Metro’s Tough Choice: Which Neighborhoods Deserve Rail Stations?

On the Crenshaw Line extension, it’s still anyone’s guess

Other than the yet-to-be specified rail project connecting the Valley to the Westside, there may be no Metro project more eagerly anticipated than a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. Early planning showed the north-south line connecting the Crenshaw District to Hollywood, possibly veering through West Hollywood on its way to the Red Line’s Hollywood/Highland station. What has received considerably less discussion than the WeHo/Hollywood route is how Crenshaw will connect to Wilshire Boulevard and how it will interact with the mid-city neighborhoods it traverses.

Possible routes for the Crenshaw Line extension

Image courtesy Metro

A preliminary Metro map of the Crenshaw extension shows stations at the convergence of San Vicente/Pico/Venice and another at Crenshaw and Adams boulevards, before the line connects with either the La Brea, Fairfax, or La Cienega stops on the Purple Line. The former station will most certainly make the cut—San Vicente/Pico/Venice is home to Mid-City Crossing, a large shopping center, as well as a bus depot used by Metro and other transit agencies (e.g., Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus).

But what about Crenshaw/Adams? Unlike the San Vicente/Pico/Venice station, there is little as far as destinations for this area. The current intersection of Crenshaw and Adams features four (!!) gas stations, and the entrance to the roaring 10 freeway a block or so away. Few people will be getting off this station for work, but many people will be getting on it to get to work.

This section of Crenshaw/Mid-City doesn’t lack for residents, with many transit-dependent. It would certainly help folks get to work in Hollywood and LAX, and connect to the larger rail network. But Metro will need to conduct intensive studies to see if the cost of building a station here—most likely underground—makes sense for the amount of riders they expect to patronize it. Adding a station here will also slow down the travel time for the route, another factor that will be weighed. Metro had to make a similar decision for a Wilshire/Crenshaw station on the Purple Line; they ended up dropping the stop during planning.

There’s another consideration, though. Would a subway station at Crenshaw and Adams uplift this area, which still hasn’t completely recovered from the ’92 riots? Metro could easily buy up one of those gas stations and replace it with a station that includes amenities like landscaping, benches, and bike racks. The transit agency would also likely purchase more of the gas stations and develop the parcels into mixed-use housing; the accompanying retail would be much more welcome than four dirty gas stations and the idling cars they attract.

Of course, then there’s the issue of gentrification. A subway station would most likely lead to increases in rent for the surrounding apartments (as well as housing values for nearby homeowners). This will be a real consideration, especially compared to places like Culver City. The area around the Expo Line station there is booming—but there was little around the stop before it was built, retail or housing-wise, so it’s hard to argue that anyone was displaced because of its addition. There’s a thriving community at Crenshaw and Adams, and with construction possibly beginning on the light rail extension in three years, it could be in for some big changes.

RELATED: This Metro Extension Mockup Shows Four Possible Routes to WeHo