New study focuses on Orange Line speed at intersections

Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

A new study commissioned by Metro has found that Orange Line buses could safely increase speeds across some intersections in the San Fernando Valley, potentially resulting in four minutes of time savings for riders between North Hollywood and Chatsworth and making bus trips up to 10 minutes faster than driving.

The study also concludes that the rate of accidents on the Orange Line is the same or lower than other bus lines. As a result, the study recommends that Orange Line buses could safely increase their speeds to 35 mph at the intersections.

The Metro Board last year asked Metro to investigate ways to speed up the Orange Line and add capacity. The new report — by the Iteris, a transportation consulting firm — was done as part of that effort.

The Orange Line opened in Oct. 2005 with the new busway built atop an old railroad right-of-way that Metro had purchased. But there were several accidents involving buses and vehicles shortly after the busway opened. Most were the result of cars running red lights or ignoring traffic signs.

In response, Metro ordered buses to slow to 10 miles per hour at intersections. That order has remained in place since.

One significant problem is that the timing of traffic signals was not adjusted to reflect that buses along the Orange Line were going slower. That has resulted in buses missing green lights and often failing to accelerate to reach the speed limits along the busway.

Two other recommendations in the study:

•Sight lines should be improved at some intersections so there is better visibility for bus operators, motorists and pedestrians.

•Metro should work with the city of L.A. to ensure that all buses used on the Orange Line busway have properly working transponders that communicate with the city’s traffic signal system.

The study was provided to the Metro Board this week. Buses will begin to increase speeds after immediate improvements are made — which are expected to take about 90 days.

The report also recommends long-term improvements such as red light photo enforcement and in-road warning lights at bus crossings that would bring the Orange Line up to Metro’s current design standards.

As for adding capacity on the Orange Line, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this year that would allow Metro to use longer double-articulated buses on the Orange Line that can carry more riders. Metro still must decide whether to purchase those buses.

32 replies

  1. These are all small band-aids, at best. A better solution is to put four-way crossing arms, bells and alarms at streets just as if this was a rail line.

    • That’s my sentiment as well. Buses carry a lot more people than cars. The faster ride and reliable timetable can only help improve ridership.

      • “Buses carry a lot more people than cars. The faster ride and reliable timetable can only help improve ridership.”

        The biggest factor that people keep missing out like it doesn’t matter is cost. People will never give up the car if a bus ride is more expensive going shorter distances than the car. No one is going to pay $3.50 one way just to use the bus to the neighborhood grocery store and that is what the major contributor to traffic jams today are: many people doing shorter trips with the car.

        Just look at how very few people are using the buses to go to the supermarkets in Koreatown and how so many people living nearby are still driving there. No one is going to spend $3.50 roundtrip to go buy a gallon of milk at their local Ralphs or Vons.

        If Metro wants to see ridership increase, their best bet is to drastically reduce the fares for those who do shorter trips (the majority of the Metro ridership base today do shorter trips) and jack up the fares for those who do longer trips (very few people do long trips on a bus).

      • @Paul C. I did my best to address this back in August in response to comments by you and “a different perspective”.

        “60% of Metro’s Local Bus riders who have annual household incomes under 15k use a pass of some kind, so they incur no marginal cost from taking a short trip. 31% of riders in this demographic also receive a discounted fare.”

        Matthew Kridler
        Metro Research

      • Paul C.

        Say someone with a car lives a 5 minute drive from a grocery store. They could walk 3-4 minutes to the local bus stop and then wait 5-6 minutes for the bus and then be on the bus for 7-8 minutes as it barrels down the street. And then repeat the whole thing on the way home while carrying bags of groceries on a crowded bus and then carrying them down the street from the bus stop to their home. So that is 40 minutes travel time with the bus vs. 10 minutes in the car plus not having to carry bags of groceries down the street and on a bus. You really think a dollar or two makes a big difference here and people are going to suddenly make this tradeoff to do a bunch of little errands? That isn’t the determinate.

  2. So many intersections that could be sped up. Like many intersections city-wide, the signals don’t do anything even if there is no cross traffic. Here’s one. The final intersection at the North Hollywood stop, Chandler and Tujunga. Almost always the buses get stopped there and there is absolutely NO cross traffic on Tujunga. The buses just sit at the red light with an empty street. It is so absurd. Same at many other intersections. Absolutely no cross traffic but the buses sit at red lights.

    • Hello, we can increase capacity right now by platooning buses. Stations are built for it. At least during rush hours

  3. “The Metro Board last year asked Metro to investigate ways to speed up the Orange Line and add capacity. The new report — by the Iteris, a transportation consulting firm — was done as part of that effort.”

    Spend taxes to come up with studies that point out the obvious.

    Why do we even pay taxes to run this inept agency? Metro can’t do anything right.

  4. “As for adding capacity on the Orange Line, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill earlier this year that would allow Metro to use longer double-articulated buses on the Orange Line that can carry more riders. Metro still must decide whether to purchase those buses.”

    Metro should think what can be done today with their existing buses instead of going on a spending spree to purchase new ones. Has anyone at Metro thought about reducing the number of seats on the buses and increasing standing room space? If you get rid of the seats, Metro can fit more passengers without the need of buying a whole new bus that adds to more taxes, the need to hire more bus drivers and additional maintenance costs.

    Buses in Seoul for example, have only one seat on each side and has a wider aisle space for standing only passengers. Seats should be kept to a minimum, reserved for the elderly, pregnant, and the disabled. Everyone else is healthy enough to stand for a few minutes for their short bus ride and it’ll make getting on and off the bus quicker.

    https://youtu.be/1f8D275EuN0

    Hasn’t anyone working for Metro ever visited Korea? They can learn so much if they just stopped for a second with their wild ideas and think what other cities like Korea is doing and why they run things so much better without resorting to things like higher fares or more taxes to run public transit.

    • presumably, those commuting in Korea would be taking much shorter trips. As you know Seoul is one of the most dense and populated metros in the world, much more conducive to short trips and overall bus ridership; unlike LA. I’m a young, healthy male and for me it’s really frustrating to be forced to stand aboard transit (especially jolting buses) for more than 20 minutes. Now imagine reducing the seating for an already exhausted and older population of bus riders (in LA) and have them travel from NoHo to Chatsworth… not gonna fly here. Additionally, the majority of Angelenos are already very reluctant to board a bus, reducing the seats isn’t going to entice anyone to an agency / operation looking to bolster ridership. In Korea, most people are already accustom to transit or have no choice, in LA, most people would still prefer to drive.

      The cost involved for butchering the fleet could better be spent on buying new buses and reallocating smaller capacity buses to other lines under pressure.

      • “presumably, those commuting in Korea would be taking much shorter trips.”

        As stated above by LAX Frequent Flyer, the average bus ride for Metro is only 3 miles. This is an irrefutable fact provided by the former CEO of Metro himself.

        “Now imagine reducing the seating for an already exhausted and older population of bus riders (in LA) and have them travel from NoHo to Chatsworth… not gonna fly here.”

        Do you have any proof to back up your theory that there are more people doing NoHo to Chatsworth trips as opposed to something more closer like Chatsworth to Pierce College?

    • Agreed. Plus, the average bus ride for a Metro rider is only 3 miles long.

      “Metro CEO Art Leahy noted that Metro’s average bus trip is three miles long, while its average rail trip is twelve miles”
      http://la.streetsblog.org/2015/03/30/apta-metro-review-raise-fares-consolidate-service-charge-for-parking/

      Three miles isn’t that long of a trip and certainly the vast majority of the public are healthy enough to stand for 3 miles of ride without needing a seat. I concur, seats should be kept to a bare minimum, first come first serve, and prioritized to only those that require assistance.

      Most other countries around the world with better transit systems, from New York to Tokyo have been doing the same thing for years anyway. There’s nothing strange about this concept that LA can’t do the same.

      • Yeah, but we’re talking about the Orange Line here. I’m guessing the average ride is somewhat longer than the average of all Metro bus routes, though probably shorter than rail.

      • “I’m guessing the average ride is somewhat longer than the average of all Metro bus routes…”

        Not really a convincing scientific statement here. You either have the facts or you don’t. There’s no guess work in this day and age, and you can’t make judgments on whether or not reducing number of seats would be a good or bad idea based on guess work. That’s no more different than claiming all Muslims should be shut out from here based on Donald Trump’s wild statements based on nothing but guess work.

        Show me the data. Please provide facts and figures of boarding and alightings on the Orange Line, the distance traveled by an average Orange Line rider, during peak and off peak hours, weekday as opposed to weekend. if you support solid science, then you should back it up using the scientific method.

        Unless you provide with some data and facts that show that majority of Orange Line riders travel farther than 3 miles, the statement by Art Leahy stands that “on a bus, the average trip is 3 miles.” You can’t claim your arguments based on “I’m guessing.” That doesn’t fly. And Metro should have this data. We don’t have TAP in/TAP out, but somehow Art Leahy was able to state on record that the average bus ride is 3 miles on Metro so there has to be someway that Metro has done to come up with an average travel distance by a bus rider.

        • For those who have not ridden the Orange Line, the rides tend to be longer as the line was built to mimic a rail line and stations are spaced further apart than your average bus line. If you ride, you may notice many riders using the bus to travel from one side of the Valley to the other.

          As for the three mile statement, I have no idea where that data comes from but the key word there is “average.”

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

      • I don’t have specific data about the Orange Line, though I’m sure Metro does. But this doesn’t mean we can make inferences from the systemwide bus data. We know that the Orange Line is an outlier among bus routes in terms of route congestion, station spacing, access, and service levels, so assuming the systemwide averages apply to it is as much of a fallacy as my guess.

      • if it wasn’t clear to you or @a technophile, I was referring specifically to the Orange Line, not LA metro buses in general. Also, as a former NYC resident, no buses in their fleet have any less seating than buses in LA (or any other bus agency I’ve ridden for that matter) The M60 to LaGuardia has accommodations for luggage, but every other bus in their system has the same seating arrangement as ours here.

      • For FY15 (July 2014-June 2015), the average distance travelled on Metro Bus, Metro Rail, and the Orange Line is as follows:

        All Bus: 4.13 miles
        All Rail: 5.65 miles
        Orange Line: 6.46 miles

        As Steve and others guessed, the Orange Line has one of the longest average trips (in terms of distance) of any of Metro’s lines. The Blue Line and Green Line normally have the longest average trip of any LRT, HRT, or BRT line.

        Matthew Kridler
        Metro Research

  5. Yes that could happen at some intersections with clear vision before intersection ! We need to talk about extending the Orange line to the Macy’s property and make use of it as a above and below ground hub for all addition line for the future down Victory and Sepulveda as the Red car did ! Housing, Mall ,community center ,etc

  6. There are several dilemmas with being able to run 82-foot long buses on the Orange Line. The current 60-foot long buses have a life cycle of 12-years. Which means there needs to be new buses within two years. If there is a conversion to light-rail for the Orange Line included for a November 2016 sales tax ballot measure and it passes, then the Orange Line buses would have to start running on streets that are not on the current Orange Line route as the conversion takes place. Those 82-foot long buses are only allowed to run on the Orange Line route according to the new state law. A conversion to light-rail would take years to implement. So does Metro hold off on a purchase order for new Orange Line buses until after the November 2016 election to see what length of new buses should be purchased, or commit to purchasing longer buses which will provide better service and yet may only be used for a few years? Buses are made to order. It would take some months to get them built after the order is placed.

    • Even if a Measure R+ passed in 2016, it would be many years before the Orange Line would be converted to rail. You are probably talking late 2020’s before it opened anyway.

  7. Hi everyone;

    This is a post about the Orange Line and potential improvements. As usual, please feel free to discuss the Orange Line in the comments and I’ll be glad to moderate those comments. It is NOT a post about distance-based fares, which have been discussed extensively on this blog by several commenters. If you wish to discuss those type of fares, please find one of those threads and post your comment there.

    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

  8. “As for the three mile statement, I have no idea where that data comes from but the key word there is “average.””

    Q.E.D.

    If the average is 3 miles, the math can come out to this:

    80 people rides 1 mile
    20 people rides 11 miles
    Average length of ride per person = 3 miles

    In the end, the average will state that there are more people doing shorter trips as the average comes to a low amount of 3 miles (3 miles is only 2 miles different than 1 mile whereas 11 miles has 8 miles difference) than those that travel longer. And the data shows that 80 people doing 1 mile trips are subsidizing the costs of the 20 people who do 11 mile trips.

    Now the real question becomes what are the income demographics of those 20 people who are doing longer 11 mile trips; do they tend to be more well off or lower income? That’s the real question.

    Is it:

    80 well off people riding 1 mile subsidizing 20 poor people riding 11 miles?
    80 poor people riding 1 mile subsidizing 20 well off people riding 11 miles?

    If the former, then no problem, the fare system can remain as it is today where fares remain flat.
    If the latter, then agreed, there should be a more fare reform to make fares more equitable based on distance traveled.

  9. Hi everyone;

    One comment per IP address going forward. I’ve warned one commenter about this in the past, but the problem has persisted. If you enjoy reading Source comments, please keep in mind that one anonymous commenter in particular apparently has posted comments under multiple names. The topics are almost always the same and the comments often begin with a quotation. It’s deceptive to suggest multiple people have the same viewpoint.

    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

  10. If the buses have priority and receive timed greens all the way, how does this affect:

    1) orange line going the other way
    2) does this improve traffic flow for cars that match direction of travel

  11. Improving the Orange Line makes more sense then converting it to a rail line. It would be best for the Metro to build a rail line for Van Nuys Blvd, Hopefully, the line will connect to the Metro Link line in Pacoima or Sylmar and to the North Hollywood station for the Orange line and the Red Line…

  12. Should have been light rail. Should be light rail again. *sigh* Crossing gates would keep the speeds up.