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Metro’s Subway Team Tackles Century City

February 3, 2010

In case you missed it, yesterday was a big day for the Subway to the Sea. A crack team of Metro PR representatives struck westward, bombarding Century City with what might well have been the single most enthralling Powerpoint presentation of all time. And good thing; Century City is quite possibly the epicenter of LA’s car culture, and coincidentally enough, a hub for Westside old money.

I arrived by bus, stepping off on the soot-stained northern side of Santa Monica Blvd. At Avenue of the Stars, Santa Monica is so wide that you need two light cycles to get all the way across. There a bus-only lane through the middle of this giant intersection, which helps buses to speed up but also requires bus riders to wait at a stop in a median between seven lanes of traffic. This current bus setup is perhaps the most convincing argument that Century City needs a subway.

Arriving late for the presentation, I was given a handful of pamphlets and told that the material was also “all on the website” – soon to become a recurring theme for my trip. A boldly colored, wide format flier promised me that “the Purple Line is coming to Century City”. I’m sure it is, but not without Metro’s requisite parade of slowdowns and screw-ups.

Jody Litvak - image not available.Not the least of which are the affluent and transit hostile, who were well represented in this crowd. The capable Jody Litvak fielded questions, doing her best to diffuse the dull pessimism of some toward this project. “I live in Marina Del Rey, how will this help me?” one woman plaintively asked. A man was confused as to why the train didn’t run at ground level along Santa Monica, a street which he clearly hadn’t just walked across.

The meeting adjourned, and Jody and several other Metro staffers stuck around to further elucidate on their subway plans for Century City. One Metro employee, in a conversation with an uninformed but open minded attendee, bragged that he rides the Red Line from Hollywood/Highland to Metro HQ everyday – a fact that would amaze Browne Molyneux were she present. What’s more, the subway ride is faster that his commute would be by car. The attendee was impressed, but also worried that the subway couldn’t make back construction costs; his concerns were assuaged when he learned that nearly every form of transportation doesn’t make its money back, including roads. Despite further concerns that the subway would travel directly under his house, the attendee vowed that he would ride the train once it was completed.

I had a chat with the metro employee; despite me never having seen the graphics he had on display, he informed me that they had been available since October. I also learned why Metro is reluctant to build multiple entries to each station, even in crowded areas like Hollywood/Highland: each one costs $20 million. Quite a price tag, but one which is nonetheless warranted by the gargantuan breath of Avenue of the Stars. I was pleased to see many of the proposed station designs include two entrances.

I walked over to admire some of Metro’s fine diagrams, only to overhear a particularly irate old man badgering poor Jody. He looked like a cross between Walter Matthau and the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, and he sported a plaid pork-pie hat that would make him look really hip were he 50 years younger. I didn’t catch the full tantrumconversation, but from what I overheard, he was not only furious that Metro dare to build a subway, but he also alerted Jody that he was on to Metro’s evil plot to manipulate data to make it look like more people were in support of the project. A subway conspiracy theorist! Maybe he should trade his fashionable hat for one made of tin foil. I was able to covertly snap a picture of this guy, so if you see him, you should congratulate him on his effort to undermine Metro’s nefarious designs.

Jody came up to me and asked if I had any questions. I had a few, and her response to all of them was, “It’s on the website.” I wanted to ask her to shed a bit of light on Mayor V’s ambitious but somewhat impractical sounding “30-10” plan, but she was beginning to get tired of answering my questions, and with her having just had to deal with Mr. subway enemy, I let her off the hook. Be warned Jody, next time there will be no softball questions.

Despite the knee-jerk grumblings of the rich, a subway line to Century City would be a blessing. For anyone who doubts the benefits of a subway to LA’s “second downtown”, one need only look at how the Red Line has benefited LA’s first downtown. When the subway was first built, critics were outraged that anyone would dare build a subway in what was accepted to be the ultimate car city. But today, thousands people who would otherwise be clogging the streets downtown choose instead to commute by subway, light rail, or Metrolink. Let’s hope the same can eventually happen in Century City.

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