The Rail Network
The extensive rail network in the Southern California region is a critical link in the supply chain that allows shippers the ability to move large volumes of goods over long distances at lower costs than other transportation methods. With over half of the international cargo arriving at the San Pedro Bay Ports utilizing rail, dramatic growth in port related traffic will be the most significant driver for increases in mainline and intermodal rail terminal capacity in the region.
The region’s desire for increased commuter rail will also be a major driver for capacity needs. Passenger traffic in the Southern California region from Metrolink and Amtrak is projected to grow by 60 percent to 100 percent by 2035 on some segments of the BNSF mainline.
Obviously significant improvements to the railroad system in Southern California will be required. Major segments of track will need to be double or triple tracked, flying junctions will need to be installed at various locations, and dozens of crossings will need to be grade separated.
With train traffic projected to nearly triple by 2035, significant improvements to rail terminal capacity will also be required, including the construction of on-dock and near-dock intermodal terminals.
Our region will undergo an impressive expansion of transit facilities and service over the next 25 years. The local county sales tax programs, most recently Measure R in Los Angeles County, are providing for most of this expansion in facilities and services. Los Angeles County will greatly expand its rail network, adding entire new corridors and lengthening existing ones by 2035.
Orange County will introduce its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services, greatly expand Metrolink service, and introduce new transit systems in Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Garden Grove. Riverside County will also introduce its first BRTs and introduce the Metrolink Perris Valley Line. San Bernardino County will introduce BRT service as well and the Redlands Rail.
This expansion of premium transit services beyond Los Angeles County is critical for attracting new riders to transit. While these capital projects will provide our region with a much more mature public transportation system, operational improvements and new transit programs and policies will also contribute greatly to attracting more trips to transit and away from single occupant vehicle travel.
Transit faces significant funding challenges to accomplish these capital improvement goals. While five of the six Counties in the region have passed or extended local option sales taxes dedicated to transportation within the last decade, state and federal revenues for transit have been diminishing. If they continue to diminish transit strategies in our region will need to be geared toward low cost incremental improvements, operational enhancements, and policies that increase access to transit rather than increasing transit service to appropriate levels and corridors to meet passenger demand.