6 things you need to know about the Purple Line subway extension

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Long talked about, the extension of Metro’s Purple Line subway, which, for right now, travels between Union Station and Wilshire and Western, was somewhat slow to get off the ground—and sometimes seemed like it would never arrive at all. But with a new influx of money from grants and voter-approved sales tax initiatives, prospects for the timely delivery of the longer route are suddenly looking better than ever.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important things to know about what promises to be a key part of the city’s growing transit network.

It’s not really a subway to the sea

Given how long the Purple Line extension has been in the works, it might be hard to remember that it was once billed as a “subway to the sea.” But if you haven’t paid any attention to the project over the last six or seven years, we regret to inform you that the completed route will end at Westwood, where the closest body of water is probably the inverted fountain at UCLA.

The line will initially proceed along Wilshire Boulevard on its westward journey, with stations at La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega, and Rodeo. The train will then dip down to Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars before rising back up to Wilshire, with two final stops at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Map showing Purple Line routeCourtesy of Metro

When will you be able to ride it?

The first phase of construction on the project began in 2014 and should be open to riders by 2023 at the latest. It travels from the current terminus at Wilshire/Western to Wilshire/La Cienega.

The second phase, which runs to Century City, is scheduled to begin construction in 2018. Metro recently won a $1.6 billion federal grant to accelerate this part of the project, which is otherwise funded by money raised through Metro’s 2008 sales tax initiative, Measure R. The second segment is scheduled to wrap up in 2026.

The third phase will complete the train’s journey to the VA. Originally scheduled to wrap up in 2035, the final leg of the project is being accelerated now that voters have signed off on Measure M. It’s now expected to be complete by 2024.

Yes, that’s right.

At present, the third phase of construction is scheduled to finish up a full two years before the second. But Metro is optimistic about the prospects of further accelerating the second leg of the project.

Pauletta Tonilas, a spokesperson for the agency, tells Curbed that Metro is trying to find more funding sources for the project and is looking for ways to coordinate construction of the second and third phases so that both of the final phases will be ready by 2024—not-so-coincidentally, the year that Los Angeles hopes to host the Summer Olympics.

The lawsuits are (pretty much) settled

One of the biggest obstacles to the train line’s completion has been persistent resistance from the city of Beverly Hills, where residents and local officials have fiercely protested the proposed route, which passes under Beverly Hills High School. The city and school district have waged a valiant battle against the project, with the high school even recruiting kids to produce a series of anti-rail videos called “Why We Fight.”

But after losing multiple lawsuits, the city is running out of options. In November, the Beverly Hills Unified School District filed a fresh challenge to the subway, arguing that Metro should not be able to hire a contractor for the project before completing a court-ordered environmental review. KPCC reports that the transit agency wants to have that finished by this summer.

The first two stations may look like this

Rendering of Wilshire/La Brea stopRendering of Wilshire/La Brea stopMetro
Rendering of Wilshire/Fairfax stopRendering of Wilshire/Fairfax stopMetro

Since it’s a subway, the extended Purple Line will be an all but invisible addition to the city for those who don’t ride it. The station entrances, of course, will be above ground, and Metro has released renderings of those at the Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/Fairfax stops.

Most controversial has been the latter station, which Metro originally planned for the northwest corner of the intersection, close to Johnnie’s Coffee Shop. After some lobbying from LACMA, however, the station entrance has been moved to the south side of Wilshire at the corner of Orange Grove Ave—across the street from the museum. LACMA has also agreed to finance a second entrance on its side of the street, but it’s unclear when that will be constructed.

The trains should come pretty frequently

That $1.6 billion for phase two wasn’t the only significant grant that Metro’s received recently. The transit agency also received $69 million from the state of California for a project that will allow trains to switch directions in a maintenance yard close to Union Station.

Once completed, the project will allow 30 trains to pass through the station every hour, greatly diminishing the wait times for Red and Purple Line trains—which currently arrive every 10 minutes during peak hours.

It won’t connect to the Crenshaw/LAX Line—yet

Metro’s under-construction Crenshaw/LAX Line will initially only travel as far north as Exposition Boulevard when it opens in 2019. But West Hollywood is pushing hard for a rail project that would connect the route to the Purple and Red Lines, passing through the city along the way.

While the project is still in the planning phases, officials are confident construction could get underway as soon as 2020.

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