Transportation headlines, Friday, May 17

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

L.A. Philharmonic concerned about potential subway noise (L.A. Times)

The story reports on the ongoing process by Metro to protect the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Colburn School from any noise from Regional Connector trains that will pass under or near the buildings. Metro CEO Art Leahy told the Times that the Regional Connector is being designed to have zero net impact on acoustics at either building.

Two other points to add: Metro has hired Rick Talaske, a renowned acoustic engineering consultant, to assist with the Regional Connector project. And, the project will not go out to bid until appropriate sound levels for trains are determined. In other words, the construction firm or firms that wins the contract to build the Regional Connector will have to build the project to the sound standards mandated by Metro and agreed upon with both the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Colburn School.

Orange crush (ZevWeb) 

Very good story on crowing on the Orange Line busway, particularly at peak hours. Excerpt:

While improvements are planned to handle the growth in ridership during off-peak hours, rush hour is a different story.  One additional bus trip will be squeezed onto the back end of the peak traffic period but, after that, the agency is just about maxed out on how many buses it can run at a time. Among other issues, the line is constrained at intersections with north-south roadways, which are managed by the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation.

“Running buses every 4 minutes during rush hour is the best we can do under the current traffic configuration,” Hillmer said. “The city is reluctant to go below the 4-minute frequency level.”

Jonathan Hui, a spokesman for the city agency, said it allows buses to pass through the intersections every two minutes, but they only get special priority—early or longer green lights—every four minutes. That preferential treatment is important to keep the line moving swiftly.

“Not everybody can get the green at the same time,” Hui said. “The Orange Line is obviously important, but so are drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The two agencies are currently working on a solution to the problem. Hillmer said possibilities include sending two buses in tandem through intersections, or shortening the length of the green lights the buses get, which could enable more of them to get through.

Is future baseline the baseline of the future? (Thomas Law Group) 

A good look at the legal arguments in the Neighbors for Smart Rail versus Expo Line Construction Authority case made earlier this month before the California Supreme Court. In the case, Neighbors for Smart Rail (which wants the train to go underground in the Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park area) is challenging the EIR for the second phase of the Expo Line project, saying it was improper for the Construction Authority to use future traffic conditions as the baseline for determining the train’s impacts. The Authority argued using future conditions is a better way to gauge the real impacts.

According to the blog, four Justices seemed receptive to Neighbors for Smart Rail’s arguments, another Justice seemed to favor the Construction Authority’s stance and two other Justices didn’t say anything during the hearing. A ruling is expected within 90 days. With construction of the project underway, it remains to be seen if an unfavorable ruling would impact work — or whether the Court just wants to clarify how agencies should handle the baseline issue in future EIRs.

12 replies

  1. Steve/Erik;
    That shouldn’t be a problem. The busway stations were designed so that when buses stop… they pull to the curb leaving the lane open. That means express buses can pass a local bus stopped at a station.

  2. Steve,

    Are there any plans to run express or limited-stops services on the Chandler Busway to supplement Bus Route 910 (marketed as “The Orange Line”)?

    • Hi Erik;

      Not that I know of — but I’ll ask. I’m guessing that one issue is finding locations where express buses could pass local buses.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. The “problem” is artificially created by LADOT’s demand that buses only get signal priority every 4 minutes.

    Here in Portland, the street-running portions of the Blue Line light rail in east Portland and Gresham have signal preemption. That means the light turns green for the train whenever it arrives, even if a train just went by in the other direction or if 2 trains are close together.

    If LADOT is serious about helping fix the Orange Line, they can change the signals to allow Metro to run buses every 2 minutes at peak periods. Sine the bus only needs 20 or 30 seconds to get thru the intersection, this would still leave the lights green at the cross streets for over half of the time. Problem solved.

  4. @Dennis Hindman
    Excellent point. According the international BRT Standard, a high quality BRT uses the busway as a “trunk”, with many lines radiating from the busway. 902 would be a perfect example of this. You are correct, in that because the buses lack the capacity to achieve true light rail-like operation, we need to find creative ways to ease the burden. Why 902 was eliminated is something I always wondered about.

    @Ricky Courtney
    Metro does have a custom built 65 foot version of the artics they have now that runs on the orange line, but the original order for these buses was cancelled. I think it’s due to the fact that law states you can’t have a vehicle over 60 feet, and while for most of the Orange Line is dedicated busway, these buses still have to negotiate regular streets to get to Warner center.

  5. Metro should look into buying longer, specialized buses that are used exclusively on the Orange Line.

    The first thing Metro should consider is buying double articulated buses. They are similar to current buses except with two “bendy” sections. That could add dozens of seats to each run and a 4th boarding door would make boarding faster. The platforms are already long enough at most stations to accommodate longer buses.

    Since the Orange Line doesn’t need fareboxes… the buses could be redesigned to put the driver in an enclosed compartment in front of the front door like is done on the Las Vegas BRT line. That change would eliminate the bottleneck near the front door.

    California law currently prohibits these buses on city streets, but since the Orange Line has an exclusive transitway, Metro should be eligible to get an exemption from Caltrans. They already issued one when Metro tested a 65-foot bus.

  6. Metro had originally planned the Orange Line to be light-rail. This had heavy community opposition. State senator Alan Robbins passed a bill in the state legislature that essentially banned light-rail along the Orange Line corridor. That’s how the Orange Line ended up as a bus line.

    The east San Fernando Valley transit project along Van Nuys Blvd has another dilemma, lack of enough money to construct a rail line.

    Metro has to work with the hand that they are dealt. If they are banned from constructing rail, or there is not enough money for it, then what are they supposed to do, nothing?

    My suggestion for quick improvements in service to the Orange Line is to bring back the 902 line that started at the North Hollywood Red Line station and then made stops at Valley College and Van Nuys Blvd along Burbank Blvd. Then it turned north on Van Nuys Blvd.

    This should be revised to have it run along the Orange Line busway. The 902 and the Orange Line 901 bus would both start at the same time at the North Hollywood station to handle the overload crowd that exits the subway. The two buses would platoon until the first stop for the Orange Line at Laurel Canyon and then the 902 would develop a headway as its first stop would be at Valley College and then it would skip the Woodman Ave station.

    Adding the 902 bus would not slow down the Orange Line buses. It would help relieve the load which thereby increasing the acceleration and this would lower the amount of time that the Orange Line bus would have to stop at each station.

    A problem is that Metro continues to run the Orange Line like it is a train. If they would add other routes like the 902 to this busway, then the overall capacity of the busway would be increased. This is how Transmillenio in Bogota Columbia is run and a major reason why they can handle passenger loads as much as many subways.

    Every bus does not have to make the same stop as a train and making less stops increases the average speed of the buses. This keeps the stations from being overloaded with buses and having buses go in and out of this main corridor keeps it from getting overloaded with buses. There is enough passengers to take some of them on a more direct route like the 902

  7. Bad link on the Philharmonic article. Though I found it on the LA Times website… the headline (as often is the case) is incredibly misleading, especially based on the following quote from the article:

    “Deborah Borda, president of the philharmonic, said she isn’t alarmed by the recent Colburn School noise simulation.”

    Metro is working on everything and nobody is really concerned, except Frank Gehry thinks they should go back and look at the studies again.

  8. I am happy that people have embraced transit to the point that the orange bus has exceeded its capacity, needed road resurfacing, and coach overhauls within the first few years of operation. All that without private developers being confident enough in “flexible” buses to invest around the route.

    I think brt on even more congested routes, like Van Nuys and the Sepulveda Pass, will become obsolete even quicker, and I hope that Metro is able to put their responsibility to the community before politics and not repeat the mistake that is the orange bus.

  9. The people who fought rail in the SFV are now seeing the results of it with the overburdened buses on the Orange Line.
    And it will only get worse if the North/South line gets built on Van Nuys blvd down the 405 route to West LA. Instead of jamming all these small capacity buses on the route, you could have run LESS trains with 3 car sets and carry MORE passengers faster. Lets home Metro doesn’t make the same mistake with the SFV-405 line and goes with rail , not buses.
    Only other quick fix is to put crossing gates in additional to blocking intersection with 4 way red lights. Helps the speed of the line, but not really sure if it helps capacity. No one has ever converted a bus way to rail and even if done, you are shutting the route down for a long time. Another lesson, poorly learned.