Monday, April 9, 2012

Is Los Angeles County on the Verge of a Bus-Centered Transit Disaster for the Sepulveda Pass Corridor?

Many transit advocates are getting nervous about just what Metro is planning for the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor project approved as part of Measure R in 2008.

Transit advocates in Southern California have been dreaming of a north-south rail line between Sylmar and LAX through the Sepulveda Pass ever since they began imagining the return of mass transit to Los Angeles.

Many people who supported Measure R in 2008 in partbecause it had a Sepulveda Pass project in it naturally assumed that rail for this corridor was the obvious option.  With the sheer amount of traffic moving through the Sepulveda Pass, all day long, and on weekends, surely this corridor could potentially qualify for Federal New Starts funding, wouldn't it?

However, the manner in the way Metro describes the Sepulveda Pass Corridor on its projects webpage is worrisome indeed:

Planned to run along a 4-mile section of the I-405 Freeway, this bus corridor project will connect the San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles.

Yikes.  From Metro's own summary description it sounds like Metro has been envisioning this as a lesser bus project from the get-go.

According to Metro's webpage for this study of the Sepulveda Pass corridor the word "rail transit" as a possible option is mentioned in passing, barely, but that's it.   Most of the text on this page is about a public-private partnership to run toll lanes.

As a part of this review, staff will examine a potential multimodal transit/express toll road concept for the corridor. Also, Metro may explore public-private partnership (P3) and/or congestion pricing/tolling options to help accelerate the timing of the Measure R project. Once a set of potential concepts is identified, the Metro Board may then decide to undertake an in-depth analysis of the economics and feasibility of a P3 approach.

In other words, buses running on toll lanes.  Now put this together with the proposed underwhelming V.A. station which seems barely suited for a bus transfer station, let alone proper rail terminal centered in a bustling neighborhood, like Barrington/Bundy or even 4th Street in Santa Monica, and this picture of a V.A. Station terminal accessible to Sepulveda Pass busses falls into place.

Is this what you envisioned for the Sepulveda Pass corridor when you voted for Measure R?  

My personal choice for a Sepulveda Pass transit corridor study would be to initially study a seven rail stop operating segment that could then be extended in the future south to LAX and north to Sylmar:

  • VanNuys Metrolink
  • Orange Line
  • Ventura Blvd.
  • UCLA
  • Purple Line (Wilshire)
  • Santa Monica Blvd.
  • Exposition Line (Pico)

For information on what a combined Sepulveda Pass / Van Nuys transit corridor project might look like, check my blog post "Please combine the Sepulveda and Van Nuys Transit Projects into one rail project between Sylmar and LAX"

If you want a rail project studied, really studied, then contact Renee Berlin, Executive Officer, TDI at Metro regarding this project at

Also contact Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky regarding this project at

The next report on this corridor is due from Metro in June.  They'll no doubt tell you today that "no decision has been made", but their own website language possibly indicates which way Metro has probably been leaning.

If the word "bus corridor" on the projects and studies page doesn't clue us in, how about this graphic for the project on Metro's website.

You'll notice a single-occupancy automobile speeding past a slow plodding bus on a miraculously empty 405 Freeway.

Historians will probably laugh at Metro and Los Angeles County and all of us for decades if this once in a lifetime opportunity for a north-south rail corridor between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside via the Sepulveda Pass is blown in favor of a measly and inadequate bus project.  Further, the San Fernando Valley shouldn't have to be the transit stepchild of Los Angeles County, forever having to settle for inadequate bus projects, just because of what State Senator Alan Robbins and a few NIMBY's did back in the nineties.

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