In the spring of 2021, Metro held a series of “scoping” meetings on its proposed Crenshaw Line Northnern Extension, which would help connect LAX to Hollywood and beyond. The purpose of the meetings was to seek community feedback on three proposed paths for the new transit line, prior to beginning work on an Environmental Impact Report, which is the next phase of the planning process. This month, Metro is holding two more pre-EIR community meetings to summarize the updates it’s making in the project as a result of last year’s scoping process. The first of those meetings was held yesterday, and the second will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.
Yesterday’s meeting began with a review and overview of the project, which will extend the current Crenshaw/LAX line north to Hollywood, connect to four other Metro rail lines and five major bus lines, service major employment and activity centers, and provide new connectivity for currently underserved communities.
According to Metro’s project manager, Roger Martin, at yesterday’s meeting, the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension, serving some of the city’s busiest and densest job and residential areas, could potentially have more than 90,000 boardings per day, making it one of the most heavily used rail lines in the United States. The project, which is currently scheduled for construction during the 2040s and to open in 2049, also has $2.24 billion in funding already in place from Measure M.
Martin said the draft EIR – the next step in the planning process – is scheduled to be released for even more community input in the fall of 2023, and a final EIR will be published in 2025…which is when Metro is scheduled to make its final decisions about the project’s route and other details. At that point, Martin said, Metro is hoping to have the project fully approved and “shovel ready” as soon as possible, so if additional funding can be found, construction could begin much sooner than 2041, and the line could open much sooner as well.
During last year’s public scoping meetings for the project, Metro sought feedback on three possible routes, or “alignments,” of the new transit line. All three of the proposed routes would start at the current terminus of the Crenshaw line, at Crenshaw and Exposition Blvd., and travel north up Crenshaw, then west on San Vicente. From there, though, there were three different options for getting to the line’s final destination at Hollywood and Highland.
The first, shown in blue in the map below, would travel up La Brea Ave. all the way to Hollywood, then jog east to meet the Red Line subway at Hollywood and Highland. The second, shown in yellow below, would go west on San Vicente to Fairfax Ave., then north on Fairfax, east on Santa Monica, and north along Highland Ave. to the Hollywood and Highland station. And the third option, in green below, would use San Vincente, Fairfax, and Santa Monica Blvd. through West Hollywood, before turning back east toward Hollywood. Also, in addition to these options, there was talk of adding a short extension from Hollywood and Highland to the Hollywood Bowl, shown in pink below.
Together, these routes were calculated to connect to some of the biggest employment, shopping, and activity areas in the city, including Hollywood and Highland, the Cedars Sinai medical complex, the Beverly Center, the Original Farmers Market, and more.
And they were also calculated to help improve transit times in and around the central city, in some cases significantly reducing travel times when compared to automobile travel between certain destinations, and especially during peak traffic periods. For example, according to the chart below, travel times between LAX and Hollywood would potentially be twice as fast on the new transit line as they would be by car…and could potentially take only 1/4 of the time between Hollywood and Cedars Sinai, when compared to car travel.
Last year’s public scoping and comment process included three virtual meetings and outreach to many local community organizations. More than 400 people attended the meetings, and Metro received more than 600 public comments, which it has been considering since then.
Presenters at yesterday’s meeting said that among last year’s comments, the biggest takeaway was an overwhelming preference for the Fairfax/San Vincente route through West Hollywood – the third (and longest) of the options outlined above.
A final route recommendation won’t be made until the Final EIR is published in 2025, but according to yesterday’s presentation, Metro has now made several other decisions about the project, based on additional suggestions and conversations during the scoping process. These decisions address the proposed additional extension to the Hollywood Bowl, whether or not the trains will travel under or above ground along San Vicente Blvd., whether or not there should be an additional station at Santa Monica and La Cienega, and whether or not it would be practical to build the La Brea version of the route with an additional “spur” going west along Santa Monica, to access West Hollywood, Cedars Sinai, and other destinations in that direction.
The first of these suggestions, the potential extension of the line from Hollywood and Highland to the Hollywood Bowl, was very popular with stakeholders who attended last year’s scoping meetings, and the Metro representatives at yesterday’s meeting said they definitely will continue to study the idea. (It also seemed popular with yesterday’s meeting attendees – at least one of whom asked if this part of the project could start right away, even before the rest of the line is ready to build.)
A second discussion Metro has been considering since last year’s scoping meetings was the question of whether or not trains should travel underground or above ground along San Vicente Blvd. in the Midtown area, which at one point did have a right of way for electric streetcars. This time around, however, Metro says that costs and impacts on local neighborhoods would be too great if trains had to transition from underground travel to above-ground along San Vicente, and then go underground again at Fairfax Ave….so the Crenshaw Line trains will definitely remain underground in the mid-City area.
The third possible change studied from last year’s scoping discussions was the addition of a second West Hollywood station (the first would be at Santa Monica and San Vicente, and the second at Santa Monica and La Cienega, as shown with the pink circle on the map below). But this, too, was deemed impractical in subsequent consideration by Metro, and yesterday’s presenters said the plans have been revised for a single station on Santa Monica Blvd. somewhere between San Vicente and La Cienega.
And finally in the major scoping discussions, Metro also announced yesterday that it is jettisoning the idea of building the La Brea route with an additional spur going west along Santa Monica Blvd. to various destinations in West Hollywood. As with the San Vicente above-ground option, yesterday’s presenters said, this option would create huge engineering challenges, reduce the frequency of trains on the line, increase travel times, and would not be covered by the existing Project M funding, so would require additional funding from another source. Metro will continue to study the La Brea route (which is the fastest and most direct path from the Exposition Blvd. to Hollywood and Highland), but without the West Hollywood spur attached.
So given those decisions, Metro presented an updated project map, showing how the project options stand now, as Metro heads into the EIR phase of its planning:
As outlined above, the La Brea route would be the shortest, fastest, and most direct alignment for the project, taking only 13 minutes to travel from Exposition Blvd. to Hollywood and Highland. The Fairfax route would be two miles longer and take and additional 3 minutes from one end to the other. And the San Vicente/Fairfax/Santa Monica alignment would be the longest, with the longest travel times, but it would also take in several major West Hollywood destinations and job centers not served by the other routes.
While the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension project will now move into the EIR phase of its planning, Metro is still seeking community input. In addition to attending next week’s meeting, stakeholders are also invited to explore the project’s “story map,” a highly visual interactive tool that explains the project in detail, and which also provides, at the bottom of the page, views of each individual station location along each of the three proposed routes, and surveys you can take to describe how you would use each of the proposed stations.
In addition to continuing to seek community feedback, Metro says that over the next few months, it will continue to revise the project details, start developing ridership and cost estimates for each of the proposed routes, and then move into preparation of the draft EIR.
If you would like to provide feedback on the Crenshaw Line Northern extension, you can attend next week’s Zoom meeting (Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m.), use the interactive story map, and/or contact Metro in one of the ways suggested below.
And finally, if you’d like to catch up with yesterday’s meeting, a video recording is available here.