It is Time for Beverly Hills to Give Up

Beverly Hills High right in front of Century City from photobucket user rvega1971

Rationalism – a view that reason and experience rather than the nonrational are the fundamental criteria in the solution of problems.

Rationalism – an ideology that led to the free market, democracy, and essentially western thought.

Rationalism – something that the Beverly Hills School District and the small minority of Beverly Hills residents who oppose the Constellation Purple Line Station Option completely lack.

The Westside Subway Extension Project is one of the most important rail transit projects in the United States. When (and if) the stars align and this line opens to VA/405 around 2030, a mass of humanity bigger than almost any other subway line in the United States will flock to Metro’s boxy stainless steel trains. Beverly hills has already agreed to a station at Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive in the center of downtown, and a station at Wilshire Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard in the far eastern part of the city. Riders will flock to these two stations due to the high density of jobs and attractions in close proximity. The issue that Beverly Hills still contests is the placement of the first station west of the city in Century City. Two options exist, a station in the center of the commercial district at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, and a station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Both options would include the construction of a cut and cover station under streets owned by the City of Los Angeles and leading tunnels built by deep-earth tunnel boring machines (TBM). The key issue of contention is the route of the leading tracks from the east – under the Constellation/Ave of the Stars alternative, the deep bore tunnel will pass over 100 feet below Beverly Hills High School. The Santa Monica station option avoids the High School.

Key in this debate is the solid fact that the Constellation station option will attract a much larger number of riders, due to the location of the station in the middle of the Century City district. Jobs on the southern end of the area would be far more accessible to Metro riders and more workers and shoppers would be likely to take transit if the walk was under half a mile, as opposed to over a mile in the Santa Monica option.

From an engineering standpoint, the Santa Monica option is more of a challenge. A large fault runs down Santa Monica Boulevard, greatly increasing seismic engineering costs. Also, the uninviting nature of Santa Monica Boulevard in the area would require a large amount of street redesign for pedestrian use. Finally, the northern side of the street is occupied by a country club, hardly a big draw for transit riders, and would immediately limit the utility of the station. Transportation planners normally draw a half-mile circle around a station to estimate pedestrian access. If half of that circle is a golf course, it makes sense that many, many less riders will use the Santa Monica Station than a Constellation Station.

Irrational fear and ignorance are the primary responses Beverly Hills High School has provided to having a subway tunnel hundreds of feet below its campus. Numerous schools elsewhere in the world have subway tunnels under them – Berkeley High School in Northern California has a cut and cover subway tunnel just below the surface that has no influence on the regular operation of the school. Other far more vulnerable targets, like the US Capitol, have rail tunnels under them.

Point is, all of the negative factors Beverly Hills High School has perceived to be solid fact are indeed untrue. Metro and LA County need to stop listening to their proverbial whining child and build the Westside Subway in the most effective possible manner – we really only have one chance to do it right. Here’s one vote for the Constellation Station option with hopefully many more to come.

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About Karl Tingwald

Civil engineering student at the University of Southern California with a severe transportation compulsion.

Posted on June 1, 2011, in Los Angeles, Measure R, Metro Rail, Policy and Politics, Westside Subway Extension. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I wonder if this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Hills_High_School#Oil_wells has anything to do with BHHS’s objection to subway tunnelling under the school? Maybe BHHS/Venoco are drilling in places where they don’t have mineral rights and are afraid that would be discovered by a subway tunnel. Certainly makes more sense than any of the reasons given by the school board.

  2. Scott Mercer

    Or, alternately, if the station is built at Ave. Stars and Santa Monica Blvd., economic pressure to actually REMOVE part of the golf course and build MORE skycrapers on current golf course land would be IMMENSE. As much as that land is worth right now, it would be worth even MORE (hard as that may be to conceive of) with a subway station right next to it. This would lead to the construction of a “Century City North” with more skycrapers. And the citizens of Beverly Hills could not do SQUAT about it, since that land is part of the City of Los Angeles, NOT Beverly Hills. Talk about the law of unitended consquences. Is that what the citizens of Beverly Hills really want? Yet ANOTHER Century City size development right at their doorstop? Maybe they should think about that.

  3. Not to detract from the article, as I completely agree that Beverly Hills opposition to the Constellation station is completely unfounded, but I would just like to point out that although rationalism may have led to democracy and the free market, neither of those things work very well. Luckily the scientific method, and observing the empirical evidence, has led us to representative democracy, and the semi-controlled economy, which we stimulate when it’s in trouble, and (at least every once in a while) use to cyclically balance the budget when it’s doing well.

    But yeah, BHHS is out of their minds.

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