Downtown LA and the Arts District Station: A No-Brainer Ignored by the Brainless 

LOS ANGELES

ALPERN AT LARGE--Today's a special day for me and my family:  after years of fighting for the Expo Line, I get to see my Overland Avenue Elementary School daughter and her whole grade walk to the local station at Westwood/Exposition to access the LA Museum of Natural History.  Ironically, those who fought the line (and prevented a rail bridge by demanding an underground line) are nowhere to be found. 

So it's safe to say that, when done right and with appropriate mitigations, light rail and subway lines can be a great thing for a community.  It's not the fault of Metro that Rancho Park and Cheviot Hills were inflexible, any more that it's the fault of Metro when the City of Santa Monica overrode the engineers' recommendations to elevate the line at/near Olympic (with resultant safety and traffic issues lasting to this very day). 

When a light rail is created as a good neighbor, residents and businesses want IN.  True in the Westside, and true Downtown L.A ... where the need for housing, transit-oriented development, and regional access is vital in establishing proper Planning and Transportation initiatives for the 21st Century. 

If the City of Los Angeles is willing to take time-out from overgentrification, smashing the middle-class with high utility costs and anti-business policies, and catering to the needs of the wrong types of developers, it could definitely go back to working with Metro and the County to revitalize, and enable access to, locations that do well with densification. 

In particular, these locations are Downtown, LAX, and the Wilshire Blvd. corridor--hence the Downtown Light Rail Connector, the Green/Crenshaw Line/LAX Connector and Wilshire Subway projects are some of the most well-funded and federally-supported projects in the nation. 

There is a very high likelihood that these current projects will be extended: 

1) The Downtown Light Rail Connector links all the Gold, Expo, and Blue Lines together, and will likely help establish an adjacent streetcar loop to bring as much of the Downtown region as possible into the range of Metro Rail access Downtown. 

2) The LAX/Green/Crenshaw line linkage will stimulate an extension of the Crenshaw Line underground to the Wilshire Line in the north, and stimulate an extension of the Green Line in the south. 

But what of the Wilshire Subway (Purple Line) extending westward?  Doesn't that also have Downtown access, too? Isn't Los Angeles a sort of extended Downtown from the Westside via Wilshire Blvd. to "Downtown Proper"? 

Enter Metro CEO Phil Washington, who's a pretty good guy, and who (like so many on the Metro staff) have great ideas but are not empowered politically to do everything they'd like.  They can make recommendations, but cannot come up with money for these recommendations, because that is the job of their political/elected bosses. 

With the expansion/enhancement of existing Division 20 facility along the Los Angeles River to allow for Purple Line cars coming through Union Station to turn around and run at fast and regular intervals and store trains, the opportunity of an Arts District station for locals to access the Purple Line in the Downtown region effectively extends the Purple Line east as part of this upgrade. 

Metro CEO Washington did his job, and did it well, when he emphasized that he favored this station (and these stations cost money) but also emphasized that there was no budget for it "unless manna falls from heaven

To their credit, County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin also did their jobs by supporting studies for an Arts District station, including the exploration of new stations at First, Third, or Sixth Streets. 

This isn't the same as supporting a "transit-oriented development" on Venice Blvd. or somewhere that is miles away from a light rail or subway line...which is obviously a pathetic ploy to overjustify gentrification for high-cost housing in a tony part of town. 

New stations for the Downtown portion of the Purple Line is the equivalent of an eastern extension of the Purple Line, in the same way that an adjacent Downtown Streetcar project is a one-seat transfer and extension of the Downtown Light Rail Project...because if ever there was a need for more rail extensions and access...it's Downtown. 

Ditto for LAX and the adjacent regions of Inglewood that will see revitalization and transportation improvements in ways that we've not seen (but only talked about) for generations with the upcoming Green/Crenshaw/LAX lines. 

Finding the money, the "manna from heaven" is pretty much what the voters wanted when they passed Measure M.  Maybe the developers who are overbuilding the City and County of Los Angeles can cough up the millions of dollars to study and get these stations built. 

And maybe an Arts District station, which is a no-brainer of an idea, will be created to restore the faith of the beleaguered voters and taxpayers of Los Angeles, who really want their elected leaders to show that, in fact, they really do have brains.

 

 (Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)

-cw

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