A Pair of Mass Transit Projects Could Shape Glendale Mobility

2019-04-11 | Glendale News-Press

April 12-- Apr. 12--Glendale's future is looking more mobile.

A pair of mass transit projects, both in the early planning stages, could make it easier for residents to get around -- and out of -- Glendale without ever having to get into a car.

By 2024, riders should be able to jump onto a $267-million, Los Angeles Metro-helmed Bus-Rapid Transit system, or BRT, connecting Pasadena and North Hollywood via Burbank and Glendale, according to project manager Scott Hartwell, who described the project as "light rail on rubber tires."

That effort could complement an electric-powered Glendale-Burbank regional streetcar, currently in a feasibility study, that would serve as a link between the city transit center and downtown area, according to the city's assistant director of community development, Bradley Calvert.

An update on both projects came before the City Council Tuesday, with officials weighing in on how they'd like to see the nascent projects develop, including their potential routes.

"We don't want everything going in the same direction," Hartwell said of the importance of considering both projects together.

According to Hartwell, a tentative line is planned to connect downtown Burbank to Glendale via Glenoaks Boulevard. Then there are some options. The line could hop onto the 134 Freeway for a brief stretch before getting off and feeding into Eagle Rock -- or head south on Central Avenue before continuing east on Broadway or Colorado streets.

Advantages of the freeway route would include "a faster travel time and, in addition to that, you would avoid some of the potential impacts that you would have operating on the street," Hartwell said. "The downside is you bypass all the destinations south of the 134," including the Americana at Brand, Glendale Galleria and the coming Armenian American Museum.

A proposed route for the streetcar would first connect the Larry Zarian Transportation to Lomita via Central, with Calvert calling it "probably the best opportunity to increase ridership."

Then, similar to the BRT, there are options to be weighed. One potential route, a loop, would head northbound along Central, cross the 134 and come back south on Brand Boulevard. A second alternative would place both the north and southbound lanes on Brand.

While the loop option would minimize disturbances to Brand, "it might not be a little less intuitive [to use] for riders," said Calvert, who previously worked on a streetcar line in Atlanta.

Eventually, the streetcar could be expanded to connect to Burbank, Calvert said.

Metro's BRT has secured funding through Measure M, a Los Angeles County voter-approved sales tax that supports transportation projects, and Senate Bill 1, the state's gas tax increase.

Meanwhile, the streetcar, still in an earlier phase than the bus system, has no definitive funding source yet, according to city staff.

"It is a very, very expensive project," City Manager Yasmin Beers said at the council meeting, pegging the cost at $25 to $28 million per mile. As currently envisioned, it would be nearly 5 miles long, Calvert said.

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he was aware of several Chinese companies interested in pursuing a public-private partnership, in which the company would design, build, operate and maintain the rail and in return take the revenues and any other funding.

Because those companies are looking for high ridership to justify their investment, "I think we need to look at the greatest ridership models ... for our financial success, but as well as serving the public," Najarian said.

Ridership levels of the BRT could reach 30,000 people per day by 2042, Hartwell said.

Najarian, vice-chair of Metrolink and a Los Angeles MTA board member, has said improving Glendale's mass transit options is one of his top priorities as mayor.

Another report on the streetcar is set to arrive in July, Calvert said.

This month, those overseeing the BRT will go before the Metro board to present their findings and ask for approval to go into the next phase -- environmental review.

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