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Rapid Transit 'Within Grasp'

February 16, 1986

The western part of the Los Angeles metropolitan region has grade-separated rapid transit within its grasp. But to bring this to reality, Westside interests must unite and go after it with energy and determination.

There is no space for additional streets and freeways through this area nor is there room for more autos in peak hours. That means that peak-hour periods are lengthening--as we all have observed. They used to be 4 to 6 p.m., now they are 3 to 7. Before long peak hours will be all day! Congestion is already intolerable.

What are the alternatives? We have the choice of doing nothing and continuing to suffer our ever-increasing economic waste, or we can take advantage of our resources and bring about a perfectly feasible transit alternative.

At the present average cost ($180 million per mile) Hollywood and North Hollywood will wait forever for the 13-mile subway north from Wilshire Boulevard. Indeed, the region will be very fortunate if the federal and state agencies will help finance Metro Rail for another four to five miles west from Alvarado in the near future.

Therein lies the Westside's opportunity: Using former and existing rail rights-of-way west from San Vicente and Pico boulevards, it is possible to reach out to Olympic and Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica via San Vicente, Burton Way, Santa Monica Boulevard, Sepulveda and in or alongside Olympic Boulevard--about 13 miles.

A medium-capacity transit system (12,000 to 15,000 passengers per hour in each direction) can be constructed on aerial structures in these rights-of-way at less than one-third the cost of a subway. A 13-plus-mile line has been designed and constructed in the last four to five years in Vancouver for about $62 million per mile, and it is now operating. So it can be done! There are at least three potential suppliers of such systems. Of course there will be problems, but they are solvable.

A system (that) will deliver 12,000 passengers per hour is equivalent to having three additional eight-lane freeways or four six-lane major streets through the area.

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission is using some of the funds from the 1/2-cent sales tax for transit (so-called Proposition A funds) to plan, design and build the 22-mile light-rail line from downtown to Long Beach, and they are currently studying a possible light-rail line across the Valley on the Southern Pacific's Burbank Line right-of-way.

Since there are available rail rights-of-way out to the Westside and to the south Westside, I believe that if enough effort is exerted, Proposition A money can be made available to the Westside for preliminary engineering within one to two years, and funds for construction in four to five years.

I also believe that the Federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration and the state Transportation Commission would support such a program because medium-capacity lines from the west and southwest (at one-third the cost of subways) would load Metro Rail with passengers to and from a San Vicente/Pico station and downtown. It is interesting to note that they have done this in Toronto with seven-plus miles of medium-capacity system on aerial structures off the end of a high-capacity subway line.

The basis for the above discussion rests on 16 years of "carrying the torch" for rapid transit during which time I proposed, developed and was in charge of design and construction of the Los Angeles-El Monte Express Busway Project and served as manager and chief engineer for the Los Angeles Metro Rail Project. I retired in March, 1983, near the end of the preliminary engineering phase, but I still see the great need for and feasibility of grade-separated transit service for the Westside, and, as the timing appears to be right, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts.


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