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The Long History of Wilshire Subway Regrets (and Success!)

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Excellent stuff from Metro's blog The Source today on the long, sordid history of failed proposals for a subway linking the Westside to Downtown via Wilshire Blvd. The Source calls the history of starts and stops as "part of the city"s legend," and there is plenty of ground to cover in explaining why on Earth it's 2012 and there is no rail connection between two of the city's largest villages.

Here are some highlights from the article's chronology of failure:

-- "[T]he property developers who built Wilshire in the 1920s insisted that the city of L.A. ban streetcars from traveling along Wilshire; the city obliged." In 1928, a bunch of other east-west thoroughfares, including Hollywood, Sunset, Santa Monica, Pico, and Venice, had local streetcar lines or "long-distance inter-urban lines."

-- "In 1961, a predecessor agency to the present-day Metro, known also as the MTA, sought a federal loan to construct a 'backbone' transit line that would run above ground from El Monte to downtown...The project fell through when the federal government declined to help the agency finance the project." At the height of the Cold War, the 1961 plans allowed for the subway stations to double as fallout shelters. Ah, simpler times.

-- A 1968 plan would have built a 90 mile system modeled on the Bay Area Rapid Transit in Northern California. A "general anti-tax" sentiment killed the ballot measure that would have raised taxes to build that $2.5 billion project.

-- A 1976 plan for the Sunset Coast Line(s) that would have 200 miles of rail and include rail cars with "special compartments for bikes and surfboards." County voters turned down the plan and a scaled-back version a couple years later.

-- In 1985, a well-documented methane explosion at Ross Dress for Less at Third and Fairfax stopped the subway's westward momentum.

The Source points out how much better the conditions are for a subway in 2012 than they were in the past: "The current Westside Subway Plan has funding both through the Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008, as well as federal dollars." There is a lot more to see and read at The Source, including more maps and videos from the Metro vaults. The current Subway to the Sea, Purple Line, or BHUSD's Bane, whatever you want to call it, is expected to wrap up its environmental impact review process, and hopefully get approval from the Metro Board, later this year.
· What makes this Westside Subway proposal different from all the others? [The Source]
· Metro on Bev Hills Tunnel Study: We Won't Build Unsafe Subway [Curbed LA]