Thursday, September 8, 2011

L.A. Public Transit: Downtown to Santa Monica

The Westside Subway Extension is going to happen. Will it be built in ten or thirty years? That depends on the political will in Washington and the lobbying efforts of Los Angeles leaders in City Hall. But whether the Purple Line train reaches the VA Hospital west of the 405 Freeway in a decade doesn't matter if you want to get to the beach today via mass transit.

When I visited L.A. this summer I wanted to see friends on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica without a car. My Blue Line train arrived in downtown Los Angeles from downtown Long Beach and I switched trains at 7th St./Metro Center to the Purple Line subway that took me to the end of the line at Wilshire/Western in the Koreatown neighborhood.

At that point you can transfer to either the Metro Rapid 720 bus or the 20 local bus for a crowded, bumpy ride down pothole-riddled Wilshire Boulevard. The bus takes you through Koreatown, Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood and Santa Monica before ending near the Santa Monica Pier. It is obvious from a ride on the 720 that it is no substitute for heavy rail. The bus is jam packed at nearly all hours and until L.A. invests in repaving Wilshire through Koreatown and Miracle Mile, it is incredibly uncomfortable bouncing around like rag dolls.

But the bus will get you to the beach eventually and Wilshire smooths out through Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. There is also a newly repaved stretch through Westwood. Additionally, the L.A. City Council recently approved bus-only lanes along Wilshire, which will save 11 minutes of travel time on a one hour trip. Now whether the bus driver is erratic or calm is another story. Getting a good or a bad bus driver is the luck of the draw.

In Santa Monica we walked down the Third Street Promenade where we saw talented street entertainers, ate fresh organic fruit at the Farmers Market and toured the new Santa Monica Place, which was recently converted from the Frank Gehry-designed indoor shopping center built in 1980 to an outdoor mall perfect for the year-round sunny Southern California climate.

Here are more photos of the Purple Line subway and Metro Rapid 720 bus:

And here is video of the Metro Purple Line subway arriving at 7th St./Metro Center:

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