Metro is studying several changes to the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley to make the bus rapid transit line more attractive and appealing to riders and the community.
Among those: Measure M grade crossing improvements, new zero emission battery-electric powered buses (known as ZEBs), travel time improvements and a proposed new Warner Center Shuttle and Reseda Station shortline (much more on those below) will all be studied with some of those implemented.
The passage of Measure M sales tax in November means there are two projects now in the works:
•The first project involves getting the Orange Line through intersections more quickly, either by building grade separations (i.e. bridges or underpasses) or other improvements.
A technical study is now underway and is looking at five different intersections as candidates for a grade separation (Fulton/Burbank, Woodman/Oxnard, Van Nuys, Sepulveda and Reseda). Once a final study report is approved by the Metro Board of Directors, this multiyear construction project would be built to rail standards to make it easier to convert the Orange Line to rail. Other improvements are also being analyzed, including crossing gates and traffic signal upgrades. Groundbreaking is planned for 2019.
•The second project is more long-term and will convert the Orange Line to light rail. The groundbreaking on that project at this time is proposed for 2051 although Metro continues to explore ways to accelerate the larger Measure M projects. I know that getting your mind wrapped around ‘2051’ probably isn’t super easy and/or super fun. But it’s worth considering that the more near-term upgrades should shave minutes off Orange Line rides and make it easier to convert the line to rail.
•The Metro Board of Directors last year asked Metro staff to begin operation of ZEB battery electric-only buses on the Orange Line by 2020. Orange Line buses currently run on compressed natural gas (CNG), which is substantially cleaner than diesel-powered buses — but CNG is still a fossil fuel and produces greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of this effort, Metro has ordered five 60-foot articulated electric buses to test on the line. These buses are very quiet and would initially be used with the existing fleet of natural gas powered buses. Once the initial test is completed, a larger order of buses would be made to replace the remaining CNG buses.
•Metro began increasing the speed of buses across some intersections last year after a study revealed that it could be done so safely. Buses began running at 10 mph across intersections in 2005 to avoid collisions with cars running red lights. That move also caused buses to miss more green lights because the traffic signals (which are controlled by the city of Los Angeles) were never adjusted to reflect the slower bus speeds.
•To improve safety, Metro is also planning a limited test at four locations of in-pavement lights and parking-lot style gates to prevent motorists from making illegal right turns across the busway. Installation of both is anticipated to begin in early 2018.
•Metro is proposing to implement a new shuttle route within Warner Center to make this commercial and residential part of the Valley more accessible to Orange Line riders.
The Orange Line buses that divert off of the busway into Warner Center currently have only one stop in Warner Center — which isn’t terribly convenient for many riders, some of whom have long walks to reach the bus. It is also not practical to add on-street stops for the Orange Line buses that requires rail like stations that are 150 feet long, with ticket vending machines, ticket validators, gated stations and more.
Ridership on the Warner Center segment of the line has been small (in Sept. 2016 there were 750 average daily boardings) compared to the 25,000 average boardings on the average weekday — and given the fact that Warner Center is attracting tens of thousands for visitors, workers, shoppers, dinners, residents each day.
There are likely several reasons: Warner Center to date has been a very car-centric place with plenty of parking and served by major roads and the Orange Line has only that one stop on Owensmouth Avenue.
The proposed shuttle would replace the Orange Line buses in Warner Center, would operate frequently, make stops every quarter-mile or less, directly serve the Canoga Orange Line station and serve more of Warner Center than the current Orange Line route. The shuttle would run every eight minutes during peak periods and every 16 minutes at other times. The shuttle schedule would also minimize the time it takes to transfer to/from the mainline Orange Line at the Canoga Station.
Here are the two proposals being discussed:
The idea with this proposal is to eliminate the use of the big articulated buses in the Warner Center area and instead operate a smaller shuttle that stops more often and will hopefully be of more use for those traveling to and within Warner Center. That’s an important consideration with many on-going and future residential and commercial developments happening in Warner Center and efforts being made to make it more of a work/live/play type place.
As regular Orange Line riders probably know, the Orange Line’s current route between Canoga Station and Warner Center takes place on surface streets whereas the rest of the Orange Line has its own busway that is separated from regular traffic lanes. As part of its efforts to electrify the line — and make it quieter and a smoother ride — Metro needs to build charging stations at the terminals of the Orange Line. Building those types of facilities is not feasible on the street-section part of the line in Warner Center. So that’s another consideration.
•As part of the shuttle proposal, a ‘shortline’ between North Hollywood and Reseda is proposed for the Orange Line. The reason: ridership drops substantially west of Reseda. In peak periods, service will still be every four minutes from North Hollywood to Reseda, and every eight minutes to Chatsworth with timed connections at Canoga Station to the proposed shuttle.
During mid-day hours, service would be very eight minutes between NoHo and Reseda and every 16 minutes between NoHo and Chatsworth. This reworking of frequencies would save service hours that would be reinvested back into the Warner Center shuttle.
The new Warner Center Shuttle and Reseda Station Shortline proposals will be vetted by Metro’s San Fernando Valley Service Council and other stakeholders. If the shuttle goes forward, it would begin running as part of Metro’s annual service changes in December.
Your thoughts Orange Line riders, potential riders and readers?