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Informed Opinions on Today's Topics : DOT Favors Subway Over Elevated Line


The Los Angeles Department of Transportation recommended Monday that the City Council and mayor support the construction of a subway line through San Fernando Valley instead of a plan for an elevated train down the median of the Ventura Freeway.

Valley residents and government officials have debated the merits of both plans for years. Supporters of the subway say the proposed route running along Burbank and Chandler boulevards is close to heavy population centers and would remain functional if the freeway corridor is damaged in a quake or other natural disaster.

The elevated train, or monorail, proponents declare that a freeway-based system would be less costly and would lure more frustrated commuters away from the freeway. They cite the sinking of Hollywood Boulevard as an example of what can go wrong with subway tunneling.

Next week, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is scheduled to make its final decision over which mass transit route and technology will be used to connect the Valley to Downtown.

Which system would be more conducive to the Valley's transportation needs?

Don Shultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn.:

"If you're going to get people out of their cars to use a public transportation system, you need them to see a system that's working, while they are stuck in traffic."

Paul Jacobs, President of the Universal City-North Hollywood Chamber of Commerce:

"The Burbank-Chandler Route is the most logical and cost-effective route to use. It goes through the center of the Valley; it would alleviate traffic congestion in other areas and would serve as a boost to the business communities with Metro Rail stations located near them. The freeway route would add to traffic congestion already in the area."

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich:

"The freeway-based system is regional, in that it can serve Ventura County in addition to commuters in Los Angeles County. It would cost almost $200 million less than the subway line to build, with five more stations, (nearly) 2,000 more parking spaces provided and over two miles worth of extra track. It can be built within (four to five years) and would be operational in this century. The subway line would not. Its construction would not disrupt traffic along the freeways, where the subway line would disrupt a whole residential neighborhood. Along the subway route, there are both a high ground water table and lots of soil that would need to be removed and treated for toxicity before it could be dumped."

County Supervisor Ed Edelman:

"The MTA already owns the rights of way to the Burbank-Chandler route, which was paid for by taxpayer dollars. If we don't use it, we would have to return the money to Caltrans, which would be counter-productive. To accommodate a freeway-based system, we would have to widen the freeways again and raise the sound walls even higher. It would be a visual blight on the some 1,400 homes located in the area. The Burbank-Chandler route would go through key population centers, serving the Van Nuys Civic Center, local colleges and the Warner Center."

James Moore, associate professor of urban planning and civil engineering at USC:

"Either option is very expensive. There are certain global indicators that determine whether the use of trains is a good idea in a given society. Among these are population density and the price of gasoline. In L.A., the population density tends to be pretty low, and the cost of gas is close to the lowest in the world. The demand for either form of train will not be intense."

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