Letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, June 15, 1997
Portions of my original letter omitted from publication are highlighted in underlined italics.
On June 8, the Times Valley Edition published letters from Richard Stanger, executive director of the agency that operates Metrolink, and Supervisor Michael Antonovich, presenting contrasting views of how a cross-Valley rail line should proceed.
Stanger provides the historical perspective of the acquisition of the Burbank-Chandler right of way by the MTA's predecessor agency, the LACTC, from Southern Pacific. It should also be noted that the route that has been adopted for the Valley rail line -- on more than one vote by the MTA board -- is Burbank-Chandler.
Nevertheless, "Monorail Mike" continues to cite a 7-year-old referendum as justification for building rail down the center divider of the Ventura Freeway (the right-of-way to which the MTA does not own). In your Tuesday feature "On the Issue", he continues to cite that referendum, choosing to ignore facts that, if the public knew them, would make it clear that the MTA is on the right track (pun intended) with Burbank-Chandler.
Antonovich continues to compare rail down the freeway to a subway. It is obvious that whatever is built across the Valley will not be a subway ... in fact, the MTA board has voted to support any legislation that would undo the Robbins Law that would force the Chandler Blvd. segment between the North Hollywood Red Line station and Valley College to be underground. The MTA appears to have every intention of operating an at-grade, Blue Line-style, light rail system on Burbank-Chandler. (It should be noted that the supervisor, in his letter, himself acknowledges the cost-effectiveness of light rail.)
Antonovich has also proposed partnerships between the MTA and the private sector to build a light rail system. What he fails to mention is that the 1990 referendum he is so fond of quoting didn't include language to inform the voters that a rail system, built under such a partnership, might carry a fare structure higher than the bus system is is designed to unburden. The result: A rail system no one will ride. Compare this with a light rail system, built by the MTA, at grade along Burbank-Chandler, with a fare comparable to the rest of the Metro system.
Two other points: Station construction costs for Burbank-Chandler will be far less than those for a rail line down the freeway, since the latter is actually elevated across the Valley and passengers would have to be brought up to the rail and down to the street. And Metro Bus Line 420, which roughly parallels the Burbank-Chandler alignment in the east Valley, has sufficient ridership to warrant more than 100 trips in each direction every day ... and many of those riders will happily transfer to a faster, limited stop rail service that moves them between North Hollywood and the Van Nuys Civic Center in one-third or one-half the time.
If the supervisor is so convinced of his position, I suggest he place a new referendum on the ballot, fully disclosing facts such as the above, and then see what the voters have to say.