Light rail approved by Metro Board for Van Nuys to Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station transit line

A rendering of the future light rail line adjacent to the Van Nuys Civic Center. Credit: LA Metro.

A 9.2-mile light rail line between the Orange Line’s Van Nuys Station and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink Station was approved by the Metro Board of Directors today as the “preferred alternative” for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor project. Here is the Metro staff report.

The new rail line would run mostly down the center of Van Nuys Boulevard and along the railroad right-of-way that is 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 Bus Rapid Transit project.

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.

The light rail maintenance and storage yard will be located 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 in 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 earlier this month, 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.

Project funding includes over $800 million from Measures 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). Construction is projected to cost $1.3 billion.

Work will now 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.

In the Board Committee’s Planning Committee, Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker asked for a Metro staff 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.


26 replies

  1. this light rail should extend to Santa Clarita Valley in the future! Also please do grade separation, I hate seeing light rail runs on the streets, stops at the traffic light just like regular vehicles and operates at very low speed. It just makes the entire project insufficiently.

    • Each region has a rail project proposed. The Valley will have the Van Nuys light rail on top of the Orange Line BRT while the South L.A. region (where the Vermont corridor is located) will soon open the Crenshaw/LAX LRT which will give South L.A. it’s 5th rapid transit line (Blue Line LRT, Green Line LRT, Silver Line BRT, & Expo Line LRT). Vermont Avenue BRT will be the 6th and rail studies calls for subway which is well beyond anything that can be currently funded.

  2. How cute that Metro thought to include sharrows in the illustration above. Does metro actually believe that anyone will be brave enough to use it, or that the handful of cyclist who do will not be forced onto the sidewalk by the police?
    Any plans to create alternative, parallel bicycle friendly streets or bike lanes?

  3. This will be Metro Rail’s first line that doesn’t connect to any other Metro Rail line. (Metrolink is a different system.) Would be great if the Orange Line could get upgraded to LRT, so the Valley could have a bona fide rail Metro Rail network of its own.

    • This line would conceivably connect with the Sepulveda Pass Line, both forecasted to open in 2028.

  4. You do realize how much delays and possible crashes can occur with this option, right?

  5. Approval to start a N-S light-rail transit system from Sylmar to VN is great…but does not solve the problem of 405 congestion from the SFV into West LA. We need a high speed subterranean route from the Sepulveda/Ventura Orange Line stop underground to the Expo Line or Purple Line stops. Only then can Los Angeles truly claim to have a comprehensive transit solution.

    • Hi Chris —

      This line is going to use the same kind of light rail vehicles that Metro currently has that will require platforms.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. This appears to be rebuilding a former Pacific Electric line that ran up Van Nuys Blvd, and was abandoned about 1940.

  7. The map shows the part of the Orange line near the Warner Center incorrectly. They just changed the route of the Orange line and they used an old map in this article.

  8. I’m so happy! I voiced my opinion for this option and happy Metro decided to go with this option. Congrats! Remember to not repeal SB1.

  9. What would be an interesting development of the rail network is to interline the ESFV LRT with the upgraded Orange Line LRT. Then you would have two lines originating at North Hollywood, connecting with the upcoming Sepulveda line at Van Nuys station and splitting with one line going to Sylmar, and the other to Chatsworth. Maybe in the future a rail line in North San Fernando Valley could complete the loop around the Valley.

  10. I’m happy with the decision being made and welcome Metro light rail to the San Fernando Valley in the next decade. The decision made is the smartest choice considering the available local funding that fully covers the cost of at-grade rail. The addition of a Metro storage & maintenance facility will be an added asset to the Valley as it will bring highly-skilled jobs there. This will be the first step in planning for the Sepulveda Pass.

    • Highly skilled jobs? Do you have any idea about the businesses that are getting kicked out? Hint: Aerospace

  11. Why not heavy rail (a subway)????????? Guess most if not all of L.A. outside of Downtown and Hollywood is not urban @ all……..

    • Ridership projects in the study are low. Lower than any of Metro’s other light rail lines.

      As you say, the Valley isnt Urban. It isn’t downtown, Hollywood, Koreatown, Century City, Santa Monica, Boyle Heights. It isnt even Beverly Hills.

    • Why heavy rail/subway? I’m honestly curious, cause in the valley it doesn’t make too much sense. A red line extension to Burbank Airport? Sure, especially since it’ll beneficial for out of towners going to Hollywood or Downtown, but a subway line in the middle of the valley?

    • There are examples of well used heavy rail systems in areas of lower density. BART in the Bay Area has many stations in suburban areas as does the Washington DC Metro because they are part of a regional network connecting to there respective urban cores. So the idea that heavy rail (subway or elevated) isn’t justified here is debatable if the line originates in other denser parts of LA (i.e. as an extension of the purple line through the Sepulveda pass.)

  12. The Red Line should also continue north to San Fernando and connect to this new line. Even better would be if the light rail then continued up into Santa Clarita.

    • If the Purple Line branches north to Van Nuys, then consider having the Red Line curve west from North Hollywood to meet the Purple there. Run one continuous light rail line on the ESFV alignment through the Orange (Van Nuys – Chatsworth portion).