WeHo to Metro: We Want Subways

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Last night over 60 residents of West Hollywood and other Westside Cities congregated to give Metro feedback on its Draft Long Term Master Plan. Among the attendees were two West Hollywood City Council Members, Mayor Pro Tempore Jeffery Prang, and a staff member representing the local Assemblyman, Mike Feuer.

The 20 people that testified were near unanimous in supporting more rail for L.A. County. There was also strong support for a Subway to the Sea alignment that runs along Santa Monica Boulevard. There was one audience member, an Angeleno that lives in Park-LaBrea, who argued that more money needs to be spent on improving the bus system because subway expansion is a losing proposition. 

Despite the disparity in funding priorities in the long range plan, people were more interested in seeing better bikeways and sidewalks connecting people to transit and centers of place than they were in seeing more highway and roadway capacity. There was one member of the audience who testified that his car was a private sanctuary where he can have meetings on his blue tooth while commuting, but an informal count shows that more people called for increased bicycle and pedestrian spaces to benefit communities than argued for increased roadway space for their Mobile Sanctuary Offices.

Congestion pricing was also a hot issue. Mayor Pro Tempore Prang opened the meeting by calling on Metro to explore Public-Private-Partnerships to fund future projects instead of charging people more money to support transit expansion. However, the handful of audience members that mentioned congestion pricing were supportive.

Former London resident Kevin Burton testified towards the end of the meeting that despite initial public protest, including opposition from Prime Minister Tony Blair, London’s congestion pricing plan is working brilliantly. Today even the cab drivers are supporters. Burton argued that for a congestion pricing plan to work, the revenue generated must be put right into transit expansion.

The budget for the Imagine Campaign must be enormous. At the sign-in table, buttons, postcards, CD-ROM’s and booklets all promoted the Draft Long Term Plan. Instead of the standard slide show presentation, we were treated to a 15 minute film explaining the plan. The film had a disconnect with those in attendance. Nearly half the film was promoting the time savings for highway travelers because of the plan, but not one person who testified in favor of wider highways.

Metro claims that if they have the funding to build all of the planned projects, including the $46 billion in highway construction, that freeway speeds will increase by 15%. That number is highly suspect. Just earlier this week, the Times reported that highway widenings don’t seem to be having any impacts on congestion in Costa Mesa.

However, if tonight’s audience is at all representative of the testimony heard at other meetings, perhaps Metro will reconsider it’s plan to sink just over 30% of its budget into highway capacity expansion and recommit that money to the transit and other alternative transportation projects that will really make a difference to L.A. County.

The next hearing is tonight at 6:30 P.M. at Metro Headquarters, next to Union Station.

Photo: Damien Newton

  • Dan W.

    Thank you, Damien, for the recap!

    Only one automobile-entitlement person and only one bus-only transit extremist, with everyone else supporting heavy and light rail alternatives. Woo hoo! The world is changing for the better. Sounds like a great meeting!

    There is a way to get a Subway to the Sea along both Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds., which meet up in Century City, and also includes a direct one-seat ride between North Hollywood and Century City.

    That’s Alternative #9 in the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project. If you want BOTH, please signal your support for Alternative #9 with the MTA.

    There is still limited time to get your feedback back in. Please send e-mails supporting rail along both Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds. that signal your support for Alternative #9 to the following addresses:

    WestsideExtension@metro.net
    metroplan@metro.net

    While you are at it, why not state that the countless people snaking through passes and canyons every day need an alternative, and for the MTA to support a Sepulveda LRT between Metrolink and LAX too.

    Time is of the essence.

    You’ll be glad you did.

  • I’ll believe these public commenters have made a difference when the MTA’s Planning Director, Carol Inge, changes some of her department’s policies.

    The MTA is all about moving private cars above all else. These are the folks who make the Blue Line rail car stop at traffic lights.

    They count a bus full of people as the equal of a single-occupant vehicle when measuring the performance of a road.

    We have a long way to go with the MTA.

  • I was particularly fond of the cogent cover analysis provided by Mr. John Walsh at the Metro board meeting today.

    The cover of your long range plan features a white boy crushing at bus

    hysterical.

  • sean

    Thanks Dan W, for the reminders and the links on westside Extension feedback. I attended the first two series of meetings, and was impressed with the 13 alternatives they’d come up with at the 2nd one, then disappointed that this current subway line is only along Wilshire, the dullest alternative.

    You guys in WeHo are definitely NOT representative of the westside in general, though. In Feb., I attended meetings both at the Westwood and WeHo locations — virtually everyone in Westwood except a few students was more concerned with speeding car traffic, like getting from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills, and going all the way to WeHo was a nightmare during rush hour. (Is that why WeHo’s was the only meeting for “the Westside,” since MTA knew no one further west would come? Pretty crummy to cut everyone else out of the process at this point, if that’s what they’re doing.)

    Some of us are also parents, and picking up the kids from school, shuttling to after-school activities and home, sometimes a half-hour apart by car, means we definitely can’t use bikes or want or have time to walk much. Sure, if you’re close enough to Joey’s Jim and can go on a weekend, walk it — but WeHo is mostly either single or gay (yeah, I know a few people have kids), the polar opposite of the Westside.

  • sean

    BTW, I do and did strongly support a subway thru WeHo, though, just not down Santa Monica Blvd. — there’s nothing there of general city-wide interest. I suggested connecting the Red Line south to the Grove/swinging west to Beverly Ctr/ Robertson, S. to Wilshire across Bev Hills West, then where Wilshire and S. M. Blvds. intersect, most directly to Century City and Westwood/ connecting to Santa Monica. From UCLA, should have an Ext. along Sepulveda to the Valley. — I think that was the “snake” route, #12 or 13. That would serve tourists who want to “do” the major sights as well as locals in the densest areas. I’d take the kids to the beach without the car, or the movies at the Grove, for sure. And up to Universal.

  • Dan W.

    Well, I’d keep the Pink Line on Santa Monica Blvd. from La Brea to San Vicente, cut down to the Beverly Center, then head back on Wilshire towards Century city.

    I’d serve the Grove via a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line, where it heads up north on San Vincente, then up to Fairfax and over to H/H.

  • Dan W.

    I’m actually not in WeHo, though I certainly spend a fair amount of time there. I’m in Santa Monica. I think there should have been another Westside meeting out here.

    “(Is that why WeHo’s was the only meeting for “the Westside,” since MTA knew no one further west would come? Pretty crummy to cut everyone else out of the process at this point, if that’s what they’re doing.)”

    I don’t think that’s it. West Hollywood was originally left out of the scoping meetings for the Westside Transit Corridor Extension Project and had to request a special one. This time they made sure they had it in West Hollywood. The City of Santa Monica or your local neighborhood council may request a MTA presentation. But hurry, time is of the essence.

    There are lots of places people would love to go. Do you hit the tourist places or the places where people work and live if they are not the same? That’s a much bigger discussion than probably this thread. People take transportation policy and planning coursework to discuss that.

    I’m just glad there is so much desire for more rail generally.

    There are a lot of automobile entitlement folks who don’t realize the L.A. “car culture” way of life is slowly dying underneath them.

    What the MTA won’t tell them, nor any politician, is that there is no automobile-based, road-based solution to solving our transportation problems and the best days or single-occupancy motoring in Los Angeles are long behind us. While many or even most people in Los Angeles will still use cars at least occasionally, the who “car culture” sense of automobile entitlement — where you and everyone else you know or want to know will drive a car, except for the poor and marginal who would if they could, therefore you don’t need to worry about transit accessibility in your business and social planning, and public transit is just “transportation welfare” until they get a car — that way of live is in decline, and there is no restoring it to what it once was.

    Anyone wanting an easier “driving” experience on the Westside or Downtown or Hollywood or North Hollywood needs a time machine, not anything that the MTA or Caltrans could do for them.

    But, don’t tell them. It only upsets them.

    It is funny how it took ever-worsening congestion and ever-increasing gas prices to get many Westsiders and Valley residents over their fear of public transit. The forces which add to this congestion and higher gas prices will continue in the decades ahead as China and India industrialize and as millions more people move to Southern California.

    NBC/Universal is moving from its automobile-centered headquarters in Burbank to the Universal City Red Line stop. A non-altruistic corporation has decided in its long-term planning, they they can no longer expect that their customers will be willing or will be able to drive an automobile to their current location, so they wish to be transit accessible. This is a tipping point, sea-change decision. They know where there future of Los Angeles is headed. “The subway doesn’t go anywhere” is being replaced by “anywhere is going to the subway”.

    Bet the MTA didn’t tell the motorists that one, didn’t they? I’d elect the first politician to be honest about it though.

    The MTA really needs to plan for Los Angeles’ post-“car culture” future. While there will always be cars, and even perhaps majority car usage, universal entitlement to drive and park an automobile cheaply and conveniently, anytime, anyplace, anywhere is fading — the “car culture” itself is a fading way of life. NBC/Universal’s planned move is a sign that the tipping point has been reached. There will still be a few decades of transition out of universal automobile-entitlement. Libertarians will hate the new L.A. That’s fine. There is always the actual suburbs for them. (Note: if you live within 3 miles of Downtown, Hollywood, Century City, Westwood, North Hollywod, you don’t live in a suburb anymore. Sam Yorty is no longer Mayor, sorry to break the news to you.)

  • Stuart KD

    The LA car culture is unraveling fast and alternatives need to be implemented immediately, if not last week.

    Subways and rail lines are the perfect solution, unfortunately it takes years to plan and construct. Though it is the long term solution, something needs to be implemented sooner. Bike paths/lanes/sharrows and pedestrian walkways can be instituted within a short period at a minimal cost.

    Doing something now will help the businesses and the community at large.

  • Dan W.

    I agree, Stuart.

    Of course, not all the above ground rail lines we need will come without removing lanes of traffic from motorists. We also need a network of bus-only lanes. Contrary to what bus-only transit extremists think, improved bus service is not an adequate substitute for rail, nor will it keep Southern California economically or environmentally sustainable. However, bus-only lanes are still important. Just wait until the outcry comes from motorists on Wilshire when those lanes get taken away. I’d also put rush our (7-10 am, 4-7 pm) bus only lanes on Santa Monica, Western, Vermont, Pico and Ventura and Van Nuys to START.

    The whaling and gnashing of teeth of the automobile-entitled folks has only begun.

    But, shh! Don’t tell them. They’ll just want what few transportation dollars exists poured into futile road and freeway expansion attempting to preserve the “car culture” so they don’t have to give up their “freedom” to sit in ever-worsening congestion or their independence to pay ever-increasing gasoline prices. It won’t work. There is nothing Caltrans or the MTA can do to save the “car culture” from unravelling.

    But no need to rile them up unnecessarily. :)

  • sean

    Dan, re: your last comment that road lanes will have to be removed for rail lines, and meanwhile bus-only lanes incl. on Wilshire, with those longer no-parking hours, too — not anytime soon. Look at the outcry from people along Pico who are not convinced they don’t live in the suburbs — they’re furious just about limited no parking during a 3 hr. rush hour. Shops claim they’ll lose business, but then when the city wants to give them some permit parking to make up for it, the very same HOA’s scream that they don’t want any of their residential parking taken away. So they claim to support the businesses but refuse to cooperate in any way toward solutions. Typical. City of Santa Monica is irresponsible too — they won’t cooperate, but have lots of jobs and almost no affordable housing.

    But I agree that adding lanes to the 405 at the expense of losing homes, will only be short-term solutions. I’m one of those who suggested a light rail down the median on Sepulveda, to the Valley, and S to the Expo Line. The MTA sounded receptive, but it’s $,$.

    What we REALLY need is what they have in London: congestion pricing as a fee to drive into the city of some $20. At least $6.00, which even NYC is going to implement for anyone driving south of 61st street. We need to set off the heart of “metro” L A this way. Absurd that people from the Valleys clog our roads, every canyon, bring traffic to a standstill and pollute our skies, in their solo gas guzzlers.

    As more of us move here who’ve lived and traveled in these cities and Tokyo, etc., we’re intensely aware we alone have no subway. (Thanks, Zev and Waxman.) But the car culture is alive and necessary in all these cities, especially people w/ kids, going shopping for bulky stuff, etc. And after dark. Plus, lovely to drive at night in Paris, London, NYC, even Tokyo.

    Another issue in L A: lots of hillside areas where we’ll never have mass transit, need dash buses. Elderly especially have been asking, but MTA doesn’t have enough to go around.

    You’re right about another thing: development will cluster around mass transit hubs.

  • sean

    P. S. On the rather high fee to drive into London: They also offer an annual permit for some $600 AND also charge it for cars without cleanest emissions, to those who must drive in regularly. All these fees, daily/annual, go straight to mass transit. (Don’t think NYC is planning annual fee option.)

  • sean,

    I don’t think you are right about needing a car to take kids around town.

    I just got a bakfiets, a dutch transport bike, and I can’t see the need for a car to haul my daughter and our groceries around in a car anymore.

    Go ahead, google “bakfiets” and see what I’m talking about. You don’t need a car to transport your kids.

  • Sean:

    I know you didn’t mean we have “no subway,” you meant we have a subway that is far too small compared to what we really need.

    Actually, Metrorail is currently 72 miles, and once Gold Line eastside, and Expo Phase 1 open up, we will have 95 miles, and we will be in fifth place in the USA, behind New York, Chicago, Washington and San Francsico. Yes, that includes light rail; the Red and Purple lines comprise only 19 miles of that total.

    But don’t say we have “no subway.” There are some people living in the past who actually believe we literally have no subway.

  • sean

    Scott, I know of the Red Line, but if you’re not going from Hollywood to downtown or Universal, it’s useless. (It should have been built across Wilshire in the first place.)

    Ubray, re: biking kids around — first off, they go to two diff’t private schools. IF the Hollywood Hills had a decent public school nearby it would be diff’t, but we don’t. This is a city where a house worth $1.5 gets you assigned to a combat zone in the flats, unless you’re in a handful of pockets like Wonderland, Warner, Roscomare, or flats like Fairburn and Westwood Charter. Try going to ballet or karate abd after-school tutoring and music lessons from any school, inevitably scattered around, then home, on a bike, especially on a steep unhill! (We need DASH buses in hills, also for elderly who’d like to connect to buses on Sunset Blvd., but there’s no $ for that.)

    You probably think I’m some sort of “snob,” but we love the BHPO hills. For committed bikers you have to carefully scope schools close enough to walk to, activities and shops nearby — maybe Silverlake? Westwood flats or flats of Beverly Hills? Your kids must be made of sturdier material than mine. Plus what do you do when it’s raining or cold? Or you have to show up somewhere in a suit or dressy outfit and heels? Very different from going around with a baby. We DO drive a lot less than most: office closer to home, try to combine trips, and pay more for a house PLUS private schools rather than live in say, West Valley and drive for hours a day.

    You mention Dutch bakfiets: Holland is flat as a pancake, and compact, with canals being ready made for bikes — my favorite is Utrecht, yeah, everyone bikes. I’ve lived in NYC, London and Paris — I still like the idea of tolls on all bridges, tunnels (like from Pasadena – downtown), and day and annual permit fees to speed up the building of mass transit and cut down on congestion. My pet peeve, crawling up Coldwater in rush hour, cuz of commuters from Valleys and beyond.

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