Staff report on short- and long-term improvements to Orange Line

The Orange Line is Metro’s second-busiest bus line behind only the 720, the Rapid bus service along Wilshire Boulevard. With the Orange Line often crowded at peak hours, the Metro Board in July approved a motion asking Metro to investigate short-term fixes to speed up the Orange Line and add capacity, the feasibility of a possible bus rapid transit line between North Hollywood, Bob Hope Airport and the Gold Line in Pasadena and a possible conversion of the Orange Line to rail.

The above Metro staff report explains how the agency plans to go forward.

The gist of it: as for the question of rail conversion and extending bus rapid transit to Burbank and Pasadena, Metro plans to have those issues studied as part of an ongoing “mobility matrices” process. Yes, that’s a mouthful. In plain English, the matrices are evaluating potential transportation projects around Los Angeles County to see which should be included in an update of Metro’s long-range plan.

An update of Metro’s long-range plan, in turn, could be used to select projects to be funded by a possible ballot measure in 2016 that Metro is considering, as this report explains.

The matrixes are currently scheduled to be presented to the Metro Board in April.

The staff report also lists some possible immediate, short-term and long-term improvements that could be made to the Orange Line (see pages 3-4 of the staff report) and are in need of more study and/or work.

Among those: getting bus operators to maintain a more consistent speed to get more green lights, possibly extending peak hour service, possibly adding service between North Hollywood and Reseda stations, possibly increasing bus speeds across intersections from 10 mph to no more than 25 mph, possibly removing some seats on the bus to accommodate more bikes, studying whether buses longer than 60 feet can be used and investigating grade separation of some of the larger Orange Line intersections.

From the Department of From What It’s Worth: I spent the better part of a day in August riding and photographing the Orange Line. I think the bus is a very comfortable way of getting around, but it’s also obvious that the bus has mixed success hitting green lights consistently (some of the red lights did quickly turn green). Some pics I took on one ride between Sepulveda Station and Warner Center:

 

 

 

18 replies

  1. One thing that could help would be having all Orange Line buses run a complete circuit. Right now the interweaving of Chatsworth and Warner Center buses causes inconsistent eastbound headways, if one bus on a branch gets stuck in traffic for a few minutes while the other branch’s bus leaves on time, there may be bus bunching which only delays service further down as people cram about the first bus.

    I would suggest having all buses running Chatsworth-North Hollywood with a “Pumpkin Line” shortline from Canoga to Warner Center. If the Orange Line moves to a gated system like the rail lines, the Warner Center stop is also going to be problematic for fare enforcement. So it may be better to downgrade that service as a shuttle or circulator and keep all of the buses on the private right of way, which would also enable 80 foot buses to be used since they never go on public streets.

  2. This is great news. Now we have to spend all of this money to undo this bus line to now build it as a rail line which it should have been from the start. Just how much more would it have cost to have built it right as a rail line from the start? Political pressure stopped it then, will the same happen now? Funding should put this line ahead of the East LA extensions of the Gold Line. But it needs to compete with the Foothill extension phase III beyond Azusa and the South Bay Green Line Extension, The Purple Line to West LA and the Sylmar, Van Nuys, Westwood LAX heavy rail lines need to be funded separately.

  3. No mention of the most obvious solution to improve service? Get LADOT to give signal preemption on Orange Line. I know that’s out of Metro’s control since LADOT is the agency that controls the signals, but shouldn’t Metro make that a goal? Same thing on the Expo Line.

  4. Increasing the speed across intersections from 10 mph to 25 mph would be a small fix with tremendous benefit. The 10 mph was put in place near the opening of the Orange Line, but now the Valley has gotten acclimated with the bus line that the speed restriction should be lifted.

  5. Most obvious and easy fix: start platooning buses, two at a time. All the stops are made for that on the ROW. (Another reason to keep the Orange Line Noho to Chatsworth, and serve Canoga to Warner Center with an extra shuttle.) Do this during rush hour only, the rest of the day should be fine. Second option: give the buses signal pre-emption, and, if you really want to go hardcore about it, pass a law saying you can build railroad type gates on BRTs with their own exlcusive ROW. Buses will NEVER have to stop for a red light, and the Orange Line would truly be almost like a train line.

  6. Metro staff and some Orange Line drivers need to bend the Mayor’s ear about the signal preemption. He is a Metro Board member and has sway over LADOT. If he tells Seleta Reynolds, the LADOT GM (who serves at the Mayor’s pleasure), to make it happen without undue delay, it will happen. Maybe Seleta Reynolds needs to have an upper level staff member meet with MTA, on a weekly basis to help co-ordination between the 2 agencies.

    • I can’t wait to see how this removing seats for more bikes thing is going to work. The buses are way too narrow for that kind of thing.

      All these planned improvements are telling me that the Orange Line won’t be converted to rail for a looooong time because you don’t just throw money and resources at something you plan to dismantle in the foreseeable future.

  7. Why all of the sudden look at these short-term solutions just because we repealed the Robbins Law that forbade light rail (or anything but a subway)? Many of the short-term suggestions should’ve been implemented in the first year when the Orange Line’s deficiencies became obvious, we’ve progressed past repealing the Robbins Law so that we can forge ahead with light rail as the Orange Line hasn’t improved much as a bus modality.

    As for the busway grade separation suggestion, I’d like to see a cost comparison versus at-grade light rail conversion along with travel speed comparison, if the costs are similar, it’d be best to just go ahead with light rail conversion.

    • Hi Tony;

      I think that’s the purpose of the feasibility studies on the Orange Line and possible extension of BRT to Pasadena: to start generating some numbers to compare different options.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. The most effective, ZERO COST solution: signal priority.

    The reason we’ll never get it from LADOT: a “cars first” policy and mantra that persists to this day

  9. Grade separation was the key to a fast mass transit system, yet Metro didn’t plan ahead as usual because “it’s going to be too costly.” Lo and behold, we have all these problems today due to all of them being at-grade that’s going to cost more money to fix.

    Sometimes, it seems that Metro had it planned like this all along. Do it cheaply first so it looks like Metro is saving money, but in the long run, it ends up costing taxpayers more to fix, so it keeps their job secure because taxpayers will end up throwing more money at their bureaucracy.

    • As little as I think of Metro’s ‘planning’, the increasing ridership of this route probably caught them by surprise. It is not that close to an existing high traffic corridor (say, Ventura Bl). With the departure of downtown non-government jobs in the last 20 years I would have expected the Red – Orange through ridership to decline. Or has it? Is there evidence that the Orange line is now acting as the primary bridge between north – south bus routes? Or is it just our brainless population explosion driving demand?

  10. Metro needs to do all the following items in order increase bus speeds and capacity for the entire line.
    Grade Separation for every intersection
    85-foot long double-decker buses
    lengthen platforms
    put more tap card validators on platforms and inside the buses

  11. As a student rider, the red lights make a 15 min trip into a 30 min trip. The bus operators do not keep a constant speed making it hard to get to school on time. This route could be great but the red lights and low speed are a big problem especially for students that need to get to school and the buses like the 741 towards Northridge leaves students behind even though they are across the street making it inconvenient to ride with METRO.

    Drivers need to not leave ahead of schedule if they see the Orange line customers trying to cross the street to catch a ride towards school. This forces students to panic and cross red lights in order to catch a bus that always leaves 3 minutes ahead of schedule. Causing capacity problems for the following bus, making the next bus driver angry and causing student to become late (30min to an hour late).

    I have been keeping record (pictures) of this inconvenient bus ride towards school and hoping METRO helps keep there customers safer and on time.

    As a student we are asking for help and time consideration from the drivers.

  12. An interesting aspect of grade separation is if it would make a stronger argument for allowing buses longer than 60-feet since the danger from busy intersections would be removed.

    The limit to making more frequent service than 4-5 minutes apart is the intersection priority system. Grade separation would remove that impediment.

    All of the proposals would enhance service, which increases the ridership as Jarett Walker explains in this article:

    http://www.humantransit.org/2014/08/does-transit-infrastructure-have-ridership.html