Century City Sidebar

Working on a longer post about Sepulveda Pass, and started thinking about Century City.

From a transit perspective, Century City is perhaps the most vexing node in LA. It’s a huge destination, big enough to be called LA’s second downtown, but you have to go over a mile east or west to find anything resembling a decent north-south arterial. And even at that, you only hit Westwood/Overland and Robertson, the former of which isn’t even two lanes each way except during peak periods, when parking is restricted. To encounter real north-south capacity, you have to go over two miles in either direction, to Sepulveda and the 405 to the west and La Cienega to the east.

That’s a real rarity in LA, where there’s almost always a solid grid of arterials. In fact, I’m trying to think of another CBD in the country that’s that inaccessible and disconnected from the urban fabric, on two sides no less, and coming up blank.

In my fever dreams, the LA Country Club, Hillcrest Country Club, and Cheviot Hills undergo massive redevelopment, with Avenue of the Stars extended north to Sunset and south to Beverwil & Castle Heights, which also become real arterials. But until I have complete control over zoning. . .

The lack of north-south arterials anywhere near Century City is a huge transportation problem. For cars, it means you have to take Pico, Olympic, or Santa Monica east or west, forcing those roads to do double duty, serving east-west and north-south traffic. Since intense development in LA tends to follow arterials, it’s also a problem for transit. You can’t design a north-south transit route serving Century City that makes sense, doesn’t have huge route deviations, and doesn’t route buses along congested one-lane roads. Going underground doesn’t make sense because there’s nothing north or south of Century City worth that level of investment.

Anyway, more on Century City another time, and keep an eye out for that Sepulveda Pass post.

7 thoughts on “Century City Sidebar

  1. Alon Levy

    There’s no good way to serve Century City with surface transit, but rapid transit can efficiently serve it, at least in the higher-performing east-west direction. In fact the fact that it’s disconnected from the grid is a good argument for why the Westside Subway should get high ridership out of Century City: the buses are underperforming because no grid, and the cars are going to keep getting stuck in traffic because no grid (and also LA traffic is the stuff of nightmares). It’s good to keep this fact in mind for off-grid centers, because if your idea of a transit line is “follow the busiest bus line,” you’ll miss them. LA is doing the right thing in going under Beverly Hills High to serve Century City centrally, instead of marginally, or, even worse, staying on Wilshire the whole way. Unfortunately, Tel Aviv isn’t as smart, and its proposal for serving Jaffa misses the really narrow streets of the Old City and Ajami and only serve the less central wide throughfare, on the surface.

    1. letsgola Post author

      Completely agree on Westside Subway; very glad the project is following the route that serves the center of Century City.

      Also agree w/ your post on the difference between bus routes & train routes. I don’t know Tel Aviv at all, but I agree w/ the principles. In case the post wasn’t clear, to me the strange thing about Century City is that I’m not sure if a north-south line of any sort is practical – if you were going to invest the money to go underground, where would you go from Century City? Maybe Culver City to the south, then UCLA to the north… but would that be worth the cost of tunnel construction?

  2. Pingback: Sepulveda/LAX Transit Part 4: Arrested Arterials, Arrested Development | Let's Go LA

  3. Tom

    I think Manhattan has a large CBD on an island? And I saw on a map that San Francisco is on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by a bay, the Golden Gate, and the ocean. Do they have commuters like Century City ?. How do those places work? Does Century City have more workers than San Francisco’s downtown? It may be good to do a comparison. I know that L.A. has a mountain range in the middle and New York has some rivers. In San Francisco there is a tunnel under the water and some bridges over it. Do many people use those for transportation?

    1. letsgola Post author

      Right, the point is that while there are good transportation links to those CBDs, the connections to Century City are really underpowered, especially in the north-south direction.

  4. marcotico

    Southern California has an interesting legacy hold over in that Pre-1950 urban development was situated near good water sources (LA, Whittier, Anaheim, Santa Ana, all along I-5), and the beach communities where barren. Post WWII, the western lands, and beach fronts filled in. However the commutes where still on an east west, axis as those areas were still traveling to the eastward cities. Once those commutes where no longer the predominant case, beach cities were still competing against each other to attract tourists, but restrain residential growth , so they were not interested in improving travel parallel to the coast (NW to SE). Therefore, in many places, I-405 represents this kind of border between good east west travel but lack of north south arterials, and a mishmash of poly-centrism.

    This becomes especially apparent whenever people say, “Oooo we need a rail line in the middle of I-405.” without realizing the severity of the first/last mile problem between I-405 and most of the nodes both west and east of the freeway.


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