Officials to study light-rail feasibility

Southland officials gathered Thursday and lauded a motion to start looking into the feasibility of converting Metro’s Orange Line bus system in the San Fernando Valley into light rail that could one day extend to the San Gabriel Valley, passing by Bob Hope Airport in Burbank along the way.

The motion, co-written by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, was approved by the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday. Krekorian spoke at the Orange Line stop in North Hollywood on Thursday and said the line gets about 30,000 riders per day and considers it a huge success, so far.

He pointed out, however, that out of the 80 Metro light-rail stops throughout Los Angeles County, only two of them are within the San Fernando Valley — home to two million people.

Implementing larger light-rail cars would also ensure even more people have access to public transit, Krekorian said.

“The Orange Line is an unbelievable success,” he said of the service that started in 2005. “But it’s so crowded now that it’s harder for more people to board.”

Metro staff will now start examining factors such as the cost and what kind of construction efforts would be needed for the Orange Line conversion.

Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian, a member of the MTA board of directors, said he’s seen the proof in the passenger count of the Orange Line, which runs from North Hollywood to Chatsworth, that Valley residents would benefit from a light-rail system.

“Residents of the Valley are due for a reward because they are taking transit,” Najarian said.

One of the stops Krekorian said he had in mind for the Orange Line expansion would be Bob Hope Airport.

The airfield will be getting another Metrolink stop to its north on San Fernando Road in January, so Antelope Valley residents can have better public access to the airport.

So, any kind of additional connectivity, such as the Orange Line, is a good thing, said airport spokesman Victor Gill.

Three years ago, Bob Hope Airport started offering free shuttle rides to Metro’s Red Line station in North Hollywood by request, so having light rail instead would be an improvement, he said.

“A real permanent schedule of service could supplant that,” Gill said.

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