LA MTA Orange Line busway a smashingly popular successs
- Published Monday, October 29, 2006, by the Los Angeles Daily News
Orange Line hastens mass-transit embrace
By Rachel Uranga
NORTH HOLLYWOOD -- On a recent morning, commuters packed a busy
Orange Line hub, some with skateboards tucked under their arms,
others with children in tow.
While the scene may be common in Chicago or New York, where riding
mass transit is second nature, it was an extraordinary sight in the
San Fernando Valley -- especially on a Sunday morning.
"I love (riding the bus) because it relieves me of stress of driving
downtown, and I don't have to worry about parking," said Jeanne
Polak-Recht, a retired educator who's able to transfer from the
busway to the Red Line subway for a trip over the hill. "It's a
And the idea of a bus that works like a train on wheels has been
the real selling point during the Orange Line's inaugural year.
"What we have tried to prove in the case of the Orange Line is if
it walks like a train and talks like a train but has rubber tires,
people will still respond to it like it's a train," said Supervisor
Zev Yaroslavsky, a member of the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority board and an early busway proponent.
The $330 million bus line sees more riders each weekday than the
3-year-old Gold Line, a light-rail system between Pasadena and
downtown that was built at more than double the cost.
The initial route has been so successful that MTA officials are
planning for a six-mile extension of the western terminus to the
Metrolink station in Chatsworth, which would provide the first-ever
link between Metrolink and the Red Line.
The Orange Line's speed, cleanliness and reliability have proven a
boon, not only to longtime users of mass transit, but to those like
Polak-Recht who otherwise wouldn't ride the bus.
"In the industry, everyone is happy it performed so well and that it
has performed so rail-like," said Dennis Hinebaugh, director of the
Bus Rapid Transit Institute at the University of South Florida in
Tampa, a national clearinghouse on mass transit. "The dollars aren't
there to build light-rail systems. And if you can build a half-dozen
bus/rapid-transit systems in your community instead of one light-
rail transit, you can serve a whole region instead of a whole
The nation's first busway debuted in the Los Angeles area back in
1974, when the El Monte busway zoomed past lines of bumper-to-bumper
traffic on the San Bernadino Freeway. Two years later, officials
converted the bus-only route to a car-pool lane, which today is used
by about 1,400 cars and buses each hour.
Many in the transit world now foresee busways as the wave of the
future. The Federal Transportation Authority has set aside millions
of dollars to fund busway projects in Las Vegas and Eugene, Ore.
The Orange Line was built along a former rail line, connecting
Warner Center, one of the region's largest job centers, and the
subway system in North Hollywood. Traveling the 14-mile length of
the route takes an average of 40 minutes -- longer than a subway
trip would take, but much shorter than traveling surface streets or
even the freeway during rush hour.
Taft High School student Aja Washington, 16, used to take three
buses to travel from her home in Van Nuys to the Woodland Hills
campus, a trek that could take two hours if she missed her
connection. With a ride on a Rapid bus and the Orange Line, her
one-way travel time has been cut by more than half.
"I am impressed with it ... You can get anywhere quick."
rachel.uranga@... (818) 713-3741