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Westside Transit Plans:

Will Santa Monica eventually have not one but two rapid transit systems connecting it to the rest of Los Angeles? The Expo Line is already being built to Culver City, with plans for a Phase 2 extension to Santa Monica. The plan of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA or Metro) to build a “Subway to the Sea” was the subject of a recent series of meetings around the Westside.

At the Santa Monica meeting on Thursday, May 8, MTA representatives David Mieger and Jody Litvak presented an overview of the MTA’s study of rapid transit on the Westside, and the alternatives proposed so far.

Following two earlier sets of community meetings last October and earlier this year, Metro took the feedback it received to create a series of “build alternatives.” At the early 2008 meetings, 17 build alternatives were presented, including a line under Wilshire Boulevard, a Santa Monica Boulevard subway, a combined Wilshire/Santa Monica route, aerial rail, and bus rapid transit alternatives. The 17 variations have been honed down to five, reflecting the public’s bent toward a subway as opposed to other kinds of transit.

Alternative 1 would follow Wilshire Boulevard, running straight from the current Wilshire/Western Purple Line terminus to Santa Monica. Locally, potential stations might include Wilshire/4th Street, Wilshire/16th Street, Wilshire/26th Street, Wilshire/Bundy, and in West L.A., Wilshire/Federal and Wilshire/Westwood.

Alternative 14 (the numbers from the earlier 17 alternatives have been carried forward) would follow the same route except for making a “curve” near Beverly Hills in order to stop at stations near the Beverly Center and Farmers’ Market/The Grove. The “curve” would be an additional expense but would promote increased ridership due to the need generated by these shopping areas.

Alternatives 11 and 16 presented a “combined” Wilshire/Santa Monica Boulevards route that connected the Wilshire corridor with the busy Santa Monica Boulevard corridor in West Hollywood. Alternative 16 included the spur to the Beverly Center and Farmers Market. Both routes included a transfer to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station, creating a connection by which a Santa Monica resident might be able to ride from the beach to Universal Studios and the Orange Line connection in the Valley.

The final alternative was a Bus Rapid Transit route that would make the connection to West Hollywood.

MTA studies, said Mieger, showed that the Alternative 11 “combined subway” performed best. The only problem is the cost. It is estimated that the system will cost $450 million per mile, “and we don’t have that right now,” said Mieger.

A Bus Rapid Transit system would be the lowest-cost alternative, while aerial (monorail) transit would be unfeasible for the Westside and other dense urban areas because the space required for the aerial guideway and stations would take up too much room on urban streets.

Following the MTA presentation, members of the public voiced their reactions. Almost everyone supported the idea of a subway, with much enthusiasm for the “combined” alternatives. “With this subway, someone in Santa Monica could go anywhere in LA,” one person noted.

One man said he was against any kind of subway, and that he hoped there would be “more congestion” and that “gas will rise to $200 a gallon” so that no one will come to Santa Monica and overcrowd it further.

Several people refuted his opinion, pointing out that with gas prices as high as they are, “we will need a subway more than ever.”

Former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane praised the MTA for its “fine alternatives,” of which he preferred Alternative 11. He said that Santa Monica would embrace such a system but would want to have community input as to the location of stations. As at other appearances, he urged everyone to vote for the state sales tax increase measure in November in order to facilitate funding for rapid transit.

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