Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rush Hour: A Thing of the Past?

8/4/14 - Don't you hate sitting in rush hour traffic on the 405 and 101 freeways, spending hours a week staring at brake lights and bumpers? Wouldn't life be so much easier if there were a bus or train able to bypass all of that congestion? Up until recently, the San Fernando Valley was a “no fly zone” when it came to light rails, a form of public transportation designed in a such a way that, since it has its own system of rails, it doesn't have to deal with the gridlock on surrounding freeways. An article by Laura Nelson of the L.A. Times discusses Governor Jerry Brown's reversal of a bill that, since the early 1990s, has prevented the development of a light rail in the San Fernando Valley.

Although Brown's signature has overturned the so-called “Robbins Bill,” Nelson states that this is only the first step on a long road to the development of a Valley light rail. The Valley, which contains only two of Los Angeles' 80 commuter rail stations, needs something more than buses to lessen traffic and convince drivers to choose more environmentally-friendly transportation options. According to this article, officials are looking into the costs and level of difficulty that would be present in attempting to connect the Valley's already existing Orange Line bus system, which is very similar to a “light rail” with the Red Line and Gold Line of other areas.

The possibility of a light rail, while exciting, is also not likely to bear fruit for quite a while. For such an immense project to be undertaken, according to Nelson, over half of Metro's directors would need to agree to the request for a light rail. While the Orange Line was a clever way to get around the restrictions against light rails, its use of a separate road and avoidance of traffic congestion has attracted so many new customers that it is seen by many as “overcrowded and inefficient.”

A light rail, while beneficial to its users, could also have a dramatic impact on drivers of the 405 and 101 freeways. With a high speed, zero congestion transportation option available, many commuters may choose public transportation, thus reducing gridlock on the freeways. The light rail, now a possibility, may still take years to approve, and years more to develop. Thus, the best option at present, especially for those living in the San Fernando Valley, seems to be such transportation options as the Orange Line, which is about as close as we will get to a light rail at the moment.

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