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LA MTA Orange Line busway a smashingly popular successs

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  • 10/29 Los Angeles Daily
    Published Monday, October 29, 2006, by the Los Angeles Daily News Orange Line hastens mass-transit embrace By Rachel Uranga Staff Writer NORTH HOLLYWOOD -- On
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2006
      Published Monday, October 29, 2006, by the Los Angeles Daily News

      Orange Line hastens mass-transit embrace

      By Rachel Uranga
      Staff Writer

      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
      substitute subway."

      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
      corridor."

      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
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