An Alternative to Wilshire Subway

I’ve made no secret on this blog that I am against the subway under Wilshire that for some reason does not reach the sea. To reiterate, I am not against public transportation; I’m just against this public transportation. People seem to get upset when I say the Wilshire subway “doesn’t go anywhere.” Yes, it goes up and down Wilshire, but unless it is part of a system with north-south connections, a lone east-west line is useless.

Supporters say the subway would help ease traffic, which obviously Los Angeles needs. But in doing research, I found this little nugget in LA Weekly:

Though a point of civic pride, the subway — also known as the Purple Line — is expected by 2035 to create a virtually unnoticeable reduction in car traffic of less than 1 percent. Metro conceded in a draft Environmental Impact Report that the Westside Subway won’t cut congestion even slightly in the city or the region.

So explain to me again why the city is spending upwards of $9 billion on a subway line that will take 25 years to build and will not impact traffic?

What this city needs is an extensive public transportation system that runs all over town and won’t take generations to build. In the past I have proposed monorails. Not many people support this, and perhaps it is not the best idea, but I was trying to think outside the box. So I am going back into the box to come up with another concept.

The only system that could be built relatively quickly would be light rail that runs on existing streets. I don’t like the idea of trains sharing the road with cars and people — I think it is too dangerous. So I tried to come up with a way to separate trains from vehicles and pedestrians, and I think I have.

The first step in this idea is to go ahead with the previous proposal to make Pico and Olympic one-way streets. Now with Olympic one way, a train can be run down the middle of the street. Cars would not be able to cross the tracks except at major intersections (La Cienega, Faixfax, La Brea, etc.), allowing the train to run non-stop between the stops at those intersections.

Now obviously this creates the problem of cars turning onto the side-streets between the intersections. Olympic would be split up into North Olympic and South Olympic, so it would be the drivers’ responsibility to make sure they are on the correct side of the road if they need to turn onto a street. It would be a difficult transition but eventually we would get used to it.

Also, a couple of pedestrian bridges would have to be built between intersections so people can get across. Pedestrian bridges in many cities are pretty cool looking, so if they are designed well, they could add to the look of streets.

Another question arises — aren’t I making the major intersections more dangerous? Intersections in general are the most dangerous parts of roads, so by adding trains that have to cross, aren’t I making things worse? Well, the trains would have to stop anyway because that is where the stations are, and perhaps a system can be put in place where the motorman can control the traffic signal so no cars or people are in the intersection when the train crosses.

I think a system like this could work. The train would run non-stop between stations instead of having to stop at lights as they have to do in other light rail systems, thus speeding the train ride. The trains are relatively separated from the rest of the road except at intersections.

Of course, a problem arises in an attempt to expand the system. At least one northern east-west line would be needed, and Santa Monica and Sunset are too busy and not wide enough to be converted to one-way and absorb the loss of car lanes. The same goes for the streets (Western, La Brea, etc,) on the necessary north-south lines.

Perhaps our surface streets are much too crowded to accommodate trains. But I still think going beneath them is too expensive and not an effective way to reduce traffic.

4 comments for “An Alternative to Wilshire Subway

  1. Transit Rider
    August 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    The LA Weekly quote is misleading. By stating that traffic reduction would be minimal in 20 years after the subway is built ignores the alternative. If the subway is not built, how much worse would traffic be without it? A lot worse.

    The point is that hundreds of thousands more people would be moved around the city with no increase in traffic from today’s numbers. That’s a huge improvement.

    Watch out for the Weekly. They have a strange, conservative streak which manifests as a hostility to quality public transit investment. I can’t understand why.

    A subway is an investment in our city that would last hundreds of years, unlike the solution that you propose which is short term and still subject to traffic delays by sharing the roads with cars.

    Worst of all, pedestrian overpasses? Really? That;s the best way to kill street life. Look at North Figueroa Street downtown. They built overpasses there and it’s a ghost town most of the time. Compare that to the other vibrant streets of downtown.

  2. Mark Berman
    August 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Good point about the pedestrian bridges. I didn’t think of it that way. I would never propose them for an area with high pedestrian traffic (although they work pretty well in Las Vegas). There aren’t many people walking around on parts of Olympic, so that shouldn’t be an issue. For other parts it could be a problem.

    As I said, I’m just trying to come up with a reasonable alternative to a very expensive lone subway line, a line with no further connections proposed to link to it. There’s got to be one, right?

  3. D
    August 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Honestly, you are very uninformed regarding the wilshire subway. please do some research before you spew. No further connections to the Wilshire subway? hmm interesting. what would you consider the proposed 405 line, the Crenshaw line, the connection with the expo line in Santa Monica?

    this is a backbone line. It goes first and then other lines tie into it. It hits multiple mega attractions as well as UCLA, the second largest trip generator in LA County. I wouldn’t be shocked if ridership was well over 100,000 daily boardings from day 1.

    Any line at grade on or near wilshire is a no go. Monorail is not compatible with our current system, has a lower capacity than HRT and is a not go aesthetically. LRT does not have the capacity or speed and would be subject to street traffic.

  4. Scott Mercer
    August 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    For some reason the L.A. Weekly morphed recently into a rabid anti-transit mouthpiece. You would do well to ignore anything they say about transit or Metro.

    Yes, with the Wilshire subway, traffic would only decrease 1%. Without the subway, TRAFFIC WOULD INCREASE 30%, along with the population. As bad as it is now, would you like it to get 30% worse? I didn’t think so. Now doesn’t spending that money seem like a decent idea?

    Quality doesn’t cost, it pays.

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