LA Daily News: Time to Get San Fernando Valley Mass-Transit Needs on Track

Shoppers stream into REI during the Sept. 18 grand opening of the store in the new Village at Westfield Topanga mall in Woodland Hills.

By The Editorial Board, LA Daily News

The San Fernando Valley’s effort to win its fair share of the next round of public transportation project funding will really rev up in October.

As we speak, bills on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk include Sen. Kevin de Leon’s SB 767, which will authorize Los Angeles County Metro to pursue a transit-funding measure for the November 2016 ballot. At an Oct. 22 meeting, the Metro board will take an important step in shaping that potential sales-tax proposal, called Measure R2. On Oct. 26, the Valley Economic Alliance, Valley Industry and Commerce Association and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, will host a transportation summit at Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where speakers will talk about “meeting the Valley’s transportation needs.”

It may be months before plans to go ahead with the ballot measure, and what specifically it would call for, are made official. But it’s not too soon for people who live and work in the Valley get involved and speak up for what the area needs.

Public officials will listen. Such a measure would require two-thirds approval to pass, and resistance from Valley voters could be its undoing.

Business leaders and politicians here are already on the case. They’re proposing specific projects to increase mass-transit service in the Valley, emphasizing safety, speed and higher passenger capacity. And they’re backing up those proposals with arguments for why the Valley should to be a focus of R2 funding and proposing specific projects.

The arguments are pretty simple: The Valley got rooked when projects paid for by the half-cent sales tax from 2008’s Measure R were distributed. As Daily News reporter Dana Bartholomew noted Sunday, the Valley makes up 15 percent of the county population and 23 percent of the county’s tax base but has received only 5 percent of currently budgeted Measure R projects (only two of 80 new rail stops).

As L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian said at the “State of the Valley” event put on by the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce last week: “The Valley has been largely excluded, but we have a chance to catch up.”

In communications with Metro leaders, the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments has put “high” priority on requests for $3.78 billion in projects that would include converting the east-west Orange Line busway to light rail, building a north-south light rail system along Van Nuys Boulevard, and a light-rail tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass connecting the Valley and West L.A.

Are those the right priorities? Should Cal State Northridge get rail service? It’s time to speak up.

If the numbers and politicians’ words don’t move you, just look at the changing Valley, and particularly the West Valley.

The opening of the Orange Line-adjacent Village at Westfield Topanga shopping and restaurant complex is the latest step in the densification of Warner Center. The Warner Center 2035 development plan calls for commercial space there to double and residential population to triple. The area is more and more the kind of “urban hub” around which modern cities are built, live-work-play centers that decrease automobile use. Now, what’s needed is an improved Orange Line to take people to and from it.

That’s just one example of why the Valley needs more transit service and must demand that this time we get what we pay for.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News