On Subways to the Sea

2307208664_020b2e28ca This friendly little graphic, which I found on Dan Wentzel’s Pink Line blog, promotes the “Subway to the Sea,” an extension of the Los Angeles Purple Line subway, largely under Wilshire Blvd., all the way to the beach at Santa Monica (map here).  I like it as a logo, but it also serves to explain why relatively few subways in coastal cities go all the way to the beach, and why they often stay back from the ocean a bit.

(It’s not the “seawall” problem.  The graphic suggests that the subway station and the ocean would be separated by a vertical seawall, an especially expensive and risky construction project.  This would not be the case in Santa Monica, which has a gently sloping beach, though there might be some related engineering issues.)

No, the real problem is the radius of demand.  The ridership potential of any station or stop depends mostly on what’s within walking distance of it.  How many residents are there?  How many jobs?  How much retail and other activity?  How many people will that attract on a daily basis?

This “area served” by a station is usually visualized as a circle of a fixed radius.  You can argue about how big the radius is, but for a subway station it’s at least 0.5 mi / 800m and arguably over 1.0 m / 1600m.  In reality, it’s a fuzzy circle where demand grows weaker as you get further from the station.

But it’s a fixed radius, which means a fixed area.  So the amount of development in that fixed area — in other words, density — is the largest determinant of the size of the market.  (Connections, of course, also play a role, along with park-and-ride, bike-and-ride etc.  But the walk radius is still fundamental.)

If your station is right at the beach, this circle obviously sticks out into the ocean.  And since there’s no development there, the rest of the circle — the few blocks around the station right at the beach — needs to be even denser than it would otherwise need to be.

The Los Angeles “Subway to the Sea” is envisioned ending at Santa Monica’s 4th Street, about 1/4 mile back from the beach, but the radius of demand is larger than that, so this will still be an issue.

This is a particular issue when we’re talking about ending the line at the beach — as opposed to just running along the beach as, say, New York’s Rockaway branches do.  That’s because the end of the line needs to be an especially high ridership generator, or what transit planners call an anchor.

As you get near the end of a transit line, the vehicle tends to empty out because it’s going fewer places and therefore attracts fewer boardings.  This can lead to permanent wasted capacity near the end of the line, what we call a weak anchor.  A strong anchor is a big destination right at the end of the line that compensates for this problem by giving lots of people a reason to use the line all the way to its endpoint.

The anchoring principle is why I suspect that the Wilshire subway may well end at or near Westwood/UCLA, 4-5 miles back from the beach, at least in its initial segment.  Westwood/UCLA is a massively strong anchor, defined by highrise employment, highrise housing, and a huge university.  Nothing in Santa Monica is (or wants to be) anywhere near that dense.  The “Subway to the Sea” graphic does suggest a Santa Monica beachfront with far more tall buildings than are there today, but I have trouble imagining the massing of buildings against the ocean that you’d need to generate a strong anchor for something as expensive and high-capacity as the terminus of a rapid transit subway.

This is a good reason to design subways so that they have room to turn as they approach the ocean, so that they are potentially extendable parallel to the beach.  In the case of Santa Monica, I could certainly imagine designing a line ending far enough back from the beach that it could turn southward someday, extending south through Venice perhaps along Lincoln Blvd.  Such a line would match the design of New York Subway’s Rockaway and Coney Island services, which both turn and run along the beach — usually 1/4 mile or so back from it.  The Far Rockaway branch actually swings further from the beach at its endpoint in Far Rockaway, thus ending in a location where the entire circle around the station is developed, yielding a stronger anchor.

Ultimately, lots of people  love the idea of a subway to the sea for the same reason they like the idea of a subway to the airport — because they can imagine using it occasionally.  This can yield a disconnect between the political popularity of a service and its actual ridership potential.  Just something to watch out for as the subway rolls toward the sea.

(Nothing in this post is meant to express a fixed opinion about the ultimate shape of the Los Angeles Purple Line.)

29 Responses to On Subways to the Sea

  1. Yonah Freemark December 4, 2009 at 5:06 am #

    You make an interesting point here — that transit stations should be designed to attract ridership from all directions, and that therefore beachfront stations don’t necessarily make the most sense, especially if there’s nothing massively dense in the surrounding area.
    In theory, I think you’re right, but in the case of Los Angeles, there’s sufficient evidence to suggest that Santa Monica is indeed that ridership anchor you’re looking for at the end of the line. Just as Coney Island was something of a resort for many New Yorkers for decades and therefore could pull many people in to its Stillwell Avenue terminus station, Santa Monica is a entertainment and commercial hub for much of the Los Angeles region. Though its residential or employment densities may not reach those of Westwood, the Santa Monica beach, pier, and 3rd Street are huge attractions. Building a station there would increase the Westside subway’s viability on nights and weekends, help distribute the load so that it’s not so peak hour-centered, and encourage growth in Santa Monica itself. This is more than another failed airport line.
    In terms of further connections, Los Angeles has in its long-term plans ( http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2009/10/22/los-angeles-has-big-transit-ambitions-but-which-project-comes-first/ ) a proposal to extend the Green Line along the beach to Santa Monica, where it could hit the second phase of the Expo Line. If it were pushed just a bit north to the subway station, there could be some ideal connectivity there.

  2. Alurin December 4, 2009 at 6:24 am #

    Earlier transit operators simply built their own anchors. Boston’s Blue Line ends at a stop called “Wonderland”, because the original rail operator built an amusement park at the end of the line to attract traffic. The Santa Monica Pier sounds like exactly the sort of attraction you would build to anchor your line to the sea, if it didn’t exist already.

  3. Dan Wentzel December 4, 2009 at 9:33 am #

    I was originally hoping for a “Coney Island” type terminal near the pier where the Purple and Expo lines would terminate together.
    Current plans seem to indicate “bookending” the Promenade with the Purple Line in the north and Expo Line in the south.
    The 4th Street station would seem to have sufficient ridership. The 16th and 26th street stations seem weak. Could they be combined for a 20th Street Station, one which has a street naturally made for a crosstown bus route?
    I would not support sending the Purple Line south to Venice Beach, but the proposed Green Line extension to the Airport and up Lincoln Blvd. would appear to be a good long-term idea. (I would prioritize a Sepulveda Line connecting the Valley and the Westside and LAX first, but that’s just me.)
    Wouldn’t a modern streetcar be appropriate connecting Venice Beach and downtown Santa Monica? The numerous tourists would love it.
    If the Purple Line doesn’t get extended past West L.A., a streetcar could run from the Purple Line terminus to Santa Monica Beach, then down to Venice.
    It has to be said that the Big Blue Bus provides a very high quality municipal bus service for Santa Monica and surrounding communities.
    http://www.bigbluebus.com/home/index.asp

  4. Jonathan December 4, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    Great post, that I will link to whenever the subject of ferries come up. Ferries, I believe, have the same problem as the “subway to the sea”; the few blocks around the ferry terminal need to be even denser than corresponding blocks around a subway or bus terminal because about half the area that the radius of demand circumscribes is water, not buildable land.

  5. Steve December 4, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    I think you’re close to correct, Jarrett. *Something* (BRT?) is planned in the 405/Sepulveda corridor, although that’s less than a half-mile west of Wilshire and Westwood, so it might make sense to divert.

  6. Jennifer December 4, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    Ah, I road the New York subway to Rockaway Beach when I had a really long layover at JFK this past summer. What an excellent diversion from an otherwise grueling day of travel! But you do make an excellent point as to why it works there and wouldn’t work quite so well in Santa Monica.

  7. Jennifer December 4, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    “road” = “rode” (duh). Sorry.

  8. Alon Levy December 4, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    Mind you, the stations on the Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway lines, except the Far Rockaway terminus, are all extremely low-ridership – the busiest ranks 40th from the bottom in ridership, and eight rank in the bottom twenty.
    But Coney Island may be a better analog for LA, if only because it’s not as far away from the center as the Rockaways are.

  9. Peter Smith December 4, 2009 at 11:53 am #

    The Los Angeles “Subway to the Sea” is envisioned ending at Santa Monica’s 4th Street, about 1/4 mile back from the beach, but the radius of demand is larger than that, so this will still be an issue.
    i don’t understand what you’re saying, here. are you saying that the ‘issue’ that will need to be dealt with still is deciding where, exactly, the Santa Monica stop might be, since a stop at 4th Street would make the walk to the beach easy, but that this walk is, in effect, not optimal because a beach/pier is not typically what we associate with ‘trip generation’?
    i’d agree with Yonah that the Pier, the Beach, and the Promenade (promo video), are pretty good anchors.
    i also think we should plan to provide high-quality transit service to every part of every city, within reason, because we should be planning for the end of cars, especially in urban areas.
    further, i think we should occasionally escape from the view of looking at particular transit routes/stops in terms of ‘profitability’, and more look to them in terms of ‘accessibility’ and/or every human being’s right to our precious natural resources — that is, what is required to become a decent society? i would argue that magnificent natural resources, like the Santa Monica Beach, should be accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford beach-side condos, or can afford to drive there. that means we need to provide high-quality transit access to Santa Monica Beach, including either a stop at 4th Street or close enough to still be considered ‘close enough’ — not 5+ miles away. i know California has some laws regarding access to waterfronts and the like — that makes sense to me. some resources should not be able to be privatized, imo. keeping access to Santa Monica Beach restricted to the largely well-to-do, by preventing high-quality transit access to be within striking distance to the beach, has the same effect as privatizing the beach. the effect might not be quite as pronounced, but it’s there.
    as for ‘tall buildings’ — i think we should try to come to some kind of consensus on what is desired with respect to height. in a lot of folks’ minds, ‘tall’ means ‘skyscraper’. for my part, i don’t believe we should tolerate anything that blocks out too much of the sun. at first glance, Washington, DC’s height restrictions (based on a ratio of the width of the street to the heights of buildings on that street), seems to me to be largely correct. massive density is possible without buildings reaching over six stories tall. an article on tall buildings (and a video).
    as for whether or not the people of Santa Monica will tolerate taller buildings if not tall buildings, i think it’s possible. part of that is getting ‘progressives’ to buy into the idea that we don’t need skyscrapers to achieve density.
    as for subway-to-the-airport, thank goodness SF has one. Boston does not — what a rotten experience Logan was compared to SFO. i’m curious if any towns have TOD at airports. why not? thousands of employees, massive subsidies for roads/buses/etc., massive inconvenience for folks who don’t want to drive or contribute to the cancer that is cars. i’d rather subsidize a train. even if airport subway/metro lines were inherently doomed to low ridership (and I’m not convinced of this), I might still be convinced they’re a good idea, especially if we make some TOD-at-the-airport stuff happen.
    and i like the idea to allow the subway to turn once it reaches the beach. Jarrett — i think this might be what i think is against your inclination *not* to build ‘circular transit lines’ (true?), but i love the idea of circular transit lines, despite what may be some of their inherent weaknesses.

  10. Jarrett at HumanTransit.org December 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
    @ Alon Levy.  True.  Many of those Rockaway stations look like they should be either redeveloped or closed.  But the point about anchoring is that you have to have higher patronage potential at the end of the line than at other stations along the way.

  11. EngineerScotty December 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Portland has the CascadeStation development along the Red Line, a couple MAX stops before the airport (which ends the Red Line)–it’s a fairly successful new-urbanist commercial development, with an anchor tenant (Ikea) which is a significant draw. It does have lots of parking, but it is also easily transit-accessible. It isn’t desired as residential properties (it lies under the aircraft approaches to PDX, so not many want to live there), but it was a key part of getting the Red Line done.
    Regarding transit to airports. These are often criticized as serving less important trips–indeed, most major airports already have lots of dedicated transport infrastructure serving them, much of it outside the scope of the transit authority: things like airport shuttles, squadrons of taxis, and the like. Some who view transit projects from a social justice perspective see airport lines as yet another subsidy for the rich (under the assumption, probably not far off base, that the poor aren’t flying very often).
    Peter makes an appropriate point, though: A key user of airport transit lines are not locals looking to get to the airport to fly out, but visitors to the city. Navigating a strange city’s bus system is a daunting task, and things like taxis are expensive–but rapid transit is far easier for visitors to navigate.

  12. The Overhead Wire December 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    If anyone else wants to use the button, feel free to use the the high res version
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/theoverheadwire/2307208664/

  13. Alon Levy December 4, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

    Jarrett, you’re right about the anchor example, but there are two caveats. First, terminating any line short of its natural end would produce an anchor, since the terminus would suddenly become a bus transit center. In New York, some of the busiest stations are the outbound termini of the subway lines that stop short of the water or the city boundary; Flushing-Main Street, the 7’s Queens terminus, is the busiest station outside Manhattan, and Jamaica Center, the E’s Queens terminus, is the third.
    And second, Santa Monica is much more like Coney Island than like the Rockaways. It’s a major tourist attraction. It’s famous by itself – I’ve seen it or heard it mentioned in Hollywood movies more than any other destination near Wilshire, even UCLA.

  14. Alon Levy December 4, 2009 at 3:22 pm #

    Peter: airports aren’t good TOD, because airport infrastructure is inherently auto-oriented – there are too many areas within the airport that transit would have to serve, many of which are secured and can’t be made accessible to the public. A study I’ve read about employment centers in New York’s Outer Boroughs shows how JFK is by far the most auto-oriented employment center in the city, where even employees who live close by drive to work; there’s an AirTrain, but it’s built for air travelers rather than employees, and only reaches the terminal areas.

  15. anonymouse December 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    First off, a bit of history: the Rockaway line was originally built by the Long Island Railroad, and connected all the way through from Valley Stream to Rockaway Beach as well as from the LIRR mainline at Rego Park via Woodhaven to the Rockaways. Far Rockaway ended up being a terminal only much, much later when everything west of there was turned over to the subway. Also, I imagine ridership in the Rockaways isn’t helped by the fact that some neighborhoods around the line were demolished by the city to make way for an urban renewal that never came. Also, Wonderland was not the terminal of the original railroad which the Blue Line replaced: that went all the way from East Boston to Lynn, an extension that the MBTA has considered reinstating.
    The whole “Subway to the Sea” thing itself has always seemed to me to be a bit more of a marketing thing than an actual plan, both among the transit advocates and the MTA planners. The assumption has always been that the line would be opened in phases, with the first phase being Fairfax, the second Century City, the third Westwood, and the fourth Santa Monica. And the assumption was also that by the time the line got to Westwood, the MTA would likely go and build something else for a while before getting to the Santa Monica part. Suggested extensions include a connection to West Hollywood, a short north-south line connecting UCLA to the Expo Line, and the extension of that line under the mountains to Ventura/Van Nuys (and eventually south to LAX and north at least to Van Nuys Metrolink).
    But from a marketing perspective, there’s definitely something appealing about the whole Subway to the Sea idea. Once it gets there, it’s a sense of completion. In a city where the transit network is so full of gaps and half-completed projects, it’s nice to have at least one thing that’s taken all the way to its natural conclusion. Because after Santa Monica, there’s really nowhere for the subway to go except Hawaii.

  16. Peter Smith December 5, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    because airport infrastructure is inherently auto-oriented – there are too many areas within the airport that transit would have to serve, many of which are secured and can’t be made accessible to the public.
    i would agree that current airport infrastructure does currently seem to be more auto-oriented than some other stuff/places, but i don’t know if it’s necessarily a case of it being ‘inherently’ so.
    there are car-type vehicles that move around the tarmac to do various things, like push and pull planes around, and i’m guessing there are some emergency-type vehicles, maybe some fuel vehicles, but nothing in the way of ‘cars’ that is not required by every other place.
    and i understand ‘the security argument’ will be a political problem to overcome. we americans are scared of our own shadows, no doubt. but the idea that our airports are secure is just a myth, anyways — read some jim bovard/tsa stuff if you’re not convinced. and i don’t see why building TOD at/near the airport should inherently compromise security even more. (i’d offer some examples, but i don’t want the federales all over me.)
    as to whether or not airports can provide good TOD-ish environments, well, i dunno. i don’t think i’d want to live at the airport for more than a couple of years, but i believe many people would gladly do it. and i’ve been to some airports that made me think, if only momentarily, that humanity was headed in the right direction. and we’re always in need of affordable housing — maybe this is a good way to provide it?
    the only real example i could find of big TOD-like projects at airports was…Bagram Air Base, with up to 20,000 troops and torture victims residing there at any one time. in that case, I’m guessing the general just told the civil guys to make it happen, so they made it happen. but who knows, maybe now it’s as car-dominated as any other airport on earth?
    i’d be curious what we could come up with, though, if we were told we had to build a world-class TOD facility at the airport — say, SFO. we could each choose how much we wanted our airports to be dominated by cars.
    and why are airports always surrounded by water? presumably, an airport can be land-locked, right? and if so, why not have housing there?
    an airport can be designed like an ocean beach — all the ‘airporty/runway’ stuff goes on one half of the ‘radius of demand’ (where the beach/water are), and the other side (the opposite 180 degrees) is free to develop housing/etc., just like downtown Santa Monica.
    we’ll never be fully safe, and airplanes fly over cities all the time. we need affordable housing. LAX has 13,000 employees. that’s a lot of trips.
    i could see some airports serving as short-term business meet-up places — actually, i’m sure many already do — skipping the trip into downtown WhateverCity altogether.
    sounds like a design contest to me. :)
    given the right leadership, and some influence from a well-connected developer, we might yet just see airports turned from car wastelands into relatively decent places to live/work/play.

  17. Peter Smith December 5, 2009 at 8:45 am #

    wow — i guess airport-TOD is not so pie-in-the-sky after all

  18. cph December 5, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    There were houses between the beach and LAX many moons ago…because of unsafe levels of airplane noise, they were ordered vacated. (The land is now used as a butterfly sanctuary).
    Eventually, the subway will reach Santa Monica. Even if it ended at the promenade (3rd St?) the beach itself is not *that* far away, and the pier is a few blocks away–via either a path along the beach, or though the Promenade itself (Local merchants would love that).
    As for serving LAX: I see a goodly number of LAX employees using the rail lines as they exist now. Not so many airline employees as in Atlanta, etc–more like support staff, airport vendor employees and TSA people. There are also the occasional foreign or out-of-state tourist, lugging bags on the Blue Line, Green Line, and the LAX shuttle buses.
    The future of transit to LAX will probably involve a “people-move” (like JFK’s Airtrain) rather than trying to dig up each terminal to put a light-rail station in each one. A properly designed people mover can reduce or eliminate “shuttle clutter” in the airport by also serving external parking lots, car rental offices, and select hotels as well as the transit station.
    This kind of segues into the danger of designing transit, or other expensive projects, for emotional reasons. When SFO airport was being expanded a decade or so ago, there was talk of extending BART to the new terminal. Transit advocates preferred a “one stop terminal” serving BART, Caltrain, and a people mover serving all terminals, including the new international terminal being built.
    Politicians and others, however, insisted that the new BART station *had* to be “inside the airport”. That meant at the new terminal, since there was no room elsewhere. So BART was brought into the airport, at considerable expense.
    Ridership, while present, is not all that earth-shattering, probably no more than if the one-stop terminal had been built. And although most travelers interested in BART are the short-trippers coming up from LA , etc. on Southwest, etc. the station is in the international terminal, requiring a people-mover ride (or a longish walk) for most domestic passengers. International passengers, who almost always have much more luggage, are less interested in BART, opting for a cab, shuttle van, etc.
    Caltrain riders got screwed by, instead of having a free people mover ride, having to buy a BART ticket to get into the airport.
    And the cost of running BART is nearly bankrupting San Mateo County Transit (Samtrans), which is having to severely cut bus service now.
    It is not enough to simply clamor for more money for transit; systems have to be well thought out and make sense. Construction is expensive, funds are scarce, and there are few chances for “do-overs” or trying to unring the bell.

  19. Peter Parker December 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    Peter, one constraint is where airports make their money from. Often they use their monopolistic position to charge dearly for car parking and this can exceed their income from aviation.
    Where this is the case airports can have an entrenched opposition to public transport links.

  20. Cap'n Transit December 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    First of all, there are tons of examples of railroads to the beach. Here in the New York area, we have not only the subways to Coney Island and the Rockaways, but the Long Island Rail Road to Far Rockaway and Long Beach, and the New Jersey Transit trains to the North Jersey Coast and Atlantic City.
    You’re right that anchor development can be tricky, which in part explains why the Rockaway branches and the North Jersey Coast line go along the shore, and most of the stations are more than 1/4 mile from the beach.
    But it’s certainly possible to develop a strong resort anchor. Private, for-profit companies built five train lines to Coney Island, and it wasn’t to set up a transfer point; that came later. There were also several other streetcar and horsecar lines.
    It’s true that the demand for trains to the beach is much lower now that lots of people have cars and there are highways and parking lots. New York State has maintained demand for train service to Coney Island and the Rockaways by building numerous high-rise housing projects, but that seems to make everyone involved miserable.
    It’s also true that the big lines were built as conventional train lines, not subways, and that the trains ran much less often than the subways do now. The NJ Transit and LIRR lines still run on hourly frequencies most of the time. But I don’t see anything stopping the LACMTA from turning most of the subways at Century City or Westwood and only running half-hourly service to Santa Monica.

  21. Jarrett at HumanTransit.org December 5, 2009 at 9:42 pm #

    < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
    Cap'n.  The main difference from NY is that the LA subway is definitely envisioned as an extension of existing third-rail rapid transit, and as underground all the way.  An outer segment running infrequently would never justify underground operation.   Elevated is unimaginable given how built-out Santa Monica already is.  NY has it easier because rails got to the beach before most of the NIMBYs did. 

  22. anonymouse December 5, 2009 at 10:32 pm #

    I do see something stopping the MTA from running half-hourly service on the Santa Monica segment: the expense of building the thing in the first place. Subways cost a lot of money, so when you build them, you better be pretty damn sure that you’re going to get a lot of use out of them. Building a subway just to run 30 minute headways isn’t exactly efficient use of scarce capital funding, compared to various other subway and light rail lines that could be built in various other places in the county.

  23. Cap'n Transit December 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Good points, Jarrett and Anonymouse. It’s my understanding that there are more than enough people traveling to and from that area to make subway service possible, if they didn’t drive. We all expect that in the future, driving will become more and more costly, so taking the train will make become more and more attractive. The question is simply when the area will reach that threshold, and whether the MTA will be ready for it.
    In the meantime, I guess, people will just have to transfer to the streetcar or bus that will run in the exclusive right-of-way in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard.

  24. J.D. Hammond December 7, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Peter: Crystal City, incidentally, is adjacent to Reagan National and was originally designed as TOD. There are plans to redevelop the area in a significantly more new-urbanist fashion and to improve connectivity to the airport. Urbanism near airports isn’t impossible, or even necessarily unlikely.

  25. bzcat December 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    I think this post generally reflects a misreading of the geographic (both physical and mental) of Santa Monica, especially with regards to transit demands near the beach. I don’t think there is anything wrong to apply the 1/4 mile radius to any subway station and look at transit demand, but in this case, it is applying a round peg in a square hole.
    The reason I say that is because Downtown Santa Monica is as much a destination as it is a transfer node. Bus services currently pull passengers from all directions to 4th Street area and passenger transfers from this point to their final destination near Santa Monica (i.e. Malibu, Venice etc). A typical commute may look something like this: Rapid 3 from Green line Aviation station to 4th Street – BBB 5 to Cloverfield. Or Metro 720 from East LA to 4th Street – Metro 333 to Venice. etc.
    Basically, I would argue that Rockaway is not a valid comparison to Santa Monica’s future subway station. The Wall Trade Center subway station on the A line is a more apples to apples comparison. In the future when Purple reaches Santa Monica, it will feed into a big job center, plus transfers to nearby destinations on buses and light rail lines. This is not going to be some Rockaway station on the beach.

  26. Nathanael December 22, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    While the principles in this post are fine, Santa Monica’s a terrible example. Santa Monica is already very dense and has a dense agglomeration of bus lines feeding it, and the beach (as a *still major* recreation area) is the center of that.
    But that’s what everyone else pointed out too.

  27. LA-Planner January 19, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Why a subway? At hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars a mile, why build a subway? Why not a light-rail? And maybe two or three at that cost.

  28. Alon Levy January 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    LA’s subway construction costs are consistently about $300 million per km. Surface light rail is about $40-50 million, but requires a dedicated right of way, which Wilshire doesn’t offer.
    Wilshire’s important enough to justify a subway.

  29. Tessa March 1, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    There is one exception to this rule I’d like to throw in, and which I’m sure you’re already fully aware, and that is Waterfront Station in Vancouver. Of course, in that case the skytrain was built there to connect to an existing transit hub where the seabus terminal was located, with connections to the north shore. I think a ferry terminal or some other transit hub is a pretty good reason to extend the metro to the sea.
    Oddly enough, when the first expo line was built in 1986 both terminus stations were along the water, as New Westminster is just one block from the Fraser River, and with no bridge, that clearly would have impacted what area they could draw ridership from as well. I have to wonder what impact that had on the ridership of the line when it first opened.