Westside subway poll, part five: the VA Hospital station

Our first three polls on the Westside Subway Extension looked at potential station locations. We took a break last week to discuss the issue of whether parking was needed at stations. About 87% of readers said they would be regular riders even without free or cheap parking at stations

One potential location under study for a VA Hospital station. Click above for a larger image.

For this week’s poll, I wanted to return to the issue of location, location, location. One of the places under study by Metro staff is placing a station at or near the VA Hospital in Westwood, just west of the 405 freeway. It’s an interesting location, as it gets the subway west of the 405 — that great traffic barrier on the Westside — but doesn’t get the subway to Brentwood.

Before voting, here’s a few points to consider:

•Under the long-range plan approved by the Board of Directors of Metro last year, the Westside Subway Extension for now is funded for $4.2 billion (in 2008 dollars) and only to Westwood and not beyond. Even without that policy, it’s uncertain at this point if $4.2 billion is enough to get the subway beyond Westwood.

• The idea for a station at the VA arose from public comment — area residents wanted to try to get the subway west of the 405 while also noting the regional nature of the VA Hospital.

•The VA Hospital is in Westwood. Brentwood is in, well, Brentwood. Here’s a Google satellite map showing all the potential station locations relative to one another.

This is alternative 2 for the Westside Extension -- one of five alignments under study by Metro planners. Alternative 2 is the one that includes a stop at the VA Hospital.

•Extending the subway to Santa Monica (i.e. “the sea”) is listed in Metro’s long-range plan under the first tier of projects it wants to consider building but doesn’t have the money currently to build. Nor is it known at this time where that funding may come from.

•Veterans are generally speaking more transit-dependent than the overall population. In addition, Vets who get their medical care from the VA have fewer health-care choices as they must go to a VA facility.

•Depending on where the Westwood/UCLA station is located — Metro is seriously studying two options — a VA station would be about a half-mile from a Westwood station under UCLA Lot 36 and about .7 miles from a station at Wilshire & Westwood boulevards. Subway stations are generally placed about a mile apart. Here’s our recent poll looking at issues with that station location.

•A VA Hospital station would be about a .8-mile walk from the heart of Brentwood village. It would be about a half-mile walk to Wilshire & Barrington, which is close to offices, homes, condos and apartments.

• Good drop-off and pick-up locations, as well as good pedestrian, bus and bicycle connections are important at all rail stations. Subway planners are aware of the special need for these at this location.

•In ridership models, a VA Hospital station generates enough new boardings along the entire line that it helps the subway’s overall “cost effectiveness.” That’s a key statistic used by the Federal Transit Administration when deciding whether or not to provide federal dollars to help build the subway. A VA Hospital station also lowers the overall number of boardings at the Westwood/UCLA station — the highest boarding station on the new line and likely to be among the highest of any Metro Rail station.

•Station-by-station boarding models released this past spring by subway planners indicate that boardings would be pretty respectable at a VA Hospital station. Even if the subway extends further west, it is projected that this station would have daily boardings close to what is anticipated at Century City or at Wilshire/Fairfax.

•Qualifying for New Starts money — plus winning federal approval of the 30/10 Initiative to use federal loans and other financing–  means the subway could reach Westwood in the next decade instead of 2036, the date in Metro’s long-range plan.

•A VA Hospital station could possibly make it easier for the subway to one day link to a transit project connecting the San Fernando Valley to the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass corridor. It’s one of the projects set to receive Measure R money, although the planning process has yet to begin. So it’s unknown at this point exactly what the project will be. Studies will determine whether it’s a busway, train or possibly something else.

•End stations of lines typically see more surface traffic — as people use the station to either get on or off the line. Even if the subway could be extended to Barrington or Bundy at this time — and that’s a big hypothetical — an end station there would likely see more auto and bus traffic. Of course, a Brentwood station could be added in the future if the subway ever does go “to the sea.”

For more information on the subway 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.

Want to comment on this poll? Send us an email at sourcemetro@gmail.com or post at the project’s Facebook page or at Twitter with @metrolosangeles in your Tweet.