A bus rapid transit or light rail line along Van Nuys Boulevard are among the options recommended for further study in the Alternative Analysis released today by Metro for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. The study considered more than 30 alternatives for improving transit in the eastern Valley and narrowed them down to six.
On Wednesday, the Metro Board’s Planning Committee will consider contract changes needed to advance the project into its Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Report phase, which is expected to take about a year to complete.
Several very busy Metro bus lines already run in the project’s study area, including the Rapid 761 on Van Nuys Boulevard. The corridor also includes connections to the Metro Orange Line and Metrolink’s Antelope Valley and Ventura lines, as well as Amtrak.
In plain English, an Alternatives Analysis details why the project is needed and identifies reasonable project alternatives based on cost, technical issues and community input. Some key points in the Alternatives Analysis study that we know are of interest to Source readers:
•Staff is planning to evaluate two “build” alternatives in the DEIS/R: light rail transit (LRT) and bus rapid transit (BRT). A streetcar was eliminated because of its lack of community support, speed and capacity.
•The light rail and bus rapid transit alternatives being recommended by staff focus on Van Nuys Boulevard, the Valley’s heaviest north-south transit route and the seventh busiest bus corridor in the Metro system. Buses on Van Nuys carry more than double the ridership of nearby Sepulveda Boulevard. Van Nuys Boulevard also includes several major activity centers as the chart below shows.
•The future transit line is envisioned to run in its own dedicated right-of-way in the center of the street if it’s a light rail line and mostly in the center of the street if it’s BRT. Side and curb-running alignments were removed from further consideration due to the many driveways and turn lanes on Van Nuys Boulevard that would interfere with transit operations.
•One goal of the project is to increase the frequency, speed and reliability of transit in the study area. Bus speeds on Van Nuys Boulevard, in particular, are highly variable because of traffic congestion.
• Another Measure R project that is being coordinated with this project, is the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor. That project’s study area partially overlaps with this one — it is considering ways to improve transit from the northern San Fernando Valley in a north-south corridor that stretches south to Los Angeles International Airport.
•Among options under consideration for the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor are bus rapid transit, rail transit and alternatives that combine BRT or rail with managed toll lanes or even a tolled highway tunnel; here’s a power point. As planning proceeds on both projects, Metro planners will consider ways for them to connect the project.
•It is important to remember that the East San Fernando Valley project has an estimated completion date of 2018 in Metro’s long-range plan while the Sepulveda Pass project has an estimated finish date of 2039. A potential public-private partnership is under study for the Sepulveda Pass project as a way to accelerate its construction.
•About 50 percent of the transit trips that begin in the study area also end in the study area meaning, of course, that roughly half the people boarding transit in the area are headed outside the corridor to trips both elsewhere in the Valley and throughout the entire region.
•The study area has a population of nearly 458,000 and is expected to keep growing — one reason that transit travel times are expected to worsen if nothing is done. The Valley as a whole has more than 1.7 million people making it more populous than most other American cities. It’s also interesting that the corridor’s population densities and transit dependency rates are twice that of the LA County average.
•The bus rapid transit and light rail alternatives recommended for further study have costs ranging between $250 million and $2.3 billion. Metro’s long-range plan has $170.1 million earmarked for the project. Cost estimates will continue to be refined and Metro may explore potential cost savings — i.e. opening the project in phases, among others — and other possible sources of funds that will be available.
•The city of L.A. is a co-lead on the project with the city of San Fernando serving as a contributor as Metro will need both jurisdictions help to build the project on city streets.
Stay tuned for public scoping meetings to be held this spring as the first step in the environmental clearance phase.
–Steve Hymon and Dave Sotero