So what if it’s really only the Subway to the VA, Metro finally broke ground today on a subway down Wilshire Boulevard, a project first proposed back in 1961 and long known as the Subway to the Sea. Today it’s known as the Purple Line extension and it’ll travel from the existing Purple Line terminus at Wilshire/Western to Westwood. Eventually. For now, it’ll travel 3.9 miles, to the edge of Beverly Hills (whose elaborate opposition to the project is a story for another, less festive day), with stops at La Brea, Fairfax, and La Cienega. That section is set to open in 2023.
Phase II of the project will add stations at Wilshire/Rodeo and Century City, and is set to open in 2026, assuming none of Beverly Hills’s shenanigans are too successful. Phase III will put stops at UCLA and the West LA VA and open in 2035. So in just 21 years, there’ll be a new nine-mile subway line to get travelers between Downtown and Westwood in 25 minutes. Metro is still seeking new funding to speed up that timeline a little; a transpo sales tax modeled after the wildly successful Measure R failed in 2012 after getting 66.11 percent of the vote (true story!).
We looked at the long history of Subway to the Sea failure a little while back—the property developers along Wilshire had streetcars banned on the boulevard back in the 1920s; Metro’s predecessor proposed a “backbone” transit line in 1961 that would’ve run above-ground from El Monte to Downtown. There were some small explosions and a lot of handwringing and lawsuits along the way, but today we’re finally here. (Meanwhile, the Expo Line extension will open a few blocks from the beach in Santa Monica in about a year.)
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