The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today joined a host of San Fernando Valley representatives, stakeholders, community members and others to officially celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Metro Orange Line, the most innovative Bus Rapid Transit line of its kind in Los Angeles County and the nation. New amenities, development and connecting transit services are now in the works to make Orange Line service even better for Metro customers.
Dubbed “The Valley’s New Shortcut” when it opened to the public on October 29, 2005, the Orange Line surpassed ridership expectations from the very first day of service to become one of the most heavily used and best performing bus lines on the Metro system.
Ridership has nearly doubled in the last decade, vaulting from approximately 16,000 average weekday boardings in November 2005 to more than 29,000 boardings in September 2015.
In total, the Orange Line has accommodated 74 million boarding passengers in the past decade, and its fast, frequent and reliable service has logged a 91 percent on-time performance record. The bus line serves as a natural extension of the Metro Red Line in North Hollywood that connects Valley commuters to Downtown L.A. and beyond via Metro’s expanding rail system.
“As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Metro Rail this year, we also take note of the 10th anniversary of the Metro Orange Line. It is further evidence that Metro has galvanized a transit revolution here in Los Angeles County,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair. “With 10 years of service under our belt, we can confidently proclaim that the Orange Line has done exactly what it was intended to do: provide better mobility for the San Fernando Valley. But we don’t intend to rest on our laurels. We are now planning improvements that will better serve our customers in the coming decade and beyond.”
Metro has steadily improved bus frequencies to meet demand and extended the line to serve more Valley communities. Buses now operate every four minutes during peak rush hour periods. Just three years ago, the Orange Line was extended an additional four miles north from Canoga Park to Chatsworth to create an 18-mile multi-modal transit connection at the Chatsworth Metrolink/Amtrak Station. The busway’s pedestrian path/bikeway has grown in lockstep, and is now the longest transit-adjacent amenity of its kind in L.A. County.
“The San Fernando Valley is an economic and entertainment hub for our City, and the Orange line continues to play a pivotal role in connecting Angelenos from all corners of our region to the places they want and need to go, said Eric Garcetti, Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and Metro Second Vice-Chair. “By giving Angelenos more transportation options, we are working to ease traffic flow, cut air pollution and ultimately improve livability. Future Metro transit projects promise to further expand the reach of the Orange Line and create the robust, sustainable transit network that Valley commuters deserve.”
The idea of high-capacity buses running every few minutes on their own dedicated right-of-way and stopping at rail-like passenger stations was borrowed from similar BRT lines operating in Curitiba, Brazil. L.A. County officials visited Curitiba in 1999 and later tailored the BRT concept to meet the L.A. region’s particular transit demands.
“From the first day the Orange Line opened, it was an immediate hit and helped relieve congestion on the 101 freeway,” said Sheila Kuehl, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member. “This line is a custom-made transit solution that gives Valley residents a real alternative to sitting in traffic.”
Plans for the busway were originally conceived on the back of a napkin to be a “rail car on rubber wheels.” Public officials and transit planners envisioned high-capacity buses to run on the line. The bold new “Metro Liner” articulated compressed natural gas bus built by North American Bus Industries was built expressly for the new service, and was a radical departure from the “breadbox” design of typical Metro buses. Metro Liners were the most aerodynamic, technologically advanced transit vehicle ever placed into Metro service, and the first articulated transit bus to operate on local streets in more than 20 years. Like Metro’s other BRT lines, Metro Liners contain a signal priority system that shortens the duration of red signals and lengthens green signals to help the buses more quickly traverse intersections.
Metro continues to look for new ways to improve service capacity. In early October, Governor Brown signed new legislation that authorizes Metro to utilize double-articulated buses on the Metro Orange Line to significantly increase future capacity on the line. This new legislation will allow Metro to continue the agency’s leadership role by utilizing new technology to provide transportation service.
A host of new amenities and services will improve parking capacity, safety, improve conditions for bicyclists and offer new residential, retail and commercial opportunities for Valley commuters.
For example, next week Metro is planning to open a brand new nearly 200-space temporary park & ride facility, as well as an off-street bicycle path on Chandler Boulevard between Vineland Boulevard and Fair Avenue near the North Hollywood Metro Red Line Station. The lot is constructed by sustainable elements like special permeable paving and LED lighting.
In addition, the new bike path will connect the Chandler Bikeway to the Orange Line Bikeway, encouraging the continuation of multi-modal trips for bicycle commuters traveling east-west across the Valley.
“The construction of much needed additional parking and the closure of the bikeway gap near the North Hollywood Station really addresses two of the biggest challenges we face at this important Valley transit hub,” said Paul Krekorian, L.A. City Council Member and Metro Board Member. “These improvements will make it easier and safer to access North Hollywood Station, whether by foot, bicycle or car.”
Metro contractors are also now constructing an underground pedestrian passageway between the Metro Red Line and Metro Orange Line stations. The passageway will provide safe, convenient and direct access between stations, eliminating the need to cross Lankershim Boulevard at street level. Portals will be constructed between the Mezzanine level of the Metro Red Line Station and the Plaza level at the Metro Orange Line Station. Escalator, stair and elevator access will be available from both ends of the passageway, and additional ticket vending machines will also be installed for added customer convenience. The passageway should be completed in mid-2016.
Metro’s restored Lankershim Depot at the corner of Lankershim and Chandler Boulevards is now planned to house a coffee shop in spring 2016. Additionally, Metro also plans to utilize space within the depot for a new Metro Bike Hub. The Bike hub will provide customer service, bike repair and retail, as well as provide approximately 200 secure bike parking spaces on adjacent property. Metro plans to start design work for the bike hub in 2016, with a possible opening in 2018.
As the eastern terminus of the Orange Line, North Hollywood is central to Metro’s future plans to create a thriving transit-oriented community that focuses on compact, walkable and bike-able places in a community context. Metro owns four parcels encompassing nearly 16 acres of property at or near its transit stations. Metro is now working closely with the community on development guidelines that will be provided to a future developer. Current concepts include building a high-density but vibrant, walkable and transit-friendly development for North Hollywood that could also include affordable housing, commercial and/or office space.
“Metro-owned property in North Hollywood is the single biggest opportunity we have on the Metro System to create a future thriving transit-oriented community,” said Phillip A. Washington, Metro CEO. “Both Orange Line and Red Line customers as well as the surrounding community will benefit from new opportunities to live, work and play at this major hub.”
New bus services are also planned. To coincide with the opening of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension on March 5, 2016, Metro now plans to launch a new pilot bus line: the NoHo to Pasadena Express. The service will operate from North Hollywood Orange Line and Red Line stations to Pasadena and will include six stops along the way. The service will run every 15 minutes during weekday peak hours, every 30 minutes during weekday off-peak times and every 30 minutes on the weekends to better connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.
Earlier this year, a new expanded bus service connecting the North Hollywood Station with Bob Hope Airport was launched. The BurbankBus NoHo-Airport Route operates all-day, Monday through Friday, with buses departing North Hollywood Station every 15 minutes during morning and afternoon commute periods, every 20 minutes during the mid-day, and every 45 minutes in the late evening. This November, Metro is partnering with BurbankBus to extend this service during Thanksgiving weekend to include Saturday and Sunday.
Late last year, Metro introduced a new “Valley-Westside Express” that provides transit riders with a faster, easier way to travel between the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles. The express buses run nonstop during peak hours between the Sepulveda Metro Orange Line Station in Van Nuys and Westwood. The service takes full advantage of the completed network of I-405 carpool lanes that now travel both north and south through the Sepulveda Pass.