A new Wetzel’s Pretzels has replaced the original “subway snack bar” that symbolized a new direction that LA was taking when it comes to walking vs driving and urban vs suburban. Back in summer of 2011, “Carmegeddon” was the talk of the town as many Angelenos feared the impending “shut down” and “collapse” of our city due to the closure of the 405 (aka, the Westside’s largest parking lot) as part of a billion dollar freeway-widening project. (Don’t we know by now that widening a freeway actually induces more traffic because it encourages driving?) The amount of irrational widespread national media coverage of the “impending shut down” spoke volumes about the general public’s negative impression of Los Angeles as an auto-obsessed town utterly dependent on the car where a single freeway closure could incapacitate all Angelenos!
With all that said, however, there was something small but symbolic happening on the other side of town in Downtown LA around the same time the world was collapsing on the Westside. While many Angelenos fretted over the 405 closing for a whole entire weekend, a new “simple” snack bar was opening up inside the 7th/Metro subway station.
What made this new snack bar so special (even the LA Times’ reported on this snack bar) was not its diminutive size or even what it sold exactly. No, what made it special was the fact that this was LA’s first actual store in a subway station that didn’t depend on cars or parking. This new shop would depend on a novel and “new” way of travel by metro rail that more and more Angelenos are gravitating toward. Walking and taking the train in LA is becoming the haute thing to do.
Now that the original snack bar has been changed into a new Wetzel’s Pretzels (which just opened last week after 5 months of red tape), transit riders are able to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out the station. While standing in front of Wetzel’s Pretzels for a few minutes observing the interaction between the shop and transit riders, I saw quite a few people who were exiting the station stop in to order (who were probably lured in by the yummy smell of baked sweet dough). It’s a simple process you would see in any other transit-oriented city in the world with stores in metro stations, but for Los Angeles, it represents a big step forward.