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Light-Rail Line an Endangered Opportunity

October 22, 1988

Why are elected officials allowing 600 homeowners, totally ignorant of what light rail is, to kill a wonderful opportunity in the proposed Chandler-Victory light-rail line? After reading numerous accounts of San Fernando Valley homeowners' whining about noise, ground vibrations, crime, visual blight and reduced property values, all I can say is prove it! What studies have these people commissioned to back up these ridiculous claims?

Let's get some facts straight:

--Light-rail transportation systems are not powered by diesel engines, in contrast to freight/Amtrak trains. Smooth, quiet electric motors do the pulling.

--Light-rail system rolling stock are not creaking, clanking freight cars. Modern technology has developed these into sleek, smooth, high-tech people-moving vehicles on rails.

--Light rail typically operates with four to eight cars, in contrast to freight trains. This also keeps noise/vibration levels well below that associated with freight trains.

--Modern rail and roadbed construction techniques provide smooth, even trackage for the rolling stock, further reducing the noise level.

These 600 Valley people owe it to the rest of Los Angeles to visit San Diego and witness one of California's finest transportation systems in the making. The San Diego Trolley, comprised of a line from the downtown to the Mexican border, has been in service around 10 years. A second line is under construction, running east to El Cajon. A countywide expansion is in the planning as well. These two lines have utilized existing railroad rights of way, the old track and roadbed rebuilt using modern techniques consistent with light-rail equipment.

On your visit to the San Diego Trolley, Valley people take note:

--Portions of the line runs through residential districts, the neighbors little noticing its presence.

--Property values along the line have risen on a par with the rest of the local housing market.

--There have been no increases in crime along the rail lines.

--There has been no blighting of neighborhoods; in fact many adjacent areas have improved.

--San Diegans love their trolley!

There is too much money and opportunity at stake to allow a relatively small group of ill-informed people to destroy the proposed Chandler-Victory light-rail line. Alternatives such as elevated routing or a Metro Rail extension are too costly. The Chandler-Victory line can provide the same people-moving capability at one-third the cost of the subway and half that for an elevated line. The proposed north-south downtown-to-Sylmar line will do little to reduce the Ventura Freeway congestion. Only the east-west route can tap into that mass of commuters.

Finally, based on the factless, emotional arguments raised by the Valley homeowner groups, I fear the average voter hasn't the time nor the interest to become properly educated on the real issues. The decision on which route should be based on carefully conducted environmental, cost and ridership studies. This is the course almost followed by the City Council-appointed transportation advisory panel. However, the panel gave in to the opposition and postponed the study.

The only path to the most efficient, environmentally sound and economical mass transit system is via decisions based on factual data, not emotions. Its time for the panel to have the studies done and make a final, single route recommendation based on those studies.

ERIC SKULLERUD

Canoga Park

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