By Noel T. Braymer
An issue which has been around for at least 24 years is the limited number of links, or connections to much of Southern California via Metrolink. Metrolink has 534 route miles, but lacks connections to many places in Southern California. A prime example of this in a part of just Los Angels County with lots of people and places to go to which is hard to get to by Metrolink is the Western San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. There is the problem of lack of railroad tracks which parallel the I-405 Freeway in this area. This makes it difficult for passengers from Orange, Riverside and south east Los Angeles Counties to use Metrolink or any form of public transportation outside multiple transfers of local transit buses to get to the Westside.
But there is a fairly modest solution to this problem: dedicated bus connections. What would work would be regular bus service that would connect with the Metrolink Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Station which is served by the Orange County and 91/Perris Valley Metrolink Lines. From the Metrolink station such a bus could take the 105 Freeway west to the LAX area, then north up the 405 to the San Fernando Valley, going up Van Nuys Blvd before heading east and terminating at Bob Hope Airport at Burbank. Along the way the bus would stop at LA Metro Light Rail and Busway stations as well as other Metrolink Stations. Good bus stops for this service would be the Willowbrook joint Blue and Green Station. The Green Line Imperial Highway Station with local bus and LAX shuttle connections. By 2023 a stop at the 96th street Light Rail and LAX People Mover station is likely. The Pico Blvd Expo Line station near the 405 freeway is another good stop. Westwood is a major activity center and local bus hub, by the 2024 it is also expected to be a stop for the Purple Line extension. In the San Fernando Valley this bus service would go up Van Nuys Blvd with a stop at the Van Nuys Blvd Orange Line Busway station and the Metrolink/ Amtrak Van Nuys Station. From there the bus would head east to Bob Hope Airport to serve the airport and connect passengers at the existing Metrolink Ventura Line station and the future Antelope Line station which should be under construction in 2017.
Would anyone take this bus from Burbank to get to Norwalk? That is doubtful. But this will allow not just connections between Metrolink and LA Metro transit. But also connections between LA Metro transit lines, local bus service and even riders just going from one stop to another on this proposed service. The multiple markets will insure heavy ridership. Such a connecting bus service would serve 4 Metrolink stations, connect to 4 LA Metro rail transit lines and the Orange Line busway. Plus this service would allow for connections between the 4 rail transit and the Orange busway lines. This will also create rapid bus service on the I-405 along the Westside to Westwood, West Los Angeles, and the LAX area. This will also open up most of the Westside of Los Angeles to transit connections to the rest of Los Angeles County.
Another area that could use better connections on Metrolink is between the Inland Empire of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to southern Orange and San Diego Counties. During the work week there are 8 roundtrip Metrolink trains between Riverside and Irvine, Two of these trains serve Oceanside in northern San Diego County and 4 of these trains go to San Bernardino, On the weekends there are only 2 round trips a day on the Inland Empire/ Orange County Metrolink line.
What can be done to change this? The solution is fairly simple and inexpensive. First, extend the two round trips to and from Oceanside all the way to San Diego during the work week. With new double track already in place and more soon to be built this will be easy to do. Metrolink in the recent past already has an agreement to extend some service to San Diego using the same stations as San Diego County’s Coaster trains in the future.
For the 6 other weekday round trip Inland Empire/Orange County trains the best solution is connecting these trains with a transfer point at the Irvine station with Pacific Surfliner trains for connections to and from San Diego County. This can be done as part of the Rail 2 Rail program which Amtrak accepts certain Metrolink tickets and get reimbursed by Metrolink. This could be used for connections with the 6 other Inland Empire/Orange County trains to provide San Diego/ Inland Empire service. For the weekends Metrolink should add additional trains on this route to San Diego. The combined population of San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego Counties is over 7 million people. This a major, yet ignored regional rail travel market.