A 15-minute trip from the Westside to the Valley?
Even in light traffic, that would be tricky for even the most brazen of LA drivers to pull off, but Metro staffers say rail routes now being considered through the notoriously congested Sepulveda Pass could offer commuters those travel speeds daily.
The agency is whittling down options for a train line that would connect the Expo and Purple lines to the heart of the San Fernando Valley, where a light rail route along Van Nuys Boulevard is also in the works.
Project manager Cory Zelmer told reporters Tuesday that a pair of light rail routes proposed last year were no longer being considered for the project. Instead, the agency will focus on three speedy heavy rail options and a futuristic monorail system with driverless train cars.
A one-way journey on each of these options would last under a half hour.
“The numbers we’re showing here are exceptional,” said Zelmer. “The idea that you could go from the Metrolink station in the heart of the Valley along Van Nuys to the Expo Line on the Westside in 15 minutes during rush hour is amazing.”
Since 2017, agency staffers have been studying how best to link the Westside to the San Fernando Valley, providing riders an alternative to crawling traffic conditions on the 405 freeway. Metro’s Board of Directors is expected to identify a route later this year.
Zelmer says a light rail system, similar to the Blue, Gold, Green, and Expo lines, was dismissed because staffers predicted that demand for the train would be high enough to cause overcrowding issues.
A monorail or a heavy rail system—like the Red or Purple lines—would be able to carry more riders. Each of the options Metro is now considering would also intersect with the Van Nuys Boulevard line at the Van Nuys Metrolink Station, rather than the Van Nuys Orange Line Station farther south (though one route would stop at both stations). That should ensure the East Valley line doesn’t get too crowded at its final stops.
The monorail option is the most unorthodox of those the agency is still considering. With an estimated ride time of 26 minutes, it’s also the slowest. Zelmer says the system would be relatively cheap to construct, compared to a heavy rail train, which must travel through tunnels or along an aerial track.
Monorail vehicles are also able to travel up steep slopes, allowing easier passage through the Santa Monica Mountains. The route Metro is considering would travel alongside the 405 between UCLA and Ventura Boulevard. Each of the heavy rail options would more closely shadow Sepulveda Boulevard.
A monorail system would be unprecedented in Metro’s transit network, though one of the proposed heavy rail options would also be singular in that it would travel above ground through the Valley, rather than through a subway tunnel.
Zelmer says that an elevated track could be cheaper to construct than a tunnel, but would have a bigger impact on neighboring properties (heavy rail trains are not quiet).
Eventually, Metro aims to extend the line further south to the planned people mover tram system at LAX. That part of the project is currently projected to wrap up in 2057.
Based on current estimates, the first phase of the train line is also a long way from materializing. Under the Measure M financing plan, approved by voters in 2016, it’s scheduled to open in 2033. But that timeline could be accelerated. The Sepulveda Pass transit corridor is one of 28 projects that Metro’s board has committed to finishing by the 2028 Olympics.
The agency will hold three public meetings on the project starting Wednesday. Details on the events can be found on Metro’s website.