HomeLettersA ‘Streetcar’ More Desirable?

A ‘Streetcar’ More Desirable?

Burbank’s commuter rail station could be reduced in utility by other transportation systems yet-to-be constructed and serving other communities. In 2021, Los Angeles officials began consideration of an above-ground monorail or an underground subway following the present-day 405 Freeway. In mid-2022, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a new master plan for its infamous namesake river.

Bordering south Burbank, the L.A. River exists in its present form because of societal values shaped by pre-2024 technologies and governance regimes that moderated construction of Burbankers’ imaginaries of desirable, or resisted, techno-environmental futures. The future essentialism of the master plan currently in vogue stresses some river “re-naturalization.” Citizen attempts to suggest a different path of development have usually terminated in failure because their efforts depended on the goodwill of politicians and their bureaucrat support group, which form a small, organized and elitist cadre, often cursed by outdated tunnel-vision thinking.

The Preliminary Hydrology Study, Butterfly Gardens, prepared by KHR Associates (March 6, 2023) gives some pertinent clues for another possibility: A subterranean electric tram service built beneath the natural bed of the Los Angeles River from an invisible underground station located in the vicinity of Warner Bros Studios and/or the Disney Animation Studio that connects the city of Burbank with a station at Van Nuys Boulevard. Powered by electricity sold by a geothermal installation at Lake and Olive, it would be a utility made by those with a view to the future of Burbank.

Tunneling through a maze of infrastructure is obviated and “Yesterday’s Hypo-loop” — the Pacific Electric Railway — is made available once again for a Burbank-San Fernando Valley Inter-Urban scheduled service that is almost inviolate physically, from earthquakes, flooding, smog alerts, brush fires, perhaps even terrorist attack.

Richard B. Cathcart


First published in the December 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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