We recently shared some updates on the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, a project that will build a rail line across the Santa Monica Mountains, providing a much-needed transit connection between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside (anyone who’s sat on the 405 at rush hour knows what I’m talking about!).
A little background if you’re coming into this cold: The dream of building a modern rail line across the Sepulveda Pass has been around a long time. The Southern California Rapid Transit District’s (SCRTD’s) failed 1974 ballot measure included a ‘Canoga Park to LAX’ route. Similar proposals came up again in 1976 and 1980 … but funding was never secured.
Measure R — approved by LA County voters in 2008 — provided seed money for the project. Then Measure M, in 2016, added more funding that kicked the project into gear.
A 2017 feasibility study explored different transit options between the Valley and LAX. We put everything on the table –– light rail, heavy rail, monorail, maglev (magnetic levitation technology, popular in Asia) –– and even a gondola!
We started with 48 (not a typo!) build alternatives. By 2021, we winnowed them down to six and began our formal environmental review. All the remaining build alternatives would run between the Van Nuys Metrolink station and an E Line station (either Sepulveda/Expo or Bundy/Expo) All six would connect with the G and D Lines. We’re also studying a ‘no build’ alternative; that is, a version of the future in which this project does not exist.
But there are key distinctions, too. The routes are different, ranging from 12 to 16+ miles in length. The technologies are different. Three of the alternatives use monorail –– an elevated straddle-type system –– and the other three are heavy rail, like our B and D Line subway.
We recently shared two key estimates that are part of our studies –– the estimated travel times and number of estimated boardings for each alternative. Keep reading for a brief rundown. You can check out the complete presentation here.
As the chart above shows, end-to-end travel times among the six alternatives range between 18 and 32 minutes. All alternatives are faster than driving at peak hours.
Also notable: the range of travel times is wider when you’re driving — from 40 to 100 minutes. A big goal of this project is to make travel times more predictable.
These maps demonstrate how much of LA is reachable by transit within 60 minutes from the Van Nuys Metrolink Station or the station at the E Line – the two stations at both ends of the Sepulveda project. As you can see, all the proposed alternatives make Los Angeles feel both bigger (with more destinations via transit) and smaller (with shorter travel times) at the same time.
This chart illustrates the number of estimated boardings by station. Stations at the end of the line and those that connect with existing and future transit lines are predicted to have the highest numbers. This data is important –– it gives us an idea of which stations might be most important to riders, how people will access our system, and why people are making trips. Comment please: Which station are you most excited about?
Last month, I had the chance to attend two (totally packed!) events in Westwood and Van Nuys to learn what community members had to say about these updates. Here are some of the topics I heard discussed:
Monorail or heavy rail? This is a question of high interest to the public. Here is what we know:
- The monorail alternatives would travel in the middle of the 405 with stations to the side of the freeway. Alternative 3 includes an underground section between the Getty Center and Wilshire Boulevard.
- While there aren’t many monorail projects in the United States, monorail is generally assumed to be quieter than above-ground steel-wheel rail.
- Building above ground is usually cheaper than tunneling. However, we don’t have cost estimates finalized yet for this project.
- Alternatives 4-6 are proposing heavy rail either fully below ground or a mix of above and below. These alternatives are faster and estimate more boardings than the monorail options.
We know that many people want us to decide what we’re going to build. We also know that there are many people interested in the various options. (Most of those who came out to the meetings were vocal supporters of heavy rail, but I met some monorail supporters too.) Our view is that even though it takes time, we owe it to everyone to vigorously study all the options. Our Board of Directors will ultimately choose an alternative and we want them to have all the data needed to make that choice.
A UCLA station? UCLA is one of the biggest employers in LA County, and over 70,000 people travel to campus each day, so one of the biggest groups of future riders this project stands to benefit are the people who live, work, go to school, or use the medical facilities at UCLA. Many students came to the Westwood meeting and told me it would be huge to have a station on campus. (Yes, the D/Purple Line Extension will have a Westwood stop at Wilshire, but it’s still a .5 to 1.5 mile walk to many campus locations). Four of the six alternatives (Alternatives 3, 4, 5 and 6) we’re studying include a station directly on the UCLA campus at Gateway Plaza. Alternative 1 would use an electric-powered bus to connect to campus from the monorail’s Wilshire station while Alternative 2 would use a people mover.
What about the Getty Center? The estimated boardings here aren’t projected to be very high, but the Getty is one of our region’s big attractions. Right now, the three monorail alternatives include a stop there, but none of the heavy rail options do. Should we have one? Let us know!
How are we going to pay for this huge project? At present, there is $5.7 billion in funding between Measure M and other sources — that amount will escalate with inflation when construction begins. While the cost estimates aren’t yet complete, we do plan to pursue federal funding –– something we’ve been successful with for most major projects (and the project’s high ridership estimates and travel time savings will help). Important to know: we typically apply for federal funding after the environmental review phase — when we know the alignment and mode we’d like to build.
When will construction begin? More importantly, when will this project be finished? The Measure M expenditure plan states that the project will be completed between 2033 and 2035. But we won’t have a groundbreaking date until we know what we’re building and the funding is secure. Stay tuned.
What about eminent domain? Will any alternative need to use it? This is a question that community members often ask — and for good reason. At this stage of the project, it’s too soon to tell what land we would need to acquire -– we usually need land for stations and as construction staging yards. We’ll be sharing this information when the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is released. Learn more about the way we handle property acquisitions here.
What else is going on with the I-405 Corridor? The Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project will be a game-changer when it comes to moving between the Westside and the Valley, but it’s not the only solution we’re exploring. We encourage you to check out the I-405 Sepulveda Pass ExpressLanes Project, where we’re partnering with Caltrans to consider adding dynamically priced High Occupancy Toll lanes (ExpressLanes) on the 405, and the Traffic Reduction Study (TRS), a potential pilot program that will explore how congestion pricing could reduce traffic. Check back for updates!
As we continue our environmental review, we’ll have more news to share in the coming months. That includes info on potential disruptions that the project may cause, such as changes to traffic and noise levels or impacts to paleontological, archeological, or historical resources. Our ongoing study is also looking at the benefits of the project, such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality. When complete, we’ll release the DEIR, which will be followed by a public comment period.
We know that you have many questions about this project –– more than can be answered in this article –– and we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked ones here. But this is a living document. And your feedback is critical. So if you don’t see your question or have comments to share, we’d love it if you dropped us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org before December 8 so we can incorporate them into our continuing evaluation.