HOWARD FINE

Staff Reporter

Even when it comes to riding L.A.'s subway, there's a potential parking problem.

People wishing to drop off their cars at one of the five new stations along the Red Line extension in the hope of making a quick trip downtown could be in for a rude awakening.

Only at one of the stations Hollywood Boulevard at Vine Street has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority set aside park-and-ride spaces for subway riders. That lot, at the corner of Hollywood and Argyle Avenue just east of the station, holds only 90 cars.

And it's not cheap: $1.50 every 15 minutes to a maximum of $5 for an entire day. When combined with the $2.70 round-trip fare on the Red Line, that's only slightly cheaper than the $8 to $12 it typically costs to park at outside lots downtown.

As for the other four stations, Red Line riders are on their own for parking and must try to find spaces at lots that are frequently full. Of course, when they do find a space, they will have to pay market rates.

"Basically, it's take buses, walk to the stations or forget it," said Tom Rubin, a former treasurer of one of the MTA's predecessor agencies who is now a transportation consultant in Oakland.

Rubin and other transportation experts believe the MTA is probably losing lots of potential riders over the lack of parking perhaps as much as 20 percent over the current ridership totals.

(About 60,000 people took the Red Line last Monday, the first full weekday of operation for the new stations. Back in April, according to MTA figures, Red Line ridership averaged about 38,000 per day.)

MTA officials contend that little or no parking is needed at the Hollywood stations because they are in a highly urbanized area where lots of people walk or take the bus.

Instead, park-and-ride structures will be located at the Universal Studios and North Hollywood Red Line stations scheduled to open a year from now. Each of those structures will have several hundred spaces; as things now stand, Red Line passengers will be able to park there for free.

"These Hollywood stations were never envisioned as park-and-ride stations because of the high density of the urban area," said Keith Killough, deputy executive officer of countywide planning for the MTA. "This decision was made with the view that the system will extend to the San Fernando Valley, where the real demand is for park-and-ride stations."

In other cities with subway systems, like Chicago and Washington, D.C., park-and-ride lots also tend to be located on the outskirts. But those cities don't have the large number of cars in their urban cores that L.A. does.

All the new stations have "kiss-and-ride" lanes places for people to drive up and drop off subway passengers. And they are all accessible by bus, although some people might have to take two bus lines to get to the nearest station.

Killough said the MTA considered building or converting parking lots in Hollywood, but concluded that there wouldn't be enough demand to justify the expense.

"The study found that only a marginal number of passengers would be added if park-and-ride facilities were built," Killough said. "Also, there was a feeling that doing so might be perceived by some as subsidizing those who are not transit-dependent."

Rather, Killough said, the MTA is hoping to enter joint development agreements that would include parking for Red Line passengers. As an example, MTA officials cited the Blue Line station at Willow Street near the San Diego (405) Freeway. There, American Stores Properties Inc., the parent of Lucky and Sav-On stores, joined the MTA in converting an open-air 200-car lot to a covered parking structure capable of holding 700 cars.

L.A. City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the Hollywood and Silver Lake areas, said there's a need for more park-and-ride facilities along the Red Line, but not necessarily in Hollywood. She pointed to the MacArthur Park station and the planned North Hollywood stop as areas that would benefit from more parking.

Goldberg is more concerned about the lack of small shuttle buses to take people from the new subway stations to surrounding commercial and residential areas.

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