Metro staff recommends building light rail between Van Nuys and Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station

Update, June 20: The Metro Board’s Planning Committee approved the staff recommendation today. The item now goes to the full Board on June 28. Metro Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker also asked for a report with the project’s FEIR on how Metro intends to run this line on Van Nuys Boulevard, citing some of the issues Metro has had with the Blue Line, which also runs at street level for long stretches.

The earlier post is below.

***

Metro staff are recommending a 9.2-mile light rail line between the Orange Line’s Van Nuys Station and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. The Metro Board of Directors will consider adopting light rail as the “locally preferred alternative” at their June 28 meeting. Here is the staff report.

The new rail line would run mostly down the center of Van Nuys Boulevard and along the San Fernando railroad right-of-way, adjacent to San Fernando Road. The line would have 14 stations with an end-to-end travel time of 31 minutes. Metro staff determined that light rail was faster, offered more capacity and would better serve the community in the future than bus rapid transit (BRT), the other type of transit under study for the project.

Van Nuys Boulevard is the second-busiest bus corridor in the San Fernando Valley and seventh-highest in the Metro system. The rail line would also offer transfers to/from the Orange Line, several busy Metro bus lines, Metrolink, Amtrak and two future Metro projects — the Sepulveda Transit Corridor rail line and the North San Fernando Valley BRT line.

Demographics also played a significant role in the staff’s recommendation. Transit dependency, population density and poverty are all higher in the project’s study area than in the urbanized part of L.A. County as a whole. The area’s population and number of jobs are both expected to rise in the coming years.

Metro staff are also recommending that the light rail maintenance and storage yard be at “Option B” between Raymer and Keswick Streets in Van Nuys, which will require the acquisition of 37 commercial parcels — the least of any of the three options considered. Metro studied three potential sites for a Maintenance Storage Facility along the corridor, and Option B received the most  community support, whereas Option A received hundreds of comments of opposition.

The project is slated to break ground in fiscal year 2021-22 and open in 2027. This project is also part of Metro’s Twenty Eight by ’28 Plan, which seeks to ensure that 28 major projects are completed in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in the Los Angeles area.

A separate project — the Sepulveda Transit Corridor — is looking at a variety of rail options to run between this project, the Orange Line and the Purple and Expo Lines on the Westside. Initial concepts for that rail project were released last week, including one concept that would have light rail on the East San Fernando Valley project continue south and tunnel under the Santa Monica Mountains to the Westside. Other concepts include heavy rail (trains that are wider, longer and faster) or monorail trains that would allow for transfers to the East San Fernando Valley line.

The staff recommendation for light rail — which is widely supported by community residents and stakeholders — is quite a milestone for a project that originally was supposed to be a bus lane project as part of Measure R. Throughout the project’s planning studies, the community spoke up in favor of rail — and Metro ultimately listened.

The Project has over $800 million from Measure R and M, over $200 million from the Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) gas tax and vehicle fee increases that became law in 2017, and over $200 million from the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and construction is projected to cost $1.3 billion.

Once the Metro Board approves a locally preferred alternative, work will begin on the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report (FEIS/R). That is scheduled to be completed in 2019 to be followed by design and engineering, utility relocation and the selection of a contractor to build the project.

Metro will host an Open House Tuesday, June 19, in Van Nuys to provide an overview of the project the Metro Board of Directors will be considering this month. This Open House will feature identical presentations at 5:15 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Staff will also provide updates on the Orange Line.

Information stations will offer details on the projects and provide an opportunity to talk directly with Metro staff. Metro Real Estate will also be available to answer questions. More details here: https://www.metro.net/projects/east-sfv/east_sfv-upcoming-meetings/

40 replies

  1. I’m trying to remember where Raymer is. I used to live in that area, but it has been a long time. Isn’t Raymer South of the Orange Line?

      • Yes, but it’s now a Target store nestled amidst in a sea of industrial buildings; hidden from Sepulveda Blvd, which is poor city planning BTW. They should put that Target store on Van Nuys Blvd across from the Plant shopping center in Panorama City.

      • OK, now I remember. One more question, Where is Keswick? In other words, exactly where would the service yard be built? It seems like a long way from Van Nuys.
        p.s. Thanks for the answer.

  2. I’m happy with the decision to go with light rail. I’ve been attending meetings for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project since 2011 and have heard over and over from the public for the preference of light rail.

    • I am too! I just hope that they pick Light Rail for the Sepelvuda Pass corridor. That would mean that people from the San Fernando Valley would be able to access the West Side of Los Angeles, including UCLA, Westwood, LAX, and everything in between more quickly, with less stress, fewer transfers. Thus reducing the traffic on the 405, especially during commute hours, which now seem to be most of the day.

    • Vermont will be getting HRT. I seriously don’t understand why people think Vermont is only getting BRT.

    • I don’t think that Vermont should, even be considered for BRT, it should be considered for HRT all the way from South Los Angeles to West Hollywood.

      • WeHo is getting “Light Rail Subway” vía Crenshaw if I’m not mistaking. And while I agree with you, sadly I don’t think $300-$500 million of BRT money going to Subway will even get a Red Line extension to Olympic or Pico, so I’d much rather get a BRT Line now then simply only wait for a HRT in 20-30 years (hopefully sooner) that Metro needs to make sure it actually builds right!!

        This is why I wanted Measure M to be a whole cent increase vs half-cent, as maybe if Measure M turned out to be a whole cent, we might be at least discussing about finally getting a Red Line extension to Expo in time for the Olympics vs. a BRT project.

        • Measure M squeaked by with the half cent. It would not have passed the threshold if it were a full cent.

          The sales tax well has run dry. With many communities pushing or over 10%, other funding sources will need to be looked at.

    • Yeah, it’s ridiculous. The Vermont corridor doesn’t have enough political power, and in LA political power is what determines which rail corridors are built, and in what order.

  3. If HRT is decided for the Sepulveda corridor, is it possible that this LRT line could be upgraded to HRT in the future? It would be nice to have a highest capacity line possible from Sylmar to LAX instead of a transfer at the Orange Line.

    Just not sure that a LRT line will be able to satisfy the demand along the Sepulveda corridor.

    • At the Sepulveda Corridor meeting I attended, the most interest seemed to be in the Purple Line extension (concept 6). Granted, I only talked with under 10 people, but that was the one people talked most about.

      The compromise to serve the ESFV best could be light rail from Sylmar to Westwood then continue the Purple Line from the VA to LAX.

    • People said the exact same thing about the Expo Line and how the Purple Line to Santa Monica was absolutely necessary in order to satisfy the East-West demand. Yet, we are still a decade away from getting the Purple Line only to Westwood and the Expo Line is doing just fine handling the demand.

      Also, I don’t expect everyone driving along the 405 suddenly abandon the freeway for a train.

      Overall I seriously would not hold my breath for HRT south of Ventura.

      • Just as there is induced demand when freeways are widened, there will be induced demand with the subway. When there is an option to go from Van Nuys to Westwood/UCLA in 10-15 minutes versus 40-50 minutes in a car during rush hour, I’m pretty sure a significant portion of people in the 400,000 cars daily that pass over the Sepulveda pass would opt for the subway. Just 5% of the individuals (not even counting carpoolers) in their cars that decide to switch to the subway is 20,000+ people all trying use the trains between 7-9AM or 4-6PM. A 3-car LRT train that holds some 300-400 people cannot satisfy that, in my opinion. HRT that can hold 1000 per 6-car train is the only option to really satisfy that type of demand.

    • One possible solution would be to use vehicles similar to those used on the New Haven Division of Metro North which run on both DC third rail in Grand Central and overhead AC catenary in Westchester County and Connecticut.

      These New Haven Division trains make the switchover at speed in Pelham NY.

      To eliminate the need for a new class of cars, these cars could be essentially identical to those on the Red and Purple HRT Lines except for having pantographs. These pantographs could even be in recesses to keep vehicle overall height when lowered the same as on the current HRT cars. They thus could be used interchangeably with existing Red and Purple Line HRT cars.

  4. I think I heavy rail would be better to avoid all the traffic an faster service to your destination. I think the light rail is just a waste of tome an money. An if you do a light rail please don’t do the station apart from each other

    • That is exactly why we need this line built in such a way that we can have BOTH LOCAL and EXPRESS trains operating along the same route.

  5. Excellent, does this mean that metro will immediately automatically eliminate all three options on the sepulveda corridor project that were terminating at Sepulveda Blvd? Obviously with rail on Van Nuys, it’s unacceptable to build the sepulveda project to any terminus other than Van Nuys, and we should stop planning for any other alternative immediately to save money.

    • Sadly I don’t believe it works that way. If I’m not mistaking these studies, including TSM/No-build are required for federal funding. Someone please correct me on that, as I’ll admit I’m not too sure if that really is the case.

  6. Why can’t all the rails be heavy or a subway or elevated?????? Guess outside of the center/core DTLA (Hollywood,etc) its not URBAN…..

  7. Steve – any insight as to why Metro is going with such dense station spacing? It’s the densest of any line in all of Metro, and it is increasing both the cost and travel time. Station spacing of every 0.66 miles is not only unnecessary, but detrimental to the speed of the line. 18mph is very slow.

    • Hi Kyle;

      Excellent question. The station spacing is to enable the new rail line to connect with east/west bus service along Van Nuys Boulevard. Much of the anticipated boardings will be from riders transferring from a east/west bus line to the East SFV line.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Gold Line Eastside Maravilla, East L.A. Civic Center, & Atlantic stations are spaced less than 0.5 mile apart; Purple Line has stations a half-mile apart too like Wilshire/Western, Wilshire/Normandie, & Wilshire/Vermont. There’s current demand from Metro Rapid buses on Sherman Way, Vanowen, Victory, & the Orange Line to justify station locations there. Those stations will be well utilized in the future.

  8. This is the best option for this corridor given what was on the table. Ideally it should be HRT but I guess that would have been too expensive for now. Stations ought to be designed to allow 4 car trains if LRT is chosen for the Sepulveda project. Proper signal priority would eliminate the possibility for trains to block intersections. 3-car stations will already do so anyway. If HRT chosen for the Sepulveda corridor, than a junction to allow trains from this line to continue onto the future orange line LRT should be built. According to the report, the “modified alternative 4” does not seem to include any mention of the proposed subway section between Hart st. and just north of Parthenia. It just says “at grade”. Sherman Way, Van Nuys Metrolink connection, and Roscoe stations were supposed to be underground. This is quite disappointing since that would have helped travel time. Why did Metro eliminate this? Now the line is going to be slower…

  9. Honolulu is building their light rail line completely elevated even in the country. I’m not sure that is the reason it is over budget and behind schedule but it’s a option in my opinion. There is no reason for utility relocation plus no traffic impacts. Tunneling is a very expensive and slows construction. This nine mile boondoggle seems like another example of building rail to satisfy the electric as opposed to replacing slow and busy bus service that is bogged down in traffic.As a former RTD/MTA Supervisor I am well aware of the scheduled bus service on Crenshaw Bl. that is being replaced by light rail. Standing loads are a rarity and heavy traffic is only experienced when approaching the Santa Monica Freeway.

  10. From Van Nuys Orange Line to LAX has to be subway for the volume and speed of the line.

    I would still have ESFV line be light rail from Sylmar to Van Nuys and then those light line trains should turn and go to No Ho and hopefully one day to the Burbank Metrolink station. The existing Chatsworth to No Ho Orange can do the same when converted to LRT.
    Basically , using Van Nuys Orange line station as you northern subway terminus, you create a hub where 3 light rail lines would feed the subway=
    >Chatsworth to Van Nuys
    >Sylmar to Van Nuys
    >No Ho(Burbank) to Van Nuys
    —–I think the 3 light rail lines would be a excellent feed to the subway- faster than bus and more capacity, assuming Orange converts to LRT.

    Going south from the Orange Line Van Nuys station, the subway needs the follow stops on the first segment

    Ventura Blvd ( local and rapid bus connections
    Sunset Blvd (local and rapid bus connections and I would call this UCLA North station – maybe a campus shuttle connection)
    Westwood/Wilshire (Purple Line) NOTE= need to design this station now as a north /south transfer (like 7th/Flower) now, rather than trying to force a connection later after Purple is running out to VA. The other issue is a connection track so trains on the Sepulveda line get to to the downtown LA yard unless you are planning to build another yard somewhere. Let the passengers transfer , not the trains so you can run higher frequency on both lines.
    Then either Santa Monica or Pico depending on spacing
    Expo at Sepleveda Blvd

    This would be an excellent if we can just get this done before the Olympics. I am not even worried about getting the line from Expo to LAX at this point, as it will be a miracle to just to do the above.