Passengers on Metro's Orange Line buses are undoubtedly familiar with their claustrophobia inducing conditions. While fighting for scarce leg and elbow room, many have asked "why the hell isn't this thing a train?" Fear not, San Fernando Valley denizens: Tom LaBonge understands your plight. The 4th District Councilman introduced a motion over the summer that would put the City of Los Angeles on the record as supporting the repeal of SB 211, the legislation passed by the State Senate in 1991 which prohibits light rail on the Orange Line's right-of-way.
This action from Councilman LaBonge comes at a time when access to rail transit has revived formerly downtrodden neighborhoods such as Hollywood and Downtown. In the midst of Los Angeles' renewed love affair with urban rail, the San Fernando Valley has been left out of the action. It is a sad state of affairs which has occurred due to a series of shortsighted decisions made by Los Angeles' political leadership and electorate in previous decades. Here is a partial history, as described in Metro's Transportation Library:
The California Legislature passed a law in 1991 introduced by Alan Robbins which prohibited the use of the corridor for any form of rail transit other than a "deep bore subway located at least 25 feet below ground." Later, Los Angeles County passed Proposition A in 1998, promoted by supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, which prohibited Metro from using its county sales tax funding to build subways anywhere in the county.
With subway and light rail now off the table, the only option left [for Metro] to develop the transit corridor was to build a busway.
Years later, the San Fernando Valley continues to pay the price for these poor decisions. However, with the arrival of a new generation of Angelenos that understands the benefits of public transportation, sufficient political will finally exists to correct these mistakes. The era when the mayor would "throw himself in front of buses," to block construction of the Orange Line is long gone. Now, we have politicians and residents alike clamoring for light rail along the Van Nuys corridor.
While the motion from Tom LaBonge will not immediately correct the problem, it is an important step which would put the political will of Los Angeles behind the push for light rail along the Chandler right-of-way. Councilman LaBonge's motion is scheduled for discussion within the City Council's Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee this Friday.
- Motion from Councilman Tom LaBonge (LA City Clerk)
- Metro Orange Line (Metro Transportation Library)
- Metro Staff Report Refines Alternatives for ESFV Transit Corridor (The Source)