A look at the alternatives under study for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor; community meetings are underway

Click on the map to see a larger version.

The latest round of community meetings began last night for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project, which aims to improve north-south transit in the area shown in the map above. Info on the remaining three meetings is here; the next meeting is Thursday night (Oct. 4) from 6 to 8 p.m. at San Fernando High School. The meeting will also be live-streamed on the Internet.

Below is a handy chart showing the alternatives that are under study (you can download the pdf here):

A few notes about the project:

•This study is evaluating improvements that begin at Ventura Boulevard and extend north from there. It is not specifically looking at improvements over the Sepulveda pass and beyond. As many of you already know, another project, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, extends all the way from the San Fernando/Sylmar Metrolink station to Los Angeles International Airport, overlapping with the East San Fernando Valley’s study area. Here is a post from June about the alternatives being studied as part of the Sepulveda Pass project. The two planning teams are consulting with each other and there is a great deal of interest in ensuring that these projects coordinate.

•This project is scheduled to be completed relatively soon, in 2018. The future Sepulveda Pass project is the last of the Measure R transit project and is not scheduled to be completed until 2039. More on that below.

•Why are travel times for bus rapid transit and light rail similar? Because both bus rapid transit and light rail would run in street medians. The big difference between the two in this project is cost and capacity; trains can carry more people than a single bus. Light rail is also much more expensive due to the costs of train tracks, overhead wires, train vehicles and a maintenance facility. There is no other light rail in the Valley, so trains couldn’t reach an existing facility.

•It presently takes anywhere from 47 minutes to an hour to travel by bus between the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station and either Van Nuys/Ventura or Sepulveda/Ventura. The various alternatives improve on that by varying degrees.

•This project is scheduled to receive $170.1 million in Metro’s long-range transportation plan, with the money mostly coming from a combination of state funds and Measure R, the half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. As the chart shows, the two light rail and four bus rapid transit alternatives all cost more than $170.1 million. As is the case with other Measure R projects, that means that the project will likely need to seek additional funding to be able to be built in full. The project may also be built in phases to match available funding. The ongoing studies will be addressing that not-so-small issue.

•Would Measure J — which extends the Measure R sales tax increase until 2069 — increase the funding available for this project? 
No. Measure J provides additional bonding capacity to accelerate some Measure R transit projects but it does not provide additional funding for this project or any other project. This project is already scheduled to be complete in 2018 and wouldn’t be accelerated by Measure J, which focuses its efforts on completing projects in the next decade that otherwise wouldn’t be funded and constructed until the late 2020s or 2030s. The Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project would be accelerated under Measure J.

•Speak up! Community input is welcome! Even though the project won’t be complete until 2018, the big decisions about the project will be made during the ongoing studies over the next two to three years. You can email the project team at eastsfvtransit@metro.net. The project can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Here is a recently-updated FAQ on the project’s website that looks at a wide range of issues about this project.

20 replies

  1. R,

    I would rather have Carl’s Jr. and 7-Eleven chip in $500,000 each to the cost of building a station in exchange for them having exclusive retail space at the station once it’s built. That’s $1 million less in taxes per station we have to worry about. Add it over additional stations, that translates into big taxpayer savings.

  2. LRT-1 all the way. There’s much more room on a train than a bus (Orange Line is always packed like a sardine and only 2 or 3 bikes per bus). More room for bikes. It’s wide enough so it doesn’t have to share the rode with cars (has it’s dedicated lane). It crosses the 405/118 and 405/101 interchanges and it crosses the 5. Perfect for park and ride areas. Plus this route is mostly retrofitted for this since the red car line used this same route many years ago.

  3. “As many of you already know, another project, the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, extends all the way from the San Fernando/Sylmar Metrolink station to Los Angeles International Airport, overlapping with the East San Fernando Valley’s study area.”

    That’s a very important point. If these are in fact to separate projects that overlap then lets just save the money to have proper rail transit for the big project and go with BRT for this other project for now. Otherwise too much money will be spent on a 12 mile trolley that won’t really function as a regional metro line at all and could end up condemning the bigger project to a bus… Unlike the orange bus, which literally REPLACES what would otherwise be a rail line, this line would just be an additional upgraded corridor adjacent to the rail rapid transit line, so BRT is acceptable here. It’s kind of like the wilshire BRT project, it does not replace the purple line extension.

  4. Building an LRT right through the middle of the oldest part of the SF Valley is too expensive. We’re fortunate the Orange line was built on an old heavy railroad line. The right of way was not an issue. I ride the Orange line all the time, and it’s done a great job so far. It takes you from point A to point B fast. If the MTA can build the Van Nuys Blvd. route with a terminal at Sylmar/Metrolink Station with dedicated bus lanes that can model the successful Orange Line at a fraction of the cost and reach their 2018 completion goal (or sooner)…I’m totally up for it. There’s plenty of other areas where the savings can go to improve our public transit.

  5. If this is done, it NEEDS to be combined with Sepulveda Pass. Metro cannot run a Transit system who’s sole purpose is to get people to DTLA.

    If BRT is done, it has to be done with a COMPLETE separate grade, perhaps trolleybus style to minimize environmental impact. No more running it on the street, and then marketing it as a “subway on wheels.” That pitch failed in Boston (the MBTA Silver Line) and with the Orange line (which I do like, but again, waiting at the stop lights, then the stations, and then at the street is just poor planning)

  6. The SFV got burnt once already with the Orange Line. This line needs to be LRT from the beginning and from Sylmar all the way to LAX. Build it in 3 segments as money allows=
    #1 Symar to Ventura Blvd + maint yard
    #2 ventura blvd to expo line + tunnel under the pass
    #3 expo to lax

    The number of connections would be amazing= HSR, Metrolink, Amtrak, Purple, Expo, Orange and maybe even the Green/Crenshaw near LAX and major points like UCLA, LAX, Van Nuys government center and shopping districts.

    Don’t be in a rush to have something build by 2018 and choose wrong route and mode.
    Don’t cheap out and do a bus.
    Even with LRT, I have serious doubts that even frequent 3 car LRT trains will keep up with the ridership. Ideally, the Purple Line after hitting UCLA instead of going to Santa Monica should have turned north and gone up to Van Nuys and allow the transfers off the subway trunk/main.
    As it is, whatever is chosen for Van Nuys route is going to put some many more transfers onto the Orange Line, that already overcrowded line is going to choke even more.

    -Also= is there any law that keeps us from installing railway style gates for the Orange Line?

    If anything, this line needs to be combined with 405 line, both money and engineering, and moved ahead of South Bay/Torrance (seems to have opposition), the East LA line (2 poorly chosen routes and opposition from Montebello and Whittier also maybe ahead of the West Santa Ana Branch project as well (not much interest from Orange County)

  7. @AD because the people of the san fernando valley were shorsighted in the past decades and limited metro from actually laying rail in the valley. It was a political move indeed, but one that really was the fault of the people, in the way the westside limited subways for so long. These projects take a while to get off the ground and it’s been a tough couple of decades to get the system where it was at. With the resources Metro had, the Orange line was the best they could due with the climate at the time.

    I want the valley to have rail as much as anyone, but the valley needs to show metro they need rail. In the past they not only didn’t but actually actively worked against rail. How is Metro suppose to bring rail up north if they don’t want it?

  8. If a LRT line would cost at least $1.7 BILLION, then this would surely end up as a BRT line.

  9. @Brian I

    I think you’re vastly overestimating the amount that can be raised through corporate sponsorship deals. There’s a gap of approximately $2 billion between the funds provided by Measure R for this project and the cost of the LRT alternatives, and there’s no way that any combination of corporate partnerships would bring in that kind of money. In fact, $2 billion is more than the entire annual revenue of Carl’s Jr or 7-Eleven, to name two of the potential sponsors that you suggested. And in every transit agency around the world, advertising and sponsorships usually account for a fraction of 1% of the agency’s budget.

    The fact is, big infrastructure projects are expensive–way beyond the marketing budget of any corporation. If we want to enjoy the benefits of those projects, we have to be willing to pay for them ourselves, and not indulge in fantasies about a corporate savior who will shower us with billions.

  10. I agree with everyone especially DR M. Metro brags about the Orange line being a success but it is far from “rapid” and is inconvenient for those of us who choose to bring a bike along. These busses are jam packed! with people. Its extremely uncomfortale and the time tables that show on the newly installed screen are a tease. half of the time the busses dont even show up. sometimes the bus will say its going to chatsworth and instead it turns off and goes toward warner center and vice versa. The orange line in NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO DRIVING! its just there for those who dont have a choice. Why would voters in the valley want to vote for extending the sales tax another 30 years if we’re not going to get anything in return? This isnt fair! We dont even get metrolink weekend service! How is it that the gold line gets 2 extensions and we get nothing! Traffic is getting nothing but worse on the 405, 118 & 5 and the 101 has been gridlocked for YEARS! We’re not paying 50% in interest on these loans for the acceleration of these projects so where’s the rest of that money going? This is all too confusing and sketchy. all I know is throughing more busses on the streets of the SFV isnt going to make a difference and banning cars from one lane of any street isnt going to push people that have a choice to get out of their cars… busses suck! period.

  11. BRT makes no sense…This project MUST be combined with the Sepulveda Pass Project (Make it a Phase I/Phase II) to create a regional corridor. Treating these independently makes no sense at all and transit times, frequency, and ridership numbers will be completely different. Meetings for the project have been discouraging and it looks like Metro is clearly guiding this project into another sub-standard BRT for the Valley instead of thinking outside the box. LRT for the full length of Van Nuys for future connection to the Sepulveda Pass Project is the only project that makes sense. Metro needs to do this right and not short change this project for the sake of expediency!!

  12. LRT1 is the best option but I can see the allure of LRT2. It’s completely true that there is no LRT in the Valley and a new maintenance facility will have to be built. It’s also true that in 1985 NO LRT maintenance facilities were in Los Angeles.

    By the way the “You can download this document here” link is a little broken but the link beneath the picture works fine.

  13. Please consider commuter rail transit on this corridor. Run a single track from Sylmar down Van Nuys and through the pass, then along the 405 center median all the way to El Segundo. The new CRT would have access to the Metrolink service yards via Sylmar, avoiding the extra cost of building new service yards for the LRT. Ideally, there should be a way to combine CRT with local light rail (a three-track solution). And if $170.1M is all we have to work with for now, design the best possible solution regardless of cost and build $170.1M of it in phase I. Please do not inflict another extension of the orange bus on us.

  14. I think Metro can come up with more than $170 million if they started doing some outreach to businesses and retailers.

    Has Metro looked into talking with corporations like CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, and others to chip in some cash in exchange for first dibs in direct retail space at BRT stops and train stations?

    McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell, In ‘N Out are all California corporations too. Why should cities all over the world have direct transit access to these services when we cannot?

    How about working together with Bank of America as a partner to make BofA ATMs available throughout Metro? Bank of America has its roots in California as well. So does VISA. We have all these California based or historically tied companies that Metro can partner up with to help pay for transit costs. In exchange, give them something that they want, like retail space or “only VISA cards accepted on Metro,” or “only BofA ATMs are available at all Metro stations.”

    Not everything has to be funded by taxpayers. Whether Measure J passes or not, we’re living a tough economy so Metro has to start looking at alternative ideas. Partnering with corporations for mutual synergies are not a bad thing, it should be seriously given a thought and rather, be encouraged.

  15. The Alternative Analysis is laden with political influence. It shows in the routes they chose to include, the projections, and in the metro representatives who keep trying to convince the people in North Los Angeles to accept buses because Metro doesn’t want to spend Money north of hill. The best route for this is LRT1 but will continue down Van Nuys past the orange line (doesn’t turn back onto Sepulveda).

    For whatever excuses Metro has as to why the SFV can’t get rail, I say this is our last and only chance to see mass transit in the San Fernando Valley. Why can’t we get mass transit instead of buses when every other community already has?

  16. What is end to end time for BRT if we consider Sylmar to UCLA? Projected ridership? This project NEEDS to be combined with the Sepulveda Pass project to actually be forward thinking.