Merry Christmas, Mass Transit Users! You’re Getting an Underpass

Consider this a Thank You note for North Hollywood’s proposed pedestrian tunnel
Photograph courtesy Metro

Rendering courtesy Metro

There’s an urban battle simmering between those who commute in cars and those who don’t, and drivers are winning, by a long shot. That’s because, as illustrator Karl Jilg so brilliantly captured in this drawing, cities aren’t designed for people who get around on foot. We’re in a car-eat-whatever-it-wants world in Los Angeles, and I’m not into it.

There are signs of progress, though, like this holiday treat: According to Curbed LA, a pedestrian tunnel is coming to the North Hollywood Metro Station. The news sounds simplistic—silly even—but a pedestrian tunnel is a necessary good for our city. It’s design represents a harmonious connection between the automotive and pedestrian worlds, and a workaround that will keep all kinds of movers happy.

You may scoff at it because it seems like such a drastic measure to move people from one point to another, but the underpass is expected to shave off almost a minute of time for commuters. A minute. If you have ever been to the North Hollywood station and tried to catch to a bus, you know that doing so can be a pain in the ass to accomplish. Of all the stations that require a connection, this station presents so many obstacles, like lots of staircases, clusters of people, and crosswalks that bend more to the cars than to those trying to cross.

The proposed tunnel sounds like an easy win, but I do have one concern. Los Angeles has so many underground tunnels that have been closed, likely because they turned into homeless encampments or turned dangerous after dark. I’m thinking of one on Sunset Boulevard at Micheltorena Elementary School that I assume was designed to helped kids cross the street; it’s closed off now. A similar underpass at Normandie and Santa Monica boulevards, likely for Ramona Elementary School students, is in a similar state. Some underpasses are still functional, of course, like the one at Will Rogers State Beach. Actually, I can’t think of any others.

In doing some research I came across this article which looks back at when tunnels were more in vogue and how they became neighborhood nuisances that were no longer wanted. Will the new Metro-friendly commuter connector see the same fate? I hope not. It’s nice to see an older L.A. tradition brought back by urban planners, and it’s easy to support a measure that could help Angelenos discover the city in new ways.