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Jack McGrath

Executives at NBC Universal have kicked off another phase of the planned expansion of their 300+ acre studio lot in Universal City. This time they announced $100 million dollars in infrastructure improvements for the area surrounding the studio lot. Included are new onramps to the Hollywood 101 Freeway, intersection improvements, and other transportation additions to help move increased traffic generated by the proposed development.

The major problem with this type of large expansion project is the additional number of automobiles brought into an area, already severely congested due to visitors at City Walk, the Universal City Tour, and the production studio itself.

Most if not all of the homeowner associations in the area have given a thumbs down to the proposed development. The residents want to be able to travel to their food market, without spending 45 minutes just to get there. The major arteries of Lankershim Blvd., Ventura Blvd, and Cahuenga Blvd., are pretty much at a crawl most of the day.

I have a proposal that would reduce existing traffic congestion, and reduce significantly the future traffic generated by the new proposed development.

It is very simple. Put all the guests underground or have them travel to and from Universal City on our many transit systems in Los Angeles County. Instead of spending $100 million dollars on minor traffic and road improvements, NBC Universal should pay for their guests to travel to and from their venue via the red line subway.

It is not very expensive to take the red line subway from Union Station to the Universal station. The $2.70 round trip fare should be reimbursed by NBC Universal. The guests would have this cost deducted from their ticket price for the studio tour, or by all the restaurants and attractions at City Walk. One hundred million dollars would purchase many subway tickets over a number of years.

NBC Universal would need to promote this service by stating in their 30 second broadcast TV ads, "Come to Universal City Walk, and we will pay for your ride underground to come visit us."

As one of Southern California's premiere attractions, the studio tour and City Walk attract many tourists from major U.S. cities, and from cities abroad. Many of these tourists are from cities that have extensive underground transit systems, and would gladly use our MTA subway, if they knew about the system. Again NBC Universal needs more marketing to tourist groups to make all visitors aware of our many transit systems.

The MTA could discount the cost of the tickets, since NBC Universal would be increasing the patronage on the subway system by millions of boardings. The Universal City station was originally built to bring the guests to the attractions. It has not been promoted as a means to NBC Universal.

Most residents of the area do not care what NBC Universal does with their large studio lot. They are all concerned with traffic. How many trips will be generated by the development? If NBC Universal eliminated much of the existing traffic and future traffic, many residents and groups might look move favorably on the $3 billion proposed development.

If NBC Universal were to institute this transportation idea, they would be viewed as one of the more responsible corporate neighbors in the Southland. Over a given year, millions of gallons of gasoline would be saved, greenhouse gas emissions reduced, and public support for NBC Universal would be greatly increased. NBC Universal needs to take the lead for the betterment of us all.

Jack McGrath is the owner of GM Communications, a company which provides public relations, media relations and advertising for businesses in the San Fernando Valley. He has written numerous Op-Ed pieces for publications in Los Angeles.

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