|Getting from the eastern end of the Green Line in Norwalk to the Norwalk / Santa Fe Springs Metrolink station is a roughly 4.5 km (three-mile) odyssey with low-quality transit options today. Image: Google Maps.|
|Oceanside is an aptly named and picturesque place with a pier and a walkable town center steps from the Metrolink station. This shot faces east from the pier.|
How would extending the Green Line work? The eastern end starts below grade (street level) so it would probably have to tunnel northeast under some single-family homes to get out to Imperial Highway, at which point it could run at grade or on a new aerial structure. Imperial Highway is pretty wide through here (six through lanes plus a center turn lane) so it could use a diet. The problem is money. Light rail ain't cheap, especially to the extent that it runs underground or on an elevated track. Those grade separations make the train faster and disrupt traffic less, but cost more to build and maintain. The surrounding area is pretty suburban (low density) as well, meaning the new segment probably wouldn't generate a lot of riders. I would put a station at Norwalk Blvd. and Imperial Highway to serve the Norwalk Civic Center, which has some County Offices, a movie theater, a strip mall cluster and some multifamily housing nearby and then a second station to connect with Metrolink one kilometer farther east. Another option would be to pay to improve the service frequency on the #4 bus. If this bus ran at the same frequency as the Green Line, the gap would still be annoying, but more tolerable. The short run cost would certainly be less than building light rail, which would cost at least several hundred million dollars. Another option would be to put Imperial Highway on a diet: go from six through lanes to four and add protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Cars would drive slower (safer), the road would put off less noise, and bikes would be able to put the road to use with less fear of death.
The tougher question is whether a Green Line extension is worth it compared to what else the money could buy. Maybe another transit line is more needed, maybe the funds should be put to some other public purpose, or maybe taxes should be lowered. That's the debate, and it's a debate worth having as LA County considers another transit sales tax measure this November.