Mon, May

Sepulveda Pass Monorail: Supporters Seek Direct Routes, Sparing Transit Users from Annoying Transfers.

Rendering of monorail


LA TRANSPO - Metro’s Sepulveda Pass Corridor has great promise to move people from the San Fernando Valley through the pass, into the major employment center UCLA, and on to Metro’s light rail E/Expo Line. 

The original proposal was for heavy rail subway, and for this regular transit rider in Los Angeles since 1993, it was a proposal which made real-world sense. 

Later, the monorail component was added through what seems to be the input of the neighborhoods of Sherman Oaks and Bel Air. Both are low transit areas, so why would they slow down the process with their insistence of monorail? 

There have been internet postings that the visuals of the heavy rail were too much for Sherman Oaks and Bel Air, yet they look upon the 405/San Diego Freeway which is not exactly the Mona Lisa. 

Then concerns were raised with the subway that during construction, or while in operation, the earth would swallow their homes. There is no historical record of this happening in Los Angeles, nor world-wide, yet this seems to be a great concern of those in those neighborhoods. 

Subways can withstand tremendous forces of nature thrown at them. Subway systems have gone through major earthquakes throughout the world without major structural damage. Indeed, subways after earthquakes have been able to operate within days of the quakes while the world around them crumbled. 

A few instances: 

•In the 1984 Mexico City earthquake its subway/metro was used as an emergency command center while was city suffered tremendous destruction.

•In the 1989 Loma Prieta/San Francisco earthquake, its metro, BART, was back in service quickly whereas the Bay Bridge suffered major damage, and forty-two people died when the Nimitz Freeway collapsed.

•Los Angeles has gone through earthquakes with its Metro systems back in operation quickly while parts of freeways and overpasses collapsed or damaged, particularly the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

•The 2011 New York/Washington DC earthquake did not damage New York’s famed subway system into non-operation, and the U.S. Senate subway was unscathed.

•Superstorm Sandy of 2012, which flooded NYC’s subway systems, did not cause enough damage to take it out of service for more than a few days. 

But here we are with a transit project greatly needed to reduce traffic, which would reduce carbon gases from vehicles, which would reduce the region’s air pollution and reduce the threat of global warming climate change, now stalled because two neighborhoods want a monorail. 

There are six alternatives, three each for monorail and subway. 

The first two for monorail have the train in the middle or to the side of the freeway. After riding Metro’s C/Green Line which runs down the middle of the 105/Century freeway I know that it is inhuman to place riders in the middle or the sides of freeways. The noise is deafening. The exhaust from vehicles seeps into the lungs, along with particulate matter from vehicles tires. The stations are exiled from surrounding street life, leaving the transit rider stranded on a desert island. 

Also, the first two alternatives do not even take the monorail directly into UCLA, a major Los Angeles employment with a very large student body. The monorail would stop outside the campus and transit riders would then need to take either an electric bus, Alternative 1, or automated people mover, Alternative 2, into the campus. 

Those riding whichever alternative is chosen will be students, professors-TA’s-instructors; administrative office works for the medical center, research centers, university departments and other fields; maintenance workers; visitors to the medical center for appointments or to visit; attendees for the multitude cultural, educational, sports events, seminars and other events on the campus. All deserve the fastest transit service for the Sepulveda Corridor Project. 

If Alternatives 1 or 2 for the monorail is chosen, then for Alternative 1 the rider would have to get off the monorail and transfer to an electric bus into the campus. For Alternative 2 the rider would have to get off the monorail and transfer to an automated people mover. 

Riding mass transit involves transferring between lines, bus or rail, and transfers take time. For transfers of any kind, the rider gets out of the seat, carefully exits, and then goes to the transfer point. It could be short walk; it could be a longer walk. The transfer may require taking stairs, and if one has mobility issues taking an elevator (and hope it is in service.) Wait times would vary from under a minute to many more minutes depending on the time of day and the frequency of trips of the monorail and either the electric bus or automated people mover. This all adds to using that most precious gift to us, time. Why waste time with unnecessary transfers for the monorail? 

This is another case where non transit riders or monorail supporters think nothing of transit riders while trying to get their pet project built. These transfers in Alternatives 1 and 2 place unnecessary burden on transit riders. 

And who pays for the electric buses or automated people movers? Who is responsible for ordering the vehicles? For the APM, who will build the aerial platforms and tracks and maintain them? Who would maintain either electric buses or APM trains? 

Would these be additional burdens and costs to Metro? Are these costs factored into the proposed budget for the monorail? 

Alternative 3 is an underground monorail into the UCLA campus, but if the residents of Sherman Oaks and Bel Air worry that the subway will cause the earth to shake and collapse, then this alternative cannot have their support. 

Alternatives 4, 5 and 6 for the heavy rail subway all go directly into UCLA in one ride, no transfers. This is beneficial for transit riders, and isn’t mass transit supposed to be for transit riders, and not neighborhoods who do not take us into account for their alternative, or monorail fans? 

In the six alternatives, Nos. 1, 2 3 for monorail fall far short on passenger carrying capacity. 

According to Wikipedia the proposed passenger carrying capacity for the alternatives:

Monorail Alternatives

1.       64,798

2.       69,985

3.       86,013 

Heavy rail subway Alternatives

4.       120,546

5.       121,624

6.       107,096 

Travel time also favors heavy rail subway. The proposed monorail alternatives would take about 30 minutes from end-to-end, but is this time incorporating the needed transfer, and is it calculated with the shortest time between transfers or a median time? The heavy rail subway is to under 20 minutes for end-to-end. 

A heavy rail subway makes the most sense in passenger carrying capacity and travel times. And subways have proven to be long lasting in service and sturdy in natural calamities. It benefits the transit rider, and isn’t this for whom mass transit is built?

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native, a composer whose works have been performed nationally, and some can be found here.  He is the past President of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra and Marina del Rey Symphony. His dedication to transit issues is to help improve the transit riding experience for all, and to convince drivers to ride buses and trains to fight air pollution and global warming. He is an instructor at Emeritus/Santa Monica College and a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.)