Taking a step toward launching a Southern California commuter rail network that will link Ventura County to Los Angeles by the end of 1992, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has approved a $51-million purchase for the system’s first 40 commuter cars.
The purchase from the UTDC firm of Kingston, Canada, calls for delivery of the first 162-seat car in early 1992 and delivery of all 40 double-decker cars by July, 1992. The cars will be used primarily on runs from Los Angeles to San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
The projected commuter rail system would serve such far-flung points as San Bernardino, Riverside, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Fullerton and the San Fernando, Simi and Santa Clarita valleys with the lines basically radiating out of Los Angeles Union Station. The San Diego lines would be separate.
The Ventura County terminus for the system remains in doubt. Originally, Los Angeles planners thought the line through Glendale, the Burbank airport, Van Nuys, Chatsworth and Simi Valley would terminate at Moorpark. Ventura County authorities have been pressing for an Oxnard terminus.
A complicating factor is that Ventura is the only affected county in the network that does not have an extra half-cent on the sales tax devoted to transportation projects. This has made the other counties reluctant to deal with Ventura, or to include it fully in a planned regional commuter rail authority.
Ventura County Supervisor-elect Vicky Howard, who worked on establishing a commuter rail link in eastern Ventura County while serving as a transportation commissioner, said Thursday that she believes that the service will extend to Simi Valley.
However, Howard said that because county voters this month rejected the transportation tax ballot measure, the rail line will probably not include Moorpark as originally planned.
Howard said that Simi Valley may still have to come up with some funds to get the commuter service but that the city is committed to doing so. The city is trying to identify a possible commuter station site.
“Yes, we will have it,” Howard said of the commuter service. “Measure A would have made it easier. But we’ll just have to be a little more creative.”
Ventura County’s relatively weak position of influence in the regional rail partnership was dramatized recently when transportation officials from Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties met in Santa Ana to discuss the regional authority.
They dealt with Ventura representatives only at the beginning of the meeting, when other matters were being discussed, leaving them out of the debate over how to form the regional authority.
This could leave Ventura County as the only Southland urban county without full participation in how the commuter system is to be run. However, officials say the regional network will definitely extend into Ventura County regardless of the actual degree of county involvement in planning.
In addition to the 40 cars that have now been purchased, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has an option to buy 40 more cars--20 to be used by San Diego transportation authorities and eight to provide service from Los Angeles to Santa Clarita.
Transportation authorities in Southern California have envisioned beginning the commuter service with four daily trains each way on each route out of Los Angeles. San Diego envisions commuter service to Oceanside.
The new rail service would be in addition to the two Los Angeles-Santa Barbara Amtrak trains that now run through Ventura County along with the Starlight. That would mean seven trains a day each way through the county, with the prospect of more later if there is sufficient patronage.
Times staff writer Carlos V. Lozano contributed to this story.