A Sustainable Ending for the 710 Tunnel Debate – Let’s Build Light Rail for Everyone

The Orange Line is the proposed light rail line to be built instead of the 710 Connector Project.  Image by Carlos Vazquez
The Orange Line is the proposed light rail line to be built instead of the 710 Connector Project. The other lines are the same color as their name. Image by Carlos Vazquez

The never-ending debate over whether or not to “complete” SR-710 so that it connects with the 210 provides a  great opportunity to create a sustainable option for the 710 Tunnel.  Instead of a tunnel designed to move trucks and cars, we need to create a light rail alternative that connects the region’s biggest job centers with the poorest, transit dependent communities.  Yes, let’s build a light rail alternative between Long Beach and Pasadena!

This public transportation line will connect Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, East Los Angeles, City of Commerce, Maywood, Bell, South Gate, and Long Beach. This is a much needed North-South connector that can rival the Long Beach Blue line, one on the heaviest used light rail lines in the nation. This rail line will connect the Blue Line, Green Line, and East Los Angeles and Pasadena Gold Lines.  Moving around the region via transit would be much easier and more people would be attracted to our transit system.

This Long Beach/Pasadena North-South light rail line can connect to the San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange County Metro Link Lines.  In addition the rail line can also connect to the Anaheim and San Diego future high-speed stops, alleviating some of the pressure from Union Station.

A closer look at the Northeast part of the line.  Image by Carlos Velasquez
A closer look at the Northeast part of the line. Image by Carlos Velasquez

Los Angeles is not a centralized city.  It is a spread out city and our public transportation system should reflect the way it’s residents move around the region. It’s silly to tell people to come downtown for public transportation connections when most of LA County residents have never been there!  This is one of the failures in LA is that all the public transportation rail connections are at Union Station.

Instead of building a four-mile tunnel for cars at the cost of billions, we should build a light rail line regional light rail line to service more people at half the cost.

This will bring much need investment through public transportation through the poorest part of the Los Angeles County. It can position Alhambra, Monterey Park and City of Commerce in becoming regional jobs centers by providing regional public transportation because of their central location in Los Angeles County.

This rail line will service LA’s County’s Asian, Latino, and African=American communities and create a multi cultural transit line.

With the price of gas reaching four to five dollars, driving a car will no longer be a sustainable option fiscally or environmentally.  Let’s create a sustainable, pedestrian, bike friendly system that is also good for the environment.   Let’s scrap the car tunnel and create light rail for everyone instead.

  • Gonewest

    I am against the 710 tunnel but I would say the best argument for the 710 tunnel is to truck freight out of long beach without passing through downtown on the 5. It’s relief for other freeways. And while the tunnel is not the only way to solve the freight issue, a light rail proposal doesn’t seem to address it at all

  • Bob Davis

    I think the idea of running light rail from Pasadena to Long Beach has merit, but so do several other proposals. I live near Rosemead Blvd, and would like to see the present infrequent bus service replaced with a light rail line to the Long Beach-Seal Beach area, connecting with the Gold Line at East Pasadena, Metrolink in Rosemead, the Green Line in the Downey area, and the future service between Long Beach and Newport Beach (the Tan Line). But there are so many other proposed light rail lines, that most of these ideas are in the “I Should Live So Long” category, even for Southern Californians younger than I.

  • Why can’t we have both?

  • Of course we can have both. here’s my take on the matter, published in the LA Business Journal: http://tinyurl.com/26ym5ly. Heavy freight and light rail, plus a bicycle highway.

    There will be some other news coming out soon that addresses this very problem–a project that should make both the 710 and the 605 freeways redundant. It’s not my gig, so I’ll let the originator of the concept drop the story when he’s ready.

    And hey, the “Tan Line” was my wife’s name for a proposed heavy rail passenger line from Northridge to the ports, via the Sepulveda alignment. (Valley to the Beach, hah!)

  • James Rojas

    I don’t think in LA we will every solve the truck/port issue because there are some many national players. However we can build a light rail line. We should at least give the people impacted most the truck traffic a sustainable transportation option to regional mobility. They deserve it with all the pollution they put up with. I agree we need more north south regional connections.

  • Bob Davis

    One more thought–I presume the light rail line will go through South Pasadena in a tunnel much smaller than that required for a freeway. After all the uproar about the Gold Line going through that town, I can imagine the reaction to running another light rail line at grade level. One alternative would be to have it running along Fair Oaks, like the Pacific Electric did up until 1951.

  • Chris

    When the Regional Connector is built we will already have light rail between Long Beach and Pasadena without transferring. Let’s build rapid transit lines in areas that do not already have them, or in areas that aren’t heavily industrial like the 710 corridor.

  • And hey, the “Tan Line” was my wife’s name for a proposed heavy rail passenger line from Northridge to the ports, via the Sepulveda alignment.


    The “Tan Line” was my preferred name for a Sepulveda alignment too.

    But, if we are ready to join the modern world and go from naming mass transit after crayola primary colors to letters and numbers (or even proper names as in London), I am ready.

  • Bob Zwolinski

    Regardless of the transportation mode, something really needs to be done where the NB 710 comes to a screeching halt at the LA- Alhambra border at Valley Blvd. I think those folks living there for the last 3 generations have suffered enough with the status quo.
    And guess what… In 10 more years, it’s going to be 10-times worse as the region becomes more densely populated. And the next 10 years are going to fly by! Believe me!
    Although I am a transit enthusiast that moved from South Pasadena to Santa Monica over 20 years ago, I support the 710 tunnel to complete the over 50-year gap with the 210. I heavily fought against all other extension proposals back in the day. In my opinion, the tunnel is the best solution, albeit, a very expensive one…
    I am one of the biggest supporters of rail transit in this county. But is the ridership there to justify this newly proposed light rail line? If so, let’s build both the tunnel and the LRT!

  • TransitPlanner

    Southeast L.A. County definitely needs LRT, but the Blue/Gold Foothill interlining with the Downtown Connector will take care of Pasadena-Long Beach. Why not build LRT on the old PE Randolph Line through Huntington Park to Whittier ? It connects with the Blue Line just south of Downtown and would provide connections from this very dense part of L.A. County to the entire Metro Rail system.

  • Kevin

    Organizing everyone’s opinions on a light rail route, it seems like a loop transfer line is what’s needed to connect all the secondary destinations.
    The route could look like this: South Pasadena – Alhambra – Commerce – Huntington Park – Crenshaw – West Hollywood – Hollywood – Glendale – South Pasadena.

    This line would be more important than the Downtown Regional Connector once all major north-south and east-west rail lines are completed. LA’s version of the Yamanote Line.

  • James Rojas

    I grew up in East Los Angeles and my mother used to drive us down to Long Beach four to five times in the summer. At that time in the early 70’s the 710 freeway was almost empty so it was quite easy for my mother to drive a car load of screaming children to the beach. For the greater Eastside Long Beach is closer that Santa Monica. For many of the transit dependent folks on the eastside who actually do ride transit a 710 rail line would serve this community well connecting the recreational, educational, commercial, with some of most dense communities of LA County ie ELA, and Maywood. These communities are also have the worst air quality.

    The congestion at Valley and the 710 is not created by Alhambra residents trying to get to Pasadena but my regional trips. Therefore a 4 mile tunnel is not going to improve regional mobility it will just decrease traffic at this intersection.

  • BOBO

    It’s not an either or proposition. The private sector has shown a willingness to build and finance the 710 Tunnel with tolls. The tunnel would appear to be technically feasible, eliminates most of the culturual and environmental damage caused by a surface route, and reduces severe surface neighborhood congestion. We could also use tolls to begin to rebuild our aging rural interstates. This would free up billions for transit. Good transit and efficient roadways are both needed, if we want to compete in the real world, and have a healthy economy for our children.

  • Gonewest

    How exactly does a tunnel “eliminate” the pollution generated by 1500 cars per hour per lane? Unless the air is filtered prior to venting to the surface (is that the plan?) then all the carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, and other toxics are still there. If anything one supposes the pollution will be even more concentrated near the exhaust towers.



  • Bob Davis

    I’m not going to do the full argument here, but “monorail” (usually more accurately termed “monobeam”) is OK for amusement parks and connecting airports to real train stations, but for a number of reasons, it’s not appropriate for places where light rail makes a lot more sense.

  • Jason Herring

    Regarding freight out of the port via the 710, what about embarking this out-of-area-destined cargo on trains and move it to some truck offloading area outside of the greater LA traffic zones? I think there’s quite a bit of rail capacity via the Alameda corridor out of the port, but for years we’ve incentivized OTR trucking. Trains move more cargo for less fuel per mile (by far) than trucks, and are easier to regulate pollution controls on.

    There are many initiatives going on at the both ports (LA and LB) in an attempt to reduce pollution. Having fewer trucks in the congested port area/110/710/405 traffic zone would be a good move in this direction. Depending on how many ships are unloading, the 710 from the 47 to past the 405 can be completely stop-and-go with 80% of the traffic being big rigs, so the reduction in traffic is not inconsiderable, either.

    The tunnel would decrease pollution from the concept of fewer cars mangled in side-street traffic – the motors are running this entire time for relatively little progress in covering distance. I’m not sure how great the benefit in reduced pollution actually is, but it’s real, and I bet there is a study and complex formula you could apply to find out.