It's another missing link in the region's transit system: hooking up Dodger Stadium with the growing regional rail network.

Now, with the construction of the $700 million Blue Line to Pasadena and the building of a new train station less than a mile away from Chavez Ravine, the idea of launching shuttle bus service to ferry Dodger fans to and from the Blue Line is receiving renewed attention. Incoming L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes, in whose district Dodger Stadium lies, says he wants to make setting up shuttle service from the new Chinatown station to the ballpark a top priority.

"For me, it makes all the sense in the world to have that link, and it would be a driving force for people to use the Blue Line," Reyes said. "But it would also provide a center of activity so that people wouldn't just drive to the stadium and drive back. They might also decide to eat and shop in Chinatown."

Just as important, proponents say, is linking Dodger Stadium to broader rail networks throughout Southern California, approximating Wrigley Field in Chicago or Fenway Park in Boston. With this one-mile bus link, Dodger fans could travel by rail from the San Fernando Valley, Long Beach, and even as far away as Ontario (via Metrolink to Union Station). In so doing, they would avoid the congestion in and around the stadium that prompts many fans to arrive late and leave early.

But there are some obstacles, chiefly the ability to come up with the $250,000 a year to operate the buses and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars more to buy new shuttle buses.

As envisioned by Reyes and other proponents, the service would be similar to systems already running at Universal City and from the Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport. Eight to 10 buses would shuttle people at five-to-10-minute intervals from the Chinatown station which is being built next to the now-closed landmark Little Joe's restaurant up the hill to the ballpark. Passengers would be dropped off a short walk from the ticket gates.

The buses most likely would be L.A. city DASH vehicles or their equivalent, holding up to 45 passengers each. The service itself could be running within a year after the Blue Line to Pasadena begins operation in the summer of 2003.

Each of the public-sector agencies involved the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line Construction Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the City of L.A.'s Department of Transportation, which operates the DASH shuttle system say it's a great idea, but someone else must come up with the funds.

Only the Los Angeles Dodgers, who actually stand to gain additional revenues, have expressed any interest in funding the project. Yet spokesman Derrick Hall cautions that there must be a "negotiated agreement in which all parties contribute."

The idea of a shuttle bus link between Chinatown and Dodger Stadium has been around since the early 1990s, when plans for the Blue Line to Pasadena were first put on the table. But at that time, funding and plans for the Pasadena line were up in the air, so the MTA and Dodgers decided to wait.

A train station at Dodger Stadium was ruled out because of the expense involved in routing a train to Chavez Ravine. To avoid disrupting traffic flows in and out of the stadium, the train would have had to be elevated.

Now, with the Chinatown stretch of the Blue Line under construction, Reyes wants to push ahead.

Yet even if the funding issues are solved, there remain some concerns about the service. One is the prospect of having to wait twice for transfers once from Union Station to the new Pasadena Blue Line and again at the Chinatown station for the bus.

"People want convenient access wherever they are going," said James Okazaki, assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. "I'm not sure that many people would want to wait around twice at transfer points just to get to a ballgame."

Okazaki said bus service to and from Union Station itself although a little farther away would be less daunting. "That could be done right now," assuming the funding is there, he said.

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