What now for the West Hollywood Transit Corridor?

(I noticed an uptick in press discussions about “density and transit” and “density and West Hollywood.”  To respond to these articles, many of which are predicting doom for anyone foolish enough to try and densify their cities, I asked Dan Wentzel, a transit advocate who resides in West Hollywood, to take take a turn at the Streetsblog helm.  His article is below.  For more Wentzel, you can pretty much read any transit-related story’s comment thread here on Streetsblog.  Or check out his personal blog at Ride the Pink Line. – DN)

To see the full image, ##http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v205/coachocd/RoseLineDraft.jpg##click here##.
To see the full image, ##http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v205/coachocd/RoseLineDraft.jpg##click here##.

This above map was an attachment to an initial review of connecting the West Hollywood Transit Corridor to the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor via San Vicente, and possibly going south all the way to Long Beach (or San Pedro). The next step would be a full study of this corridor, of which the Santa Monica Blvd./Beverly Center portion has already been studied as part of the Westside Subway extension project. Metro has stated that while it did not recommend the West Hollywood corridor as part of the Westside Subway Extension project at this time, that the West Hollywood corridor has high potential as a transit corridor and a light-rail subway might be more competitive for federal funding, as reported here.

West Hollywood voted for Measure R more than any other city in Los Angeles and this is a very pro-transit area with lots of “YIMBYs”.

While the map shows both a La Brea alignment and this Santa Monica / San Vicente alignment, it is really a no brainer. The La Brea alignment would miss all the ridership generators further west, and the San Vicente / Santa Monica alignment would make it easier to get to the Beverly Center, Cedar Sinai, the City of West Hollywood, the Grove/Farmer’s Market and even the Sunset Strip.

Interestingly enough, there have been a couple of recent blog posts bashing the City of West Hollywood over development projects approved in expectation of an eventual subway through the city.

Patrick Range McDonald continues his anti-subway rants at the now anti-subway LA Weekly.

Former City Councilman Steve Martin, possibly looking for an issue to mount an attempt at a political comeback, rags on the City Council on the WeHo news website. That he singles out Lindsey Horvath might mean he thinks she is the vulnerable incumbent he can beat. (I wouldn’t bet on the ex-councilman winning.)

Both articles seek to berate the City Council for approving development projects before a subway was approved, as if development wouldn’t continue to take place if there weren’t a West Hollywood subway. Their focus is on traffic, as if traffic wouldn’t get worse anyway without a subway. Mass transit does not reduce traffic as much as it provides alternatives to having to drive in traffic.

I don’t take the LA Weekly seriously as this once-good rag now is no longer a progressive alternative news source and now takes an anti-subway posture. Martin’s article shows that even in a city that supported Measure R by 86%, there are still a handful of NIMBYs here as there are everywhere that care first and foremost about their automobiles, and politicians will be willing to pander to them.

Personally, I look forward to the LaBrea/Santa Monica development as will many residents of West Hollywood who will now be able to walk to the cinema. If I were running for City Council, and this is not an announcement by any means, I would say I envision a West Hollywood that is designed for the people who live, work and play here, not the motorists who simply drive through here on the way to/from somewhere else. I’d advocate continuing to support building some form of subway through West Hollywood, but in the meantime building transit-only lanes on Santa Monica Blvd., where new modern streetcars may run along with buses, possibly with the support of the City of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills (using that right-of-way), allowing a transit way between Century City, West Hollywood, Hollywood, Sunset Junction, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Downtown. I would state in my campaign platform that we can no longer and should no longer socially engineer West Hollywood or anywhere else in the area for automobiles. Of course, that would doom my candidacy, but I would say it and mean it.

As we all move forward in Southern California, we will all need to ask ourselves, what kind of cities do we want? Are they ones that puts cars as our highest priority or one that puts liveable streets as our priority?

In either case, I believe that the Westside Subway Corridor Extension Study has captured the imagination of West Hollywood, and the 86% support for Measure R indicates there is strong support for some kind of Metrorail project in the West Hollywood corridor, as development will continue upward here and throughout Southern California.

The review map above indicates an alignment that is a long way from being any kind of done deal. If we can get a Hollywood-WestHollywood-SanVicente-Crenshaw-LAX-SouthBay-LongBeach light rail line studied, in the Long Range Transportation Plan, approved and built, which are all big IFs of course, I think we should rejoice and take it.

I will continue blogging about the West Hollywood Transit Corridor as events unfold on my blog, Ride the Pink Line.

  • For starters, why not work to build a short light rail line that would run along San Vicente from the Rapid 720 bus on Wilshire to Santa Monica Blvd, or better yet, Sunset… Most of the street is pretty wide and it passes key destinations including Cedars, the Beverly Center, Melrose, Pacific Design Center, the new WEHO library and old rec center, Santa Monica Blvd and the Sunset Strip. Using the downtown LA street car estimate or $100 million as a guide, the line could probably be built for somewhat less, and the key institutions along the way should be good for some of the needed money.

    Whatever is built of course should be done with the Crenshaw Line specs in mind so that once that’s built by Metro the integration would be seamless.

    While I prefer comprehensive planning and construction to piecemeal projects, this would give WEHO something sooner than Metro can deliver given the current budget reality. There may be Federal money for a more modest project like this with WEHO, rather than Metro or LA, the lead.

  • Interesting suggestion, Joel.

    However, Sunset is not a better option than Santa Monica Blvd. Sunset doesn’t even support an all day limited bus, let alone a rapid bus. The buses west of Fairfax are half-empty.

    Build it on Santa Monica Blvd. where the actual ridership is and use a shuttle bus to get affluent hipsters (who won’t ride the bus now) to their swanky nightclubs on the western Sunset Strip. As I heard someone say at the Westside Subway Extension planning meeting for the proposed West Hollywood stations, “It’s too bad we cannot also add a stop on the Sunset Strip. We’re not ‘bus people’.” (roll eyes).

    One option I’ve heard someone mention on a comment board is to route the Crenshaw/LAX light rail subway north on San Vicente to Sunset, but then head it back down Holloway to Santa Monica Blvd. to catch the higher ridership points of Fairfax/SantaMonica and LaBrea/SantaMonica. It’s not an idea I personally support, but I’m just one person.

    I’d service Sunset with a streetcar. The affluent hipsters who won’t ride a bus might actually ride that and the tourists would love it.

  • Let’s not plan a transit system based on the whelms of hipsters… :P

    The San Vicente-Santa Monica alignment makes the most sense because it will likely generate the most ridership. The La Brea alignment is likely cheaper.

    I will also add that if the line is extended to Long Beach, we should push Metro to plan for eventually taking the line all the way to Long Beach Airport, which is only another 2 miles east of the Willow Station (the likely terminal for the Hollywood to Long Beach Pink line per Metro’s preliminary map)

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=109982261189696647553.000492747cf29fbd56df1&ll=33.970698,-118.253403&spn=0.366726,0.727158&z=11

  • The concept of slaging the hipsters is well overused and blackboard Beck simpleton framing of an argument.

    Can we remove hipster from the lexicon and describe the people you seem to have disdain for what they are.

  • john k.

    The Rose Line is a good compromise, but now that area of the city will only get one line when, under the original HRT-WeHo spur and Crenshaw up La Brea plans, there would be two north-south transit corridors. Bummer.

    While the ridership attractions aren’t stellar for La Brea, it seems like having to travel from Highland through WeHo/San Vicente when all you want to do is get to Wilshire or LAX would be too long of a detour. It would be real convenient to have a line along that busy road and maybe some new TOD to make La Brea live up to its potential as a true neighborhood center.

    Yet, you are right that WeHo would probably look better for funding and needs transit, and many great destinations line up near San Vicente.

    However, I think the best solution/compromise would be for the Crenshaw line to travel up SV and turn up Fairfax until either SMB or Sunset on its way to a terminus at Hollywood and Highland.

    Fairfax has tons of attractions, tons of small businesses, tons of traffic (both motorist and pedestrian), and won’t be a huge detour for those looking to travel from, say, North Hollywood to LAX.

    The rest of SMB should be served by a LRT link from Century City to Downtown via Sunset Junction.

  • Scott Mercer

    Getting more modern streetcars into the transit discussion is a fantastic idea. Not only because they would be used, but because they could be built more easily.

    A streetcar along Santa Monica Boulevard, Century City to La Brea, could be built, paid for and operated by the cities of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

    Metro would have nothing to do with it. If you wanted to stop it there, instead of taking up to the Red Line stop at Hollywood and Highland, then it wouldn’t even run at all in the City of Los Angeles.

    It’s cheap enough that West Hollywood and Beverly Hills (not exactly poor cities) could pay for the building and operation themselves. This could be done with a special business district assessment, or with municipal bond sales. I believe the streetcar in Little Rock, Arkansas was built for $10 million dollars per mile (less than the cost of one Beverly Hills mansion). A BH-WeHo streetcar would cost more than that, but nowhere near the cost of subway or light rail.

    This same idea could be applied in other cities. City of Norwalk builds a streetcar connecting the Green Line to the Metrolink station. Culver City builds a streetcar connecting the Expo Line to Venice Beach via Venice Blvd. Lots of ideas here, those are just a few.

    Dan, let’s get this idea out there!

  • Scott Mercer

    Whoops, I meant the Cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

  • I concur with this idea. Having the Crenshaw/Exposition extend up north on Crenshaw Blvd, to San San Vicente Blvd this would be a exceptional to generate ridership. As for the Wilshire/La brea station terminal, this route would be too broad, due to the lack of popular sites in that area. Extending this line to Wilshire/San Vicence would be optional to reach through key popular destinations. This proposed WeHo TC should go as planned.

  • “Can we remove hipster from the lexicon and describe the people you seem to have disdain for what they are.”

    —————

    I wasn’t aware that “hipster” was a pejorative.

    How about young, affluent people who wouldn’t be caught dead riding the bus to their chic, fashionable locations.

  • Mihai

    To preempt any potential pro-bus comments, riding the bus ducking sucks. I’ve talked to a few folks who enjoy taking the bus, and I honestly think they’re crazy or simply have lowered expectations. You wait for it, 20, 30, 40 minutes, and you *hope* it arrives. And when it does arrive, it’s already packed, and you’re going to have to stand for a friggin’ hour through LA traffic.

    Then comes the guilt trip, knowing that I could have rode my bike halfway home in the time that I waited for the damn thing.

    It’s like an abusive relationship, I keep donating my buck fifty to Metro, and on most occasions it is highly inefficient at getting me places, not to mention uncomfortable as well.

    It’s not about being fashionable, it’s about not wasting your life in traffic.

    Yes, there are some ditzy ass people in this city that live for shopping and nightlife, and a whole lot of hipsters whose lives don’t really stand for anything (everyone is entitled to their own definition). But dangnabit, everyone deserves a civilized, reliable public transit option. And the bus is not it.

    At least not until we balance out the transit options by building a complete, usable, reliable rail network.

    On another note, maybe the clubs on Sunset wouldn’t be so “swanky” if they were more accessible to other types of people. Maybe light rail won’t amount to LA’s desegregation, but one could at least hope.

  • LAofAnaheim

    @Mihai..don’t lump your experience on the Metro Local with Metro Rapid. I love the Metro Rapids due to the less frequent stops, signal control, and high speed. Metro Rapids don’t wait for time points..they just keep going and going.

    Metro Local…different story. Can take forever…..

  • Spokker

    “Can we remove hipster from the lexicon and describe the people you seem to have disdain for what they are.”

    Assholes?

  • Spokker

    “It’s like an abusive relationship”

    Who is the abusive party? The riders or the bus agency?

    Local buses aren’t late only because of incompetence. There are disabled riders to load and unload, which is unavoidable. There are passengers who are slow to board, slow to pay or slow to exit. Buses can be taken out of service if a passenger defecates on it. A bus can be taken out of service if there is a fight or if the bus driver is spit on. Even if none of those things happen, unexpected traffic can put the brakes on any route.

    There are ways to make the bus service more efficient, but that costs money. At that point, you might as well spring for rail if you want level boarding, a proof of payment system, an exclusive right of way, no interaction between operator and passenger, etc.

  • Spokker

    Having said that, I think a lot of bus horror stories are either greatly exaggerated or I’ve been extremely lucky. I even took the 96 a few times to Griffith Park of all places and I was expecting an ordeal, but everything went smoothly.

    Down here in Orange County, what buses that are still operating tend to run smoothly, and I only ever noticed the bus falling behind because of passengers. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. One trip I took included four, count ’em, four handicapped passengers who had to be loaded and unloaded. I was late for class that day.

    Another trip the bus was canceled when a passenger broke a window on the bus in anger as he exited. The driver put the bus out of service and I was late for class.

    But even then, that’s two out of hundreds of trips. I’ve experienced more heartache in my car. Just tonight, it took one hour and 30 minutes to get home, which is only 8 miles. The last two miles of my trip took half an hour because traffic spilled out onto surface streets due to a major accident on the freeway.

    No commute is perfect, I guess. This semester, I wish I had stayed on the bus instead of buying a parking pass.

  • “I don’t take the LA Weekly seriously as this once-good rag now is no longer a progressive alternative news source and now takes an anti-subway posture. Martin’s article shows that even in a city that supported Measure R by 86%, there are still a handful of NIMBYs here as there are everywhere that care first and foremost about their automobiles, and politicians will be willing to pander to them.”

    Hmm. A bunch of responses to this.

    First, I am a pro-bus person. It’s simple geometry, really. Say you have $10 Billion dollars and you’re trying to build transit for a city with 10 neighborhoods, A through J. Let’s think of three ways you can spend that money. You can build a fabulous subway that services neighborhoods A, B, and C. You can build a couple light rail lines that serve neighborhoods A through E. Or you can build Rapid buses that serve all of the neighborhoods. What would LA’s buses look like if we invested the $10 Billion in them that we’re spending on the subway? How often would they come? How cheap would the fare be? How well would the stops and stations be designed?

    Jarrett Walker explains these issues best: http://www.humantransit.org/2009/11/busrail-debates-in-a-beautiful-abstract-city-and-in-los-angeles.html

    I think its progressive to choose the option that forgoes bells and whistles in order to serve the whole city. I don’t just think its progressive, I think it ultimately creates a more effective network. It actually makes it possible to get all around the city without a car, rather than improving the service on just one corridor.

    And I don’t think its fair to suggest that the LA Weekly is no longer a progressive paper because it criticized the subway. The LA Weekly pointed out an important point, which was that the latest wave of transit building was sold to the public on the false promise that it would cure congestion. People said that all the time in the lead-up to Measure R vote, and it was a lie. Politicians say that transit will cure congestion all the time. In this post Dan argues that politicians pander to drivers. I agree – I think they pandered to drivers by promising them congestion relief from new transit lines. I think LA Weekly improved the discourse by pointing out the uncomfortable fact that what politicians claimed about the subway just isn’t true. I’m all for building more transit, but we shouldn’t build it on false promises. Let’s build it so that a broke family can ditch their second car. Let’s build it so we can all get around in a more active, healthy way.

  • Buses in themselves are not an adequate substitute for our needed rail projects.

    A transit advocate can be both pro-rail and pro-bus.

    People may not find the idea of a third-world, bus-only transit utopia appealing, but Herbie and other bus enthusiasts can take comfort in the fact that the choice riders who will ride a subway but who won’t ride the bus will demand improved bus services for the first/last mile of their ride which they themselves will enjoy too.

  • I think its progressive to choose the option that forgoes bells and whistles in order to serve the whole city.
    ————

    The westside subway WILL serve the whole city. It will give more options to everyone and improve the first/last mile ride for everyone.

    And it isn’t “bells and whistles”. It will be the transit workhorse of the westside.

  • Jarrett Walker explains these issues best: http://www.humantransit.org/2009/11/busrail-debates-in-a-beautiful-abstract-city-and-in-los-angeles.html

    ————–

    Just so you know, Jarrett supports the construction of the westside subway.

  • Anthony Crump

    Interesting concept Joel, but this concept seems to be based solely on the needs of WeHo residents with little consideration to the residents and communities along the proposed corridor, especially the Crenshaw gap. Don’t forget that people live in Longwood Highlands, Mid-City, Wilshire Vista, Miracle Mile, Crenshaw District, Jefferson Park, etc. and they may be less concerned with getting to the Beverly Center and The Grove than you are.

    I find it interesting that in one breath you derisively state “I envision a West Hollywood that is designed for the people who live, work and play here, not the motorists who simply drive through here on the way to/from somewhere else”. And yet your proposed a costly study and transit plan that would do just the same to residents of the neighborhoods I mentioned earlier. While it’s admirable that WeHo residents want transit, any legitimate study needs to look at the needs of the residents and stakeholders along the entire line, not the the ends or the ones who voted overwhelmingly for that tax that pays for it.

    And yes, I’m a transit advocate on a regional basis and a former resident of both WeHo and Mid-City. I just believe that to avoid the “Farmdale’s” of the world transit planning needs to be truly inclusive and reflect the needs and desires of residents, current riders and future riders not just the most vocal advocates.

  • I just believe that to avoid the “Farmdale’s” of the world transit planning needs to be truly inclusive and reflect the needs and desires of residents, current riders and future riders not just the most vocal advocates

    —————-

    Nice straw man you set afire there. Who said this wouldn’t happen?

  • Gary Kavanagh

    I’m of the view we need more and better everything in transit. Better more reliable bus service, and rail where the density and capacity demands warrant it.

    Part of my issue with buses is that to be useful or appealing they have to be more frequent. Waiting forever to even start your journey and waiting forever to transfer doesn’t cut it. Anywhere in my local area I want to go, I can get there faster on my bike than bus.

    However at the other end of the spectrum if you have too frequent of bus service the cost effectiveness compared to rail starts to diminish because it takes more bus drivers to provide service for fewer people as rail can handle and you rip the living hell out of the street in the right lane, the place where bicyclists are expected to ride. Look at the right lane on any major LA bus route with high frequency high capacity service, and it’s hell for road bike tires.

  • Responding to Anthony Crump: Been to Beverly Center twice in my life and that’ll do. Hold my nose walking through the Grove to get to the Farmers Market just like you do. Neither are my idea of a good time. As for the implication that I’m just about transit for WEHO, you’re off base. See my blog at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-epstein/ It’s about building out Metro for all Angelenos so there’s true mobility for those smart enough to ride, or with no alternative.

    Keep in mind that I was responding to Dan’s article not another yet to be written article about Longwood Highlands, Mid-City, Wilshire Vista, Miracle Mile, Crenshaw District, and Jefferson Park. When you write that one I look forward to responding with praise or concerns as the case may be.

    Since Metro can’t do the whole thing right now, we need creative solutions to funding pieces of the puzzle that can be weaved together as money appears on the money tree. I think WEHO’s got a prayer for securing some and given the city’s enthusiastic support for Measure R we should be showing it more love.

  • Patrick Spence

    I think it would make much more sense to route the line along LaBrea, and build another Santa monica Blvd subway later. Yhis would allow direct north south connectivity between hollywood (and places further north) to LAX (and places further south) as well as everything I between. The other route is just to circuitous

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