Subway is Coming: Plan Accordingly!

Metro agency logoWork is proceeding on the Westside subway Wilshire extension that will connect downtown to Santa Monica as part of the County’s Long Range Transportation Plan. It commits $4.2 billion over the next 30 years to the Subway. Los Angeles city leaders have supported compressing that investment into the next ten years (aka “30-in-10”) to accelerate planning and construction. Washington policymakers have concurred. The subway is coming! And local leaders are on board too.

Wilshire rodeo station location
Coming to the heart of Beverly Hills at Wilshire and Rodeo: the Subway-not-quite-to-the-sea.

And why not? After many years of opposing the extension, Beverly Hills will now receive a station at Wilshire at Beverly Drive. Called the ‘Wilshire/Rodeo’ stop, this location has long been a priority for planners because our city is a key employment center (like Century City and Westwood). Many of the commuters that clog our city’s corridors are local to the Westside.

The station is a golden opportunity to integrate ‘multi-modal’ transportation (walk, bike, ride) facilities into the Metro transport system of which Beverly Hills is a keystone. Bikes must be a part of station design, which may include bike racks and parking facilities like lockers. Metro already includes some facilities on its other lines, but not to the degree that advocates favor.

Advocates’ Fun Facts About the Subway

metro table of transit trips
It's all regional: Metro's subway EIR shows that an increasing share of project area trips come from a larger region, and these travelers that we must accommodate. Yet fewer of trips that originate in our area stay here.

The Westside is congested. The subway extension study area is as about as dense as you can get in this metropolitan region. Approximately 5% of the Los Angeles County population is concentrated is concentrated in the broad corridor served by the extension, amounting to a half-million residents (13,000 per square mile). That alone suggests the possibilities for alternative modes of transportation.

Here’s the kicker: the study area (which includes key parts of the Westside and Mid-city is home to 5% of county population but hosts 10% of the jobs – suggesting the net inflow of workers. And the transport figures bear it out [table at left]. Here’s the promising part for cyclists: half of the trips that originate from the study area remain in the study area.

Jobs by central business district
Jobs by central business district


Moreover, the EIR shows our city to be the third highest-density employment hub in the study area . And when we have so many jobs per sq. mile, there is only so much space to put the cars. Think of how greater bike use could alleviate the need to construct parking spaces – those asphalt voids that go unused for most hours of the day (and many weekends).

These fun facts suggest that biking could be more appealing than ever anticipated precisely because so many commuters and travelers make local trips. What’s more aggravating than getting in your car for a 10-minute errand only to get waylaid in traffic?

Want to read more? The draft EIR makes great pleasure reading.

Synergy with Transit

Today, there is very little integration of bicycle transportation with the region’s mass transit system. Dual-bike racks on some of the buses, for example, is a small concession, and if you’ve ever waited late at night for a bus with an empty rack to arrive, possibly having to skip a ride, you know that it’s not sufficient.

Now imagine that as a commuter you can leave your bike where you reside or work, stowed in a secure bike parking facility, waiting until you alight from the bus or the subway? That is low-hanging fruit! Exploiting the possible synergies for creatively integrating bicycle facilities into existing and planned transit should be part of any pro-bike campaign.

The subway currently in the design phase presents an excellent opportunity to integrate bike facilities at the outset – before funding is assigned and concrete is poured. Bike lockers at the Wilshire/Rodeo stop, for example, would serve not only subway riders but those on the very busy Wilshire corridor buses too. With nearly 60,000 daily boardings, it is the most heavily-used bus corridor in Southern California, according to Metro.

Visualization of parking lot bike lockersBetter bike planning need not wait for the future. Integrating bikes into transit can happen today. The Santa Monica Boulevard transit corridor is traversed by another heavily-used line, the Metro 4, which ferries 20,000 riders daily. And many of them disembark in our fair city. Why not put bike lockers where these traveler-cyclists can use them: at the city-owned car parks adjacent to bus stop? Say you drive to work near Olympic @ Beverly Drive because the convenient bus line stops much farther north at Santa Monica Blvd. Wouldn’t you consider mass transit if you could stow your bike in a locker? That is an untapped opportunity to offer riders an end-of-transit mode switch – and there already exists space for bike lockers.

More Low-Hanging Fruit

Metro, the City of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County will likely move ahead on the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit corridor on Wilshire Boulevard. From of the 110 freeway to the Santa Monica line, riders will enjoy a faster trip because much of Wilshire will be reprioritized for buses at peak hours. It’s not merely striping a curbside bus lane; the project entails real upgrades.

The City of Beverly Hills is not participating in the project, however. Travelers moving between the second biggest jobs center (Santa Monica) and parts of the region to the East will have to suffer a legendary slowdown simply because we’re not on board with peak period bus lanes. Yet some of the suggested improvements (signal priority, street widening, and new pavement markings) would directly benefit cyclists too. Our pro-bike campaign should put this project on our policy docket.

Subway Timeline

  • Winter 2008/9: Alternatives analysis study identified the possible routes (still under discussion in public meetings).
  • January 2009: Metro Board initiated the environmental review process for the Westside Subway Extension, including the Environmental Impact Report and.
  • Spring 2009: Draft EIR public scoping meetings presented alternatives and the potential effects of construction (some Beverly Hills residents opposed tunneling proximate to the High School for the Century City route).
  • Summer-Fall: Continued hearings.