Motion asks for study of upgrading Orange Line and possibly connecting to Pasadena

The Metro Board of Directors will consider this month the above motion that asks for study of a number of upgrades to the Orange Line, including better traffic signal synchronization by the city of Los Angeles, using more articulated buses, building grade separations, the possibility of extending or connecting the line to Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena and an assessment of converting the line to light rail.

The key word in the above paragraph: “study.” This is NOT a funded project, nor is it in Metro’s long-range plan. The motion comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill earlier this month lifting the restriction on building rail along the Orange Line right-of-way (which, ironically, was once a Southern Pacific rail corridor).

An amendment by Board Member Pam O’Connor asked a broader — and crucial — question: what kind of process could be created to evaluate new projects to see if they merit being added to the agency’s long-range plan?

The Board’s Planning Committee forwarded the motion and amendment without recommendation to the full Board of Directors to consider (the full Board meets next Thursday, July 24). As Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky said, the agency needs to figure out the best path forward for evaluating new transit projects so that the ones with the greatest impact are the ones that get built.

Metro CEO Art Leahy explained why that is important. Metro will soon be receiving a list of potential transportation projects from sub-regions in the county for inclusion in a possible ballot measure in 2016 to accelerate and/or build new transit projects by extending Measure R and/or some type of new tax (Measure R was a half-cent sales tax increase for 30 years and expires in mid-2039). Leahy said that it’s very likely that the list of projects will exceed what could be funded. And, thus, the list of projects will ultimately have to be narrowed.

In short, this motion is really about two things. The first is obviously seeking ways to improve the Orange Line, which has enjoyed very strong ridership since the first segment opened in 2005. The second is about the possible 2016 ballot measure and the Board trying to find a way to evaluate projects beyond a metric commonly used: political support.


22 replies

  1. The Valley is still filled with these damn NIMBY’s! Good job Jerry Brown for lifting the restriction of building rail in the NIMBY filled Valley!

  2. Rail lines to airports, and in the middle of freeways, don’t perform very well. This was a blatant attempt to “jumpstart” a pet project, regional planning be damned. A bad idea that will not happen.

  3. Let’s first get a *new line* over the Santa Monica mountains parallel to the 405, please? So much car traffic goes that way during weekdays and wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get to the beach on weekends without driving. Let’s put SFV Westside / Purple Line / beach / LAX access before Bob Hope airport access. I think there’s a lot more traffic to be picked up this way.

    The Orange Line isn’t broken, don’t go fix it when there is much more need for a North-South line parallel to the 405.

  4. Conversion of this line should not priority over the current list of projects unless the valley wants to tax themselves in some manner. SFV made a poor choice, but they something. There many other areas waiting for their first line.

  5. The “Metro Liner” buses are approaching the end of their useable lives. I think Metro would be well served to start thinking “outside of the box” for their next bus purchase.

    * First and foremost Metro should seek legislation that would allow them to use 80 foot long double articulated buses at least along the exclusive right of way (Warner Center could be served by 60 foot buses or be operated with a shuttle route).
    * Installing bumpers along the curb at stations would be cheap and would allow drivers to get the tires right up against the curb making boarding easier.
    * Having bumpers should allow Metro Liners to have ramps that are shorter and faster to deploy.
    * New Metro Liners should have *passive* wheelchair restraints like the new Xcelsior buses that allow customers to back into the restraint without help from the driver.
    * Buses should have less seats in the low-floor sections, allowing for more standees.

    I think that the Exquicity ( that’s been mentioned before would be a great choice for Metro but I wonder if they can be “Buy America” compliant.

  6. No matter how much BRT fantasists want to pretend otherwise, people just enjoy riding a train on rail more than a wobbly bus on pavement. A seat on a bus and a seat on a train are not equal experiences to the rider no matter how much one signal prioritize a busway.
    The San Fernando Valley deserves an east-west rail line from Woodland Hills to Pasadena, as well as a north-south rail line from Sylmar to LAX.
    An upgrade will no doubt have to be part of any ballot measure in 2016 in order to win the supermajority vote necessary in the San Fernando Valley.
    BRT fantasists can go find another corridor in another city for their “model” project

  7. I agree with Adam and Dennis Hindman that the actual capacity of “true” BRT is far greater than what the numbers show for the Orange Line. Whether the Orange Line is “true” BRT is a matter of argument. 30,000 boardings a day is pretty low for the capacity of a supposed BRT line.

    If people are going to argue for “rail” they had better produce some facts and numbers regarding how a conversion to “rail” would increase the capacity of the Orange Line or be an improvement over “BRT”.. What I’ve read so far seems to be that the SFV should have “rail” because so much of the rest of Los Angeles County has “rail” and the SFV doesn’t. Like “rail” imputes some sort of status, like having a “trophy” wife or whatever.

    My own opinion is that “rail” can be superior to BRT. Heavy “rail” not “Lite” Rail, High passenger capacity BRT like in Bogota, Guangzhou, and Istanbul strikes me as being a poor city’s metro. The real thing (a real Metro, that is) is much better although it is much more expensive to build..

  8. state cap and trade funds can be used to pay for conversion of orangeline to rail. it is estimated cap and trade will generate 3 to 6 billion per year when it fully implemented.

  9. I doubt that the Orange line will be turned into a rail line anytime soon. Cost wise the bus line is the least expensive to build . However, I would like to see the Red Line extended to BUR Airport. If the line does go to Pasadena, it would be best to utilize the Carpool Lane on the 134 from the 5 fwy into Pasadena. Maybe a stop or two in Glendale and Eagle Rock – kinda like the Silver Line.

  10. You can double the capacity by just changing the traffic signals. A train at grade will be constrained by the same red lights as the buses and thus would be worse service because the service of a train is not as frequent as a bus.

    The orange line serves 1/3 the passengers served by the Wilshire blvd buses, saying it is at capacity is a flat out lie meant to screw over all the residents who will be hurt by five years of construction and five years of orange line buses diverted to adjacent streets.

    It just seems like a waste of 2 billion dollars to convert it to rail when you can double the capacity of the line by changing a few computer settings on the traffic lights.

    And even with the capacity of the orange line doubled it will still be carrying fewer passengers than the wilshire buses.

  11. Here’s a novel concept for the Board to consider: how about we build rail lines in the areas with the highest JOB AND POPULATION DENSITIES?!?! This the key factor that determines the success of a rail line, i.e. if a lot of people will ride it/find it useful or not. So instead of Metro bowing to every little interest that wants a rail line to their front door, you use a very simple, OBJECTIVE metric: serving the greatest number of residents and jobs with a limited investment.

  12. I like both parts of this. One of the issues that I think needs to be solved, is how to tie the Orange line in to the Gold line, if the Orange line goes to Pasadena. It would be great if it ran eastbound down Green St. (with signal priority) and westbound down Union.

  13. I’ve read Ethan N. Elkind’s book “Railtown” & I hate to admit this but politics will ALWAYS play a major role in getting any significant transit project in L.A. (and just about everywhere else in the United States nowadays). I only hope that the same political processes that helped bring Metro its current system as well as the ongoing expansion can help grow the rail network further.

    As far as a potential conversion of the Orange Line from a busway to rail, I think it makes the most sense if it could be linked with the Pasadena/Foothill Line. The last three stops on the current Gold Line (Lake, Allen & Sierra Madre Villa) as well as the six stations that are part of the Foothills extension all run along the 210/134. It could, in some way, continue along that highway west to Glendale &, possibly, to Burbank before joining the existing Orange Line corridor. Add the possibility of the Sepulveda Pass rail tunnel and suddenly commuters may have more options to choose from.

  14. Maybe the citizens of the SFV need to tax themselves separately to pay for this conversion since they fought it before.I don’t think a “redo” should jump the line when so many other areas are waiting and wanting a line.

  15. Creating a transit network is like building a house, there are different tools that are appropriate to accomplish that faster and at a cost that fits the budget. It wouldn’t be very efficient or cost effective to simply be fixated on only using the technology of the hammer and going around looking for nails to pound, as some people are with transit.

    The capacity of the Orange Line can be increased by using a 60-foot bus that is lighter weight and has less seats than the currently used NABI-60, which has 57 seats. Standees take up much less space than seated passengers. There are several bus designs with figurations of as little as 29 seats, which would probably have a capacity at least 50% greater than one with 57 seats. Lighter weight would allow a higher capacity within the same gross vehicle weight and produce a faster acceleration for the same power train and volume of passengers.

    The analysis should be what would be needed to increase the speed, capacity and service of the existing BRT line before resorting to much more expensive upgrades such as grade separation, crossing gates and rail. There is not a endless amount of half-cent sales tax incentives that can be passed to build ever increasingly expensive rail projects in a reasonable amount of time. Again, because of a fixed amount of funds, the more money that is spent on each of these projects, the less of them that can be built.

    Using lights along the Orange Line busway that would indicate to the drivers whether they are maintaining the correct speed to hit a green light at the next intersection could be one such improvement that could be made for relatively little money. These lights could indicate to the drivers whether they need to speed up or slow down to avoid coming to a full stop at a red traffic signal. This should reduce the average time to complete the route as its much more difficult to get a bus up to speed from a full stop compared to if it was moving.

    An example of how this works is the green wave for bicycle riders on some cycle tracks in Copenhagen. These cycle tracks have a series of green lights next to the cycle track to indicate whether or not a person is riding at the speed that will enable them to hit a green light at the next intersection.

    The NABI-60 bus has a front door with a hinge on the outside. This prevents the bus from obtaining level boarding with the station platform. This is a major design flaw.

    The Orange Line buses use a large wheelchair ramp that takes a lot of time to deploy and remove, it very obtrusive when being deployed, plus it can hit people moving on the station platform. A better design on the Exquicity is a much smaller platform that moves mostly horizontally from the bus to the station platform.

  16. It would be better to extend the current half cent sales tax and NOT ask for another half cent sales tax on what we already have. Having a sales tax in L.A. County at 10% would cause another rescission in our area.

  17. Hello Metro,

    Can we possibly get someone from Metro to come to our Chamber Government/Community Affairs Meeting on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, to give us a 10-minute presentation on what is happening at Metro re: the Orange Line and the future North-South Line down to Sherman Oaks. Our meeting will be at Bamboo Restaurant on Ventura Blvd at Noon.

    Thank you in advance of your response.

    Best regards,


    Robert L Cohen DDS Advanced Dental Care/Sherman Oaks Phone: 818-990-7260 FAX: 818-990-1643 President Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce

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    • Hi Bob;

      My apologies for the slow reply. I have forwarded your request to the appropriate people and hopefully they should be in touch soon. If any problems, feel free to email me at or phone 213-922-3578.


      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source