Summary: Our Council office failed to engage the community in public outreach about the North Valley Bus Rapid Transit, and most people didn’t even hear about the project until a route was chosen. I’m working with Metro board members to ensure the community voice gets heard, and both Roscoe and Nordhoff routes remain in consideration and receive a full traffic study moving forward.
Making Transit Decisions Together in the Northwest Valley
Our community deserves a 21st century transportation infrastructure. Most of the northwest Valley’s major streets were built to their current capacity by the early 1970’s, but the city’s population has grown by more than a million people since then. For far too long, the Valley’s transit needs have been overlooked, and we deserve better. We need new alternatives for people to move around our city, and that’s the spirit in which Metro’s North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor was started. I fought, along with so many of our fellow community members, to ensure that a new project serving CSUN and the northwest Valley would be included as a specific line item in Measure M so that we got our fair share. Now is the time to make sure this noble intention meets the community’s needs in practice. And to do that, we need to come together as a community and make this decision together.
A rude awakening
For many of our residents, the first time they heard about the new project was when Metro released its technical report proposing a fairly specific route along Nordhoff. This is not how it is supposed to work — a majority of the project will be operating within our City Council district, and thus it is the responsibility of the Council office to engage the community in the decision and provide opportunities for us to learn more information. That didn’t happen. Our Council office failed to provide the attention and vision needed for a project like this. Metro invited input and hosted a series of community meetings, but they were not well attended because nobody knew about them. Because of this information void, concerned residents have started speculating about the project and its implications.
What’s true and what’s not
I am personally excited by the idea of having better access to transit in our community. The most effective way to alleviate traffic is to provide alternatives that are fast, convenient, comfortable, and affordable. That’s why we need a rapid transit line to get people across the northwest Valley. For example, there are more than 50,000 students, faculty, and staff at CSUN, and according to the ridership models, about a quarter of the people riding this new line will be heading to the University. About half of those riders are current drivers that will be leaving their cars at home. That’s better for the environment and better for traffic.
The bus rapid transit will convert some of the lanes of traffic into bus-only lanes, and this has people concerned about the impact on car traffic. It’s important to do the math here — the bus rapid transit line is expected to carry more than 14,000 people per lane of traffic each day. That’s more than twice the number of cars that go down each lane on Nordhoff during a day. So while we will be giving up lanes of traffic — we’ll be gaining a very efficient alternative in that space.
Despite these advantages, people are concerned about the impact new transit could have on the character of our community. Some of these fears are based on things people have heard about state legislation called SB50 that would have taken away local authority over zoning in regions around transit, but that bill died in committee because of widespread opposition from community leaders around the state — including me and all the other 14 candidates for CD12’s City Council seat. Los Angeles maintains local control over its zoning.
As part of our own decision-making, Los Angeles has prioritized building affordable housing near transit and currently provides developers certain incentives for doing so. However, these Transit Oriented Communities cannot violate current zoning designations. Communities along the BRT routes in CD12 that currently have single family homes are zoned for single family homes only. Cartoonish images of a single family home sandwiched between two skyscrapers along the transit route are simply not realistic.
We need more information
Bus rapid transit (BRT) will take thousands of cars off the street. The exact number depends on how convenient the line is to where people live and work. That’s why it’s important to choose the best route.
Metro used some initial models to decide which routes would be most effective — they found that running the bus down Nordhoff could serve thousands of more people than routes along Roscoe. That’s really important information. But their analysis does not include local impacts on traffic or parking — that level of detail won’t come until the next stage. We need more information about the costs and benefits of different routes. That’s why I am calling on Metro to include routes along both Roscoe and Nordhoff in the next stage of the draft EIR and traffic study. This will also allow time for more robust public input, which I plan to spearhead as a City Council member.
Building a more livable city together
As a scientist, I value evidence and want to make sure that we are working with real information and not speculation and fears. But I am also a mom from the community. I chose to raise my kids here in the northwest Valley just like many of you did. So let’s get together with our facts and our concerns to figure out how to preserve what we love about our community and how to best add a valuable new transportation option that will make our community an even better place to live.
Loraine Lundquist is an an astrophysicist, a neighborhood advocate, and mom. She is currently running for Los Angeles City Council to represent the northwest San Fernando Valley. Find out more about her at http://LoraineForLA.com/