Small update on San Fernando Valley bus projects

The Measure R sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008 included three key projects for the San Fernando Valley:

•The Orange Line busway extension from Canoga Park to the Chatsworth Metrolink station, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2012.

•A transit project to connect the Westside to the Valley via the Sepulveda Pass. Measure R has more than $1 billion set aside for this project, but studies to define the project have yet to begin.

•A project to speed up bus travel on four north-south streets in the Valley: Reseda Boulevard, Sepulveda Boulevard, Van Nuys Boulevard and Lankershim Blvd./San Fernando Road.

As for the last one, here’s a new report from Metro staff to the Metro Board of Directors about progress so far. The gist of it: there’s one environmental study being done for the Van Nuys Boulevard part of the project and another study now underway for the remaining three streets.

What kind of improvements to expect on that trio of busy streets? Nothing’s nailed down thus far, but made by the city of Los Angeles that will be considered are “traffic signal optimizations, roadway widening at intersections to add right and left turn pockets, bus stop enhancements, bus pads and other improvements.”

The most extensive improvements are targeted at Van Nuys Boulevard, which is one of Metro’s busiest bus corridors in the county in terms of ridership. Among the options being studied there are a busway that would separate buses from traffic in order to give bus riders a zippier commute.

Unfortunately, the project page on the Metro website contains almost no useful information about a key project for the Valley, which has about 1.8 million people. I’ll be letting folks at the agency know the page needs to be updated.


12 replies

  1. For some reason it seems like the valley is always a secondary priority for metro. I mean every small update is nice, but for years it feels like the valley has been largely ignored for how big it is and does not seem to be a major source of discussion in the transit realm. Whatever the case maybe, I believe us valley folks would definitely like to see true rail rapid transit which connects van nuys to the westside through the sepulveda pass and not turn out as a BRT like the orange line did which resulted in a slower, less desirable form of transportation. The line needs to be continuous from the north valley, down van nuys blvd. and down through the pass, connecting to key points like central van nuys, the orange line bus, Sherman oaks, bentwood, westwood (purple line), the expo line, and hopefully further south to connect with the green line at LAX. Much of this particular project would actually make sense as freeway median running once it gets to the pass (or if the grade is too steep then tunnel it like the red line). Having a mass transit line like this would be absolutely excellent and would be the the largest, most effective transportation improvement metro could make for westside/valley travel.

  2. Connor, where were you when the Valley voted to ban light rail construction (along with subway construction) in the ’90s? You can’t blame Metro for the mistakes of the previous generation.

    It hasn’t been “left out” of anything. It has two Metrolink lines, a successful and well-liked BRT line, and two very active subway stations. That’s more than what can be said of the Westside, by the way, which has absolutely no busways, no Metrolink and is *finally* getting a light rail line in five years, almost 15 years after the Valley got its subway.

    I grew up in the Valley and it will always be home to me, but do you even remember how much of a chore it was to get the Orange Line built? It almost didn’t happen with all the nimby screaming and hair-pulling.

  3. Although I seriously doubt that anti-rail was actually the predominant attitude in the valley at the time the Orange Line was being built (just the opinion of a loud minority), I think the success of rail projects in other parts of the city, and the inadequate ability of the Orange line to keep up with demand, or provide speed, have made valley residents, myself included, wanting better next time. Granted, I was too young to care when the Orange Line was being planned, but I think there has been a definite shift of attitude, and I’ve talked to almost nobody who hasn’t been excited by the proposition of a Light-rail train running on Van Nuys from the north valley to UCLA, and even LAX.

  4. I agree with those feel that the valley has come up short on Metro’s priority list. While the Orange Line is better than nothing, it is still painfully slow and has a cumbersome connection to the Red Line. Converting it to light rain and putting in railroad crossing gates at major intersections and clossing off some minor cross streets would definately speed things up. And who could believe that the 1 Billion Dollar Sepulveda Pass 405 widening project didn’t make provisions for rapid transit? Does it make sense to add one lane for that kind of money without making future provisions for light rain from Valencia to LAX to service the entire west side of the county? Seems to me that those doing the planning at Metro/Caltrans certainly don’t drive the 405 everyday.

  5. A bus is a bus is a bus is a bus. I’ve ridden “just like a train” dedicated bus systems in Boston, Pittsburgh, the Valley, and Brisbane. Buses are not trains. They jerk, they bump, they rattle, they have oftime crabby drivers, they have narrow aisles, they accelerate slowly, they spew rubber particles, they have limited egress, they feel less need to adhere to a schedule, they are slow to load bicycles, wheelchairs and luggage, they have a shorter lifespan, they are noisy, they are not conducive towards busking, they are anti-social, they do not offer humane standing room, and they misallocate labor resources. BRT is a sham.

    If the Valley gets a BRT connection to the Westside for that billion dollars, then I say Los Angeles has a serious lack of vision.

  6. Van Nuys Blvd should be rail as well as the Sepulveda pass. Imagine connecting Sylmar Metrolink with Van Nuys Amtrak Metrolink, Orange Line, Ventura Blvd, Westwood Purple Line, Expo light rail, and LAX!

  7. I agree with those who believe Van Nuys should get a rail line that connects with the Sepulveda Pass. It will the capacity and speed to connect the Valley with the Weststide.

    Don’t waste the $1 billion dollars on HOV on and off ramps on the 405.

  8. I also don’t understand why the MTA wants to spend so much money tunneling building a bus rapid transit line along Van Nuys Blvd and tunneling under the street for a bus. It would make more sense to build a light rail train along Van Nuys Blvd, Connect it to the Sepulveda Pass Prosed Transit Project and to the Westside. Building a light rail train would also spur more development along the stops in Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks. I haven’t seen much development along the Orange Line Busway since it was built.
    Another advantage of building a light rail train along Van Nuys Blvd would also possibly connect or merge with the Phase 2 Expo Line Extension on the Westside and go to Downtown Santa Monica. That would be a direct Light Rail Train Valley to Santa Monica and Westside Beaches Light Rail Connection. The route could also eventually continue shouth from Santa Monica to LAX along Lincoln Blvd.

    I am also surprised the MTA wants to spend money on a bus rapid transit line along Lankershim Blvd, the MTA should consider extending the Red Line above ground to the burbank airport area and Metro Link. Riders would not have to transfer and the rail would offer a direct link to Hollywood, Mid Wilshire and Downtown.

    I wonder if anyone or groups is working to educate people about this and get the MTA to build these as light rail transit instead of rapid bus transit.

  9. Because this line will connect both the Valley and the Westside, there will be support from a huge swath of LA County to convert this from a bus to a light rail line.

    The most logical would be street-running light rail line down Van Nuys Blvd, with a tunnel portal somewhere near Ventura and tunneling straight under the mountains, continuing right thru the middle of the UCLA campus between the Wooden Center and Ackerman with a stop under the Ackerman Turnaround, then towards lot 32 to link up with the Purple Line, then along the 405/Sepulveda to Expo, Fox Hills/Howard Hughes, and LAX.

    The obvious problem is that $1B will only get the street-running portion on Van Nuys built. But you would think they could eventually find the money to build this since it would benefit so many people in LA and be the last major piece of the transit puzzle in LA.

    …but instead some people want to waste money on undergrounding portions of the completely useless Crenshaw Corridor that only has local, rather than regional, importance.

  10. @Thomas:

    The Transit Coalition has been studying and advocating an integrated rail transit solution linking the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. With the proposed Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor and San Fernando Valley North-South Transit Corridor projects both funded by Measure R, there is a considerable pot of money to work with. The Transit Coalition has been reaching out to make sure we get one linked rail project instead of two separate and disjointed projects.

    See the plan:


  11. @Donk
    Wait, one billion just for street running? somehow that seems really inflated. If that’s the case, some lucky contractor gets to pocket a huge amount of money and obviously hit the jackpot. (Like that’s never happened before.) Street running down van nuys would be acceptable as long as the line has full signal preemption and a grade separation from the orange line (due to signal conflicts that could arise slowing one line down for the other). Anything less is a missed opportunity. The subway tunnel should start before ventura (with at station of course at ventura/van nuys and be deep bored from there till at least brentwood or westwood if the grade is too steep through the pass. Then freeway running would be acceptable beyond that point since this line would mainly serve as a connector line to expo, purple, Venice blvd, and LAX.

    Regarding the crenshaw line, I think you are underestimating the regional importance that line will have as it effectively connects the east and central part of LA directly to LAX. I do understand that under grounding the portion of crenshaw in question may not be needed so long as the surface segment has properly preempted lights, but its still important to see how it has regional significance. Remember that all these lines combined start to create a backbone transit grid, which is much more suited to LA than the typical spoke and wheel layout like Chicago for example. Also remember that the crenshaw line will eventually run north and connect to Hollywood/highland.