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Subway Alternatives Discussed at Summit

Transit: Valley Economic Alliance, VICA hear calls for improved bus service, formation of a district serving the area and breaking of ties with MTA.

September 13, 1997|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — San Fernando Valley transportation troubles, long gridlocked in controversy and disagreement, inched toward solutions Friday at a summit meeting calling for local alternatives to the city's beleaguered subway system.

Organizers of the summit urged participants to put aside differences over competing technologies and to work first on common goals.

By the end of the summit, the road seemed as long, and as difficult, as ever.

"Our grandiose rail plans have all collapsed," said David Fleming, chairman of the Valley Economic Alliance, which called the meeting. He urged participants to "dispassionately clear our heads . . . and look at public transit anew."

Many who attended the summit called for formation of a Valley transit district, breaking ties with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency responsible for the city subway system, now stalled at Cahuenga Pass.

Even Mayor Richard Riordan, the new MTA chairman who has pledged to stabilize the ailing transit agency, urged the Valley assemblage to "start with a clean slate."

"Ignore the strategic plan developed in the mid-1980s and learn from its mistakes," Riordan told more than 150 representatives of Valley business, industry and homeowner groups. "We're not going to build a subway in the Valley," he said. "We don't have the money."

In a 20-minute appearance before the group, Riordan said the Valley needs practical and affordable traffic solutions, such as improving local bus service.

Saying "subways in Los Angeles are folly," Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky urged completion of the Red Line tunnel from Hollywood to North Hollywood, "then mothball the rest of it."

He drew applause from the room of leaders when he said, "The Valley has been the most neglected sector of the county on every issue of transportation."

Yaroslavsky said an initiative has been drafted for a ballot measure that would block the MTA from using any more county transportation taxes or municipal bonds for new subway construction.

He said he will begin circulating the petition within six weeks if the MTA fails to shelve new subway planning.

Former Assemblyman Richard Katz led the call for formation of a separate Valley transit district, similar to the Foothill Transit District which oversees public and private transportation services in the San Gabriel Valley.

Katz also called for the return by the MTA of an estimated $500 million in transit funds he said was set aside by the Legislature for use in the Valley.

His cry for independence was echoed by Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., and Marv Selter, chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., which co-sponsored the summit. "Let's not talk any more. Let's go to work," Selter said.

A Valley transit plan is expected to be released Oct. 9 by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, which is charged with adopting a plan for the entire Southern California region within the next few months. Plans must be adopted by the SCAG board before local projects are eligible for state and federal transit funding.

Mark Pisano, SCAG executive director, revealed draft plans for the Valley on Friday, proposing development of a series of transit hubs served by a combination of shuttles, jitneys and buses connecting with Metrolink rail lines. He said the proposed system could carry 200,000 passengers daily in the Valley.

"I ask you not to argue and debate the modes," he said, "but rather what are your goals."

A second Valley transit summit is expected to be called later this year.

Fleming, the meeting organizer, warned that debate among diverse factions "will tend to get a little messy." But he added: "Hopefully, we will reach a consensus."

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