By Noel T. Braymer
With funding from Measure M, LA Metro and SCAG have begun the effort to plan the extension of the Green Line which terminates now at the west edge of Norwalk 2.8 miles east to the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs Metrolink Station. There were plans in the 1990’s to extend the Green Line in a subway to the Metrolink station. But because of cost overruns and tunneling problems with the Red Line construction in the 90’s, future subway construction was banned and money to extend the Green Line dried up. One of the problems with trying to extend the Green Line in Norwalk has been the lack of local support for this project. Norwalk residents opposed surface construction on busy Imperial Highway which is the most direct route. Local residents questioned the benefits of Green Line service in a subway with no stations between the Metrolink station and the Norwalk Green Line terminal.
There is a great deal of interest for a Metrolink /Green Line connection to serve LAX in Orange County and the Inland Empire which both have Metrolink trains that stop at the Norwalk/Santa Fe station.The need for Green Line service at the nearby Metrolink station will increase with plans to make the Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs station a stop for future High Speed Rail service. Current plans with Measure M funding calls for completion of the Green Line extension to Metrolink by 2052. There is hope that creative financing will allow construction to start sooner. Yet even without High Speed Rail service there is a major potential market for Metrolink with connecting service to LAX, the South Bay and West Los Angeles. A simple interim solution would to run connecting bus service from the Metrolink station to LAX, the South Bay and West Los Angeles. This would have limited capital costs and could be running in a year or two, not decades. Bus service wouldn’t replace the Green Line extension, but would provide interim service and stimulate a market for the future rail connection. Such buses could take advantage of the HOV lanes on the Century Freeway between LAX and Norwalk.
While we wait for the Green Line to be extended, there are other markets that would benefit Metrolink with feeder buses. There are plans to build Light Rail service along Van Nuys Blvd in the San Fernando Valley and later extend it to Westwood and after that to LAX. This is in the 405 freeway corridor which is often congested. There are plans to run rapid bus service on new bus lanes on the 405 in the meantime as far as Westwood from the San Fernando Valley by 2026. Some connecting express bus service could be added between LAX and Westwood to the San Fernando Valley years before the new bus lanes are finished over the Sepulveda Pass.
Metrolink rail service is largely focused on rush hour travel. With this there are gaps in Metrolink service in the middle of the day and at night and weekends. Also some trains don’t travel the entire route on their line. Feeder buses to trains are not new and have been very successful connecting to the 3 California supported Amtrak trains in the State. Metrolink can do the same on a smaller scale. This will increase ridership and make riding Metrolink more convenient. Here are a few examples.
The Ventura County Line has limited service much of the day and not all trains run to the end of the line. Adding buses to fill in the gaps will allow more people to use the train. This might mean catching the train in one direction and a connecting bus to a train to get back to the station where the person caught the first train.
The recently opened Metrolink service to Perris on the 91/Perris Valley line in Riverside County has very limited and slow bus service to the south. Buses could be run extended on the 15 freeway for faster connections to the area around Temecula in southern Riverside County and to San Diego County. Such service should also allow for connections to transit in both counties. At Riverside buses could connect passengers to San Bernardino as well as Banning and Palm Springs. This should be in addition to LOSSAN’s rail service to Palm Springs from Los Angeles planned in the near future.
In Orange County there are some Metrolink trains that go no further than Fullerton or south of Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo. A major reason for this is track capacity problems which limit the number of trains that can run between Los Angeles and Fullerton or south of southern Orange County. Connecting buses with station stops to these trains north of Fullerton to Los Angeles and in southern Orange County to Oceanside would add ridership to these trains and make travel more convenient with more service to more places.
Getting back to the Green Line connecting to Metrolink: one idea to increase local support in Norwalk for extending the Green Line is to add one station between the current Green Line terminus and the Metrolink Station in downtown Norwalk. SCAG is looking at this which would also entail some street level running which would also mean a slightly longer route by avoiding Imperial Highway. This would cost less than a 2.8 mile long tunnel. Like any major projects it will not be possible to please everyone, and just the planning to build anything will take years. Bus service however once approved could be running in a year or two if the desire and funding is found to do it. Running such bus service will make travel in the region easier to west Los Angeles County. It will also attract more passengers to Metrolink and reduce divert auto traffic off many miles of freeway at the same time.