Would you be interested in a bus rapid transit link from the North Hollywood Orange Line to the Gold Line in Pasadena? An East Valley Transit Corridor rail line from the Sylmar Metrolink station down Van Nuys Boulevard to the Sherman Oaks Orange Line? What about an upgrade to the Orange Line bus rapid transit between Chatsworth and North Hollywood that would add grade separations and eventually convert the line to light-rail? Or, the creation of the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor that would add up to two toll lanes to the 405 Freeway to help pay for a rail tunnel linking Sherman Oaks and Westwood, and ultimately LAX? Sounds too good to be true . . . but in fact, all of this, and more, could be coming to Los Angeles, and specifically, the San Fernando Valley. However, with any of major public project, there are potential pitfalls that could derail the proposed improvements.
On March 18, 2016, Los Angeles County transit officials released details of a proposed sales-tax measure that could deliver billions of dollars to people-moving projects to the Valley — including the above-referenced Sepulveda Pass, Van Nuys Boulevard and Orange Line rail line projects — over the next half century. Years after the San Fernando Valley was shortchanged in the last round of major transportation initiatives, and after years of deliberation over local transportation needs, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled a $120 billion plan to boost rapid transit in the most traffic-clogged city in the nation.
To pay for these projects, a 1-cent sales tax measure will likely be put before voters in November and would fund a sweeping network of commuter rail, bus rapid transit, highway, cycling and pedestrian corridors for up to 50 years. The half-cent Measure R extension (Measure R was initially approved in 2008 by a 67.93% vote) and half-cent Measure R2 tax (unofficial name) will undergo public review through May and each will require two-thirds approval by voters. In 2012, Measure J attempted to extend the current Measure R tax but that measure failed.
As November approaches, there will be much discussion about these transportation projects and the costs for them. Whether Los Angeles voters approve a 1-cent sales tax increase by a 2/3 majority will not be known until Election Day. Yet, the prospects of improved public transportation for the San Fernando Valley, including conversion of the Orange Line to light rail, a transit corridor connecting Sylmar to Sherman Oaks and improved transportation options for the Sepulveda Pass, including a rail tunnel, are options that must be given fair consideration.
While improved transportation options would likely improve many facets of life in Los Angeles, there are drawbacks. The funds to build these projects will be generated by an increase in sales tax for up to fifty (50) years. Other taxes approved for specific projects have been deflected and used for other projects. And, the time to complete (and even start) these projects is staggering. The bus rapid transit link from the Orange Line to the Gold Line would break ground in 2020 and open in 2022; the East Valley Transit Corridor rail line would break ground in 2021 and open in 2027; the upgrade to the Orange Line to improve grade separations would finish in 2028 and the subsequent light-rail conversion would break ground in 2051 and take six years to complete; and, the Sepulveda Pass project would break ground in 2024 and open in 2033.
The voters of the San Fernando Valley, and Los Angeles, have the opportunity to bring the golden ring to Los Angeles: improved public transportation and a transformative link between the Valley and the West Side. For too long, the hills separating the Valley from the rest of Los Angeles was just one of the impediments to efficient travel in our City. A 1-cent sales tax increase is no small matter and the drawbacks to the plan are potentially great, but the impact and revenue from the same may transform this City in a way that has not occurred for many years. Either way, and regardless of whether or not you are in favor of these projects, it is important and crucial that we exercise our right to discuss these projects and vote. This is Our Valley and there is a great opportunity before us to impact its future. Will you have your say? Metro will be hosting public outreach meetings regarding the expenditures, grab the opportunity to attend one of these meetings and be heard. Upcoming meetings are as follows:
- Thursday, April 21, 2016 (6-8 p.m.) Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
- Saturday, April 23, 2016 (10 a.m. – 12 p.m.) Metro Headquarters, Board Room, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles
- Tuesday, April 26, 2016 (6-8 p.m.) Gateway Cities Council of Governments, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 16401 Paramount Boulevard, Paramount
- Thursday, April 28 2016, (6-8 p.m.) Rita Walters Learning Complex Auditorium, 915 West Manchester Avenue, Los Angeles
- Saturday, April 30, 2016 (10 a.m. – 12 p.m.) Virtual/Online Community Meeting. To attend, the public can log in at metro.net/theplan.