Do We Really Need a Gold Line to San Bernardino County? (Maybe)

Stretching the light rail deep into suburbia could be Metro’s next big project

Metro is banking on L.A. County voters passing Measure M, a November ballot initiative which would bump the sales tax rate up a half a percent—from the current 9% to 9.5%—to provide billions for transit and freeway projects (in 2039, the tax would go up to 1% to make up for a previous transit initiative expiring that year and would continue until voters reverse it). Many commuters are salivating over potential projects, like a light rail route through West Hollywood and rapid transit along the Sepulveda Pass. But one of the first project’s Measure M may pay for is another extension of the Gold Line, this time to Montclair in San Bernardino County, about 35 miles east of DTLA.

The reason the latest Gold Line extension is one of the first on the list—construction could begin in 2019—is that much of the line runs along an existing rail right-of-way and planning has been in the works for years. The extension would run over 12 miles and include stations in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Pomona, Claremont, and Montclair.

Aside from the critique of the line running along low-density communities, this latest extension (called Phase 2B by some officials) would run parallel to Metrolink’s San Bernardino line, a commuter service that already has stops in Pomona and Claremont. Commuter rail and light rail are different, though; the latter has more frequent service and offers cheaper tickets.

There are certainly positives to Phase 2B, which will cost about $1.2 billion and would get nearly all its money from Measure M. Aside from offering another alternative to the 10, 210, and 60 freeways, the extension would pass numerous colleges; Azusa Pacific University, Citrus College, Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Scripps College, the University of La Verne, Cal Poly Pomona, Claremont School of Theology, and Keck Graduate University are all near future stations. With all these universities, there are over 70,000 students and staffers who could benefit from Phase 2B.

Lots of green space will also be accessible with the extension, including the lovely Frank Bonelli Park in San Dimas (next to Raging Waters amusement park) and La Verne’s Marshall Canyon.

A video from the Gold Line Construction Authority—an independent authority that built the Gold Line extension to Azusa—touts the line’s accessibility to the Pomona Fairplex, which hosts the annual L.A. County Fair. Of course, Metrolink already goes there.

The Authority is wise enough to mention another benefit of the extension; refurbishing and developing the areas around the six stations, something that’s happened with other, currently-operating Metro rail stops.

What the video doesn’t mention is that part of getting County voters to pass Measure M is promising them a piece of the pie and, for San Gabriel Valley voters, Phase 2B does just that.