Mon, Jul

Metro Shortchanged the Valley with Elevated Trains Above Sepulveda Blvd


[This is the nineteenth article in a series examining whether Metro can be a trusted steward for the Sepulveda Pass Transit project.] 

SEPULVEDA PASS TRANSIT - The twelfth of my 20 questions to Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins asked: “How does Metro justify that they publicly stated multiple times that a monorail concept along the 405 freeway was impossible, yet today’s Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 employ this same route? In 2019, Bob Anderson of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association and Jeff Kalban of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council developed an alternate monorail concept along the 405 freeway that could be affordable and quicker to build and wasn’t elevated above Sepulveda Blvd for five miles in the Valley. They began presenting their alternate concept to elected officials and Metro. Metro told them multiple times that such a concept was impossible for improbable reasons that kept changing. Yet today Metro has a contract with LA SkyRail Express for three alternatives employing this concept. Metro and its Feasibility Study contractor Sepulveda Mobility Partners unprofessionally overlooked this obvious high-potential concept. At best, this demonstrates that the Feasibility Study was weak; at worst flawed.”

Metro’s answer ignored the actual question: “Since the beginning of the Feasibility Study in 2017, Metro has stated that monorail could be an option for this project. Monorail alternatives have been advanced to the environmental process for further study.”

The public first learned of Metro’s initial ideas for the Sepulveda Pass Transit project at June 2018 public meetings. Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys residents were shocked to see unfair concepts with heavy rail and monorail trains running elevated above Sepulveda Blvd in only the Valley. Metro had never talked with the Valley to learn our concerns. They never considered the neighborhoods damaged forever by elevated trains. Valley residents, organizations, and businesses complained to Metro and elected officials – but heard nothing back and waited for the next meetings.

At its January 2019 public meetings, Metro revealed four “refined” concepts – one with heavy-rail trains running above Sepulveda Blvd for 5 miles in only the Valley and another with monorail trains above Sepulveda. Metro had ignored the Valley’s concerns. On President’s Day 2019, my friend Jeff Kalban and I got together and created our own concept – a monorail along the 405 right-of way in both the Westside and Valley. Jeff’s an architect and I’m an engineer, and our concept seemed very feasible. It had the same stations as Metro’s concepts, all located east or west of the 405.

Our first presentation was to three Valley Council offices who immediately saw the advantages. We were then contacted by a monorail company called BYD that had been developing their own concept for two years – and learned our concepts were almost identical. By early 2021, we had presented our homegrown concept to almost 500 people at 40 meetings, including 225 people at our own July 2019 public meeting in Sherman Oaks. We presented to elected officials. We presented to Metro executive staff. The only discouraging words we heard were from Metro – not possible – won’t work.

Yet today, Metro’s Alternatives 1, 2, and 3 operate along the 405 and are in the running for final selection by Metro in 2025. The Valley is still stuck with the unwanted Alternative 4 and its elevated heavy rail trains above Sepulveda Blvd for five miles. And we’re doing exactly what we should do – fighting it and telling Metro to eliminate it from consideration. This makes you wonder where we might be today on the Sepulveda Pass Transit project if Metro had worked with the public and asked people what they liked and disliked before shoving concepts down our throat. A pathetically sad situation!

(Bob Anderson is a nuclear engineer with 50 years engineering and business development expertise in the aerospace and high-technology sectors. He is VP and Transportation Committee Chair of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. Contact him at [email protected].)