By Steve Scauzillo, April 2, 2014
Passengers enter the Metrolink 383 express train from Covina station early Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Metro and Metrolink are working on a plan to add four miles of double track in La Verne and San Dimas to run an additional San Bernardino to Los Angeles express train.
Metrolink passengers traveling from the Inland Empire to downtown Los Angeles may soon be riding faster and more direct express trains, according to top transportation officials.
A second, third and even a fourth express train serving passengers boarding in San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga and Covina are in the works, said Mitch Alderman, director of transit and rail for San Bernardino Associated Governments, or SanBAG.
SanBAG and its L.A. County partner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, have just completed a feasibility study on adding capacity to the busy San Bernardino line. A report on the project will be released this month or next, he said.
The project will involve double-tracking portions of the line between San Bernardino and Rialto and between San Dimas and La Verne, effectively adding four miles of extra track and bringing the total of double tracking on the line to 12 miles, said Jay Fuhrman, transportation planning manager for Metro.
Though in the preliminary stages, the total cost for the project is approximately $126 million, split between SanBAG and Metro.
“When you put in double track in key areas, it allows you to increase your throughput and you can add more express trains and run faster express trains,” Fuhrman explained. “It is exciting, once we get the funding up.”
Funding for the project is not yet available, he said. The goal of the two agencies is to present an attractive project for federal, state or local funding by next year or sooner.
An environmental review will begin this summer at a cost of about $700,000, Alderman said. The project is at least two years away from beginning of construction, officials said.
“We could get environmental clearance in a year and build it in a year’s time,” Alderman said. “Railroads can be quick. It is the funding that is a different issue.”
The San Bernardino-to-L.A. Metrolink line has 12,000 boardings every day, making it the busiest line in the 21-year-old system, Alderman said. An express train leaves San Bernardino at 5:40 a.m., Rancho Cucamonga at 5:53 a.m. and Covina at 6:14 a.m. Those are the only three stops before reaching L.A.’s Union Station. An evening express leaves Union Station at 5:15 p.m.
The express train saves each commuter 45 minutes each way, or 90 minutes round-trip per day, said Metrolink and SanBAG officials. The other trains stop at all the stations and take 1 hour 50 minutes from San Bernardino to L.A., compared with 1 hour 5 minutes on the express train, officials said.
Many riders have requested more express trains in order to save commuting time.
Jeff Jabbour, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga was crammed into the morning express train Wednesday with about 600 others. The train was standing room only from Rancho to Union Station.
By taking the express trains both ways weekdays, he saves about 40 minutes a day, since he only rides from Rancho Cucamonga to Union Station and back and not all the way to San Bernardino.
“That is 40 minutes a day. That is like a gym session or a dinner,” he said. “There are a lot of things you can do in 40 minutes.”
Roy Alexander drives down the Cajon Pass from his home in Oak Hills and boards the express train in the pre-dawn hours at the San Bernardino Metrolink Station. He says getting to his job earlier in the morning makes his bosses happy.
“I work for a multinational corporation,” he said, as the train chugged into Union Station on Wednesday. “We already have people up and working. So me getting into the office as early as possible makes it easier for me to work with other people in other countries, such as the Philippines and Honduras.”
Those who lined up at the Covina Metrolink Station before sunrise tried to find a seat on the express train. Many were awakened by the idea of a second express train.
Gloria Wong of Covina said it is difficult to get a seat. Adding another express train will cut down her commute and give her a sense of security.
“When you get on, the seat you have is the seat you have all the way to Union. You don’t have to jockey for position,” she said, envisioning more room on the faster train.
“Yes, sure. People have been asking for it. If they can swing it, great.”