Glendale is climbing on the region's light-rail priority list, Los Angeles County transportation officials told the Glendale City Council on Tuesday.
After a late start, Glendale was excluded from the first group of light-rail lines planned, but now is considered likely to get a system in about 10 years, said Susan I. Rosales, manager of rail planning for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.
"Glendale has made it perfectly clear to us that they want a commuter rail system," Rosales said after a transportation study session with the council Tuesday.
The city purchased the old Southern Pacific rail depot in December in hopes of turning it into a light-rail station and transportation center. Officials are seeking more than $8 million in state or regional funds for the project.
In the study session Tuesday, council members agreed that the railroad tracks along San Fernando Road would serve as the best route for a regional rail system through Glendale, including both commuter rail and light-rail service.
Commuter rail is defined as a train, such as Amtrak, which is designed to serve riders traveling up to 50 or 60 miles. Stations are spaced every six miles or so. A light-rail system uses cars that are self-powered, such as by electricity, and that are designed for trips of 20 miles or less. Stations usually are a mile apart.
The existing tracks could be used for commuter train service between Los Angeles and the Santa Clarita and Simi valleys, with stops in Glendale, Burbank and other communities, Richard Stanger, commission director of rail development, said in an interview Wednesday. He said the commuter service is planned to start in less than three years.
"A resident of Glendale could hop on a train and be at Union Station downtown in five or 10 minutes, then transfer to Metro Rail to ride to work," Stanger said.
The railroad right of way could also be used to bring a light-rail system to Glendale from Los Angeles, possibly connecting to a local transit system, such as trolleys, into downtown Glendale. A trolley system would operate like buses, stopping every block or two.
The city had initially studied about a dozen different routes for a regional rail system, but decided Tuesday that the railroad right of way would be the least disruptive.
Council members are still considering three routes from the train station into the downtown area for the possible trolley system.
The local routes include one along Brand Boulevard looping along Broadway and Colorado Street east toward Pasadena. Two others could run along either Brand or Central Avenue, jogging over toward Orange Street, which might be turned into a transit mall through the downtown redevelopment zone.
Officials are considering continuing the transit system north to Glenoaks Boulevard, where it would turn west back to the railroad tracks at San Fernando Road.
City consultants are expected to provide further details on the alternative routes within three to four months.
Commission officials said that if Glendale keeps working aggressively, it may be able to develop a transit system sooner than other cities that ranked the highest for light-rail service but still have years to wait.
Stanger said Wednesday that the commission is nearing completion of negotiations for a light-rail right of way from Union Station through the Taylor train yard alongside the Los Angeles River and just south of Glendale's border. That would bring light rail two-thirds of the way from Los Angeles to Glendale.
"We're definitely taking steps toward getting the line out to Glendale," Stanger said.
Glendale had a late start in lobbying for its share of the 1980 Proposition A transit tax funds to build commuter light rails, city officials admit. The city was rated among the lowest priorities when the commission ranked the needs for transit systems in 1983. Glendale was told then that it would have to wait at least 20 to 30 years for a rail system.
Pasadena is one of three destinations targeted for initial construction of a proposed 150-mile rail system in the Los Angeles Basin. Early priority was also given to proposed routes in the San Fernando Valley and along the new Century Freeway to Los Angeles International Airport.
But in the last two years, Glendale has worked feverishly to change its status. Even though it was excluded from the first group of light-rail lines planned, the city agreed in 1988 to split with the county commission the $200,000 cost of a study on potential light-rail routes and a commuter line to Los Angeles.