While the Oscars put on a glamorous and innovative in-person show at Union Station on Sunday, organizers faced criticism over the weekend for the impact its production restrictions had on those outside of Hollywood.
The station remained open to riders before, during and after the ceremony for bus, rail, Metrolink and Amtrak use, but commuters were rerouted to the east entrance as production took over Union Station West, the Ticket Concourse and Grand Waiting Room. Bus stops, ride-share pickups and parking have also been relocated for most of the month, and this weekend saw a web of street closures including Alameda Street, Main Street and Temple Street.
Filmmaker Sean Meredith was among those traveling through the station on Saturday, where he saw a man in a wheelchair being told he had to take the detour and “started to steam a little.”
“I thought if I helped we could convince someone to let [him] go a couple hundred feet to the Red Line entrance instead of the entire detour,” Meredith tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Both guards said no. I implored a bit saying they should make exceptions; no exceptions, we were told.” Meredith tweeted the experience, which gained traction with a #fucktheoscars hashtag.
With the west entrance on Alameda closed, commuters were sent walking down East Cesar E Chavez Avenue to the east entrance; the detour is largely under a dark overpass with narrow sidewalks and ranges from a half to three-quarters of a mile depending on destination.
Meredith also pointed out the hypocrisy in the Academy nominating Crip Camp for best documentary but not making enough accommodations for disabled people with the closures.
“For centuries people struggled for civil rights for different classes of underserved folks and for those who were discriminated against in the most foul ways — the story of Crip Camp makes you cry,” Meredith tells THR. “Angeleno transit users often take it because they can’t afford a car or for some reason aren’t able to drive, and some use it by choice. The inferior service given to these folks is a disgrace. They experience many indignities due to bus stops with no shade or seating, service cuts, crowded buses and long waits between buses. A 30-minute drive could easily take a disabled traveler two hours. It’s frustrating that the city, Metro, Amtrak and the Academy all knew these unreasonable detours would hit vulnerable users and they still went ahead with this.”
A Metro spokesperson said they did not receive any complaints of pedestrian or Americans With Disabilities Act access issues over the weekend but “provided both a shuttle bus and two ADA-specific shuttles from Access Services to ferry customers from Alameda Street at Union Station West to the Patsaouras Plaza Busway at Union Station East to help any pedestrians navigate the pedestrian closure.”
The production did take care to be inclusive inside the station: The Oscars stage included a ramp for the first time, which the Crip Camp Twitter account celebrated: “We are so delighted to see disability inclusion tonight.” The show also included a fully accessible red carpet and virtual press room with an American Sign Language interpreter.
On a Sunday morning visit to the station, THR saw the area blocked off with a heavy police presence and very little signage; limo and valet notices were the only hint of an industry event, and many onlookers appeared to not know the Oscars were taking place. Several riders were seen lugging suitcases through the tunnel, and with a Dodgers game allowing thousands of in-person attendees on Sunday night, jersey-ed fans crowded the bus area looking for the relocated shuttle stop. Riders navigating the south side of the station were directed to walk down a bus ramp to access the platforms. A COVID-19 testing site also sat near the east entrance.
Michael Schneider, founder of Streets for All — a nonprofit that pushes to make L.A. safe for all modes of transportation — was critical of the Union Station move when it was announced, and says “the situation played out exactly as I expected.”
“The Oscars were prioritized and transit riders got the short end of the stick,” he continues. “The images of people walking in that incredibly unpleasant and long tunnel and the guy in the wheelchair having to detour for a mile is all I needed to see to understand where the city’s priorities were on this.”
Residents at Mozaic Apartments, just steps from the station, were also vocal online after being boxed in by street closures and some were unable to make the long walk to open streets.
“Angelenos have always been inconvenienced by the movies, it’s part of life in Los Angeles,” Meredith says. “Crossing the street because they’re shooting at the cafe is standard operating life here, but this Union Station detour is blocks and blocks. Same thing in Hollywood — when it’s at the Dolby Theatre, they shut down the entire Hollywood and Highland stop. These are both major transportation hubs; this shouldn’t be happening.”