LA MTA Orange Line busway ridership surpasses all hopes
- Published Saturday, October 28, 2006, by the Los Angeles Daily News
Year-old Orange Line has the juice
20,000 daily rides surpass all hopes
By Rachel Uranga <rachel.uranga@...>
A year after the Orange Line debuted to great fanfare, the 14-mile
busway has become the MTA's workhorse, ferrying some 20,000
passengers daily across the San Fernando Valley.
The popularity of the "train on rubber wheels" and its comparatively
low cost have spurred Metropolitan Transportation Authority
officials to consider extending the Orange Line route northward from
Woodland Hills to Chatsworth and to replicate the busway in other
parts of Los Angeles.
"It's been so successful and so well-received, and it's inexpensive
and doesn't take long to build," said Los Angeles County Supervisor
Zev Yaroslavsky, a vocal and early proponent of the busway. "It
makes sense to look at other places to build on this success."
When officials first penciled out the future of the $350 million
busway, planners insisted it would take until 2020 to reach 22,000
daily riders in the car-dependent San Fernando Valley.
But ridership reached that goal within the first six months, a
benchmark that MTA officials attribute to soaring gas prices and
the busway's convenient connection to the Red Line subway.
"Ridership is up in the entire San Fernando Valley," said Michael
Brewer, the MTA's planning and schedule manager in the Valley. "By
opening the Orange Line, we are experiencing 20,000 more boardings
a day in the Valley."
Traditional and express bus lines that connect with the Orange Line
have seen ridership increase as well -- an 8 percent jump. Lines
that run parallel to or compete with the busway have recorded a 4
percent drop in riders.
Despite the popularity of the Orange Line and its nearly flawless
safety record, some early critics of the busway remain steadfast
in their opposition.
"It should have been built as a light rail," said Bart Reed,
executive director of The Transit Coalition, a grass-roots
organization that tackles mobility issues.
"It would have been faster -- 27 minutes from North Hollywood to
Warner Center. It would have carried a lot more people -- a three-
car train is the equivalent of six buses.
"And it would have been safer because the rail line would have been
separated from motorists by over- or underpasses or crossing gates,"
Those who live nearby also complain that the line is too noisy, that
cross-traffic backs up through their neighborhoods and that the
system itself is a general nuisance.
"We hear that bus all the time. It feels like it is just getting
louder," said Jill Haber, who lives 10 houses from the line in
Tarzana. "The noise on the bus overrides traffic. It's like this
wooshing sound all the time. And now we have major traffic issues.
It's not a matter (of) people going to the bus stop, but they are
avoiding the light at Corbin and Tampa and flying through our
Valley residents waited more than 20 years for an east-west transit
line, with officials weighing plans for a subway, a light-rail
system and even a monorail down the center of the Ventura Freeway.
After neighborhood opposition and a lack of funding killed more
ambitious plans, the MTA compromised by building the Orange Line --
its buses painted silver to resemble a subway car.
More than 40,000 people rode the Orange Line on Oct. 29, 2005,
waiting in hour-long lines for a chance to board the double-length,
articulated buses for the 40-minute ride across the Valley.
After a weekend of free rides, the busway began paid service on
Nov. 1, drawing nearly 11,000 boardings on its first day --
thrilling officials who'd expected half that number.
The busway's initial weeks were marred by a series of fender-
benders, all caused by motorists who ran red lights of the newly
configured traffic signals.
The MTA reacted quickly, spending $1.8 million to post additional
signals and signs and ordering bus drivers to slow to 10 mph through