Friday, March 27, 2009

A tale of two Valleys

While I currently live on the Westside, I have lived in the San Fernando Valley previously and do care for the welfare of its transit future -- if for no other reason that getting to/from the Westside via transit is often as exercise in frustration and futility.

What struck me over the debate over Measure R (which the voters thankfully passed last November) is just how unified the San Gabriel Valley political establishment is over the construction of the Gold Line extensions. There may be differences of opinion about the routing of the southern leg, but there is unified support for it. (I hope these same politicians also recognized the importance of upgrading Metrolink Commuter Rail service and Foothill Transit bus service.)

Compare this to the San Fernando Valley. Where is the unified support of SFV pols for upgrades to transit in their areas? While they rave about the Orange Line busway, and there is great fanfare about extending on the western end up to Canoga Park, anyone who actually takes the darn thing knows it is already stuffed to capacity as it is. Most transit advocates realize the Orange Line will eventually need to be converted to light-rail. However, why aren't Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman working together for this with the same unity that Congressmembers David Dreier and Adam Schiff and the SGV state legislators are doing for the Gold Line? Will the local pols have the courage to face down North Hollywood NIMBYs when it is?

What about the issue of connecting the Burbank Airport to the North Hollywood Station? What about connecting the North Hollywood station to the Gold Line in Pasadena through Burbank and Glendale? What should be done on Ventura Blvd? light-rail? subway? streetcar? Perhaps bus-only lanes on Ventura and Van Nuys Blvds?

There is some money for a Sepulveda project. What about the vision of a rail line from Sylmar to LAX connecting two Metrolink Stations, the Orange Line and Ventura Blvd. to points south?

However, for argument's sake, since there are two Gold Lines connecting to Union Station, let's boil this down to just two proposed rails lines for the San Fernando Valley: (1) converting the Orange Line to light-rail and extending it east through Burbank and Glendale to the Gold Line in Pasadena; and (2) a Sepulveda north/south line from Sylmar to LAX -- I just find it so strange there is not the advocacy activity in the San Fernando Valley as there is in the San Gabriel Valley.

There are individual advocates of course, but not the sort of political coordination by elected officials to bring these two rail project to the SFV.

The only explanation that comes to mind is that with California's and Los Angeles County's "too large, too populous" legislative districts, many of the people representing the south San Fernando Valley have districts with most of the voters and political weight on the Westside.

As a Westsider, I benefit from this, and understand and appreciate that the Purple Line and Expo Lines, and perhaps even the Pink Line via Santa Monica Blvd. are considered higher priorities. However, the San Fernando Valley will probably be a poor relation to the San Gabriel Valley and Westside unless SFV specific transit advocates work together and a lot of people with automobile-entitlement decide having transit alternatives in the Valley is a good thing for themselves as well.