we could all afford to live a life without the hurdles of politics, but sadly the Metro Board has been conditioned through the years to jump at any chance they can since sadly the voice of the commenters always seems to set progress backwards…

    • Heaven forbid that we have a non-professional, elected official who engages in public dialogue, stands up for his Community, in this case by trying to refute spin which would characterize a federal judge’s decision that a governmental agency had acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner, and had violated NEPA as “a victory.” Heaven forbid we should have elected officials who actually participate in discussions. Well, to quote a Council colleague: “Once a blogger, always a blogger…”

      And, of course, the stale, tired NIMBY cliche doesn’t apply in the least, unless you consider someone to be a “NIMBY” who feels governmental agencies should follow federal law, be responsive to the communities they are supposed to serve, shouldn’t engage in crony capitalism, etc…

      However, I do agree that Metro should make decisions which focus on mobility rather than politics. That’s the entire problem with the proposed Forever Tax: Metro is more focused on getting the tax passed by doling out transportation crumbs around the county rather than looking to give the entire county the best mobility bang for those taxpayer bucks. They are more concerned with the optics of promising big, sexy projects like a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass (which does not represent good value-for-money, mobility-wise) to win votes, than in being forward-thinking and looking to innovative solutions which represent the future of public transportation.

    • Sad that you have that one line in the NEPA suit to cling to. What about the other rulings that held up Metro’s EIR? Funny how those aren’t mentioned.

    • We care about good corporate governance of a massive public agency, because all of the 87 cities in LA county which are not the city of LA are in the same boat. Pretty simple.

      And if you think the principle of “one person, one vote” is a “strawman” argument, well, then, that just speaks to you…

  10. Well, they do have to do what they can to keep the riffraff (i.e., people who actually work for a living) out. Not that it makes a whole lot of difference: they haven’t managed to keep buses out.

    • This tired stereotype is simply not true. In fact, the lawsuit itself had nothing to do with stopping the subway, but about moving it one block to the original location.

      • Which the seismologists and geotechnical experts had indicated was problematic (putting the station at Santa Monica instead of Constellation). Instead, Beverly Hills folks and their supporters like Supervisor Mike Antonovich personally attacked Dr. Lucy Jones and compared her to a “weather girl” and others as “trained seals”. When Antonovich and his supporters made those attacks on professionals, that basically lost their credibility in my mind. Beverly Hills was unable to prove that Constellation was unsafe or that Santa Monica was safer than Constellation.

  11. I hope today was his day off because looking at the time stamps of his posts it seems the Mayor of Beverly Hills is spending time at the office to troll supporters of the Purple Line Extension…

  12. Based on Mr. Mirisch’s overwhelmingly verbose and poorly thought out comments, it appears that intelligence and thoughtfulness are not prerequisites for being selected to be mayor of BH. Looks like he’s taking pages straight out of Trump’s playbook.