Back in November, Los Angeles voters passed by a more than two-thirds majority Measure R, which provides another 1/2-cent sales tax for transportation in Los Angeles County. Unlike previous tax measures, which we discussed in a previous post, Measure R allows future funding to go to subway construction, notably to the much-discussed “Subway to the Sea,” which is a proposal to expand the existing Metro Purple and Red Line to Santa Monica from the Wilshire/Western and Hollywood/Highland Stations, respectively, via Beverly Hills and Westwood. The passage of Measure R was a strong sign from L.A.’s voters that they wanted to change the tenor of mobility in their region and radically improve public transportation.
Yesterday came a report from Metro (PDF) that proposed a construction timeline for the Subway to the Sea, as well as a host of other projects in Los Angeles that will be funded by the $40 billion that Measure R will likely raise by 2040. The problem is, even with Measure R, Metro claims that there isn’t enough money to fund the subway all the way to Santa Monica, and even the 10-mile extension to Westwood wouldn’t be completed until 2032. This is, to say the least, quite a disappointment for those who were excited about the prospect for this subway line.
And in fact, the Subway to the Sea’s biggest booster, City of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (also the chair of the Metro board), calls the timeline quite unacceptable. His argument is bolstered by the fact that Metro recognizes that the extension all the way to Santa Monica could be completed in five to ten years if it were prioritized. But Metro planners have pushed it behind in this report. A great debate, then, seems likely to come soon over which corridors are most important to L.A.’s citizens and which ones may have to be lost to the sands of time.
We here at the transport politic tend to consider the Subway to the Sea to be L.A.’s best bet in terms of expansion, so we’re of course a bit dismayed by this news. The subway extension will be the highest ridership line on the entire West Coast, and it will serve L.A.’s most populous districts outside of Downtown, including areas with large numbers of students – Santa Monica and Westwood – and areas with huge numbers of businesses, along the Miracle Mile. While we support all these transit expansions in L.A. county, focusing on the subway would ironically be the most efficient way to radically alter the city’s transportation landscape, even though it would concentrate most of the resources in one corridor. The truth, however, is that that one corridor – along Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards – is the lifeline of the entire region and sincerely deserves good transit service.
Here’s the timeline of all the projects to be funded by Measure R:
- 2013 – Orange Line North-South Extensions – BRT lines running on the Canoga Corridor and another corridor in East San Fernando Valley, extending the existing Orange Line busway
- 2015 – Expo Line Phase II, Culver City to Santa Monica – this is the LRT extension of the line currently under construction from Downtown to Culver City – it comes at significantly lower cost than a subway expansion
- 2015 – Wilshire Boulevard Bus Lane – this is an interim BRT solution from Downtown to Santa Monica that will not have nearly the capacity necessary to provide service to this incredibly dense area
- 2017 – Gold Line Foothill Extension – this is an extension of the LRT Gold Line from Pasadena, east
- 2018 – Green Line to LAX Extension – will finally bring LRT rapid transit service to the area’s major airport
- 2018 – Regional Connector – downtown LRT extension connecting Metro Blue and Expo lines at Metro Center to the Gold Line at Union Station
- 2019 – Purple Line Extension Phase I – brings the subway to La Cienega along Wilshire
- 2026 – Purple Line Extension Phase II – brings the subway to Century City
- 2029 – Crenshaw Boulevard Transit – LRT line from LAX to Miracle Mile
- 2032 – Purple Line Extension Phase III – brings the subway to Westwood/I-405
- 2035 – Green Line Extension – Extends the Green Line LRT south to Redondo Beach
- 2038 – Westside/San Fernando Valley Transit – LRT or BRT service along the I-405 Freeway
Keep in mind that while this is an incredibly long timeline, the overall cost of these projects, with federal and state contributiions, is likely to reach $100 billion total, which is by far the most ambitious rapid transit program in the United States. It’s also one that’s merited for the country’s most populous county. Now, if we can only make that Subway to the Sea happen a little bit quicker…