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The Weird 1991 Ban Denying The Valley Light Rail Has Been Overturned

The Orange Line (Photo by Chris via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The Valley could get its own light rail someday now that a bizarre state bill passed in 1991 banning light rail has been overturned today by Governor Brown.The new bill introduced by Van Nuys Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian will become law on January 1, LA Weekly reports. It replaces a previous ban on light rail along the old Southern Pacific rail right-of-way, which we currently know as the Orange Line.

The Orange Line is currently a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from North Hollywood to Chatsworth that’s been operational since 2005. This new bill would give the Valley the option to seek funding to turn this into a light rail line instead, which could make the trip quicker and allow more people to hop on the already-crowded line.

However, just because light rail will be an option in the Valley, doesn’t mean it will actually happen. Funding would still have to be secured, and the Metro currently does not have any plans of the sort in their Long Range Transportation Plan.

Metro’s The Source says that 30,000 rides happen along the Orange Line each week, and the total travel time from beginning to end is 45 minutes. But would it be worth it to switch to light rail? From The Source's Steve Hymon:

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The key questions, however, remain unanswered: how many more people could a train carry? Would a train definitely be faster? (the Orange Line currently takes 55 minutes to travel between NoHo and Chatsworth and 45 minutes between NoHo and Warner Center during the morning rush hour.) What is the cost? Where would the funding come from? Assuming money is in limited supply, what’s more important — this or a transit project connecting the Westside and Valley? Discuss, please.

The idea of a light-rail was very controversial over 25 years ago. State Sen. Alan Robbins, under heavy pressure from his constituents in the Valley, vowed to pass a state bill in 1987 banning light rail from being constructed in North Hollywood and Van Nuys. Not all of his constituents were happy, and one wrote into the Times complaining, "Robbins seems to agree with the large car companies that a light rail would spread pollution and corruption among the more affluent neighborhood of Tarzana."