8 Ways Public Comment Has Changed the Planning of the Westside Subway Extension
Throughout the last couple of years, Metro has taken the Westside Subway Extension to the public over and over and over again. Last week was the beginning of the latest round of community meetings where residents can get the latest and greatest (you can read LAist's reporting of the new data here) and have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the record. Those meetings continue through July 1st.
Although much of the public scoping is nearing the end -- Metro staff will soon be making recommendations -- it's a good time to look back and see how the public influenced the process. Some of the public's ideas are likely to become a reality while others, although thoroughly vetted, won't make the cut.
1. The Century City Station: Metro staff originally proposed a station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars, but public comment swayed toward moving it two-tenths of a mile southward to Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard, which would be more central to Century City. Upon study, Metro staff found, lo and behold, the suggested station actually would increase ridership enough to improve the overall cost effectiveness of the subway route. Like everything on this list, nothing is set in stone yet, but the public's suggested station location stands a good chance to make the cut.
2. The Veterans Administration Station: The "Subway to the Sea" has a nice ring to it, but the reality behind the funding and Metro's recently approved long range plan means making it go that far West will be tough. Thus, Metro staff had proposed it to go as far as the Westwood/UCLA area, called Alternative 1. The public, on the other hand, said if funding was that constrained, to at least try getting past the 405 Freeway by one stop, which became Alternative 2. And the Veterans Administration was a logical choice being that one major user transit user were those in need of access to that hospital. In fact, with ridership numbers (80,800 trips vs. Alt 1's 72,200), cost effectiveness and other factors involved, Alternative 2 stands the greatest chance of federal funding at the moment.
3. West Hollywood: Adding an alignment along Santa Monica Boulevard between Hollywood and Highland to connect with Wilshire (Alts 4 and 5) became a much more real part of the conversation, thanks to huge public support, namely from WeHo. Even though it's beyond funding (starting at $6.7 billion), it performed well enough during analysis to stay alive.
4. Connecting WeHo to Wilshire: If Alt 4 or Alt 5 are chosen, one big questions will be where to connect the tunnel under Wilshire Boulevard. Staff had trains going between the Beverly Center and Rodeo Drive, but enough public comment got them to study connecting at the La Cienega/Wilshire station before heading to Rodeo -- it made more sense because a number of passengers would want to head towards downtown and why make them double back?
5. The Crenshaw Station: The community appears to be split on having a station at Wilshire and Crenshaw, a low density area. It's currently in the plans, but removing it actually improves cost effectiveness of the project -- it's a low ridership station -- meaning more chances of federal funding. However, If the community were either unanimously for or against it, it would definitely carry weight with Metro staff.
6. Fairfax Station: Original plans had a station with access only on the westside of Wilshire and Fairfax, but comments from the public have helped develop the possibility of having a station that would include access on the eastside as well. Why? Easier access to LACMA, of course.
7. The Westwood/UCLA Station: There was strong public support for having a station north of Wilshire, more within Westwood Village and closer to UCLA campus, but upon study, which included placing a station up as far as Le Conte and even the Ackerman Union Building on campus, it did not survive for a number of reasons: odd and expensive tunnel curves, station construction in the narrow streets of the village and not being able to tunnel underneath the National Veterans Cemetery. In any case, a Wilshire and Westwood station would easily connect to a plethora of buses. A second station option still on is near the UCLA parking garage at Veteran and Kinross, where the LAX Flyaway stops.
8. Various Alignment Ideas: Many other ideas from the public have been suggested and subsequently studied, but never made the cut. For example, some wanted the route along Wilshire to deviate to The Grove and Farmers Market, but analysis found that it did not perform well. Another idea was to connect Century City to Westwood/UCLA by going down Santa Monica and then up Westwood to Wilshire, all perhaps with a station between. Once again, analysis found it didn't perform well, considering the added expense and time it would add to the trip. And then add to that challenges with seismic faults along that route.