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Subway or Monorail--or None of the Above

October 02, 1994

The Metropolitan Transit Authority faces a major decision on rapid transit in the San Fernando Valley: an underground subway using the Burbank-Chandler route or a monorail over the Ventura Freeway?

Combining two major transportation systems (monorail and freeway) would leave the city vulnerable. Calamities such as earthquakes, vehicle and building fires and large trucks hitting freeway support columns do happen with some regularity. Independent and separate transportation systems are worth having.

The cost estimates for the monorail over the freeway are grossly in error. Even before the recent earthquake findings, any elevated railway or monorail would require extensive lateral supports to provide lateral sheer strength. In many places in the San Fernando Valley, the freeway has insufficient median room for these necessarily wide supports. The lessons from the January, 1994, earthquake are that even more stiffness is required. Thus the real costs of the monorail plan would have to include extensive widening and rebuilding.

Monorails are intrinsically noisy, especially as they are elevated even more than the freeway. Our experience with the monorail in Sydney, Australia, which is a relatively low-speed monorail, was that it was extremely noisy. With higher speeds, the noise becomes even more of a problem.

The Ventura Boulevard-Ventura Freeway corridor is already very congested. Adding a monorail would only increase the congestion. An underground system on the Burbank-Chandler route would create less crowding of facilities.

Subways are the best choice; during the recent San Francisco quake, BART was unscathed and provided weeks of service while the freeways were unusable.




* The writer of the letter of Sept. 4, expressing a preference for the Ventura Freeway route for the east-west rail line, overlooked a major problem with the freeway route: earthquakes.

If we put both transportation systems in one location and the next earthquake knocks down a chunk of the freeway, we will have lost both transit systems. After our recent earthquake did just that, commuters were able to get to work using the rail system because it was not on the broken freeway.

As far as the ballot measure where people voted for the "monorail," I believe if this measure were put to a vote today, with all the facts available (it may in fact not be a "monorail" but an elevated train that would be built), the public would vote against the freeway route.

Ask the people who live near the freeway if they will be delighted by the visual impact of a speeding monorail, especially as seen from their back yards.




* When will common sense prevail in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority regarding extension of the Red Line transit route into the San Fernando Valley?

MTA board members tell us that only two alternatives for a Valley rapid transit system are being considered: a $2.25-billion subway (that is too expensive and too susceptible to earthquake damage) and a $2.25-billion monorail system down the Ventura Freeway (that is too expensive and will make existing traffic jams on the 101 seem trivial).

Common sense dictates a Chandler-Burbank boulevards surface light-rail system that can be built quicker and for a fraction of the cost of the two other systems, that can utilize an existing right of way without jamming the Ventura Freeway and that can be considered to be safe from a seismic standpoint. There are three systems to consider, not two! And only the surface light-rail system makes economic and practical sense.


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