And away we go -- the MTA board signed off this morning on an extension that goes all the way to the veterans hospital in Westwood. Like it or not, this is a major step in the transportation history of Los Angeles - one of those decisions that will stay with us for decades. Not that they're about to start shoveling - a final environmental review must be completed next year that will consider, among other things, where to place the subway stops. This is no small matter - already, there's debate on whether to have the Century City stop on Santa Monica Boulevard or Constellation Boulevard. That's a big deal not only because of the stop, but because of the route that would be taken to reach that stop. From John Mirisch in the HuffPost:
The Community of Beverly Hills is united in opposition to the Constellation alignment, which would involve tunneling under the City's only -- and historical -- high school. Opposition is based on the fact that there is a viable alternative to tunneling under the high school, as well as the perception that Metro has not been entirely straight with the Community. In short, our residents have become tired of being the victims of bait-and-switch tactics, whether they come from slick developers or from Metro.
Then there is Joel Epstein, also in the HuffPost, who argues for Constellation:
It must be the lapsed lawyer in me but my counsel to Metro is to avoid permitting the concerns of a tiny minority of Beverly Hills residents to set the course of a subway line that will serve millions of LA residents. This would indeed be the slippery slope that every first year law student masters and learns serves no one but the lawyers.
Construction is set to begin in 2013 - much earlier if you believe that the mayor will expedite the work in 10 years instead of 30. Of course if you believe that I have some attractive mortgage-backed securities you might want to consider. We're probably in for an extended period of bickering and litigation. After that will come the kinds of cost overruns and project delays that accompany a big public works project in a densely populated area (at this point the 9 1/2-mile route is price at $5.15 billion). From the LAT:
Transit systems have exerted a huge influence on transportation and beyond when the change was from horse-and-buggy to trolley, but less so in Southern California when modern transit systems have faced competition from cars, said Eric Morris, a researcher at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA and a transportation blogger for the New York Times. "In our current world, the auto provides point-to-point, high-speed travel," Morris said. "It's flexible and it's convenient. But I can see a subway project in that corridor being competitive. The Wilshire corridor is so dense. There are a lot of jobs within walking distance. If any project has the ability to reshape travel patterns it's this one."]
Besides the Westside route, the MTA board also approved plans for a $1.37-billion regional connector through downtown Los Angeles that would make it easier for light-rail users to get from train to train.