Sat, May

Fight on Westwood: Ignore the UCLA Subway Station Diversion

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - When most of the rest of the city is against you, you can fight, or create a diversion.  Beverly Hills, or at least one of its council members, John Mirisch, is doing both. (CityWatch, Oct. 10)

He opposes the placement of the Red Line Subway station within Century City since it will pass underneath Beverly Hill High School. Beverly Hills feels it will be ruinous to the school, particularly to a planned parking structure. It’s ironic to slow down an alternative to always driving everywhere, the subway, with an enabler to this, a parking structure.

Beverly Hills instead wants the future subway station on Santa Monica Boulevard near Century Park East. As a bus rider, that is the current main bus stop for Century City, and it is not a good spot.  

To the bus rider/pedestrian, Century City is a fortress. I’ve been a regular transit rider since 1992, and few places are as foreboding, daunting and just hard to enter from the sidewalk than Century City.

The thousands of subway riders would be forced to walk from Santa Monica Boulevard to the few points of entry into Century City. At night, the bus stops at Santa Monica and Century Park East are a no-man’s land of isolation.

By placing the subway stop within Century City, it would be closer to the many office towers and the mall. It would be a vibrant, exciting stop from early morning to late evening. It would bring dramatic change, and would improve the entire urban feel to Century City.

A subway stop here would mirror the originally conceived, car oriented points of entry and exit for the area: from subterranean parking structures. Subway riders would likewise enter and exit Century City from underground, but it would be a subway station.

In creating their diversion, Beverly Hills then tries to create doubt about the Century City subway station by criticizing the placement of the next subway station on the line heading west, the one at Wilshire and Westwood.

This stop, like the one within Century City, is supported by many, and would be similar to the proposed station in Century City as both stations would be amidst office towers full of employees, and potential transit riders.

Mr. Mirisch proposed that the Wilshire/Westwood station be moved onto the UCLA campus near Pauley Pavilion, what is now the Ackerman Station serving buses. I thought of this proposal while waiting for the Culver City No. 6, Southbound at the Ackerman Station.

I left UCLA on the No. 6 bus and travelled down Westwood Blvd. Immediately we became stuck in traffic. After inching down Wilshire Blvd, the bus made a slow right turn onto Wilshire Blvd. heading west, still stuck in traffic. The No. 6 then turned south onto Sepulveda Blvd.

As the bus traveled south on Sepulveda Blvd, I could see the office towers of Westwood in the foreground, and the office towers of Century City in the background.  The similarities are striking: a dense cluster of high rise office towers housing thousands of people in their jobs.  

From this viewpoint, it makes perfect sense to put the subway stations in the midst of these employment centers. But I wanted to give Mr. Mirisch’s contentions about UCLA a fair shake.

As I waited for the bus up in UCLA at the Ackerman Station, I could see the number of students walking on campus, and Mr. Mirisch’s suggestion of placing the subway system there had some merit. But upon further comparison between office towers and a university, the need for the subway stations near the office towers became more convincing.

Employment is, for the most part, year round. A person goes to the same place to work day after day, month after month, and year after year. They may change jobs, but someone else will then take that vacant job to fill that office space.

Or a new business will move into an office in a building filling a vacancy. All of these employees are potential transit riders.

With employment, the basic premise is that it would year-round. This is not so for a university, which has periods when it is crowded, when school is in session, but then periods of near emptiness, when school is not in session, such as breaks between semesters, holidays, summer.

So the count of the university fluctuates greatly, and should a subway station be placed on the UCLA campus, there would be periods of low ridership.

Furthermore, not all students attend classes every day, so while the overall campus population is large, the number of students on campus fluctuates daily.

As long as the economy is good, they will be a constant source of transit riders working year round in office buildings.

So, with a steady stream of transit riders from office towers, opposed to periodic ridership from a university, it makes more sense to place the one subway station near the office towers of Wilshire and Westwood, and to avoid that diversion, place the other one within the more easily accessed heart of Century City.

Mr. Mirisch raises the valid issue of getting the subway rider to UCLA from the Wilshire/Westwood station. Westwood Village is currently a transit hub, served by Metro, Santa Monica, Culver City, and Santa Clarita buses.  

A subway rider exiting at the Wilshire/Westwood station wishing to get to UCLA could take the Culver City No. 6, the Metro 20 and 305 the Santa Monica Nos. 1,2,3, 8 and 12 buses (for Santa Monica buses this is limited to evening hours) to arrive at the Ackerman Station near Pauley Pavilion.

If the rider needed to get to the mid-eastern part of the campus at the Hilgard Station at Hilgard and Westholme,  they could take the Metro Rapid 760, or the Santa Monica Nos. 1, 2, 3, 8 and 12 (for Santa Monica buses this is for morning to late evening).

If needed, the Metro 760 continues north on Hilgard and then turns west on Sunset Blvd. to serve the northern part of the campus.

UCLA itself runs a bus shuttle service. These are for off campus parking structures and housing units.  UCLA could increase this service to handle the subway ridership.

In my transit fantasies, I could envision a trolley from the UCLA Ackerman Station running south down Westwood Blvd, for the subway riders at the Wilshire/Westwood station, continuing to Pico Blvd, to carry the riders from the under construction Expo Line/Westwood Station on to the campus in the morning and returning them in the evening.

ULCA students and employees are seen walking on and off campus daily, particularly at lunch time. So the idea of walking from the Wilshire/Westwood station into campus is not farfetched.

The city is under gridlock. From vehicles we are still threatened with their air and water pollution (urban run-off) and carbon gases exacerbating green house global warming. The economic and environmental health of the region depends on changes to driving behaviors.

The subway goes a very long way in this direction, and to be delayed by these oppositions and diversions serves neither Beverly Hills nor the region.

(Matthew Hetz is a bus rider and transportation advocate. He lives on LA’s Westside.) –cw

Tags: UCLA, students, Century City, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Westwood

Vol 9 Issue 84
Pub: Oct 21, 2011