While many think Los Angeles has no effective public transit, in reality in the past few years Los Angeles has been at the forefront of American cities in improving transit. In November of 2009, just before the effects of the current recession were felt, Los Angeles county voters passed Measure R, an 1/2 cent increase in the county sales tax rate that will over the next thirty years (ten if Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villargosa has his way) that will significantly add to the existing network of rapid transit lines in the area.
One of the lines that will be funded with Measure R is an extension of the Wilshire subway line - the Purple Line - from its current terminus at the corner of Wilshire and Western through West Los Angeles to a planned terminus at the VA hospital just west of the interchange of Wilshire Blvd and I - 405.
This subway extension will be constructed in one of the densest parts of the metropolitan area, and should end disparaging comments about how Los Angeles rapid transit lines "do not go anywhere." Currently, there are 504,000 residents and 479,000 jobs in the area of the proposed subway, and both population and jobs are predicted to grow in the 10 - 12 percent range over the next twenty-five years. The extension will include stations in the heart of Beverly Hills, Century City, and Westwood, home of UCLA.
On October 28, 2010, the Metro board directed Metro staff to conduct a final environmental impact report (EIR) of Alternative Two, which is an 8.96 mile extension the Metro Purple subway line from Wilshire and Western along Wilshire to a stop at the VA hospital just west of I-405. Stations will be included at Wilshire / La Brea, Wilshire / Fairfax, Wilshire / La Cienega, Wilshire / Rodeo Dr. (yes, that Rodeo Dr.), Century City, Wilshire / Westwood, and the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital complex. A proposed additional stop at Wilshire / Crenshaw was not approved by the Metro Board of Directors. The extension is planned to operate every 3.3 minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during the mid-day period, and it will take just under fourteen minutes to travel along the corridor, the most congested in the Los Angeles region.
Alternative Two is estimated to attract 52,665 weekday boardings to the new stations or presumably 105,330 weekday riders to the section. No estimate has been given as to how ridership may change on existing lines. Given the fact that throughout the vast majority of the day it takes significantly more than fourteen minutes to drive from the VA hospital to Wilshire and Western, it seems extremely likely that the alignment, when finished, will attract significantly more ridership than estimated. It is possible that due to the political fallout that would obtain if ridership ended up being lower than estimated the ridership estimates for this line are on the conservative side.
The extension is projected to cost $4.38 billion in FY2009 dollars, this money is slated to come from the following sources:
- FTA New Starts funds $1.37 billion
- Measure R $2.73 billion
- Other Local Funds $ .28 billion
Alternative Two was chosen in part because it met the standards for FTA New Starts funding the best. In addition, if the Mayor's "30-10" plan is successful, the federal government will loan metro the $2.73 billion expected from Measure R up front; by providing the money up front not only will the extension be built in a more timely fashion but the overall cost may also be cheaper as Metro will be able to take advantage of the lower construction costs resulting from the recession.