Commuter rail service between Los Angeles, Glendale and such outlying communities as the Santa Clarita Valley and Simi Valley could begin within two years, Glendale city officials said this week.
"We really have to move quickly," City Manager David Ramsay said during a study session Tuesday with the Glendale City Council on a proposed far-reaching mass transit system to serve residents and commuters.
He said, "Commuter rail is right around the corner" and predicted that Glendale "will be part of a regional commuter system by the end of 1992."
Within the next few weeks, the City Council will be asked to act on a series of proposals to develop a mass transit system, including the following:
* Authorize a feasibility study and site selection of a second proposed commuter station in the Grand Central industrial area in west Glendale.
* Approve a proposed route for a "downtown loop" shuttle system from the train depot in south Glendale, through the redevelopment zone to Glenoaks Boulevard and back to the industrial area at San Fernando Road.
* Allocate funds to begin development of an $18-million transit center at the historic Southern Pacific Depot.
Glendale has been scrambling for the last few years to improve its standing on a countywide master plan for transit systems that was adopted in 1983. The city was told then that it would have to wait at least 20 to 30 years for a rail system.
But Ramsay, other city officials and a team of consultants said Tuesday that Glendale could be a key link in a major Southern California transportation hub in less than 10 years.
The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission already has plans to utilize existing railroad tracks from Union Station downtown to Pasadena for commuter train service in Los Angeles' emerging Metro Rail system.
The commission also plans to utilize the railroad's Taylor Yard freight train facility, just outside Elysian Park and south of Glendale's border, as a regional equipment maintenance yard for the system.
That would bring commuter service within only a short distance of Glendale, Ramsay told council members Tuesday. He said the city should join with the commission in studying the feasibility of extending the commuter service to Glendale far sooner than the 20- to 30-year projected time frame.
Glendale officials said they envision trains running along existing Southern Pacific Railroad tracks that parallel San Fernando Road, a high-speed light-rail system whisking commuters from the San Fernando Valley and Glendale to Los Angeles and an electric trolley system through the downtown redevelopment zone and from Pasadena to Burbank. All would be interconnected by shuttle and bus services converging on the Southern Pacific depot at 400 W. Cerritos Ave. in south Glendale and a proposed second commuter depot near Grand View Avenue in the industrial area.
Ramsay said the plan will work only if city leaders "are very aggressive and very cooperative."
A preliminary report by consultants Tuesday found that the train station, which Glendale purchased in late 1989, can be converted into a transportation hub combining rail and shuttle services with a park-and-ride facility.
Initial construction would include a two-story garage with 300 parking spaces which could be expanded later to four stories and parking for 950 vehicles, city officials said. They plan to upgrade the station within two years to coincide with the expected inauguration of commuter rail service.
A key issue in development of the transportation center is preserving the architecture and historical features of the depot, built in 1924. Consultant Martin Eli Weil, a restoration architect, mapped out a strategy to restore the station and convert it into a transit center. He said he expects to present recommendations to the council in a month.
He described the building, distinguished by its Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture, as having "a wonderful vocabulary of metal and cast iron details," which he said need to be repaired, cleaned and painted. "It is quite a wonderful building," Weil said. But he added, "It requires a good deal of repair work."
Meantime, city officials said they hope to become part of a pilot program by the Southern California Rapid Transit District to install electric trolley routes along four or five bus lines in the Los Angeles area. The trolleys, powered by overhead electrical lines that could be installed on existing light standards, would not be on tracks and would operate the same as buses.
Glendale will ask the RTD to consider a route paralleling the Ventura Freeway from Pasadena to Burbank along Colorado Boulevard, Broadway and San Fernando Road. An alternative proposal would have the trolley line run from Pasadena through Glendale to Hollywood.
While no official action was taken Tuesday, the Glendale City Council agreed by consensus that city staff members should submit the trolley proposal to RTD officials.