Making the best LA Metro plans

Jack Moreland

In 2026, LA Metro, Los Angeles County’s transit authority, will begin construction on a rapid transit line from Van Nuys to West Los Angeles through Sherman Oaks. The city has depended on cars for decades, but the region cannot sustain the endless expansion of car infrastructure. We need something more compact and scalable: rapid transit.

Although Valley transit is only part of this county-wide equation, the decisions made for this line will affect the 1.8 million people who call the region home, in addition to the thousands who commute across it every day. And the mode of transit — heavy rail or monorail — will impact city planning for decades, as whatever line is built will be extended to Los Angeles International Airport in the 2040s.

Two contractors have bid to construct the line. The first is Build Your Dreams Auto (BYD), which has proposed a monorail that would run in the middle of the 405 Freeway. BYD, a Chinese firm, has a poor track record; they built a low-quality bus rapid transit system in Albuquerque and provided Los Angeles with faulty electric buses.

Moreover, a mid-freeway monorail — besides requiring extensive, traffic-interrupting and practically impossible construction on the 405 — would be horrible, noisy and difficult for commuters. A similar line in South LA in the middle of the 105 Freeway is poorly used for this exact reason. The lower estimated cost, $6 billion, contrasted with the subway’s $10 billion price tag, buys an unreliable contractor, a longer trip time, years-long construction chaos and worse stop placement for the completed line.

The second company bidding for the job, however, is a much more promising option. Bechtel, an American engineering company, proposed an underground or partially elevated rail along Sepulveda Blvd. or Van Nuys Blvd.

The Sepulveda Blvd. route, with heavy rail above the street leading to a subway under the mountains and with a station directly under the University of California, Los Angeles, would be the best option. This would have the highest estimated ridership and provide an 18-minute end-to-end trip, according to an LA Metro report. The route would also allow easy extension to the airport and not overlap with the soon-to-be-built light rail on Van Nuys Boulevard.

If Metro chooses to hire BYD to build the monorail, it will be stuck with an unreliable headache for decades — a headache that will need to be extended south in just a few years, costing even more in maintenance in the long run. Don’t spare the expense, Metro. Just build the subway.