Subway poll, part three: the Westwood/UCLA station

This is the third in our series of polls on issues facing the Westside Subway Extension. It’s The Source’s way of unscientifically gauging the public’s general opinions about some of the big issues facing the subway project, which is in its planning stages.

The first poll asked readers if they believed a station should be built at Wilshire & Crenshaw (the no’s prevailed) and the second poll asked the best location for the station in Century City (Avenue of the Stars and Constellation was the top vote getter).

Click above to see a larger image.

Now we turn our attention to Westwood. As part of the project’s draft environmental impact study/report, Metro planners are concentrating on two station locations, shown at right.

The locations are, in fact, very close to one another. One is under Wilshire Boulevard, on the west side of Westwood Boulevard — the main access point from Wilshire to Westwood Village and the UCLA campus. The other location is just north and west of that location, under UCLA parking lot #36.

Here are some of the issues with the Westwood station:

•Depending on which alternative gets built, as many as 14,300 people are expected to board at this station each weekday, a number that doesn’t include the likely thousands that will get off trains at this station. That could make it one of the highest boarding stations in the entire Metro Rail system. That’s not surprising given the proximity of the station to UCLA, the UCLA Medical Center, high-rise offices and the nearby Federal Building.

•That’s a lot of people to move in, out and around this location. That means the station has to be conducive to good pedestrian, bike and bus connections.

•This is only the only station on the Westside Extension that will require two entrances on the day it opens, according to Metro planners — who see the need to help get all those people to and from trains. For example, one entrance could be on the north side of Wilshire, the other on the south side. The remainder of the stations are being designed so that additional entrances can be added at a later date.

•Having the station under or near Wilshire keeps the line shorter — an important consideration if it is to continue to the west. Under current funding and Metro’s long-range plan, the Westside Subway Extension for now will only go as far west as Westwood.

•That includes the possibility of adding one more station beyond Westwood/UCLA and ending the line for now at the VA Hospital in Westwood. There remains the possibility that the subway could be funded all the way to Santa Monica in the future.

•One advantage of having the stations near Wilshire is that it would increase pedestrian traffic through Westwood Village, which would help the long-standing goal to revitalize the area. This is something that interests planners in the city of Los Angeles.

•As the above slide indicates, putting the station under lot 36 wouldn’t be as difficult as directly under Wilshire in terms of construction impacts. It might also allow some more flexibility in developing solutions to helping move all those people beyond the station location. The intersection at Wilshire & Westwood may be the “center” of the area along Wilshire, but it’s very congested and existing sidewalks are narrow.

•It’s likely that UCLA will develop that parking lot #36 one day. Locating the station on their property would allow it to be fully integrated with whatever the university plans — and also allow UCLA to potentially have a greater presence along Wilshire.

• If the line is ever to go west of the 405 Freeway, it needs to also pass the Los Angeles National Cemetery, where thousands of our nation’s fallen soldiers are buried on more than 114 acres. As best as anyone at Metro has determined, rail lines have been built near cemeteries but not directly under them. It would be very difficult to route subway tunnels around the cemetery from the northern part of Westwood Village or the UCLA campus because of the tight turns required. The image above shows this.

•Subway planners tell me that it’s too soon for any formal commitments, but they’ve had positive conversations with the UCLA administration about the Lot 36 location.

• Depending on where the stations are actually located, it’s about a three-quarter mile walk to Ackerman Plaza on the UCLA campus and about a mile to Royce Hall and other buildings on the northern part of campus.

•For the sake of comparison, the BART station in Berkeley is not located on the campus of UC Berkeley. It’s about an .8-mile walk to Sproul Plaza on that campus and just a bit more to the Campanile. It’s an uphill walk, similar to the walk from Wilshire to UCLA’s campus.

• There is already a lot of bus transit service in the Westwood area operated by Metro, Santa Monica, Culver City, UCLA and others. Being more flexible than rail, bus lines could be rerouted to better connect with rail. UCLA already runs a popular shuttle bus that stops at Lot 36 that runs through the campus.

•Building a station under Westwood Village closer to campus could be logistically difficult because narrow streets would present a challenge getting construction equipment in and out of the site — and could make the removal of dirt tricky.

For more information on the project, visit the Westside Subway Extension page on the Metro website. The public can also follow ongoing issues with the subway on the Westside Subway Extension’s Facebook page and its Twitter feed.