Metro releases its proposed decision and findings on the Constellation station for Westside Subway Extension

Metro has prepared a proposed decision with written findings regarding the reasonableness of the Westside Subway Extension’s Century City station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, which would tunnel under parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus. This follows the special meeting on this subject that was held last week at the request of the city of Beverly Hills.

The Metro Board of Directors will consider the proposed decision and findings from the hearing at their regular meeting this Thursday at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. The Board is also scheduled to consider approving the alignment and station locations for the second and third phases of the project, which run west from La Cienega Boulevard to the Westwood VA Hospital. Also scheduled is the continuation of last week’s special meeting so that public comment can be heard.

At last week’s hearing, Beverly Hills provided several presentations by their consultants that questioned and criticized Metro’s studies. Metro has concludedthat it is unsafe to build subway tunnels or a station parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard due to active earthquake faults.

Metro staff have instead proposed to locate the station under Constellation Boulevard, which would also have a higher projected ridership. Beverly Hills’ consultants said that it may be safe to build under Santa Monica Boulevard. The city also proposed alternative routes that would utilize part of Santa Monica Boulevard to reach a Constellation station.

Metro staff have considered the views presented by Beverly Hills along with the reports and conclusions of their own consultants and experts. Here are the proposed decisions and findings:

Proposed Decision and Findings

Based on the professional opinions of MTA’s internationally recognized experts in the field of seismology, geology and tunnel construction, staff recommends that the Board adopt the following findings and render its decision to locate the Century City Station at Constellation Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars:

1. Tunneling can be safely carried out beneath the Beverly Hills High School
(BHHS) campus;

2. Tunneling would not prevent future development of the BHHS campus;

3. Tunneling would not impact the use of the BHHS campus as an emergency
evacuation center;

4. Vibration and noise levels are within the FTA requirements and tunnel
operation is not anticipated to have adverse impacts. The tunnel construction
may cause some low levels of noise and vibration for a day or two;

5. Tunneling can be constructed and operated safely in gassy ground;

6. Oil wells do not pose an unmitigable risk to tunneling. Should they be
encountered, procedures will be in place for their safe removal and reabandonment;

7. In Century City, Constellation Boulevard is a viable option for a station
location, but Santa Monica Boulevard is not due to unacceptable seismic risk;

8. Tunneling through fault zones can be done safely;

9. MTA’s approach to risk management is correct;

10. Further site investigations will be conducted and measures will be
implemented to reduce risks to levels that are as low as reasonably practicable;

11. MTA and its engineering consultants have expertise designing and building tunnels and subway stations in Los Angeles; and

12. The Constellation Station will attract more riders than the station locations along Santa Monica Boulevard.

25 replies

  1. In the battle between Metro and Beverly Hills over Metro’s plans for a subway under Beverly Hills High School, it is Beverly Hills who will win in court.
    It has been proven that a tunnel under BHHS would be too dangerous.
    However, Metro has been a bully in this matter while turning the other way when it came to the facts.
    Metro has an agenda and they do not care about the dangers or what others think.
    Metro even hired people who were not qualified to do their jobs, but since those people were yes people for Metro, the studies they did were put forth as Metro’s own facts.
    Santa Monica Boulevard has no active earthquake faults even though Metro says otherwise.
    The boulevard is where the tunnel was supposed to go.
    Metro changed its mind and used the excuse of the false dangers of what an earthquake would do to the subway there.
    Metro is bent on putting their tunnel under BHHS.
    It would be better for all concerned to put it under Santa Monica Blvd.
    Metro knows that, but their self interest motives are what is behind their plans.
    Among those motives are real estate deals.
    They have said just about anything to get their way.
    Metro’s studies and reports have been incomplete and false.
    The people of Beverly Hills will not be lied to.
    The facts and truths of this matter will be exposed before the court of law.
    When that happens, Metro will lose.

    George Vreeland Hill

  2. 5-25-12
    It’s been about 60 years since any passenger rail transit has gone all the way from downtown L. A. to any of the west-facing beaches. To this day, the service has yet to be restored; since several abandonments have taken place, mid-20th Century. The Expo Line, once completed, will help. Individuals’ cars, as well as buses (and freeways), have been proven to be very inadequate replacements for it. There’s no time to waste in finishing the Purple Line project. I heard it reported that, unless we have congressional intervention (to help speed up the extra ½ cent sales tax collection), the Purple Line will get only as far as the West L. A. V. A. Hospital by 2036!!!! Then there’ll be another 9 miles or so to get to the beach. I think we’re looking at the year 20XX. The sooner it’s built, the better!

  3. @Matt

    Yes because again, agencies like the MTA is essentially government.

    Most transit agencies in Asia however, are private corporations in which their government owns a partial stake in, much like how GM is partly owned by the US gov’t now. The majority stake however, is still held by private investors. That’s the biggest difference.

    No one can buy Metro stock, therefore we have no direct say in Metro’s operations and their bizarre financial judgments. Politics and ticket to re-elections are the principles here instead of actual advice and solid financial planning from investors. Transit riders in Asia however, can buy mass transit stock and have direct say in their day to day operations.

    In addition, most transit agencies in Asia have competition going along with multiple private transit operators. Competition drives the other to be more efficient, cost worthy, and provide better services. That’s not allowable here because essentially, local government has a monopoly on local transit service and it’s illegal for any private entity that thinks they can compete with better efficiency than Metro to start competing in the local transportation market. Because of this monopoly, Metro can do whatever they want without any serious repercussions.

    They have no competition to fear from private transit operators. The only thing Metro fears is taxpayers giving up in supporting mass transit. And with the way Metro is handling things now, I think that sentiment seems to be growing, especially among short distance riders.

  4. It seems to me that Metro would be less dependent on taxpayers if it franchised out things like: paytoilets, newsstands, food/drinks, and a limited amount of other vending (perhaps vending machines). I realize that there is the no food/drink requirement, but Amtrak and commuter rail seem to survive without being overrun by cockroaches and rodents. I recall that New York and Chicago have vending within their systems. Besides, bootleg vending is already tolerated by Metro — at least on the Blue Line.

  5. Agencies like the MTA are banned by US law from buying real estate for anything other than transit purposes (although they can then engage in real estate development afterwards with that land). That makes a big difference between here and Asia. People in the US would never allow that here as they would argue that the government is using their role as transit provider to give them inside information on where they can buy real estate and an unfair advantage.

  6. @Anthony
    Beverly Hills =/= South Pasadena or El Sereno

    First, El Sereno is hardly a swanky area with loads of cash to throw around to oppose the 710.
    Second, the historic proposals for the 710 are not a subway line and would have a dramatic effect on the actual landscape of South Pasadena. The “Meridian Route” would track close to Meridian Ave., which is called that because it is the central street that runs North-South through the City. This would put a 3 block (or more) wide rift between the 2 halfs of the City. The High School would have had to be relocated for one of the proposed routes, the historic Carnegie library was in the path, the current Gold Line stop is dead center on Meridian and the 710 would have prevented this stop from being there, etc. The actual land that would be taken up by the freeway(s) (if you include the 110), ramps, and interchange with the 110, as a percentage of the land area of the City would be one of, if not the, highest of any local around. The areas that the freeway would go through are historically important beautiful neighborhoods (they are constantly in movies and on televison.)

    Third, South Pasadena did not seek to block the Gold Line from entering their City, unlike BH. At one point SP had 4 railroad systems passing through it and had one segment that was 3 or 4 tracks wide and several that were 2 wide.

    Fourth, South Pasadena residents on the whole are not opposed to the 710 as a tunnel, if certain items can be addressed (the tunnel route generally would go under SPHS, the library, etc.), like air vents for the tunnels (Propsals call for three 100 foot tall towers, these would be amongst the tallest structures in town. The exhaust gasses from the cars and trucks would be vented near the High School among other sites. The sound issue of the vent fans is important as well.) and the placement of any ramps or any interchange with the 110.

  7. It’s also worthy to note that the mass transit systems in Japan, as well as others in Asia, are all private companies whose main priority is to earn profit to keep shareholders happy through hefty dividends.

    Very few, if little, taxes go into the operations of their mass transit systems. They issue stocks publicly on the stock market so any investor can buy mass transit stock, and their agencies also expand their operations out to other areas like being property developers and real estate.

    Who says capitalism and mass transit can’t go hand-and-hand? They perfectly do across the Pacific and look at what they are able to accomplish compared to what we have. We are a capitalist nation founded upon capitalist principles, why should we have to choose a socialist-style path to funding mass transit when it works perfectly fine under capitalism in Asia?

  8. I’ll expect Metro to become profitable once we make the freeway system profitable.

  9. @Anthony

    There is a big difference in comparing LA Metro’s subway system with those in Japan that you cite. The subways in Japan actually MAKE A PROFIT because they’ve been running it with better efficiency, better management, and a fare structure that makes sense (cheaper for shorter rides, more for longer rides distance based fares). Since it makes profit, it pays out generous dividends, which in turn creates happier invenstors. Happier investors in those rich areas are then willing to lend more cash into the system.

    If Metro wants to convince more people, including BH that mass transit is good for the community and is a good investment for the future, they need to become more profitable first. All Metro does is all talk in the view of BH and any other neighborhoods that question Metro’s ideas.

    No one is going to be convinced or care to lend any money to a bankrupt agency which is over 70% taxpayer dependent to keep the system running. Will you be willing to lend a person $1,000,000 or listen to that person’s ramblings if that person is so deep in debt with no solid ideas on how to dig himself out of debt? Don’t think so.

    I’m all for Metro’s proposals for a Westside extension. But they need to get their finances in order first. Being over 70% taxpayer dependent to keep its operations running is hardly a great way to gather support.

  10. I live in Orange County, which is great in many ways, but not in mass transit. We have OCTA, which runs very good local bus service, but nothing re: rail, and virtually nothing in the realm of limited, express and rapid bus service. The only attempt at rail was the CenterLine a few years back, which was not well thought out. West LA people don’t all know how fortunate they are.

  11. Kudos to Metro for sticking to their guns. If I could get out of work I would come to the meeting personally to voice my approval.
    I wonder if it’s possible to sue the city of Beverly Hills for needlessly hampering an important civic improvement. If they don’t want a subway station in their blessed neighborhood, fine, but Century City is a major business center which already handles a ton of traffic. We have to have a subway station here if we are to sustain any further growth in this area. It’s already enough of a traffic nightmare as it is.

  12. Having lived and worked in West Los Angeles and Koreatown for several years previously, there was always a sinkhole of common sense known as Beverly Hills – just waiting for people to wait and ponder over why so many luxury cars need so many luxuriant parking spaces… then it came to me… you get more $$$ from Mercedes dealerships than from the rabble coming in to shop on Rodeo Drive. Silly me!

    Trains used to run on Santa Monica Blvd…. gone… Trains to Culver City, Santa Monica…. gone. The rail ROW still sits on the tattered remains of Exposition Blvd., with signs warning how trespassers are considered to be ne’r-do-wells, while commuters sit on Centinela… waiting… Pico Blvd…. waiting… Wilshire Blvd…. waiting…

    The number of people is only going to increase. The number of cars is only going to increase. The price of gas is never going south of $3.00 again. Unless the Mayor of BH is willing to don a traffic cop’s hat and stand at Wilshire & Santa Monica to push cars out of the way… it’s time for BH to pay its fair share… after 60 years of fobbing it off on everyone else. They are no different than El Sereno and South Pasadena holding up the completion of the 710 Freeway for what is now 38 years and counting. A $400M project segment is now a $6B, hope-we-start-sometime tunneling project.

    In the richest districts of Japan, places like Ginza, Shinjuku, Shibuya, ShinOsaka and the like, have had train service underground for more than 60 years. People in Japan WORKED and lived through what they knew was a necessity. It’s time the residents of Beverly Hills keep their mouths shut and get in line for sympathy with the rest of us.

  13. How about building whatever BHS was planning to build at the SAME time as the subway?
    Instead of both sides spending tons of $$legal $$, spend it on an improved project for that location. So if BHS wanted a parking garage or a school building, why not excavate and build the subway box/tunnel, then the footings for the parking garage/school building at the same time?
    I know that seems too simple and there will be reasons why, but its worth a thought.

  14. Morris,

    Pretty much every project now has a lawsuit. Look at Expo, both Phase 1 and Phase 2 had legal action. It certainly is not ideal and it can delay the project even if the outcome is good. However, sometimes you have to fight. Metro will never be able to build anything if everytime someone threatens a lawsuit they have to change their route or station locations. The precedent of doing whatever Beverly Hills wants now would severly hamper any future lines.

  15. Bottom line question: Regardless who’s right or wrong, can the MTA AFFORD a potential lawsuit by Beverly Hills if they decide to go ahead with their proposed route to the Constellation Blvd. station?

  16. Great. Now build it on Constellations & Avenue of the Stars and let’s all get on with our lives.

    After this opens Beverly Hills will wonder how they ever lived without it.

  17. Service the Beverly Center instead of San Vicente/Wilshire, then head to Century City. This route avoids BHHS. Do not build any stations in Beverly Hills and use the money saved to build this slight longer route.

  18. Each of the findings listed above is independently verifiable/defensible/provable. And put together, they point to one conclusion: Metro *should* locate the station at Constellation Blvd.

  19. I look forward to the Metro Board voting in favor of Constellation Blvd as the location for the subway station in Century City on Thursday at the regular meeting of the board.