Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is a Sepulveda Pass light-rail line salvageable?

Two days ago I posted my fears and discouragement that the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor project was sadly looking at first glance like it would be an inadequate bus project, rather than the light-rail line between Sylmar and LAX many of believe it should be.

The question remains, is a light-rail project through the Sepulveda Pass still possible?

Jerard Wright, current Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Transportation Committee Co-Chair and former Vice President of the Transit Coalition believes it is.  Here are his thoughts about this (shared with his permission):

I think its salvageable -given that its early in the process- but the key thing is being realistic on funding.  

Don't assume Federal New Starts on this with 30-10 or America Fast Forward programs because those are committed to Purple Line to Westwood and Regional Connector projects at this time. If it shows that it has Federal New Starts potential, then that may delay the project delivery date as it will need to go through another cycle of New Starts.

My thoughts are focus the bulk of the rail energy on the Sepulveda Pass corridor from Orange Line to Expo Line with or without the tunnel parallel to the pass, stretch that $1B+ to link up with as many activity centers as possible so that you can get some stronger ridership data.
Use the Public-Private Partnership ideas on some of the station area planning/developments such as Sepulveda Orange Line station, Ventura Blvd (Sepulveda or Van Nuys), Sepulveda/Pico Expo Line station maybe even UCLA/Westwood Village station to bridge gaps in funding. So that more money goes towards the route infrastructure and less of it goes to the stations themselves.  

The key is, given that this could be LRT, Could this corridor take an initial San Diego trolley approach here a simple no-frills design and infrastructure? I don't know how much construction ROW or easements will be left after the 405 HOV widening project but I would suggest building shallow tunnels and trenches under these easements- if they can- where the elevation shifts and differs.  

I wished Metro spent a little more $$$ on the 405 HOV project to go towards a future ROW for such a transit project as this would have saved money in the long run.  

The Van Nuys Corridor in the long term visioning should be rail, however any sort of infrastructure beyond a TSM would make it difficult to get a future rail corridor. Should the approach be pushing for TSM on this leg? TSM could possibly do the same things as the lanes (such as better signal pre-emption & synchronization on both the Local and Rapid corridor buses and consolidation & relocation of bus stops to expedite boardings which improve operating speeds)  at a lower cost then BRT and saves more of the money needed to push a rail transit corridor north following the intended vision.

What do you think?


Zuma Hans said...

There is no possible funding for this. More importantly, no one in LA goes TO the Sepulveda Pass. We all go THROUGH the pass. A subway here is not the right solution.

It would be far more efficient to build a bus-only lane to connect to the Orange Line.

Stop for a second and picture this:

Imagine ramps from the Orange Line at the 405 leading to a busway on top of Sepulveda Dam.
There's also a busway entrance from the 405 carpool lanes, with a separate bus ramp to the LAX Flyaway Terminal near the beer factory.

The busway uses the dam south to Burbank Blvd., then a bridge over the 405 and parallel to the LA River for 2 blocks, and then south over the 101 on Sepulveda Boulevard. This bypasses the 405/101 interchange mess and provides for an elevated bus station at Ventura Boulevard over Sepulveda Blvd.

The busway then swoops over the pass on an elevated structure, akin to the 110 transitway, with legs on either the freeway's hillsides or where necessary on the median.

At the VA hospital, a big transfer station at the Purple Line terminus. Buses can exit here directly to UCLA.

An aerial transfer station at the Expo Line.

The aerial busway continues down the 405 -- stations at Culver City and Fox Hillsto. Terminal at LAX and the Green and Crenshaw line station.

Flyaway buses could use this nonstop. Santa Clarita buses to UCLA and Century City could use this across the pass and then exit at Wilshire. The Orange Line could be a fork, with some buses going from Chatsworth or Burbank to the 405, then south to stations at Ventura Blvd., Getty Center, Brentwood, WLA-Expo Line, Culver Blvd. and LAX. Commuter buses from Santa Clarita could exit at Brentwood to Santa Monica's employment centers.

Yes, a subway is great. But there are times that bus rapid transit is better. This is one.

North-south BRT service could use Van Nuys Blvd to the Orange Line, then the busway over the pass.

Dan Wentzel said...

I disagree, Zuma.

The potential for rail ridership on this corridor is immense. And there is potential funding for a light-rail line beyond Measure R.

But I appreciate you taking time for your comment.

And despite my preference for a rail line, I do support a network of transit-only lanes on the major corridors all over the county.

Jason Burns said...

Dan - This should definitely be rail from Sylmar to LAX. Eventually, with an extension to Long Beach. Such a project would be historic for the system, connecting a future HSR station, two Metrolink lines, Amtrak, Orange, Purple, Expo, Crenshaw, Green, LAX, and Blue.

I was at the community meeting for the East SFV corridor last night in Sherman Oaks, and everyone was telling Metro they wanted rail. Walt Davis said several times that this corridor was being studied separately from the 405 corridor. We must convince them to study the two as ONE.

Anonymous said...

Short-sighted settling to BRT on the Orange is capping out. More importantly, within 10 years after opening, BRT construction + operating costs will be higher than if LRT was built + operating costs. Remember the LRT can transport use one driver to transport 3-4 times more patrons and LRT actually has lower maintenance costs than buses.

The debate for Sepulveda Pass should be whether to make it HRT or completely grade-separated 4-car LRT for one of the highest-traffic corridors in LA. We don't want to underscope the project and have regrets 10-15 years later.