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.