Subway? L.A.? No Way.

When they bulldozed under the Hollywood Hills fifteen years ago and extended the Red Line subway from downtown across a large swath of the basin and all the way to the San Fernando Valley, many squawked.

What about an earthquake?

No will ride the damn thing! It’s L.A. man, we dig our cars.

Why the hell would I want to take a train to the Valley?

Turns out, they were wrong, again, just as they’d been about earlier subway lines that were regularly being used in Los Angeles.   But this one was different because it symbolically and realistically brought together the two sides of Los Angeles – the basin and the valley.

Car-obsessed Angelenos took to that 2000 iteration of the underground big time.  And it wasn’t just early adopters, Universal employees and NoHo actors celebrating the arrival of high-tech trainery.  The generally nonplussed populace rallied behind it in big numbers either as riders or, at least, boosters.

This was quite a surprise to the naysayers, and maybe to some of the yea-sayers too.  Out of town visitors thought nothing of hopping a train downtown at Union Station and heading out to North Hollywood.  After all, isn’t that how cities work, people moved from here to there via public transportation?  But some locals of certain neighborhoods still weren’t sure of the subterranean gamble.  Now many are, sort of, and many proudly boast of their expanding subway system as they back out of their garages in new leased BMW’s.

Of course, there were the multitudes of others who knew better from the get go.  Hundreds of thousands of those who couldn’t afford a car and needed these trains not as a convenience but as a lifeline.  Maybe a few of them, ahem, weren’t even able to get a license.

Oh, so this whole expansion subway thing wasn’t just for a trip to Hollywood and Highland to go bowling?  I get it now.

So, the basin to valley subway experiment worked and it worked well.  Now, people really had reason to consider L.A. as a city with an achievable plan for public transportation across its entire vast expanse.

Apparently it’s just the beginning.  In fifty years, will they talk about L.A.’s rail line like they do today of the Tube in London or New York’s labyrinthine system?  Who knows?  But I do know this.

Right now as some rich kid from Beverly Hills is getting his even richer dad to pay cash for that red Lamborghini, just below his feet  they’re doing soil studies as the new east-west Purple line slowly comes to fruition.  It’s already being dug in Mid-Wilshire and it’s coming your way Beverly Hills!  You heard me right.  The people are coming for you Beverly Hills and they’re not driving an Audi.

From one end of L.A. to another, subways and overland rail are fast under construction.  Eventually you’ll be able to go from Downtown (and farther afield) to UCLA in Westwood and onto Brentwood.  Just south of that, another line is snaking it’s way through Culver City and the Westside toward the Pacific in Santa Monica. Is it me or does it just seem cool to think of a bunch of tourists emerging from the train concourse carrying their beach chairs?  Recently, they just announced the next bonkers phase which will run north/south under the 405 from the deep in the valley to the airport.

L.A. will never fully lose its love affair with the automobile.  It’s too sunny, it’s too nice to open that roof and have that air blow through your hairpiece, and gas is really cheap right now.  But the day may come sooner than we thought when all Angelenos learn to love and actually ride public transportation – not just those that have no other alternative – and if you said that twenty years ago they would have thought you were hanging out at Woody Harrelson’s oxygen bar.

We’ll see you soon subway, and it won’t be for a foot-long either.



Subway as Art

Metro Plans

The Future or just a Really Cool Rail Map?