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Back on Board : Transportation: Plans for restoring old train routes through the county are gathering steam.


Plans call for four eastbound trains to stop in Moorpark and Simi Valley every weekday morning--one every 45 minutes from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., offering passenger service to Chatsworth, Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale and Union Station in Los Angeles. Westbound trains are planned on weekdays every 45 minutes from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

As part of that effort, Simi Valley officials have agreed to buy two vacant properties for a new commuter rail station and parking facility. The 6.4-acre station, which will replace a depot at Los Angeles and Surveyor avenues, will handle both Amtrak service and Metrolink commuter rail traffic.

Officials say the Ventura County portion of the project, expected to carry costs of more than $96 million, will be paid for through a bond issue approved by voters in 1990. To pay for operating costs, Ventura County transportation officials say they will ask voters here to approve another bond issue.

Metrolink officials have projected a beginning ridership of 1,699 trips in each direction daily along the 47-mile Moorpark-to-Union Station route, including 162 boarders in Moorpark and 252 in Simi Valley. Estimated cost is $5 to $6 each way, with monthly passes available at a substantial discount.

Amid all this enthusiasm, however, a few voices of skepticism still are heard. One belongs to David F. Myrick, a Montecito resident, railroad historian and former assistant vice president for Southern Pacific.

The current boomlet in rail-related ideas, Myrick said, is "political opportunism" that ignores the enduring allegiance Californians have to their cars. He recalled Southern Pacific's unsuccessful attempt at a commuter-style service through Los Angeles, Simi Valley and Oxnard for about six months in 1982 and 1983.

"The trouble with rail transit in Southern California is, you get on a train in Ventura or Oxnard, and you ride to Union Station in L.A. And then what?" asked Myrick.

Most Southern Californians, he said, are too spoiled to board another train or bus to complete their trip.

"We know there are those who feel that way," acknowledged Metrolink spokesman Peter Hidalgo. "Our battle is to change commuter behavior, and it's not going to be changed overnight."

Commuter Rail Link

In October, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority will begin operating commuter rail service linking Moorpark and Simi Valley to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. Service on the 47-mile route will include four eastbound trains running from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and four westbound trains running from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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