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Metrolink Adds Tustin Station, Hopes to Subtract Freeway Users

Transit: The new $7-million platform could also relieve a parking crunch at the stop in Irvine.

January 18, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Commuter rail supporters will unveil Orange County's newest Metrolink station today--a $7-million, automated railway pit stop officials hope will ultimately boost the line's modest yet growing ridership.

The station, in Tustin on a 3.7-acre parcel at Edinger Avenue and Jamboree Road, is the first of several new platforms planned throughout Orange County and will open for business before dawn Monday. It features vaulted canopies and an underground passageway with skylights, and is intended to relieve parking congestion at the nearby Irvine Metrolink station.

"This is going to be a huge help to commuters who live between Irvine and Santa Ana," said Sarah L. Catz, a Metrolink director and former member of the Orange County Transportation Authority. "It will absolutely increase ridership because it will increase convenience."

In terms of commuter convenience, the station offers automated ticket machines, drinking fountains, bicycle racks, newspaper boxes and telephones. However, the one amenity it doesn't offer commuters is a restroom--a detail left out for fear it would encourage loitering and attract the homeless, according to one transportation official.

Officials, however, say the lack of a latrine is not unusual for such platforms and poses no real inconvenience to commuters.

"The bathrooms are on the train," Catz said. "Besides, most people don't linger at these platforms. Most people are racing to take care of their kids and get to the station on time. They usually jump on the train as soon as they get there."

The Tustin platform is along Metrolink's Orange County Line and will serve commuters destined for Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The platform does not offer Amtrak or freight service.

Local officials hailed the station as an opportunity to reduce freeway congestion.

"Sitting on the 22 in bumper-to-bumper traffic is no fun," said Tustin City Councilman Tony Kawashima as he sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Garden Grove Freeway and talked on his mobile phone. "If this station helps take cars off the freeway and reduces congestion, I'm all for it."

Overall daily ridership along the county's two Metrolink lines is roughly 4,500--a number that critics say is small compared with the millions of car trips made daily by county residents. Still, officials say their ridership continues to grow and will gain an added boost from the new Tustin and other planned platforms.

A Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station is scheduled to be completed in the spring, and a platform in Buena Park is scheduled to open next year. Plans are also in the works for a station in Yorba Linda.

The Tustin station offers 324 parking spaces. OCTA officials said the station will help relieve chronic parking problems at the Irvine station.

At that station, more than a third of the parking lot's spaces are taken up by second cars left overnight by commuters. The owners use the cars to get around during the work day, then leave them in the lot when they take the train home.

"Hopefully, this new station will take some of the parking pressure off," said George Urch, an OCTA spokesman.

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