LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's board voted last week to study the feasibility of creating a light rail system on the Orange Line to connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, also chair of the Metro board, cited a dearth of railway stops in the San Fernando Valley as the reason for the study.
"Out of more than 80 rail stops in Los Angeles County, the Valley only has two," he said. "It's an underserved area when it comes to transit. We have an opportunity to change that and give people better ways to get from home to work to school."
The motion was sponsored by Krekorian, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich, and LA Metro Directors John Fasana and Ara Najarian.
The study is possible due to recent state legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown and authored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Sherman Oaks, that lifts a 23-year ban on transit construction in the region. The ban resulted in the construction in 2005 of a rapid bus line since light rail was prohibited by state legislation. The legislation came about as a result of protests from the Orthodox Jewish community the Orange Line traverses that light rail would disrupt the Sabbath. Orthodox Jews walk to Saturday religious services.
Metro constructed a bus-only Orange Line in 2005. That line has far exceeded ridership expectations by carrying close to 30,000 people a day, according to Krekorian's office.
State, county, and city elected officials as well as business leaders have all come out in support of the proposal.
"This is a big step for San Fernando Valley's two million residents, who need more transit options, including light rail," Krekorian said. "Now, we will find out exactly what it will take to get there. Because of this vote, Metro will study options to upgrade the Orange Line and create a San Fernando and San Gabriel Valley transit corridor."
The motion provides funding to study the conversion of the Orange Line, which is now a dedicated bus lane to light rail. It will also look at options for enhancing service and ridership on the Orange Line to decrease travel time and increase efficiency.
It also will look at ways to connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys by light rail, study the creation of a San Fernando/San Gabriel High Capacity Transit Corridor that would connect the Gold Line in Pasadena to Bob Hope Airport and the Red and Orange Lines in North Hollywood, all by light rail.
The board also approved its 10-year Short-Range Transportation Plan at its July 24 meeting. The plan outlines specific steps toward reaching the goals of 2009's 30-year vision for fielding growth and traffic issues in the county.
Members also recommended awarding a $1.6 billion contract to construct the Westside subway to the joint venture of Skanska-Traylor-Shea.