Another downtown subway station?

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I wanted to circle back to the end of Thursday’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge was serving on the Board yesterday as a one-day substitute — two of the city of Los Angeles appointees to the Board were absent — and at the end of the meeting LaBonge made a simple verbal motion.

He wanted to know if it would be possible to extend subway service downtown to Sixth Street. LaBonge’s reasoning: although Union Station serves as a terminus for subway service, the tracks continue south from Union Station and rise to street level, ending at Metro’s subway maintenance facility between Santa Fe Avenue and the Los Angeles River.

In LaBonge’s view, the infrastructure is already there and all that’s needed is a platform for passengers. So why not add another mile of subway service to the downtown arts district at minimal cost?

I first met Councilman LaBonge in Jan. 2005, when I was assigned to cover the Council for the L.A. Times. On that very first meeting he mentioned his idea about the subway and it’s something he’s been talking about for a long time to a lot of people. He even has large posterboard maps in his office showing where a station could be. It’s just one of those ideas that hasn’t gained traction at Metro.

I’ve always thought it was an intriguing concept. The obvious question is how much would it cost — nothing is free in the world of mass transit — and whether there’s enough demand in the arts district to justify that cost. The area has certainly seen a steady increase in residential housing and seems poised to continue to blossom, but neighborhood sidewalks aren’t exactly overwhelmed with people.

Still, downtown Los Angeles covers a huge area and rail service is mostly concentrated in the central business district. Bringing other parts of downtown into the rail fold is certainly enticing and for that reason, The Source very much looks forward to posting the Metro staff report on LaBonge’s idea.

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