Purple Line Extension

Purple Line Extension

Purple Line Extension  
Type Rapid transit
System Metro Rail
Status Under construction
Locale Wilshire, Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California
Termini Wilshire/Western (east)
Westwood/VA Hospital (west)
Opening 2023 (section 1)[1]
2026 (section 2)
2035 (section 3)
Operator(s) Metro (LACMTA)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Purple Line Extension, formerly known as the Westside Subway Extension, is a new heavy rail subway corridor in Los Angeles County, extending the Metro Purple Line from its current terminus at Wilshire/Western station to the Westside. Currently under construction, the corridor will become part of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail System.[2]

The project is being planned by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). The Westside Subway has been given high priority by Metro in its long range plan,[3] and funding for the project is included in Measure R.[4]

The draft environmental impact report (DEIR) was completed in September 2010: a locally preferred alternative (LPA) was selected in October 2010. Metro released the final environmental impact report (FEIR) on March 19, 2012. The project was approved to La Cienega at the Board of Directors meeting on April 26, 2012, with the western leg, including the controversial Century City location, deferred until the next board meeting. The location of the Century City station at Constellation Boulevard was approved by the MTA board of directors on May 24, 2012.[5][6]

Construction on Section 1 of the Purple Line Extension, between the Wilshire/Western station and the planned station at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd and La Cienega Blvd, started on November 11, 2014.[7]


Early concepts

Early transit planners recognized the importance of Wilshire Boulevard as a spine and key boulevard in Los Angeles. Early plans for regional Metro Rail envisioned a rapid-transit route between Downtown and the Westside, with a branch going up Fairfax to Hollywood into the San Fernando Valley.[8] In 1961, the "New Proposed Backbone Route Plan" described a subway along Wilshire Boulevard from Westwood to Downtown (and then elevated to El Monte).[9] This project was never funded. Ballot initiatives in 1968 and 1974 to build a subway to West Los Angeles were rejected by voters, but in 1980 voters passed Proposition A which created a half-cent county sales tax to fund rail construction. Ultimately, the SCRTD (one of Metro's predecessors) planned a subway that would extend from Downtown Los Angeles to Fairfax Avenue, then up Fairfax to Hollywood and the Valley. Due to the "methane zone" (see below), that plan was modified, and Vermont Avenue was chosen for the north-south route instead of Fairfax.[10]

Opposition and halt of Wilshire branch

Several factors led to the eventual halt of plans to extend the subway west along Wilshire Boulevard. For decades, the route was mired in political and socioeconomic debate, with politicians giving vent to anti-subway sentiments and NIMBY isolationism. Some residents in the Fairfax District and affluent Hancock Park objected to a subway that would make their communities more accessible from the working-class residents of Los Angeles' Eastside and South Los Angeles.[11] The City of Beverly Hills also opposed the subway, as did two key legislators from the area: Congressman Henry Waxman and then-L.A. City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.

Following a methane explosion in 1985 at a Ross Dress for Less clothing store near Fairfax and Third Street, Congressman Henry Waxman worked to legally designate a large part of Mid-Wilshire as a "methane zone". This zone stretched on either side of Wilshire Boulevard from Hancock Park to west of Fairfax (through areas of his district where subway opposition was strongest). Waxman was able to pass federal legislation banning all tunneling through this zone. Subsequently, any plans for a subway west of Western Avenue diverted the line south around the methane zone, using Crenshaw, Pico and San Vicente Boulevards. These plans never came to fruition and in order to qualify for federal funding, the SCRTD started over and re-routed the subway north up Vermont Avenue instead(as mentioned above), before traveling west under Hollywood Boulevard finally going north toward the Valley. The Red Line was completed in 2000.

The Red Line project (which include both of the present-day Red Line and Purple Line corridors) began in 1986. Soon after construction began, the project began to draw a considerable amount of bad press. Access to many local businesses was blocked for weeks, causing some small businesses to shut down. Disagreements arose between the MTA and Tutor-Saliba (general contractor on the project) over tens of millions of dollars in cost overruns. A sinkhole in Hollywood seemed to symbolize the disastrous nature of the subway project.[12] As a result, in 1998 voters approved a measure that was sponsored by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky which implemented a complete ban on use of Prop A and Prop C sales tax funds for any subway tunneling in the county. This effectively ended any chance of a Westside Subway in the foreseeable future.

The segment of the Red Line project to Wilshire/Western was completed and began service in 1996. To date, Wilshire/Western is the western terminus of the Purple Line.

New support and new project

In 2000, an urban art group known as Heavy Trash placed signs advertising a fictional "Aqua Line". The signs, with the text "Coming Soon", showed a subway route extending along Wilshire to the ocean, with ten station stops. Although the campaign was a hoax, it demonstrated newfound support and revealed the frustrations surrounding the lack of a subway connecting Santa Monica and the Westside with Downtown Los Angeles.[13] The name "Aqua Line" was later repurposed as the proposed name for the Expo Line.

During the 2000s, support for the subway began to materialize. This was largely due to the massive impact of traffic on Wilshire Boulevard and throughout the region. The bus line that currently operates along Wilshire Blvd. runs at capacity. In 2005, Los Angeles voters elected Antonio Villaraigosa mayor of Los Angeles. In his campaign and after the election, Villaraigosa declared an extension of a subway line to Santa Monica a major priority, offering visionary slogans such as "subway to the sea", "...the most utilized subway in the nation, maybe the world," and "...the most cost-effective public-transportation project in America." As mayor, Villaraigosa has served several one-year-long terms as Metro Board chairman.

In December 2005, Congressman Henry Waxman, who had sponsored the "methane zone" tunneling ban twenty years earlier, championed the reversal of his own legislation, upon a committee's assertion that tunneling through the methane zone was now safe. To make this happen, Waxman introduced new congressional legislation (: H.R. 4653) to overturn the ban.

In July 2006, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) Board approved staff and funding to initiate the Major Investment Study (MIS), to study the corridor west of Western Avenue for a possible subway extension.[14] In the following month, the Metro Board voted to designate the Wilshire branch of the Red Line as the Purple Line.[15]

With a new name and a new study initiated, the Purple Line began to receive public support from several organizations. In 2006, the Westside Cities Council of Governments endorsed the Purple Line extension.[16] In September 2006, both the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California, Los Angeles joined the Council's Mass Transit Committee to help advocate for the subway extension.[17] In 2007, the Beverly Hills City Council endorsed a Wilshire alignment which includes one station at the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards, and another on Wilshire Boulevard between Beverly Drive and Rodeo Drive.[18]

On June 28, 2007, the LACMTA board approved a $3.6 million contract with PB Americas to provide an Alternatives Analysis (AA), an assessment of tunnel feasibility, and conceptual engineering with options for future preliminary engineering and environmental clearance for this extension.[19]

Henry Waxman's legislation to lift the ban on tunneling through the "methane zones" finally became law in December 2007, as part of the 2008 omnibus spending bill.[20] The passage of this long-awaited legislation allowed, for the first time in two decades, the planning and building of a westward extension of the subway.

In 2009, the Wilshire Subway Extension was included in Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan, and environmental studies were begun.[3]

Environmental review process

A map of current Metro Rail lines and future lines. The planned route of the Purple Line Extension is in dotted purple.

Initial alternatives analysis

During the alternatives analysis (AA), many alternatives were considered.[21] These included different alignments, as well as several modes of transit (HRT, LRT, BRT and monorail). Most alignments were variations/combinations of two basic alignments: the "Wilshire alignment" and the "West Hollywood alignment".[22]

  • The Wilshire alignment has been suggested as a corridor to the Westside for decades. Wilshire Boulevard has many destinations along its path, including Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, and Century City. This route heads west from Wilshire/Western primarily along Wilshire Boulevard until Santa Monica Boulevard. At that point, the route diverts through Century City before returning to Wilshire in Westwood.
  • The West Hollywood alignment (sometimes known as the "Pink Line") was proposed during the public scoping process. This route travels along Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, connecting Hollywood/Highland in the north to the Wilshire route in the south.[23] The West Hollywood route generated considerable support from the public, transit advocates, and the City of West Hollywood.

Other alignments studied involved various deviations from Wilshire Boulevard, to allow service to destinations such as Beverly Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Farmers Market.

The Alternatives Analysis recommended further study on four alternatives: "No Build", TSM (Transportation Systems Management), the Wilshire Alternative, and a combination Wilshire/West Hollywood Alternative. Both build alternatives use heavy rail (HRT) as its transit mode, primarily because this would allow interconnection to the existing Metro Rail subway system. All alignments involving other transit modes (monorail, LRT, and BRT) were eliminated.

DEIR alternatives

The five alternatives considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) are:

DEIR Alternative Description New trips
(daily) [24]
Estimated cost
(billions) [24]
Alternative 1 [25] Wilshire route to UCLA. 24,142 $4.036
Alternative 2 [26] Wilshire route to VA. 27,615 $4.358
Alternative 3 [27] Wilshire route to Santa Monica. 35,235 $6.116
Alternative 4 [28] Wilshire route to VA, plus West Hollywood route. 31,224 $6.985
Alternative 5 [29] Wilshire route to Santa Monica, plus West Hollywood route. 40,123 $8.747

Alternatives 3 and 5 are the build alternatives carried over from the alternatives analysis (AA). In addition, three new alternatives (Alternatives 1, 2, and 4) were added. These new alternatives are variations of the two AA-recommended alternatives which all stop short of Santa Monica. They were added to reflect the realities of limited available funds, as well as the priorities in Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

The following table shows all potential stations, and the alternatives for which they apply:

Station Alt 1 Alt 2 Alt 3 Alt 4 Alt 5
Wilshire/Crenshaw × × × × ×
Wilshire/La Brea × × × × ×
Wilshire/Fairfax × × × × ×
Wilshire/La Cienega × × × × ×
Wilshire/Rodeo × × × × ×
Century City × × × × ×
Westwood/UCLA × × × × ×
Westwood/VA × × × ×
Wilshire/Bundy × ×
Wilshire/26th St × ×
Wilshire/16th St × ×
Wilshire/4th St × ×
Santa Monica/La Brea × ×
Santa Monica/Fairfax × ×
Santa Monica/San Vicente × ×
Beverly Center × ×

In addition to the five build alternatives, the DEIR identified six sets of options:[30]

Name Issue Options
Option 1 Should a station be built at Wilshire/Crenshaw?
  • Yes
  • No
Option 2 Where should the Wilshire/Fairfax station be located?
  • Slightly west of intersection
  • Under intersection
Option 3 Where should the Wilshire/La Cienega station be located?
  • East of intersection
  • West of intersection
Option 4 Which route should be used between Wilshire/Rodeo and Century City stations?
  • "Santa Monica Blvd" alignment
  • "Constellation North" alignment
  • "Constellation South" alignment
Where should the Century City station be located?
  • Santa Monica Blvd.
  • Constellation Blvd.
Which route should be used between Century City and Westwood/UCLA stations?
  • "East" alignment
  • "Central" alignment
  • "West" alignment
Option 5 Where should the Westwood/UCLA station be located?
  • Wilshire/Gayley
  • Wilshire/Westwood
Option 6 Where should the Westwood/VA Hospital station be located?
  • South of Wilshire
  • North of Wilshire

Selected alternative

In September 2010, Metro published the draft environmental impact statement (DEIR) for the project. The report makes no specific recommendation among the five alternatives.[30] However, Metro staff did signal that only Alternatives 1 and 2 would be serious candidates for the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), since only those two alternatives match the project scope defined in Measure R and Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

In October 2010, Metro staff recommended continuing study on Alternative 2. Staff also recommended:[31]

  • Crenshaw Station: delete.
  • Wilshire/Fairfax Station: build east station option.
  • La Cienega Station: build east station option.
  • West Hollywood Connection Structure: delete.
  • Century City Station:
  • continue to study both Santa Monica and Constellation station options.
  • continue to study Constellation North and Santa Monica alignment options between Beverly Hills and Century City.
  • continue to study only the East alignment option between Century City and Westwood.
  • Westwood/UCLA Station: continue to study both Wilshire/Westwood and Wilshire/Gayley station options.
  • Westwood/VA Hospital Station: continue to study both VA Hospital North and VA Hospital South station options.
  • Storage and Maintenance Facility: expand existing Division 20 facility.

In eliminating the West Hollywood Connection Structure, Metro Staff eliminated the future possibility of a West Hollywood line as a heavy-rail branch of the Wilshire Subway, as described in Alternatives 4 and 5. Staff cited the $135 million cost, as well as lower than expected performance and cost-effectiveness. However, staff left open the possibility of other alternatives in the future which would not require a connection structure such as light rail, with a possible future extension south of Wilshire on San Vicente Boulevard, connecting to a future Crenshaw Line that would run north of Exposition Boulevard.[31]

At the Metro Board meeting in late October 2010, the Metro Board certified the DEIR and accepted the staff recommendation as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). Due to protests from Beverly Hills residents and local officials, the Metro Board approved an amendment requesting detailed study and comparison of the two Century City station options in the FEIR.

An MTA presentation dated October 29, 2013, shows the route to the Westwood Veteran's Administration Medical Center being approved, and the Phase I segment to La Cienega being under pre-construction through 2014 when full construction is scheduled to begin.[32] This presentation also shows construction methods and timeline.

Project budget and planning

Voter-approved Measure R assumes a project to Westwood, having a cost of $4.2 billion (2008 dollars). Measure R sales tax revenues will provide up to $4.074 billion toward the cost: however, it is expected that the project will receive close to half of its funding from Federal New Starts funds.[4]

The selected alternative to Westwood/VA was estimated to cost $4.358 billion,[26] which is over the Measure R budget. However, the LPA could cost less than this, since it excludes the Crenshaw station and West Hollywood connector structure.[30]

Measure R funds would first become available in 2013,[4] with expected project completion in 2035.[1] According to this schedule, the construction of the 3.9 mile Section 1 of this subway extension would begin in 2014, and would be ultimately be opened in three segments:[1]

  • 2023: open to La Cienega;
  • 2026: open to Century City;
  • 2035: open to Westwood/VA.[1]

However, efforts are underway to secure federal loans (through the 30/10 project) to accelerate the subway project, allowing it to be completed as a single project by 2022 or 2024.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d L.A. Metro. "Summer 2013 - General Fact Sheet - Purple Line Extension" (pdf). Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  2. ^ "Purple Line Extension (project website)". Metro (LACMTA). April 30, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  3. ^ a b "2009 Final Long Range Transportation Plan" (PDF). Metro (LACMTA). 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  4. ^ a b c "Measure R". Metro (LACMTA). June 26, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  5. ^ "Westside Subway Extension Final EIR/EIS". Metro (LACMTA). February 6, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  6. ^ Steve Hymon (April 26, 2012). "Metro Board approves final environmental study for Westside Subway Extension". The Source ( 
  7. ^ Dave Sotero (November 10, 2014). "Long wait over: groundbreaking held for Wilshire Boulevard subway extension". The Source ( 
  8. ^ "Monorail routes, 1960". The Metro Library archives. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  9. ^ "1961 New Proposed Backbone Fallout Shelter Detail". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  10. ^ "Years of planning and implementation: Two major urban tunneling projects in Los Angeles, CA, USA". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  11. ^ LA Weekly. "The Subway Mayor". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  12. ^ "Economic Studies: Hollywood Sinkhole". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  13. ^ "Heavy Trash: Aqua Line". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  14. ^ "Minutes - Special Board Meeting". Metro (LACMTA). 2006-06-29. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  15. ^ "Minutes - August 24, 2006 Regular Board Meeting (Item 37)" (PDF). Metro (LACMTA). August 24, 2006. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  16. ^ "Meeting Notes". October 23, 2006.
  17. ^ "Meeting Notes" Westside Cities Transportation Committee. September 21, 2006.
  18. ^ City of Beverly Hills Mass Transit Committee, "Final Recommendations-Press Release", January 10, 2007
  19. ^ LACMTA June 28, 2007 Board Meeting Recap of Proceedings
  20. ^ Library of Congress THOMAS Legislative record for H.R. 2764
  21. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/fia_screening_report.pdf
  22. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/Executive%20Summary.pdf
  23. ^ LACMTA Westside Extension Transit Corridor Study (January 2008)
  24. ^ a b http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/Draft_EIS_EIR/Executive%20Summary%20DEIS.pdf
  25. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/map_Corridor_Westside_alt1.pdf
  26. ^ a b http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/map_Corridor_Westside_alt2.pdf
  27. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/map_Corridor_Westside_alt3.pdf
  28. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/map_Corridor_Westside_alt4.pdf
  29. ^ http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/map_Corridor_Westside_alt5.pdf
  30. ^ a b c http://www.metro.net/projects/westside/draft-eis-eir-sept-2010/
  31. ^ a b http://thesource.metro.net/2010/10/14/is-there-a-pink-line-in-the-way-off-future/
  32. ^ "Purple Line Extension Section 1 Advisory Group". L.A. Metro. October 29, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  33. ^ http://mayor.lacity.org/PressRoom/PressReleases/LACITYP_007134

Further reading

  • Christopher Hawthorne, "Finally, on the right track," Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2006
  • Jean Guccione, "Beverly Hills doesn't want to miss the subway," Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2006
  • Richard Simon, "House votes to repeal law blocking subway construction on L.A.'s Westside," Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2007
  • Ari Bloomenkatz, "'Subway to the Sea' plan still adrift", Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2007
  • Rong-Gong Lin II, "L.A. subway plans take a radical shift", Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2007
  • Alan MittelStaedt, "L.A. Sniper: Subway Fibs and Felonies," Los Angeles City Beat, December 27, 2007

External links

  • Purple Line Extension project – official Metro website