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Westside Subway Report Released: it Won't Relieve Westside Traffic Congestion, but Does that Matter?

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One of the Westside Subway Extensions under consideration. See them all here. | Image via Metro

One of the Westside Subway Extensions under consideration. See them all here. | Image via Metro

Just as Metro did for the regional connector, Metro today released the draft environmental report for the Westside Subway Extension, the proposed project that would extend the Purple Line down Wilshire Boulevard and possibly add a spur in West Hollywood.

But just as soon as it was released, fuel was added to opposition's fire. "Westside subway extension won’t do much to ease traffic, MTA report says," the LA Times wrote in a breaking news e-mail alert, linking to their story.

The Times says by 2035, a subway on the westside will only reduce automobile traffic congestion by around 1%, thanks to population growth.

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The Westside Subway Extension Study Area | Download a larger version here (.pdf)
In Metro's in-house blog post about today's documents, officials admit to this, but in a very different way:

This is a rather huge and obvious point, but here goes anyway: Nowhere in the report does it say that a subway will “fix” traffic on the Westside or make it disappear. The subway is expected to lure some drivers to mass transit and improve what traffic would be without the subway. The report views the subway as an alternative to sitting in traffic, kind of like building a freeway under the Westside — but one for trains, not private vehicles.

On Metro's Facebook page dedicated to the project, a follower noted that it's not that big of a deal. "All major cities, even ones with amazing public transit, have bad traffic," Alan Hall said. "The point of the subway is that you don't HAVE to sit in traffic if you don't want to."

So if a subway is not built, what should L.A. do? Population growth means more vehicles on the road. Metro estimates about a 26% increase in daily vehicle miles traveled within the westside subway extension area (see the immediate above image). In 2006, vehicles traveled four million miles daily; by 2035, that number will be upped to 5 million.

What does all those added people and miles mean? More time spent in the car, the report concludes. Within the study area, vehicle hours traveled will increase by nearly 50%, from 165,000 to 247,000 between 2006 and 2035. Regionally, vehicle hours traveled will increase about 207%, 9.5 million to 29.2 million, in the same time period.

Meanwhile, a trip on the subway from Union Station to UCLA will remain 25 minutes.

Five public meetings about the report will be held beginning later this month.