It no doubt will take awhile before Southern California truly has a commuter rail network worthy of its needs. And even if such a system were in place for tomorrow’s rush hour, it still would take time to begin to break old habits.
But let’s take stock as 1990 draws to a close. The implementation of regional plans linking Los Angeles with surrounding counties suddenly is becoming the art of the possible. The Orange County Transportation Commission has taken its cue from rail proponents’ heady victories this year in state and local ballot measures, and is advancing the process with plans to expand on existing pilot commuter service. Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties are moving ahead, too, and other systems are planned, such as an Oceanside to San Diego line.
For commuters stuck on freeways, real alternatives are emerging. Orange County has been able to play a lead role because it had a commuter run in place, and because it anticipates proceeds for rail from Measure M, the half-cent county sales tax increase approved in November.
Eight new round trips will be added, and four new stations will be built, with separate plans for two more in Los Angeles County. Runs from Oceanside to Los Angeles and back, coupled with the round trips Amtrak operates between San Diego and Los Angeles, will mean that rush hour trains will be pulling out of some stations every 25 to 30 minutes.
That resembles service in more established systems around the country. For an area that came of age around the automobile, the train now promises relief from congestion.