BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 577
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          Date of Hearing:   January 13, 2014

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
                               Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
                   AB 577 (Nazarian) - As Amended:  January 6, 2014
           
          SUBJECT  :  Rail Construction: County of Los Angeles

           SUMMARY :  Repeals the prohibition on the construction of any  
          above-ground rail transit project from North Hollywood to  
          Hazeltine Avenue in the San Fernando Valley.  Specifically,  this  
          bill  :  

          1)Repeals the prohibition on the construction of any  
            above-ground rail transit project from North Hollywood to  
            Hazeltine Avenue in the San Fernando Valley.  

          2)Repeals a now-obsolete provision of law imposing certain  
            requirements on the construction phasing of a mass  
            transportation rail project between the San Fernando Valley  
            and downtown Los Angeles.  

           EXISTING LAW  :  Prohibits the construction of any above-ground  
          rail transit from North Hollywood to Hazeltine Avenue in the San  
          Fernando Valley.  

           FISCAL EFFECT :  None

           COMMENTS  :  In 1991, the Los Angeles County Transportation  
          Commission (now the Los Angeles County Metropolitan  
          Transportation Commission, or MTA) purchased the Southern  
          Pacific Burbank Branch, an abandoned commercial rail line, with  
          an eye toward expanding mass transit to the San Fernando Valley.  
           At the time, light rail was the preferred alternative for the  
          line, to which there was substantial community opposition along  
          a particular segment.  The area's large Orthodox Jewish  
          community was particularly vocal in its opposition, particularly  
          due to concerns about the safety of rail crossings for  
          pedestrians during the Sabbath.  In response to those concerns,  
          the Legislature passed AB 211 (Robbins, Chapter 72, Statutes of  
          1991), which prohibited the construction of any above-ground  
          rail transit project along the Burbank Branch right-of-way from  
          North Hollywood to Hazeltine Avenue.  AB 211 additionally  
          imposed certain requirements related to the phasing of  
          construction on a rail project between the San Fernando Valley  








                                                                  AB 577
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          and downtown Los Angeles.  This provision is now obsolete.  

          With light rail off the table, MTA moved forward with  
          construction of bus rapid transit along the Burbank Branch  
          route.  The route, known as the Orange Line, was completed in  
          2005.  Since then, ridership has drastically exceeded MTA's  
          initial estimate of an average of 16,000 riders on weekdays.  In  
          2012, the 14-mile Orange Line's average daily ridership was  
          31,787.  Riders report that buses are often so crowded at peak  
          hours that they have to wait for multiple buses to pass before  
          one arrives that has room for additional passengers.  There is  
          little way to expand the capacity of the route as long as it  
          remains a bus rapid transit line.  MTA built the Orange Line  
          with the capability to be converted into a light rail line in  
          the future, but is currently precluded from even considering  
          such a conversion due the prohibition in law on light rail along  
          a 3-5-mile section of the line.  

          AB 577 repeals the AB 211 prohibition on the construction of  
          light rail along a 3.5-mile section of the Orange Line, as well  
          as the now-obsolete provision related to construction phasing.   
          This bill does not specifically authorize the construction of  
          light rail, but rather frees MTA to consider it as a future  
          option for expanding transit capacity in the area.  

          According to the author, "Light rail transit is the most  
          economically efficient option, with significantly higher  
          ridership potential than buses and lower cost than underground  
          subways.  The Greater San Fernando Valley needs a rail sytem on  
          par with other parts of the region in order to transport a  
          larger number of riders quickly and cost-efficiently.  By  
          repealing the ban on light rail installation along the Orange  
          Line, AB 577 will allow the Valley to take the first step toward  
          a 21st century transit system and lead to greater connectivity  
          to the Red Line and other transportation lines throughout Los  
          Angeles and the San Fernando Valley."  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :  

           Support 
          
          Valley Industry and Commerce Association

           Opposition 
           








                                                                  AB 577
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          None on file
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :   Anya Lawler / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093