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Wilshire Subway: This Train Keeps Coming Back to the Station

WHERE TO STOP IS THE QUESTION - This train keeps coming back to the station. I again respond to Beverly Hills Councilman John Mirisch’s latest CityWatch article on the future stations for the proposed Wilshire Subway.
Lately, Mr. Mirisch inquires if I am an Allman Brothers Band fan. Indeed, I was in high school, back in the previous century, but have moved on. However, I failed to find in the article the connection between the subway and the band. The songs which come to mind are “Tied to the Whipping Post” and “Rambling Man.” Are they relevant to this?

Our exchanges have centered on where to place three stations for the Wilshire subway - Century City; Westwood; and the VA Hospital Grounds.

CENTURY CITY

Mr. Mirisch and Beverly Hills prefer a subway station along Santa Monica Blvd. at Century Park East. This would avoid the subway tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. This, it seems, would be detrimental to the school. Beverly Hills also raises questions of safety with an earthquake fault in the vicinity. Geologists have stated that they see no added safety threat.

I favor the station along Constellation Blvd. I base my preference not to geologic information, nor am I following the wishes of Metro. I base it upon my experiences as a transit rider in this town since 1992: bus, train, and subway. This includes taking bus to Century City, and exiting from Santa Monica Blvd. and Century Park East, the preferred subway station Mr. Mirisch and Beverly Hills.

As I stated earlier, entering and exiting Century City from Santa Monica Blvd. is to confront the worst of urban planning which favored vehicles, and created obstacle for pedestrians, which all transit riders are.

The station at Constellation places the subway rider closer to the center of Century City for access to the center and to points elsewhere. The Santa Monica Blvd. and Century Park East station favors the northern part of Century City. This creates a longer walk, and one which is very slow due to the numerous signals needed to cross the streets there.

There are also issues regarding park-and-ride stations at Metro subway stations. Previously, in writing about the station placement in Westwood, I may not have been clear enough regarding my feelings on park-and-rides for the subway station: Mr. Mirisch most recently wrote,  “Mr. Hetz asks about where park-and-rides would be built at a LeConte/Westwood station.  Mr. Hetz seems to be suggesting that park-and-rides should be a part of the transit master plan and should be incorporated into the planning for the Westside Extension.”

While I did write about park-and-rides as part of the subway system, I acknowledged their existence, but wrote that I favor a complete transit experience: “Some will want to drive to the subway station. I would recommend trying being fully transit, and taking a bus to the subway.  This would be ideal in reducing traffic and the pollution from vehicles. But people will want to drive to the subway station though a robust transit network may eventually move people from their vehicles to transit.

“The existing office towers along Wilshire and Westwood Blvds have large parking garages. These are ready to also serve those who would drive to the Wilshire/Westwood station, park, and then take the subway.” I am not promoting park-and-rides, but encourage the full transit ride.

Mr. Mirisch wrote, “Many people cannot or will not use sporadic – and decreasing – bus service to get to a subway station.  But many would use a park-and-ride.  I’m convinced that many of our residents who are not within walking distance of a subway station would drive the mile or two to a convenient park-and-ride facility in order to avoid killer traffic on their journey to points downtown and beyond.”

This park-and-ride issue for Century City raises curious issues. If the station is built at Santa Monica and Century Park East, close to Beverly Hills, where would Beverly Hills residents park to ride? The number of existing office towers and parking structures for riders to use are less at this location.

The park-and-ride patron would have to find their parking place, then cross some very busy streets to get to and from the subway station. I know from riding the bus to Century City and exiting at this bus stop that it’s very slow with the number of streets and long traffic signals.

I would not favor building parking garages at this location. This just further placates the car culture which while glamorous, is also expensive to belong to, brings gridlock, air and water pollution and contributes carbon gases exacerbating global warming.

The Constellation Station is closer to more existing parking structures, giving the park and ride patron more parking options, and fewer street crossings, saving time. This better serves Beverly Hills residents and all who would park-then-ride. But again, I would promote first looking for bus routes to a subway station.

As for contentions by Mr. Mirisch that Metro will sue Beverly Hills, I haven’t the foggiest idea if they will. That would be their business, as would be Beverly Hills suing Metro.

Mr. Mirisch raised the “Yaroslavsky Method (draw a circle around an area and find “the center of the center”) in determining where to place stations, then they should use this method for all stations, and not just selectively.” I was unaware of this method until his article.

But in using this method, the Constellation Station would better serve Beverly Hills residents as it is closer to the main Century City parking structures.

While the Constellation Station at Century City fits this method nicely, I believe that the placement of subway stations should be done selectively, each suited to the particular area. If the majority are in the center of the center, then Yaroslavsky seems to have discovered a sound method of subway placement. This leads to another station, the VA.

VETERANS HOSPITAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE GROUNDS STATION

Through my bus riding I have heard, and continue today to hear veterans who ride buses to the VA. They talk of their illnesses, physical and mental. I think both Mr. Mirisch and I agree that we need to honor our Men and Women Veterans. I feel this station would help them greatly.

Mr. Mirisch states the station should be at Wilshire and Barrington, and that veterans should rely upon shuttles for their service. While this interesting idea, but who would pay for that? All budgets are stretched, and cutbacks are slated everywhere. From where would the money come to fund this fleet of shuttles?

If the veteran is not able to ride transit, then a shuttle could work. But, I’ve seen veterans in their motorized wheelchairs on their way to the VA use buses. I’ve seen them hobble on and off the bus.

This sight is a stark reminder of the veterans in our midst, what they go through day by day to cope with their ailments, and is a reminder to us all of the costs of war. If we shutter all of them out of sight with shuttles, then it’s out of mind, and that does not serve the conscious of this country. We need to see the veterans, to remind us of their service to this nation.

In addition to the veterans, the VA Hospital and grounds are a large employment center, and the VA Subway Station would them as well.

WESTWOOD STATION

Here is where the situation becomes very curious. Mr. Mirisch favors a subway station at Le Conte, on Westwood or Weyburn to better serve UCLA.

My support is for one at Wilshire and Westwood, which is also the preferred Metro station. That my favoring this station and the Century City Station one is in agreement with Metro’s is strictly coincidence. I based my judgements from transit riding experience, and was not told by Metro to support them.

Perhaps Metro is now listening and better gauging the needs of transit riders. But I am no point man for Metro with preconceived motives to confound Mr. Mirisch and Beverly Hills.

I have raised the issue why a Beverly Hills Councilman would be so interested in a subway placement at Westwood Village/UCLA which is outside his jurisdiction. He is certainly entitled to give opinions on any station anywhere along the line, as a Beverly Hill Councilman and a resident of Los Angeles County. But his insistence to comment on this station remains curious to me.

He mentions that,  “What’s more, as I’ve pointed out, UCLA is a commuter campus, which makes the need for effective public transportation all the more pressing.  And not a few of those commuting students are residents of Beverly Hills.”

UCLA is currently and effectively served by numerous buses. They are not as efficient as subways, but this is today’s reality and hopefully transit to Westwood will be improved in the near future by subway.

But “Not a few?” What is a few? For a university with total enrollment of over forty-thousand, what exactly is not a few? Are these Beverly Hills UCLA students, to whom I wish the best, the reason to move the station to Le Conte?

UCLA remains a campus very crowded during academic sessions, but much less so when not in session. True, there are activities year-round on the campus.  However, currently on the Culver City No. 6 which runs mostly on Sepulveda and picks up UCLA students, with the Academic Session over for the holidays, the bus is much, much less crowded. This means most riders can sit. When UCLA is in session, all seats are taken and many are standing. The lower bus ridership also occurs when the school is out for the summer.

Le Conte is being called by Mr. Mirisch the gateway to Westwood Village and UCLA. I have no qualms about the UCLA gateway, but for the Le Conte Station to be a gateway to Westwood, existing traffic patterns would not bear this out, as I previously stated.

Again, Le Conte is not close in handling the current traffic as Wilshire Boulevard which serves as the feeding boulevard for drivers as they enter Westwood Village from Veteran Ave., Gayley Ave., and Westwood Blvd. on their way to UCLA.

The Le Conte station would be at the northern part of the village, and not centrally located to serve the business and offices along and close to Wilshire.

Mr. Mirisch states there could be other stations located elsewhere in the village. Where exactly, he doesn’t say, but somehow they would be more centrally located. This does not clarify the matter.

Mr. Mirisch thinks the Le Conte Station would be better for UCLA since the subway rider would have a shorter walk into campus than from a station at Wilshire and Westwood. True, but if the subway rider wants to get to the entrance to the medical center, it’s still a good walk. I’ve done it getting off a bus on Le Conte.

To get to the dense northern and eastern parts campus, a bus ride would be the norm and would require a transfer from subway to bus at either the Le Conte or Wilshire/Westwood Station. However, the later location has more space and more vehicle lanes to handle the buses than does Le Conte.

Previously, I wrote that UCLA has an existing shuttle system for moving people off campus to off-site parking and housing units. UCLA could expand this service to serve the campus from the subway station at Wilshire and Westwood. There exists a shuttle with routes within the campus. The system is primed for expansion to handle subway riders. Yes, it would be a transfer, but in this city, most transit rides require at least one transfer. Some days I ride five buses.

Mr. Mirisch supports the reincarnation of Westwood Village as a vital and thriving destination for entertainment, shopping and restaurants. I do also. I visit the area frequently, and remember the vibrancy of the heydays of the 1970s and 80s.

Mr. Mirisch also seems to be a basketball fan, and states he would walk from the Le Conte Station to Pauley Pavilion. But wouldn’t this be just the opposite of attracting more business and pedestrian life to the village?

For those going to UCLA for whatever reason, with a station at Le Conte there would be no incentive to walk past the station through the village to be enticed to shop, eat or see a movie there. They would just walk into the campus, thus depriving the village of much needed new business. With UCLA increasingly offering its own alternatives to business and eateries in the village, it could continue to draw away customers from the village onto the campus.

However, with the subway station at Wilshire and Westwood, the subway rider who walks to UCLA would then pass businesses in the village, and the dialogue between customer and business owner begins. I’ve taken that walk, and while it is some four blocks, it is very doable. The increase in foot traffic to and from the Wilshire/Westwood Station could restore life to the village.

If the subway rider transfers to a bus to get into UCLA, they would pass businesses which could try to attract the transit rider’s business.

If the village is attractive and safe, and there is clear and numerous signage on the businesses in the village, the luster could be restored. Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Los Angeles’ The Grove prove that it is not so much the distance to walk, but the area where the walking is taking place.


The Wilshire/Westwood Station best provides the potential for a large influx of pedestrian traffic into Westwood Village to start the dialogue between shop/restaurant/theater owner and potential clients.

(Matthew Hetz is a bus rider and transportation advocate. He lives on LA’s Westside.)
–cw

Tags: Wilshire Subway, Westside Subway, UCLA, Century City, John Mirisch, Beverly Hills





CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 103
Pub: Dec 27, 2011

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