Backers of Decks, Subway, Light Rail Find Ammunition in Poll’s Results

Times Staff Writer

Elected officials and others involved in the debate over San Fernando Valley traffic problems agreed Tuesday that the results of a recent Los Angeles Times poll on transportation constitute a demand from the public for action.

But there is disagreement about what that action should be.

Many view the poll as an endorsement of light rail over a subway. But Los Angeles City Councilmen Mike Woo and Zev Yaroslavsky, both of whom favor a subway, interpreted the poll responses differently.

And Woo and Councilwoman Joy Picus said they will continue to oppose double-decking the Ventura Freeway in the Valley despite the poll results.


The results, published Sunday in The Times, showed that residents are so upset about traffic congestion that they are willing to embrace such politically sensitive proposals as double-decking the Ventura Freeway, restricting a freeway lane to car pools and buses and building a rail line through residential neighborhoods.

Higher Sales Tax

More than two-thirds of the 616 people interviewed in a systematic sampling of Valley opinion said they would ride a rail line, at least part of the time, and a large number said they are willing to pay a higher sales tax to build mass transit.

All elected officials and other activists interviewed about the poll said that the overall results, which showed 72% rating traffic congestion as serious and more than 80% favoring some type of rail line, confirmed their belief that Valley residents want action now and are not that concerned about details.


But most admitted surprise at the 41%-to-24% support for an upper deck on the Ventura freeway, with 35% not sure.

That result was hailed by Councilman Hal Bernson, chief proponent of a plan to build upper decks accommodating both a rail line and toll lanes for cars on the Ventura, Hollywood and San Diego freeways.

‘Begs the Question’

“It bolsters me because it shows that the public also perceives that we have to undertake these important projects,” said Bernson, who represents the northwest Valley.

But Woo and Picus, advocates of increased car pooling and public transit rather than freeway expansion, said they will continue to oppose upper decks for automobiles.

“It hurts the overall air quality by encouraging more cars, and an upper deck also begs the question of where to park all those cars,” Woo said.

Woo and Yaroslavsky were alone in interpreting the results as evidence of strong support for building a cross-Valley rail line tunneled under residential neighborhoods.

In the poll, 33% said they favored a light-rail trolley “even if it went through residential neighborhoods,” while 21% favored an extension of the downtown-to-North Hollywood Metro Rail subway across the Valley “even if it would cost substantially more to build.”


Another 15% wanted either the trolley or a subway.

“Considering that it was only a few months ago that we first proposed a subway in residential areas,” said Yaroslavsky, a probable mayoral candidate next spring, “I think that shows people are beginning to see that you can’t put these things next to people’s homes.”

“I don’t see the results as showing a significant bulge for light rail,” said Woo, who along with Yaroslavsky last month unsuccessfully tried to get the Council to demand that any rail line be tunneled.

They withdrew the motion when only a few council members appeared to support it.

Yaroslavsky also took a swipe at Mayor Tom Bradley, whose representative on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission joined last month in the unanimous vote to study both a subway and an above-ground trolley for the Valley.

“It’s not good enough to tell the Valley there isn’t enough money for a subway, as the mayor has been doing,” Yaroslavsky said.

William Bicker, Bradley’s transportation deputy, said the study of a cross-Valley trolley also was unanimously endorsed by the Council, adding, “The mayor’s position is that if a subway is doable and the Valley wants it, then we will support it.”

At the conclusion of the year-long study next October, the county Transportation Commission is scheduled to choose a route and a technology for a cross-Valley line.


Picus, who has been under strong pressure from Reseda and Woodland Hills constituents who live along a proposed light-rail route that largely parallels Chandler and Victory boulevards, said the poll “confirms my suspicion that there are other opinions out there than what I have been hearing.”

Picus said she will await the outcome of the county route study to determine what noise reduction measures will be needed to make a rail line “the good neighbor I think it can be.”