Study update on Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor; many concepts under review

Click above for a larger chart.

With Ramp Jam likely to trigger a downgrade in the already bad traffic in the Sepulveda Pass corridor, I thought this would be a good day to look ahead — specifically to the day when the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project is built to help better connect the San Fernando Valley to the Westside.

As many of you likely know, the project is one of the transit projects set to receive funding from the Measure R sales tax increase approved by county voters in 2008. At the time, the project was a concept yet to be defined. However, a systems study is underway by Metro planning staff to determine some concepts for the project. The study below (pdf here) lists the interim findings.

There are six over-arching concepts offered (shown on the chart above), including bus rapid transit, rail transit and managed and/or toll lanes that could be used by buses and/or rail. Among the concepts: building a tunnel that could be used by both private vehicles and transit. Interesting!

Perhaps most intriguing and heartening, I think, is that the study area is a big, big area — all the way from the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station in the northern San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles International Airport.

Funding will obviously be a challenge, as Measure R is scheduled to provide $1 billion for a project that could potentially cost a lot more than that. Even with the (usual) funding challenges, I’m pleased to see that everything is on the table — as it should be in such an important corridor.

Please give the report a read. There are maps for each of the overall concepts. This is still the earliest stage of project development that precedes the traditional alternatives analysis and environmental impact studies that will follow.

Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor study update

Categories: Transportation News

26 replies

  1. “Buses should compliment high capacity trunk lines (rail lines) but NOT replace them.”

    Connor that is perfectly expressed.

  2. Wow this project is years overdue and I hope metro builds the transit coridoor as light rail line from the sylmar metrolink station to at least the expo line but preferably all the way to LAX. Yes tunneling would be expensive under the hill or santa monica mountains but would be worth it in the time saved for commuters. Many people from the sfv and santa clarita, ventura county and possibly even some of the antelope valley commuters would take the train to work in the westside, hit the beach or take a flight out of LAX. I believe a BRT line running down the 405 carpool lanes or 405 fwy shoulders wouldn’t transport as many people, is subject to slower traffic conditions and it would also run over capacity in a short time. Plus a light rail line could really help rejuvenate van nuys blvd.

  3. Concept 4 sounds incredibly expensive for very little benefit. Concept 6 sounds incredibly expensive with the only benefit going to a private corporation. Concept 3 sounds fairly expensive for relatively little benefit, and will be dropped for seismic reasons anyway. I can’t tell how good Concept 1 and Concept 2 are, but if they really do manage to get a well-managed bus lane, they could be effective, and they have good price tags. They also sound like they could be implemented by 2020 rather than 2039. But it seems pretty surprising to me that out of 6 options, only Concept 5 is a serious attempt to make a project comparable to the Expo or Crenshaw lines. I don’t see a clear reason why no heavy rail option is being considered, except with the possibility of a corporate giveaway in Concept 6 (which doesn’t appear to make enough of the relevant connections).

  4. I agree with almost everything that has been said. HRT is ideal as this is the most congested corridor in the country and it carries 350,000 cars each day. However, as the MTA is a political puppet and the best solution is not always politically possible, then go with LRT. At least then the people of the valley will have an option to not use their cars if only to get Westwood and Century City. That alone would be a huge benefit.

    There is only one answer to the obvious conclusion (rail): NO ON MEASURE R!. If the MTA wants our money, then make them use it rationally. Rational means making the most time consuming commute in the country #1 on the list and setting aside enough money to build a solution (rail).

  5. @Wanderer
    That could be said for any part of Los Angeles. The key is to begin to build a rapid high capacity transit grid and that can only be achieved by having an ATTRACTIVE transit option which can maintain reliable service. We are not seriously going to forgo a high capacity trunk line (which can still connect DIRECTLY to expo, purple, orange line busway, AND Metrolink) just so we can end up with some glorified HOV lanes that may or may not get transit exclusivity if implemented. That’s not a real transit system and certainly not a system that will meet LA’s needs for the next 100 years. Not even close. Buses should compliment high capacity trunk lines (rail lines) but NOT replace them.

  6. The design should be rail with a tunnel through the pass
    -Ideally Heavy Rail, but light could do it to.
    -Under the pass there should be one stop up near the Mulhulond/Skirball.
    -The ‘station box’ for it at the crossing of the Purple line should be right underneath it (like they do in NYC). (There should be a track interconnect built in.)
    -There should be UCLA station, with northern and southern exits.
    -The Sherman Oaks Gallery and Ventura Blvd should share a single station.

    But here is something vital to consider, make it a single larger bore tunnel with 3 sets of tracks. The 2 upper sets would be the standard North and South, the 3rd, lower set would be for the express trains that run directionaly, based upon time of day. During the morning, the express trains would run south bound. During the afternoon, northward. The express trains would start at the Sylmar Metrolink station and stop only at the Van Nuys Airport stop (the FlyAway lots would now be the parking lot for it) [or what ever the equivalent station works out to be], the Orange Line Station Sepulveda Station, UCLA, either the Purple -or- the Expo line, and LAX. After LAX, if the line continues, should take over the Green line’s southern few stops and continue, while the Crenshaw line should become the Green.

  7. Fare structure needs to be adjusted first before any transit planning are made. A rational fare system that ensures fairness for all Angelinos (not everyone lives and works in Downtown LA!) and a higher farebox recovery ratio to self-fund such projects are needed with less taxpayer dependency.

    Even if this were built (where are the funds?), how do you make any sense that a “405 Line” so to speak, will cost the same $1.50 if you go from SF Valley to the Getty Center versus whether you go from Irvine all the way to LAX, if fare structure is not fixed first?

  8. There’s a reflexive reaction for rail, but stop and think about conditions on both sides of the pass, especially the San Fernando Valley. In the central/western San Fernando Valley, there is no single dominant destination–which is where rail works best and most efficiently. There are lots of different destinations, connections to the Orange Line, rapid buses, Metrolink, local buses. With multiple destinations, buses work best, they could fan out from whatever goes through the pass to reach different destinations. Rail can’t do that, it can only serve one corridor, and people going everywhere else need to make a bus connection. LA’s evolving transit system shows that sometimes buses are a better solution than rail.

  9. Come on you need to post a comment that is more big picture.

    Metro subway or light rail is a great idea for LA and… I know this is an mta website, but I still think for this corridor to realize its full potential, regional commuter rail (metrolink) needs to be a partner in this plan. I know the MTA and Metrolink are separate entities but I do think modal synergies are necessary to create the best transit network and best serve the citizens of our greater southern california region. I really think this is a small segment of the much larger westerly commuting corridor (the 405) that needs commuter rail service. Ideally we need a rail line following this path down the 405 all the way from the North San Fernando Valley to Irvine in Orange County. The western portion of our region is currently a rail commuting desert, there currently is no alternative for people that use the 405 for their commute. I feel we need to think much more big picture about this, how can building this segment help do something bigger for the greater area, not just this local part of the map. Building lines with these considerations will be the beginning of creating a transit system that produces a profound shift in the way people live and commute in our region.

  10. Sell the project to the Japanese private transit companies. Metro won’t be able to figure out how to find funds to do this nor have the brains to make this affordable without more taxes when completed in three decades and after tens of billions dollars on a mediocre built project that’ll crumble in even a 6.0 earthquake.

    I betcha the Japanese private transportation firms would be able to build a solid tunnel project that is Magnitude 9.0 proof for 1/2 the cost and get it up and running in less than five years than leaving it up to government.

  11. Privately operated rail doesn’t have to be any different than Metro (see Tokyo or Hong Kong). As long as the operator uses the same ticketing system (e.g. TAP) and adheres to a reasonable fare structure, it doesn’t matter who operates the actual rail line.

    That being said, I’m confused by the map for concept #6. Why would the rail tunnel be separate from the vehicle tunnel? They can be in the same tunnel as long as they are stacked – cars on top, rail on the bottom level. The two completely separate tunnels make it seem like it is planted just so it can be eliminated.

    I’m definitely for #5… full rail implementation for both ESFV and Sepulveda Pass. But I’m also not going to dismiss #6 if a private company wants to build a car+rail tunnel and charge a toll for cars to use it. But all the BRT concepts don’t measure up and should be eliminated during the next stage.

  12. It needs to be rail, and it needs to be done right. This is just as important to the region as the Wilshire Subway. It’s also one of the few lines where transit could beat the freeway at almost any time of day. It’s baffling that we have to fight to get rail built to relieve the most congested freeway, and the most congested interchange in the country. This is a game-changer project, and we shouldn’t accept anything less than rail. Los Angeles is worth it.

  13. The “rail shuttle” idea sounds like troll bait for the vocal privatization fans, which means it will be hard to get rid of.

    However, a project of this size absolutely needs to link with the existing Metro Rail network. Light rail or subway would make the most sense.

  14. Concept #5 — rail — is the only sane choice. All the others are excuses to pour asphalt for cars. They won’t improve the environmental situation at all, and they won’t improve mobility much either. But #5 will start building a true “passenger rail grid” in LA.

  15. I think the LRT #5 would be much better than the BRT options. Unfortunately, its a bit expensive.

  16. This has to built as one seamless project from Sylmar to LAX with the ESFV project.
    Has to be rail for the traffic load and has to be tunnel at least south of Ventura Blvd to make it all work. This line in the really big picture, will be as important as the Wilshire Line and whatever else line gets to LA. Please do it right, right from the start !!!!

  17. HRT by taking the Purple Line northward from its VA stop off to the Sherman Oaks Galleria and downtown Van Nuys. HRT is higher speed and would handle thousands of people, with no transfer to Westside job destinations. Plus I don’t think Santa Monica is interested in the high density that would be required to fully justify investment in the subway to the sea. It also makes the VA stop less of a white elephant, as it would be were the subway to continue west of the VA.

    The other issue with LRT is that there are no connections to the rest of the LRT system so a separate facility would be required, unless you want to tie in with Crenshaw near LAX which causes a whole other set of problems.

  18. Is concept 5 primarily street running or does it have its own private ROW?

  19. LRT or HRT. If not, then bust. This needs to be done right. I’m in complete agreement with Alexander the Great.

  20. I think, it’s a no-brainer:
    CONCEPT #5 “FIXED-GUIDEWAY L.R.T.” will be the winner.
    Yes, it will cost more. Yes, it will take more time to create. But it’s well worth it.
    It’s time to part with mediocre transit “quick-fixes”,
    but rather invest in creating a world-class mass transit system for LA!
    Please don’t make the same mistake that was done to the Orange Line
    (by downgrading the corridor to a lousy B.R.T.)
    Light-rail will be the most efficient, reliable, and attractive mode of all proposed.

  21. The intro says HRT is one of the options but I don’t see it in the matrix. Given the talk early in the document about just how congested the corridor is, it seems the load could justify an HRT option.

  22. While I think a tolled tunnel with both rail and cars could be good (why not charge motorists and and get some extra revenue if you’re already digging a tunnel?)… not sure I like the idea of it being a privately operated shuttle. I think it’s gotta tie into the Metro system and not be run by a private company with a different fare structure and policies.

    And 16-18B is a heck of a lot of money. A rail line with a tunnel under the mountains seems positively a bargain in comparison!

    Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there can/will be any sort of connection to the Getty for rail, as they’re all (understandably so) going under the pass.