Earlier this week, I had to be in Seal Beach for a work project, but I don't own a car. At any time of day, West Hollywood to Orange County is a daunting drive. But luckily, LA Metro Rail came to the rescue!
For just $1.75, I was able to take a bus from West Hollywood to Hollywood and Highland where I caught the Red Line to the Blue Line to a Long Beach City Bus. It may have taken just over two hours to travel 30 miles, but it was cheap and got me thinking about the future of Metro Rail to West Hollywood.
I was an early advocate for the Pink Line–a full subway line between Hollywood and Century City or Beverly Hills. That was deemed unfeasible by Metro from a traffic and funding perspective.
But on a trip to San Francisco, I found myself sitting at the gate at LAX next to Barbara Yaroslavsky, wife of then-County Supervisor Zev. "Why don't we bring the Crenshaw line up San Vicente?" I asked, and about six months later, her husband was asking the same question.
With the Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028, the region has a motivation to push forward with transit and transportation projects and to link LAX to more of the region as we prepare of the influx of visitors. With all the hotels we are building in West Hollywood, our City should hopefully be on the map by then.
Metro is studying three possible alignments for the Northern Extension of the Crenshaw Line that come through West Hollywood along La Brea, Fairfax and San Vicente–each has its advantages and disadvantages, however, but the City's preferred alternative as advocated by the West Hollywood Advocates for Metro Rail is a winding path along San Vicente and Santa Monica up to Hollywood and Highland.
In the long term, planners envision that the Green Line will have another fork that terminates at LAX and the Crenshaw Line will take over the current Green Line route to Redondo Beach.
Looking at the map, the San Vicente alignment simply doesn't look logical, winding a mile or two out of the way from the most direct route–but wind the Northern Extension will as the most direct paths along Vine or Highland cut right through NIMBYtown, aka Hancock Park.
So how do the three possible West Hollywood Routes stack up?
Taking Light Rail up La Brea is the shortest route, and therefore will likely be the least costly, but from a West Hollywood perspective, it offers few advantages and would be a disappointment for those of us hoping to bring transit to the City.
Based on federal traffic estimating guidelines and current bus ridership figures a Fairfax alignment would have the highest ridership of the three routes. However a Fairfax alignment would go through the Fairfax District, which is heavy with Orthodox Jewish residents who have historically opposed Light Rail going through their neighborhoods. If anyone at Metro remembers the battles over the Orange Line in Valley Village, they may shy away from pursuing a Fairfax alignment.
San Vicente and Santa Monica
The alignment along San Vicente and Santa Monica would restore historical Red Car service to the former town of Sherman, now known as West Hollywood. But the MAJOR advantage for Metro is that they own a HUGE parcel of land at the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente. Building light rail to their property would allow their workers to use Metro Rail to get to work and, more importantly, would allow Metro to develop the parcel–or sell development rights above their bus yard–and make a lot of money. Although Federal ridership estimating formulas don't account for them, West Hollywood, like Santa Monica, attracts a lot of people who don't live or work within a half mile of a rail transit stop, and will likely surpass ridership estimates just like the Expo Line has.
Because the case in favor of a San Vicente alignment is more subjective than that for the other alignments, getting the Rail Transit we want will be an uphill battle, but maybe that's why you should sign up for WHAM! and have your voice heard at Metro!