Future Stations Of The Past: Whatever Happened To Early Plans For A Metro Rail Stop At The Hollywood Bowl?

After exploring the fate of transit stations previously planned for Wilshire & La Brea and a downtown “Metroport,” we now turn our attention to early designs for a Red Line station next to the Hollywood Bowl.

With various aspects of subway planning being carried on by the Southern California Rapid Transit District, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Rail Construction Corporation, it is a difficult story to piece together.

In the early years, Metro Rail planning called for the Red Line to run west from downtown along Wilshire Boulevard before turning north on Fairfax, then east on Sunset Boulevard to Cahuenga before veering north through the Cahuenga Pass to Universal City and North Hollywood.

A map of that initial alignment can be found here.

While the initial Wilshire alignment never extended past Western Avenue, the Red Line was built along Vermont Avenue through Hollywood to Highland Avenue before heading toward the San Fernando Valley.

Plans for a “Hollywood Freeway” or “Hollywood Bowl” rail line extend back as far as 1976.

But as early as 1982, technical challenges regarding a Hollywood Bowl subway station were brought to light.

Plans for a Hollywood Bowl Station, 1983

A station adjacent to the Bowl would have to be very deep underground, while the opportunities for bus/rail interfaces at the other two stations planned for Hollywood looked very promising.

Draft plans for the Hollywood section of Metro’s Red Line in February, 1983 mention a hypothetical Hollywood Bowl subway station only in passing in one section, and no station plans are included in the specs like the other stations.

But plans for a fully realized Hollywood Bowl Station do appear in the September, 1983 Final Report For Milestone 10: Fixed Facilities (233p. PDF).

Here, the SCRTD’s Metro Rail Project documentation notes that patronage for a Hollywood Bowl Station was expected to be the lowest on the entire system.

Some estimates predicted that station use would be a mere 10% of the projections forecast for other Metro Rail stations.

However, during peak-hour subway traffic during Bowl events, it was expected to be quite high.

The 1982 Hollywood Bowl season included 77 shows with total attendance of 715,000 persons, as well as an additional 52,000 visiting the nearby Ford Theater.

With plans for the subway alignment to pass directly adjacent to the Hollywood Bowl, it made sense to include a station stop at one of Los Angeles’ most popular venues — one which was particularly vexxing for parking and traffic.

The final Milestone 10 Report noted that it would have been very expensive to provide space underground to hold crowds all arriving or departing at nearly the same time.

Therefore, it was planned that admission into an at-grade station entrance would be metered after performances to prevent overload of the mezzanine and platform.

The station entrance would be located close to the entrance to the Bowl, adjacent to the ticket offices.

This would have been oriented to provide the least conflict with the pedestrian flow of the non-user.

But a Bowl stop was not in the initial Metro Rail plans, as noted in the Draft report.

So the Southern California Rapid Transit District studied whether a Hollywood Bowl station could feasibly be added to the Red Line at a later date, with much back and forth on the issue.

The SCRTD Board voted to move forward with planning for a Hollywood Bowl station, and later that summer, it was announced that the Los Angeles Philharmonic Board of Directors adopted a resolution declaring their intention to share in the construction costs of a station at the Bowl.

However, alignment changes caused by “gas” problems along the 1983 adopted alignment made stations at Sunset/La Brea and Hollywood/Cahuenga impossible.

With a stop at Hollywood/Cahuenga out of the picture, a replacement station was planned for Hollywood/Highland instead.

But the placement of a station at Hollywood / Highland precluded, from an engineering standpoint, a station at the Hollywood Bowl.

Placement of the east-west subway leg in Hollywood Boulevard rather than one block south on Selma Avenue, plus the more westerly location of Highland Avenue precluded the ability to turn toward a Hollywood Bowl Station within the predetermined minimum turning radius.

As if those challenges weren’t enough, word came down that the federal government refused to consider the Hollywood Bowl station for funding.

By November 1990, a station at the Hollywood Bowl had almost nothing going for it.

With no federal funds to build a technically complex, least-patronized and under-supported station in the city’s new rail system, plans for a subway stop at the Hollywood Bowl fell by the wayside.

The SCRTD did agree to study other transit links to the Bowl.

These included a “people transporter” and other alternative fixed-transit linkages between Metro Rail and the Hollywood Bowl.

Moving sidewalks and a people-mover system stretching 0.7 miles up Highland Avenue to the venue from the Hollywood/Highland Station were to be studied by the SCRTD in response to the Hollywood Bowl Station finally being eliminated.

Public transit options to the Hollywood Bowl now include park & ride, Bowl shuttles, Metro service via bus and rail, and of course, stacked parking!

The Hollywood Bowl's new "ample" parking in 1954

But you wouldn’t think parking would have been a hassle back in 1954, when a report on express buses on freeways (and underneath downtown Los Angeles!) touted the newly reconfigured Hollywood Freeway offramps adjacent to the Bowl — and the “ample new parking for Hollywood Bowl Capacity: 1484 cars.”