In the wake of declining bus ridership numbers and continuously present congestion along Interstate 405, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is interested in reviving an idea that was largely abandoned by city planners in the ’80s: monorail.
The Los Angles Times reports:
Los Angeles County voters in November approved Measure M, a sales tax increase expected to raise $120 billion over the first four decades of assessment to help pay for transportation projects, including a possible rail line through the Sepulveda Pass.
Metro has not started the so-called “alternatives analysis” for the project, which will include a more detailed examination of several options for connecting the Valley to the Westside.
Monorail has been considered for Metro projects before; the agency considered it as one way to connect Koreatown to Mid-Wilshire, but instead opted for the heavy-rail subway that is now being built.
Planners originally pitched a monorail proposal that would have cost $539 million in 1960. They wanted to create about 70 miles of rail, most of it elevated. But opposition whittled the plan down over the years, and it was scrapped in the 1980s. One of the project’s main advocates was late author Ray Bradbury, according to the Times.
In a 2006 article for the paper, he wrote:
Compared to the heavy elevateds of the past, the monorail is virtually soundless. Anyone who has ridden the Disneyland or Seattle monorails knows how quietly they move. They also have been virtually accident-free. The history of the monorail shows few collisions or fatalities. If we constructed monorails running north and south on Vermont, Western, Crenshaw and Broadway, and similar lines running east and west on Washington, Pico, Wilshire, Santa Monica and Sunset, we would have provided a proper cross section of transportation, allowing people to move anywhere in our city at any time.
Garcetti recently praised a new monorail system built in China by Chinese electric car and bus company BYD Motors.
“With a small footprint, with electric motors, safety for both earthquakes and access, it could be on the table,” he said. “So we will try and take an expedition over there to China and check it out.”
As Next City’s Josh Cohen wrote earlier this month, L.A. Metro has been focused on its rail system of late, “investing billions in new lines and extensions, leading to a 4.2 percent bump in subway and light rail ridership last year (and a whopping 20 percent increase from 2009 to 2016).” Its bus system has been falling through the cracks, though, with annual bus ridership dropping 18 percent from 2009 to 2016. The agency is currently taking a hard look at how to make those systems more complementary.
Plans to resurrect Los Angeles’ downtown streetcar have also been moving steadily forward. In November, the Los Angeles City Council signed off on the streetcar’s route and certified the project’s environmental impact report.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.