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Bus Riders' Rights Group Blasts 'Subway to the Sea'  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

September 30, 2010 --The Westside Subway Extension hearing at the Santa Monica Library on Wednesday was dominated by members of the Bus Riders Union (BRU), who slammed the subway project as racist and a waste of money. Members of the bus riders’ advocacy group said a better option would be to increase bus service in Los Angeles County.

A handful of Santa Monica residents and one City official spoke at the hearing in favor of extending into this city the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) Purple Line subway, which currently stretches from Downtown Los Angeles to the Mid-Wilshire District.

This was the fifth and final hearing on the subway project’s draft federal and State environmental documents. There are five options for extending the line, including two that would stretch the rail into Santa Monica. However, full funding is not currently available for either Santa Monica route. The so-called “Subway to the Sea” has been a dream of many public transportation advocates for years. BRU members do not share this dream.

“To the BRU, the ‘Subway to the Sea’ has always represented a politically motivated boondoggle project with the potential to massively drain operating dollars from the existing bus system, a move that will result in civil rights violations,” said Esperanza Martinez, an organizer for the BRU.

BRU co-Chair Barbara Lott-Holland said, “Rail as a mode of public transportation is not suited for the transit needs of people in Los Angeles. Evidence of the past projects have shown that rail has not significantly reduced the amount of cars on the streets and the highways and it will consume more money than a first-class bus system.”

Other BRU members noted the portion of the project’s environmental documentation stating that extending the subway line will only reduce traffic by about 1 percent. One member said the added rail would serve mostly non-minority and middle-class or wealthier neighborhoods.

The Metro Board, of which Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor is a member, will select one of the proposed routes as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). Funding only exists for the two options that take the line into Westwood. Board members could direct Metro staff to continue working on plans that are not part of the LPA, including the “Subway to Sea,” with the hope that more funding could become available.

Lucy Dike, the City of Santa Monica’s transportation planning manager, said extending the line into Santa Monica was the best option to serve the greatest amount of people and to remove the highest number of vehicles from the streets and freeways.

“The project is critical to the long-term quality of life for the region, including air quality, mobility, enjoyable public outdoor space and access between jobs and recreation and affordable housing opportunities,” Dike said.

Funding for this project will come from the federal government and Measure R, the half-cent County sales tax approved by voters in 2008. The extension into Westwood would cost about $4 billion, and the money to do that is available. Extending the line into Santa Monica is projected to cost more than $9 billion.

Santa Monica resident Elan Glasser said when voters approved Measure R, they believed they were voting for the “Subway to the Sea.”

“There is widespread community support not just in Santa Monica, but throughout L.A. County for a ‘Subway to the Sea,’” Glasser said. “It allows residents from all over the county to access not just the beach, but all the attractions in the Santa Monica area.”

 

"To the BRU, the 'Subway to the Sea' has always represented a politically motivated boondoggle project with the potential to massively drain operating dollars from the existing bus system, a move that will result in civil rights violations,"
    Esperanza Martinez,

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