Valley Coalition Formed to Advocate for Rail

The Valley Industry & Commerce Association has launched a coalition aimed at bringing rail transit to the San Fernando Valley.

Last week, the business advocacy organization formed “Valley on Track” which supports converting the Metro Orange Line busway to light rail to ease overcrowding on the bus line. The 18-mile Orange Line runs from Chatsworth to Warner Center and then across to North Hollywood.

The group also supports creating a rail system along the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and building the Sepulveda Pass Corridor as a rail system with a tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains.

“We need to get people out of their cars. We need to make the freeways better, and we need to help people who are transit dependent. The best way to do that is through rail,” said VICA President Stuart Waldman.

If the San Fernando Valley was its own city, it would be the fifth largest in the United States and the only major city without a rail system, Waldman said.

VICA insists that these three projects must receive priority in future funding efforts, including ballot measures and federal funding requests, for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to maintain the Valley’s support.

“Metro is likely to place on the ballot a proposition that would fund transportation projects. We decided we need to put together a coalition of supporters and make sure whatever list of projects is put forth for the 2016 ballot measure that the Valley is well taken care of,” Waldman said.

VICA is in the early stages of “rallying the troops” and meeting with elected officials, Waldman said. In initial conversations, local officials have been supportive of their ideas, especially converting the Orange Line to rail, Waldman said.

“I don’t think we have a single Valley elected official who didn’t agree with us on the Orange Line,” he said.

The Sepulveda Pass, which connects the Valley with West Los Angeles, is one of the most congested traffic corridors in the United States.

“No mode besides rail can even begin to address the transit demands,” the coalition states on their website.

Late last month, a 10-mile northbound carpool lane opened on the 405 Freeway. The carpool lane was a major component of a $1.1 billion improvement project. Congressman Brad Sherman said the new lane will relieve some traffic through the Sepulveda Pass, but he said it is not time to celebrate.

“Now is the time to intensify the effort to build a subway through the Sepulveda Pass, from the Valley to LAX, with a connection in West Los Angeles to the Purple Line, now under construction,” Sherman said.

The voter-approved Measure R allocated $1 billion for the Sepulveda Pass Corridor, but projected completion is still 25 years away. Several options have been considered, including bus lanes on the 405 and light or heavy rail. In 2016, voters may be asked to increase the county sales tax by another half-cent to pay for this project and others.

  • Mike Worrall

    Brilliant! Here’s the problem with the (existing) Orange Line, and the fundamental advantage with rail: The buses – on their east-west travels – have to stop at all north-south streets; the (seemingly) thousands of traffic stop lights between Woodland Hills and North Hollywood make the journey inexcusably slow. Now consider the new light rail Yellow Line from Culver City to Downtown: The train track *cross over the top of* major intersections: La Cienega Blvd, La Brea, Washington Blvd, Venice Blvd, etc. The train is not delayed by street traffic, because the tracks and the street traffic *do not intersect*. PLEASE! Whomever is designing the rail replacement for the Orange Line: Elevate the tracks as they cross over De Soto, Tampa, Reseda, White Oak, Balboa, Havenhurst, Sepelveda, Van Nuys, Burbank Blvd… In this way, the train and street traffic will be in different universes making the system much more efficient!

    • Jason Vega

      Very good point! I agree…it can be extremely slow with all of the stops especially going from one end of it to the other.

    • KGB

      Sentiment heard, but difficult to do. Elevated structures cost 5-10 times as much as at grade and below grade (tunnels) cost 15-25 times the cost. Rail has the same problems unless. It comes down to money allocated for the project. An almost cost free alternative is forcing the City of LA to give the orangeline signal prioritization. The City traffic department made no such adjustments when they installed the Orangeline so they could remain in power. Give Metro the authority to overrule them and life will be better for everyone. Complain to your council member! It will take 8 minutes off the trip across the valley.

    • Michelle Klein-Hass

      You mean the Expo Line…which is awesome and will get to Santa Monica a long time before the Purple Line does.

    • DMalcolmCarson

      Or they could just give the buses signal priority.

    • johnmcnary

      You ever ride on the “brand new Yellow Line?” Actually it’s the Expo Line and trains stop at way too many signals. KGB has it right: the problem is that the LA Department of Transportation will not give priority to the trains. Call your city council member and demand light rail take priority over cars?

  • Crispy

    The irony of this is that the Orange Line was put in on top of what used to be mostly railway.

    It cost money to pull out the rail, pave it over, and adjust the traffic crossings. Not to mention traffic problems from while the work was being done. Now some are advocating that we pay more to put it all back the way it was?

    It’s going to be a hard sell to get me on board with this plan – I’ll need more that some stuffed-shirt saying “Trust me – It’s a great idea!”.

    • Joe the Plummer

      Everything you said is so true and brilliant, filled with fact that this deserves the top reply on this page! Also I don’t think rail is the answer though, subway is. Expensive to build, but worth it in the end.

    • herp derp

      The old rail would have needed to be pulled out before a dual-track light rail line could be installed anyway, so that’s not really relevant.

      The Orange Line busway is a sunk cost now, and should be treated and analyzed as such. It’s possible that by using low-floor LRVs, the station platforms can be reused, but would the money spent on a bus->rail conversion be worth it when other corridors need money too? That’s something that Metro and the Valley will need to think about.

    • HollywoodF1

      I think you’ll be surprised to find how different the rail proposal will be from what was there before the busway. You need only look to the Expo Line, where every inch of track was replaced and numerous bridges and other improvements were installed. The idea that they could’ve reused and simply reopened what was there by slapping a couple of trains on it is quite naive.

      Don’t forget that the busway was born out of a knee-jerk voter reaction that forbade the use of tax dollars on new rail projects. The busway wasn’t politician-sold, it was voter-mandated.

  • Elf

    How about an dual-track elevated train running above the entire length of the existing bus line? It would only need about five stops: Chatsworth, Warner Center, Encino, Van Nuys and North Hollywood.

    • Kenny Easwaran

      If you’re going to spend the money to build a new rail line, it makes sense not to duplicate existing coverage, but instead to do a different route – maybe the East San Fernando Vally corridor from the future high-speed rail station in Sylmar eventually down Van Nuys Blvd, or perhaps along Roscoe as a second east-west link.

      • Elf

        The difference is that your suggestion puts tracks, elevated or otherwise, where there are currently existing structures, which would increase the cost of the project exponentially. Building above the current Orange Line route means the land is already owned.

        • Kenny Easwaran

          That’s definitely true – these other corridors would be more expensive than adding additional capacity on the existing corridor. However, they’d also bring in a lot more new riders and result in much more improvements in transportation options for more people. We’d need a full study to see which is the most cost-effective addition to the system. (Ideally we’d do all of the above!)

  • myview4u

    Yes indeed. Rail transit is the ideal way to address long stressful commutes on congested freeways. It allows people to relax and think instead of stressing out trying to get to destinations ‘driving’ a gas guzzling car.

  • myview4u

    I have long dreamed of a train running in the middle of freeways. A train taking people from Valencia to LAX long beach along the 405 route would take a huge load off the freeway. Same for the entire network of freeways that have turned into traps that have enslaved the millions of commuters who have no choice.

    • HollywoodF1

      You sound like someone who doesn’t use trains. They’re much less useful in the freeway medians than they are in the neighborhoods. You ever go walking or biking around the freeway? Neither does anyone else.

    • Baxter Ward

      Yes ! HOV lane to LRV row ! With express bus/people mover connections at major streets that cross the 405 !

  • TubifexWorm

    This is a long-overdue idea! This should have happened 20 years ago! It is ridiculous that we keep building freeways that will not have the capacity to handle the load by the time they are finished. We need good public transportation throughout the greater LA area.

  • Adam

    you can increase the ridership on the orange line and reduce congestion on the buses without spending hundreds of millions tearing it out and building a rail line instead:

    All you have to do is increase the headways on the buses and give the buses signal pre-emption.

    It’s very simple. Headways are how often a bus runs. So you can add capacity to the Orange line by adding more buses. Every 5 minutes instead of every 10 minutes. People with a train fetish will NEVER tell you this. they will tell you the only way to increase capacity is to put in a choochoo train.

    Second, the buses are stopped by traffic lights. With some inexpensive technology on the buses (transponders that alert the traffic light a bus is coming), the entire Orange line could operate a lot more efficiently, switching the cross traffic to red when a bus is nearing the intersection, and staying green for the cross traffic whenever a bus is not approaching the intersection. It is technology we already have and it would allow the Orange line to carry a lot more people, a lot quicker. We are not using it right now because the people with a rail fetish really want their choochoo train and do not care how much it costs.

    The people with a rail fetish also do not care about the incredibly complex logistics of how to replace the existing busway with a rail. that conversion has never been done before, but I’m sure all the residents of the SFV will not mind having the orange line buses running on the streets paralleling the busway for the seven years of construction it will take to convert the busway to rail. The people with a rail fetish don’t care about the disruption to SFV lives if it means getting another choochoo train.

    I LOVE trains, I take transit often and have been transit dependent before, but converting the Orange line is just a money pit meant to satisfy a fetish or graft to satisfy a politically connected contractor buddy. There are perfectly acceptable and affordable real world solutions as simple as changing signal timing that would improve the Orange Line capacy, and the SFV should demand that these alternatives be pursued first because seven years is a long construction duration to endure all those orange line buses traveling on streets never meant for them.

    Lastly, not a real world solution yet, but currently in real world testing, Consider using Scania’s technology they use for shipping freight: ‘electronicly tethering’ a driverless bus to the lead bus in order to add capacity to the orange line. No expensive construction or disruption, you just add a driverless bus behind and double the capacity of the Orangeline. By the time we get around to funding changes to the Orange Line, this sort of technology will be very doable and may be a trucking reality on the 15 freeway between LA and NV and won’t seem as far fetched as it seems right now. here’s a link explaining it:

    • John Hanson

      Seconded on improving the existing Orange Line service. However, the problem has always been LADOT and their staunch refusal to allow full signal prioritization.

      This is why the Expo Line’s street-running portion along Flower St downtown is the slowest segment of the line, and will continue to be even after the Phase 2 extension opens up with a street-running segment in Santa Monica: the City of Santa Monica already signed a memorandum of understanding with Metro providing for signal priority for the trains.

      If we’re going to put rail in the Valley along an east-west alignment, run it along the median of Sherman Way. That follows the former Pacific Electric trolley right-of-way, and allows it to interline with the proposed Van Nuys corridor through the most dense stretch of Van Nuys. Then just move the Orange Line bus routing to Oxnard Street between Van Nuys and Lankershim.

      • herp derp

        It is a continued great irony that LADOT continues to limit the most important regional transportation pieces in LA county.

        • johnmcnary


  • Per Sjofors

    I love rail for nostalgic reasons. But busses are far cheaper and much more flexible. If fed natural gas or bio-diesel they are also fairly “green.”

    The relative failure of the Orange line can be rectified simply by allowing the buses to control the traffic lights, having them take priority over street traffic, just like it would be if they where trains. Simple. Cheap. Existing technology. In fact, before the Orange line opened, this issue was raised and was voted down.

    • Kenny Easwaran

      In fact, it would also be really easy to just designate one lane in each direction on a few major streets as bus-only, so that traffic congestion never matters. Everyone would be able to cross the Valley quickly and easily, as long as they didn’t feel the need to bring their car and slow everyone else down.

      • Per Sjofors

        As is common in Europe.

        • Kenny Easwaran

          We’re getting the first taste of this along Wilshire Blvd, and a little stretch of Sunset Blvd from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. I hope they quickly realize how successful and important this is, and extend it to all the major bus lines in the city.

  • Louis Schillace

    Nothing here mentions the fact that the valley residents are the reason there is a busway instead of rail on the Orange Line. LA County does not need to prioritize fixing a mess for the people that specifically lobbied to create that mess in the first place. The valley had thier chance for rail and voted to ban rail from being built so busway it is. Now on to other parts of the county who support common sense projects to be built right the first time. I agree running a rail line down the Sepulveda Pass makes all the sense in the world. But Ill be damned if a penny more should be spent to fix the Orange Line.

    • johnmcnary

      That was a generation ago. Collective guilt for the valley just because their leaders were stupid 20 years ago? By the same token, the westside rejected the subway 20 years ago. Leaders changed their minds (I’m looking at you, Zev).

    • michichan

      It was because of a bunch of NIMBYs who were not around when the PE ran down Chandler fear the trains and their beloved “property values”.. If anything, a home within walking distance to a rail station would be a huge premium. This generation is more transit oriented and I think that light rail on Chandler would be more well received.

      What is going to be interesting to see how this is handled what would happen to the Orange Line during rail construction. It would be very difficult to “single track” the busway. The Valley has grown accustomed to less than 10 minute headway in this sector, it will be interesting to see how this would be done.

  • Derrick

    I’ll be dead by the time all these rail projects are finished.

  • Don Evans

    Most of what has been written in the comments is
    accurate. NYMBYs stopped the building of
    light rail in the Valley. The cost to
    tear out what is already in place may be too high. Changing the system to give priority to the
    busses at all intersections would increase the bus speed dramatically. This article does not tell readers how they
    can join the group sponsoring the installation of light rail on the Orange

  • wqjackson

    I’m support 110% creating a rail system along the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and building the Sepulveda Pass Corridor as a rail system with a tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains.

    However, the Orange Line was built because the residents along the line didn’t want a rail line. The SFV CA Senator, Alan Robbins and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslvsky both got bills passed to stop the rail line.

    Any change of the Busway to a rail line should be last on the long list of needs or wants that many cities are asking for.

  • Ed

    Oh, by all means, build it. Then all you people can take it and unclog the roads enough so I can drive where I need to go in a reasonable amount of time.

  • Eric Kamm

    Finally!! Yes, replace the Orange line with Rail (which is what it was supposed to be). Yes, elevate the tracks, which is much more expensive, especially in earthquake country, because it will greatly reduce the idiots from committing suicide by train (think Blue line and Metrolink).
    Re: the 405, we should NEVER have allowed CalTrans to put in additional lanes, but instead demanded a light rail from Santa Clarita all the way to the Blue line in Long Beach, building large FREE parking garages at the major stops.
    If the goal is to get people out of their cars we need to have proper rail that actually goes where people transit, the 405, the 5, the 101, Ventura, Victory, Sepulveda, Laurel Canyon, etc. for the SFV. We need ways to get in and out of the SFV faster, to SM, to Century City, to Mid-Wilshire, to Downtown, to Culver City. And lastly on a separate note entirely, we need transit into LAX, not close by.

  • RSimcox

    Sounds great… except NO MORE SALES TAX INCREASES. 9.5% is way to high now! Bonds, grants, etc… but we are passed our limit in sales taxes.