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DASH to arts lovers' rescue

The downtown buses, which pass the Music Center, will offer free service on certain nights till year's end.

November 26, 2008|Mike Boehm | Boehm is a Times staff writer.

One of the seemingly Sisyphean tasks of L.A. living is trying to get to the Music Center from the so-near-but-oh-so-far Metro Red Line subway station.

On the map, it looks simple enough: The train brings you to 1st and Hill streets, you walk two blocks west to 1st and Grand Avenue, and -- voila! -- you're at the doorstep of Disney Hall, with the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion across the street.

On your feet, it can be grueling, unless you're into ur- ban mountaineering. Would-be transit riders eager for a fix of music, theater, opera and dance must essay a steep, sweat-inducing grade that calls to mind the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the poor fella who was doomed to eternally push a boulder up a hill in Hades. Here in L.A., they forgive you the boulder.

But for now, eternity has been interrupted. Instead of tucking in its 25-cents-a-ride downtown DASH buses for the night after rush hour, the city's Department of Transportation will provide free service on Friday and Saturday nights for the rest of the year, as well as on New Year's Eve, a Wednesday.

That means folks who can't or won't climb Bunker Hill, and who don't want to drive and pay $8 to park in the Music Center's lots, can avail themselves of mass transit, taking the train and then DASH-ing it to a Music Center drop-off. Buses are scheduled to leave every 10 minutes from the Civic Center Red Line station; Blue Line riders who want to save on a transfer fare can catch DASH at the 7th Street/Metro Center station. The free shuttles will run from 6:30 p.m. until 3 a.m., making a looping route that extends from the Convention Center and the L.A. Live complex northward to the Music Center. A consortium of downtown businesses, including the Music Center, chipped in to cover the $23,000 bill for the experimental service.

Those with weeknight or matinee tickets will just have to hoof it or drive. Extending the service year-round would cost $180,000 for weekends only and $1 million for nightly runs, according to transportation officials -- money they say would have to come from private sources.

Meanwhile, for those who continue to drive and park, there's still no access to the Department of Water and Power's customer parking lot on Hope Street, which closed for after-hours security reasons a couple of months ago. The move deprived Music Center patrons of about 350 prime spaces.

Although Councilman Tom LaBonge has asked DWP officials to reconsider whether they can reopen the lot for cultural events without compromising security, department spokesman Brooks Baker said that "the situation is unchanged. The issue remains under review."

To prevent parking jams, the county has made the underground lot that serves the Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse available when the 1,000 spaces under the Chandler, Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre are filled. (Disney Hall has its own ample underground lot.) Nick Chico, chief of parking services for the county, said that typically happens when there are simultaneous shows at the 3,200-seat Chandler and the 2,000-capacity Ahmanson. Because the two lots connect beneath Grand Avenue, it's an easy matter to channel cars to the overflow spaces.

Still, if you want to walk to the Taper or the Ahmanson, here's a tip: Avoid the steep hill by approaching the Music Center from Temple Street -- maybe a few more steps, if you're coming from south of 1st Street, but no sweat.

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mike.boehm@latimes.com

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