CHEAP AND THIRD RATE IS NOT OKAY-This is a tale of two transit concepts and what it could be like if the Valley gets its unfair share again.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority has selected four concepts for their Sepulveda Transit Corridor project between the Valley and the Westside. Two of the concepts are first class, fully underground, and expensive. Two are third rate, on aerial tracks in the Valley, and cheap.
Let’s take virtual rides on routes from the Valley’s Van Nuys Metrolink station to the Expo Line station on the Westside. We’ll start on either of Metro’s two best concepts – HRT 1 or HRT 2.
As we arrive at the Valley Metrolink station, we find plenty of parking at the multi-story structure. Even better, there’s a shopping mall with restrooms in the underground station and we can stop for our favorite coffee before catching the train. Trains leave every four to eight minutes, so there’s no waiting and the entire route is underground.
We board the heavy rail train and soon, we’re barreling toward the next station at the Valley’s Orange Line busway, then on to the last Valley station at Ventura Boulevard. It’s a fast ride which becomes even faster as we shoot under the Sepulveda Pass at 70 miles an hour. We listen to some music on our iPhones, send a text, and bam – we’ve arrived at the Sunset Boulevard station on the UCLA campus. Unbelievable!
Next stop is the Wilshire Boulevard station with its underground mall and connection to the Metro Purple Line. And before we know it, we arrive at our destination: The Expo Line station near the I-10 freeway. You gotta be kidding. Fifteen minutes from mid-Valley to the Westside!
It’s an easy transfer to the Expo and only twenty minutes more to the California Science Center to see the Space Shuttle. A first-class experience. LA should be proud.
Now, let’s take the same ride on Metro’s cheapest concept – the MRT 1 monorail. Ready?
We arrive at the elevated Valley Metrolink station to find almost no parking in the miniscule lot. We rush to the monorail train and start our journey along the Valley’s elevated tracks, twelve feet in the air. We travel adjacent to the Metrorail tracks, taking a left turn to start our journey above Sepulveda Boulevard. We’re on the west side of the street and it’s kind of weird looking into peoples’ apartments.
Wait, what did we just see? Our first station at Sherman Way has a large multi-story parking structure (should have parked there, but who knew?). Suddenly, we start to go up. Oh, we’re crossing the elevated part of the Orange Line busway and its station. Now we’re going down again but stay at twelve feet above Sepulveda. Next stop is the Ventura Boulevard station. But we’re going up again – a lot higher this time – up and over the 101 freeway. We must be 35 or 40 feet in the air! This is kind of scary. Hope there isn’t an earthquake because the train might shake right off its tracks.
Ah, we’ve finally reached the Ventura Boulevard station and soon, we’re up and over the Sepulveda Pass. What the heck? We’re heading up again, over something…yes, it’s the 405 freeway and now we’ve crossed over and are heading up the hill. We’re still twelve feet in the air above the west shoulder. It’s sort of fun to watch the cars crawl up the Sepulveda grade.
We’re moving along pretty well…just went through the Pass and are starting down toward the Westside. We’re almost at the Getty Center, but, wait a minute, we’re heading up to cross over to the other side of the 405 – again. This is like the Mad Hatter Tea Cup ride at Disneyland. Okay, now we’re almost to the Getty Center and heading underground.
What’s going on? We thought this monorail was all above ground like it is in the Valley. Hey, this is nice. We’re cruising along underground and quickly arrive at the Sunset Boulevard/UCLA station. The next station is Wilshire Boulevard. Wow -- fully underground with its own mall. And we just reached our destination at the Expo Line station.
This time the trip took just under half an hour. Not too bad.
By the way, the fourth concept, HRT 3, is heavy rail and faster than monorail, but still runs entirely aerial above Sepulveda Boulevard in the Valley but fully underground on the Westside.
The big question is – why isn’t all of it underground? Subway only for the Westside? Why does the Valley always get cheated out of the best? Who knows? Must be politics.
Hey, Metro, please don’t make this mistake. Let’s build the best transit we can through the Sepulveda Pass – the HRT 1 or the HRT 2 concept. Not the cheap ones. Years in the future, you want to look back and say you made the right decision to build the best for everyone’s sake.
(Bob Anderson is a retired aerospace engineer, board member of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, chair of their Transportation Committee, and board member of the California Science & Engineering Fair. He can be reached at BobHillsideOrdinance@roadrunner.com. More info on this subject here. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.