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Mass Transit: From the Holey Snail to the Holy Grail

MOVING LA - Well, it’s been a heckuva fight, and it’s probably not the last we’ll hear about it, but it does appear that a 7.7 mile bus-only lane will be created on Wilshire Blvd. from the Westside to Downtown after Tuesday’s Los Angeles City Council vote. [link]

It’s easy to have mixed feelings about this decision, because the best transportation projects are those that benefit ALL commuters, not just benefiting one above the others.  In this case, the tens of thousands of busriders will move faster, and the car commuters will get nailed…

…and because the bus-only lanes are repeatedly discontinued in a “Swiss cheese” fashion throughout the nightmarish traffic conundrum that is Wilshire Blvd, the buses will still go too slowly from one end of Wilshire Blvd. to the other.

…and because Beverly Hills has refused to be part of the bus-only lane project, it’s really anyone’s guess as to why Beverly Hills would waste their time fighting the proposed Wilshire Subway route to Century City, because I doubt the City of LA will be too receptive to the concerns of Beverly Hills right now.

…and because the Condo Canyon of the Westside and the City of Santa Monica are excluded from being part of the bus-only lane, it’s dubious as to whether those regions will get much consideration in the Wilshire Subway and other projects by their Westside neighbors.

…and because this bus-only lane will go into effect during rush hour, it’s hoped that the support of all Wilshire Corridor commuters for the Subway will only increase, because the need for said Wilshire Subway will increasingly become more urgent if, as many fear, car traffic will worsen and automobile drivers will want access to the Subway.

But enough of the “Holey Snail” that is the broken-up, still-too-slow Wilshire Bus Lane project!  We’ve got our Holy Grail to set our sights on as both the east-west Expo and Wilshire rail lines exit the realm of science fiction to becoming reality:  a north-south rail line to link the Westside and the Valley . [link]

The fact is we’ve got Van Nuys Blvd in the Valley and Sepulveda Blvd in the Westside that could be drawn/connected  with virtually a single north-south line on a map, lending support to the concept of linking them with a single rail line.

The fact is we’ve got $1.1 billion of Measure R money to build that rail link, and perhaps up to twice that with a federal match for providing mitigation for what is either one of the worst, or the singular worst, freeway in the nation:  the I-405 at the Sepulveda Pass.

The fact is we’ve got a very steep slope for a surface or elevated light rail train to traverse alongside the freeway as it goes up and then down over the Sepulveda Pass, but an underground alignment (or Rail Tunnel) for such a light rail train—which, unlike the heavy rail Wilshire Subway, need not remain underground on either end of the Sepulveda Pass—can whisk commuters from/to the Westside to/from the Valley in 6-7 minutes.

The fact is that an I-405 Freeway Corridor Rail Project will benefit both car and train commuters, unlike the current Wilshire Bus-Only Lane configuration which will help valued bus commuters at the expense of equally-valued car commuters who (like the rest of us) all pay taxes and deserve consideration in transportation planning.

This Westside/Valley Rail Line, or I-405 Corridor Rail Line, would probably be built in phases with the first, Measure R-funded phase extending from the Orange Line Busway in the north to either the Purple or Expo Lines in the south.  

Ideally, it would be extended to the Sylmar Metrolink Line in the north, and to LAX and the South Bay and Long Beach in the south with future extensions…but this Holy Grail of transit projects, this quick and speedy alternative to the I-405 freeway is now being discussed on both sides of the Sepulveda Pass as the “next big project” after the Wilshire Subway and other Westside rail projects are on their way to construction and completion.

Let’s hope that this I-405 Rail Project—which has been so fervently discussed by so many residents and political leaders for so many years—will be less acrimonious, less political, and less divisive than the Wilshire Bus-Only Lane Project just approved by the LA City Council.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), and previously co-chaired the MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure, Planning, and Outreach Committees.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) -cw

Tags: Holy Grail, mass transit, Los Angeles, Wilshire Blvd, Measure R, Wilshire Subway, Wilshire bus-only lanes, City Council, Beverly Hills, busriders, car commuters, Westside




CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 48
Pub: June 17, 2011

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