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Metro Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project: Monorail is Not the Answer.

THE ENVIRONMENT - “Metro is beginning the environmental review phase for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project, which will build a heavy rail line or monorail between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside.

A second phase will eventually be built to LAX.” LINK

This project is critical to improving traffic in Los Angeles, in fighting air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin, and reducing carbon gases which are creating the warming of the planet. Global warming is here now, and the estimates of its speed in warming are being met, and exceed, at a frightening pace. 

We face many unknowns with global warming, but we have many knowns of the dangers to life, agriculture, structures and infrastructure to this city, state, nation, and the world.

Action is needed now to take cars and trucks off the roads to reduce carbon gases. 

A 2019 study from Yale University LINK places transportation as 29% responsible for global warming carbon gasses. Add to that the polluting carbon gasses from oil refining in the Los Angeles Basin, and the figure goes to 40%.

It is not getting better. We are driving more. If we continue at this pace the percentage will increase to greater and greater peril to the planet.

Action to reduce our carbon footprint is needed now. 

Yet the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project is bogged down. Instead of going with what is used overwhelmingly throughout the world for transits projects of this size and scope, heavy rail trains underground or for this project a combination above and underground, monorail has beed added to the evaluation of the project.

I have written previously about monorails. They look good in amusement parks, zoos and some universities, but as shown below, the numbers do not add up in carrying passengers.

To have this monorail alternative inserted into the project evaluation process is not only the fantasy of monorail fans, it is wasting money in the project evaluation. 

But more critical, we are losing valuable time to incorporate the monorail alternatives into the project evaluations.

We don’t have this time to try to combat global warming. 

And the numbers don’t add up for monorail. 

There are six alternative: three automated monorail, three heavy rail. All three heavy rail alternative carry more passengers, at higher speeds. This better serves transit riders. As a transit rider, I know these are two of the greatest parameters in successful transit.

Some monorail alternatives also need convoluted and complex secondary, and expensive transfers to UCLA.

Enough of this. We don’t have the time to waste on making Los Angeles a guinea pig for monorail. The world is getting more polluted, and global warming is accelerating. 

The monorail alternative needs to be scrapped now, and the project needs to proceed with the proven and better heavy rail.

The numbers do not work out. Below are excerpts from Metro’s outreach: 

Alternative 1: Automated monorail that would be entirely aerial along the 405 corridor and the Metrolink Ventura County Line railroad tracks with an electric bus shuttle to UCLA. 

Train length/capacity: two to eight cars with an expected six cars during peak periods. Each car could carry up to 76 to 79, overall passengers 152-456. 

Connection to UCLA: At Wilshire Blvd, an aerial station would be located on the west side of the 405, and an electric bus shuttle would provide service along a 1.4-mile route between the Metro D Line’s Westwood/VA Station and UCLA Gateway Plaza, with intermediate stops at Wilshire Blvd/Veteran Avenue and Westwood Blvd/Le Conte Ave. The electric bus shuttle would operate at the same frequency as the monorail.  

Alternative 2: Automated monorail with aerial alignment along the 405 corridor and Metrolink Ventura County Line railroad tracks with an aerial automated people mover connection to UCLA. 

Train length/capacity: Two to eight cars with six cars in peak periods. Each car could carry up to 76 to 79, overall passengers 152-456. 

Connection to UCLA: A pedestrian bridge would run from the monorail station on the south side of Wilshire to an aerial Automated People Mover (APM) station on the north side of Wilshire. The APM would travel on a structure primarily along Gayley Avenue to an aerial station near the west end of Bruin Walk on the UCLA campus. The people mover would operate at the same frequency as the monorail. 

Alternative 3: Automated monorail with aerial segment along the 405 corridor, an underground segment between Wilshire and Getty Center, then entirely aerial along the 405 and Van Nuys Metrolink Line railroad tracks. 

Train length/capacity: would consist of two to eight cars and are expected to consist of six cars during peak periods, with each car having a capacity of 76 to 79 passengers, overall passsengers 152-456. 

Alternative 4: Heavy rail with underground segment south of Ventura Blvd and aerial alignment generally along Sepulveda Blvd in the San Fernando Valley. 

Train length/capacity: three cars with each car carrying up to 170 people. Trains could be expanded to four cars, over passengers 510.

Stations: Four underground stations at Exposition Blvd (Metro E Line), Santa Monica Blvd, Wilshire Blvd (Metro D Line) and UCLA’s Gateway Plaza, and four aerial stations at Ventura Blvd, the G Line’s Sepulveda Station, Sherman Way and the Van Nuys Metrolink Station. 

Connection to UCLA: an underground rail station would be on campus at Gateway Plaza. 

Alternative 5: Heavy rail with underground segment along Sepulveda Boulevard and an aerial stretch along the Metrolink Ventura County Line tracks in the San Fernando Valley. 

Train length/capacity: three cars with each car having a capacity of 170 people. Trains could be expanded to four cars, over passengers 510.

Stations: Seven underground stations at Exposition Blvd (Metro E Line), Santa Monica Blvd, Wilshire Blvd (Metro D Line), UCLA’s Gateway Plaza, Ventura Blvd, the G Line’s Sepulveda Station and Sherman Way. One aerial station would be at the Van Nuys Metrolink Station. 

Alternative 6: Heavy rail that would be entirely underground including along Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley and with a southern terminus station on Bundy Drive next to the E Line on the Westside. 

Train length capacity/length: would consist of two, four or six cars and are expected to consist of six cars during peak periods, with each car having a capacity of 133 passengers, overall passengers 266 or 532 or 798.”

We do not have the luxury of time to be the playground of monorail fans. 

Scrap the idea of monorail, and proceed, now, with heavy rail.

Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and former president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra.)