Metro planners and the city of Los Angeles hosted three community meetings last week to kick off a study that will identify options for improving transit service along the Van Nuys Boulevard corridor in the San Fernando Valley. For those who didn’t have a chance to attend, the presentation from those evenings is now available here [PDF].
The project is still very much in its early stages — the so-called “pre-scoping process” — in which the community and Metro planners determine what kind of project meets the needs of the community and the regional transportation system, given budgetary and other constraints. In other words: If you’re interested in getting involved in shaping this project, there’s still plenty of time to weigh in.
The Van Nuys corridor is one of four north-south corridors — Reseda, Sepulveda and Lankershim/San Fernando Boulevards are the others — identified to receive improved transit service. Thanks to Measure R, the county-wide half-cent sales tax, $68.5 million of local funding is already allocated for this project; Metro will likely pursue state and federal funding as well.
You only have to ride a Van Nuys bus at rush hour to appreciate the compelling need for transit improvements: the corridor is second only to the Metro Orange Line for boardings in the San Fernando Valley. To highlight a few more motivations for this project, here are four bullet points from the “Purpose and Need” section of the presentation:
- Improve mobility in the eastern San Fernando Valley by introducing an improved north-south transit connection with existing east-west service.
- Encourage [drivers to shift] to transit in the congested Van Nuys Boulevard Corridor, thereby reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Improve transit access to jobs and discretionary trips within the corridor, thereby promoting economic growth.
- Provide additional transit options in a largely transit dependent corridor where bus overcrowding is a frequent occurrence.
Metro staff will ultimately recommend one of five alternatives to the Metro Board of Directors: bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcar, transportation system management or a no-build alternative (pages 9-13 of the presentation address some of the pros and cons of each). Here’s a quickly summary of some of the distinguishing characteristics:
- Bus rapid transit (BRT) has relatively cheap construction costs and can use existing Metro buses and maintenance facilities; however, more buses are required to move the same amount of people as a light rail.
- Streetcars offer similar mobility benefits as BRT with roughly 40% more passengers per vehicle and often a smoother ride than BRT; however, streetcars cost more to build than BRT, cannot navigate around obstructions and would require a new maintenance facility.
- Light rail trains have the greatest passenger capacity — up to 335 passengers per two car train set; however, LRT is typically the most expensive, depending on how it’s designed, and would require a new maintenance facility.
- Transportation system management (TSM) would entail making smaller improvements to streets — i.e. intersection widenings and signal timing improvements — and increasing existing bus service.
- And, “no build” represents transportation conditions along the corridor in 2035, if no project were built.
That said, the pros and cons of each choice depend largely on how the specific project is designed. For instance, buses traveling in their own right of way would likely be faster than streetcars or light rail running in streets mixed with other vehicles. That is: The specific vehicle technology doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the quality of the transit line.
Going forward, Metro project staff will further develop the five alternatives into more concrete options to be studied in greater detail. Those options will then feed into the formal environmental analysis process, which is projected to take somewhere between one and two years.
The Source will keep readers posted on any upcoming community events. In the meantime, feel free to check out the Van Nuys Boulevard Rapidways project website for more information. You can also chime in with a public comment:
- Via email to email@example.com
- By phone call to 818.276.3233
- And by standard mail to Walt Davis, Project Manager, One Gateway Plaza – MS 99-22-3, Los Angeles, CA 90012