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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Great Streets Are Great, but Not Enough

Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced the first 15 streets – one per council district – that will receive upgrades under his Great Streets initiative – an effort that the Valley Industry & Commerce Association endorses. The goal of the initiative is to create safe, pedestrian-friendly streets that attract business, while creating jobs and making city government work better. This lofty plan, however, calls to light the sorry state of public transit in the Valley. Portions of four Valley streets were selected by the mayor for revitalization – Sherman Way, Lankershim Boulevard, Reseda Boulevard and two sections of Van Nuys Boulevard. With the exception of Lankershim, which has the benefit of one Metro Red Line station, none of the other Valley sections are anywhere near Metro Rail lines, nor are they slated for rail under Measure R transportation funds. One wonders how the Great Streets initiative will get people out of their cars, make communities safer and lure new business where rail transit is so limited. Valley on Track, a coalition of community organizations, transportation advocates and elected officials, is calling for the expansion of the Metro Rail system in the Valley. The group has chosen the Metro Orange Line and two planned transit corridors for prioritization by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in order to get the Valley on track to a 21st century transit system. The Orange Line is an 18-mile east-west busway running parallel to the 101 freeway from North Hollywood to Warner Center and to Chatsworth. The bus line now carries double the capacity that Metro originally estimated, making it inefficient and unable to accommodate new passengers. The coalition supports upgrading the Orange Line to light rail to handle the increased ridership. Valley on Track also believes light rail is the solution for the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor. Currently in the planning stage, the corridor is to run north-south between Sylmar and Van Nuys, eventually connecting with the Sepulveda Pass Corridor. Current bus lines along the route are the most heavily used in the Valley after the Orange Line and among the top 10 in the county. Rail is the only fix for the transit-dependent, majority minority communities along the corridor. Lastly, the coalition would like to see the Sepulveda Pass Corridor, currently the last project in Measure R’s portfolio, built as a rail system with a tunnel through the Santa Monica Mountains. The route will run from Sherman Oaks to the Westside, serving UCLA and West L.A. Metro lines, with the potential to eventually reach LAX. The Sepulveda Pass is one of the world’s most congested traffic corridors. Nothing but rail can get anywhere near meeting the transit demand. Rail is the only mode of transportation that will persuade a substantial number of commuters to get out of their cars – it undeniably wins out over buses in terms of comfort, cleanliness, efficiency and reliability. Installing rail lines throughout the Valley will make getting to work easier. It will give businesses greater access to the area’s workforce when job candidates can broaden their job searches thanks to better transit options. Rail will slow wear on streets, making commuting safer and more pleasant. Fewer cars will heighten the Valley’s visual appeal, making it a place people want to do business. Most importantly, these corridors will alleviate traffic on the Ventura (101) and San Diego (405) freeways. In order to maintain the Valley’s support of future ballot measures, federal funding requests and the identification of other funding resources, Metro must prioritize the construction of these three projects. Investment by Los Angeles in the Valley is significantly less than its population’s share of taxes. It is high time that the Valley get its fair share when determining public transportation projects. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) is a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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