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San Fernando Valley Pushes Metro to Address Transit Needs

Built for industry and known for sprawl, the Valley has long preserved its suburban geography. Now that its population is close to 40 percent of the city of Los Angeles, area leaders are speaking up for mass transit.
September 20, 2015, 7am PDT | Elana Eden
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Many Valley residents feel that a 2008 county sales tax known as Measure R, which led to a major build-out of public transit across the Los Angeles area, overlooked the Valley's needs. Today, the area is desperate for two major projects: a partially-underground, double-decker tunnel that would relieve one of the most congested freeways in Los Angeles; and the conversion of a popular bus route, bursting at the seams with ridership still growing, to rail.

But due to Measure R's funding structure and to changes in city administration (a mayoral transition, for one), those projects are seriously lagging—leaving the Valley still lacking meaningful transportation options. Meanwhile, Valley advocates note, projects on the Westside are in full swing. As Metro gears up to propose another half-cent sales tax, known as Measure R2, Valley leaders see a chance to renew focus on the area’s pressing transportation needs.

One important voice in that effort is Richard Katz, a former member of the California State Assembly who has also served on the boards of Metro, Metrolink, and the High-Speed Rail Authority. As the new chair of the Valley Economic Alliance, he’s now working to ensure that when Metro budgets up to $40 billion for projects throughout the county, the Valley gets its fair share.

In The Planning Report, Katz identifies the Valley's top priorities for funding under Measure R2. Drawing on decades of past experience, he touches on the utility of public-private partnerships, adapting to high-speed rail and other changing technology, and why it would be in Metro’s best interest to take the Valley seriously:

"In order to get voters to vote for a countywide sales tax, they have to know there’s an overarching vision for an interconnected, interoperable system," he says. "I don’t think people countywide vote for small ball, because that’s mostly stuff done in other people’s neighborhoods."

Having worked on transportation throughout Southern California, Katz can neatly explain how supporting the Valley's goals will strengthen transportation efforts throughout L.A. County and the region:

"Unlike elected officials, [voters] don’t care what jurisdiction they’re in if they’re on San Fernando Road or Sepulveda Boulevard and aren’t going anywhere. They just want the problem solved."

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Published on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in The Planning Report
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