A mostly street running route is recommended for NoHo to Pasadena bus rapid transit project

Click map to see larger.

The Metro Board of Directors this month will consider moving a primarily street-running bus rapid transit line between North Hollywood and Pasadena into the project’s next phase, a formal Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). Here’s the staff report.

The bus rapid transit line would run for 18 miles between the Orange Line/Red Line station in North Hollywood and Pasadena City College in Pasadena with service to the Burbank Media District, downtown Burbank, downtown Glendale, the Eagle Rock business district and the Gold Line in Old Pasadena.

A map of the project is above. As indicated, some sections of the project corridor include multiple route options, which will be studied as part of the DEIR. 

For those new to transportation jargon, bus rapid transit (often called BRT) is a high-quality bus service that provides faster and more frequent service with features that may include dedicated bus lanes, branded vehicles and stations, off-board fare collection and all-door boarding. Metro’s Orange and Silver Lines are both examples of BRT.

Three routes for this project have been under study as part of an Alternatives Analysis: a street-running option, an option that mostly uses the 134 freeway and a hybrid street-freeway route.

Metro staff has identified the street-running route as the most promising because it has the most public support and offers the most connectivity to jobs, housing and other destinations. This route is also projected to attract the most riders (up to an estimated 30,000 daily boardings) and help boost the development of transit-oriented communities.

A few other key facts about the project:

•The project is intended to be a key connection between the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley — a very heavily traveled corridor served only by Metro’s Line 501 between Old Pasadena and North Hollywood. The 501 operates primarily along the the SR 134 freeway.

•End-to-end running times for the street-running route are estimated to be about 65 minutes. It’s worth noting that Metro found that the majority of trips entering the area served by this project are headed to destinations within that area. Only about one third of the trips are going through the entire project area from one end to the other.

•The estimated cost of the street-running alternative is $271 million to $429 million. The cost will depend on the final project design. In addition to Measure M funding, this project will receive funding from the Senate Bill 1 gas tax and vehicle fees that became law in 2017.

•The goal is to begin project construction in summer 2022 and open the project in summer 2024.

•This is one of three Measure M bus rapid transit projects currently in the planning phase. The two others are a BRT line that would run on Vermont Avenue between Hollywood and 120th Street in South L.A. and the North San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor, an east-west line that would run across the northern San Fernando Valley. 

•The Metro Board will consider the item at their scheduled meeting next Thursday, April 25, at 9:30 a.m. at Metro headquarters in downtown L.A.

What do you think about the route for the NoHo to Pasadena project, Source readers? Comment please.

27 replies

    • I agree! The route proposed is not bad. Come on! 5 Years? Simply designate it as a Rapid Line and implement it, rapidly!

  1. I’m curious, why does a BRT need an environmental review whereas I assume any other new bus line wouldn’t?

    • Hi Andrew;

      Mostly because a new BRT project is likely to come with new infrastructure and it’s better to study the impacts and mitigations than have someone later — perhaps in court — say you should have studied any potential impacts and mitigations.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. The route in Pasadena should absolutely stop directly at one of the Gold Line stations, rather than providing a “transfer” that’s a few blocks of walking, as in this route. One of the whole points of this line is that it connects Glendale and Burbank to the larger Metro Rail network with only one transfer and making that transfer inconvenient or non-obvious undermines that goal! On the freeway routing options (and the current 501), the line hooks south and terminates at Del Mar station rather than proceeding all the way to PCC, and I’m really wondering why that route was chosen here. My understanding is that there’s no plan to give the line a dedicated lane for that section in Pasadena anyway, so I’m not sure what the benefit is of adding yet another east-west mixed traffic bus line in that area if it means giving up a seamless transfer to the Gold Line.

    On the bright side, it looks like they’ve improved the connection to the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station, with a stop right at the stairway leading down to it from Olive Ave., so kudos for that!

  3. You state the following: “because it has the most public support and offers the most connectivity to jobs, housing and other destinations”. Where do you derive this statement from and why is it you think everything revolves around the NoHo district? I would never support this plan. This does offer some alternate location options that Line 501 does not, but nobody is going to sit on a bus for 65 minutes when they can drive there in 20 from Pasadena.

    • Hi Mark —

      The info comes from the staff report that summarizes the public outreach that has thus far been done for the project: //boardagendas.metro.net/board-report/2019-0148/. There is still a lot of planning work to be done and we’ll post info about future public meetings, Board meetings, etc.

      While the end-to-end run time is longer than the 501, people told they wanted a bus line that was accessible to where they live and work (and other destinations). We know from our rail projects that freeway stations receive (at best) mixed reviews from riders. We also know that the majority of trips taken into this project’s study area are not end-to-end. So that’s a consideration.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • LOL, yeah on a Sunday night?? I just drove from Van Nuys to Glendale today during rush hour and it still took 25 min just to get from CA-170 to I-5, so unless we are talking about past 9pm, it would be really difficult to stay driving at 80 from PCC to NoHo without running to a slowdown at some point.

      “This does offer some alternative location options that Line 501 does not,”

      Thats the point of this project. I really wish people would stop seeing these projects as commuter lines, otherwise they’ll never be more than just that. Should metro keep the 501 as a Peak hour alternative?? Definitely, but this line actually stopping at actual points of interest will definitely give it the ridership it deserves.

  4. I’d have loved this a few years ago!

    I was commuting from Northridge to Pasadena and Amtrak was so expensive (and a headache staying on the rigid train schedule) and then switching to the gold line at Union Station was really inefficient.

  5. 65 minutes seems pretty long for something branded as BRT when you can do the same drive in 25-30 minutes. Why so many stops for something that’s intended to connect community centers like this? I know the article said only 1/3 of people go from end to end, but that is still a substantial amount of market that will still have a strong incentive to drive. Did Metro consider running express BRT and “standard” BRT that would stop at all of the local stops? That seems like a good way to ensure a competitive commute with cars and also serve the people living along the route. I also agree that it would be a mistake to not connect this to a gold line station.

    • Hi Mark;

      No rail conversion is planned at this time. The BRT project was part of Measure M.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. It should eventually be a light rail line. I’ll be dead when that happens, but future generations will enjoy it. Imagine quick rides to see Universal Studios from Pasadena.

  7. This proposal is a terrible waste of money. It unnecessarily imposes much longer transit times on every passenger along this entire E/W corridor in order to route EVERY ONE of them out of their way to compensate for the historic incompetence of Metro, Burbank, and Glendale planners in providing adequate connecting and coordinated bus service in the eastern SFV. The whole point of such a major E/W transit corridor is to provide EFFICIENT (NOT MEANDERING) transit end-to-end with intersecting N/S services at major points along the way–an efficient sort of “spine-and-ribs” model of system design.

    The most likely reason that this meandering proposed route may have been popular with many at public meetings is that the existing bus systems in the East SF Valley are so terrible and uncoordinated, causing potential transit riders to grasp at the straw of this crazy route because they think it is the only way to get the local bus service they would like. (Imagine how the route of the Orange Line would have looked if it had been routed this way!)

    Utilizing the existing connection of the existing Gold and Red Lines at Union Station (although an inefficient “grand detour”) for travel either way between NoHo and Pasadena Old-Town already is faster than traveling this meandering route will be.

    Simply keeping the existing (faster, if primitive) Metro 501 route and providing meaningful local bus service connecting (and coordinating) with the 501 in Burbank and Glendale would make more sense than this proposal.

  8. The Pasadena street portion need to be split (eastbound on Green, west on Union). Trying to stop -at- Memorial Park Gold line station is not worth the delay. If it is street running in Glendale, then it too needs to be split.

    Also, any action on a 210 freeway flyer from Pasadena to say Foothill at Van Nuys Blvd? That corridor has basically no transit options.

  9. Perhaps, your Planning Department needs to review the route. I thought the purpose of this BRT route was to improve service. Frankly, I do not see from the article, the map and the comments above how it is going to be improved that much; unless I am missing something. I thought the whole point was to make a faster connection between North Hollywood and Pasadena. For passengers that need that connection, it will not help much having to sit on the bus from end to end taking over an hour. If someone uses Lyft or Uber it will be quicker but not take any traffic off the road. And like stated above it should be easy for passengers where there will be stops next the Gold Line stations so people do not have to walk for blocks to make the connection.

  10. Would there be any changes to 180/181 or the rapid 780 since this BRT would be routing the eastern end there respected routes?

  11. I would like to see a stop at Colorado and Ave 64. There appears to be the long segment with no station between Eagle Rock and Old Town Pas.

  12. If Glendale wants the line to go past the Americana, Metro should require that the bus line get signal prioritization and its own lane through Glendale (given the congestion around the mall).

    Burbank should commit to adopting the parking reductions and density bonuses of JJJ and TOC that passed in LA. They have only built 200 housing units since 2010 and demand the County and State fund a project that will make Burbank more appealing as an employment center. Why enable zoning/permitting policies that force everyone else to house Burbank’s workers?

  13. Don’t know why we go and waste money on BRT, especially on a route like this. This wanders all over the place.
    I would just try to improve the current 501 for people who are actually trying to transfer from the Gold line to the Orange line, combined with improving the local bus service to improve connectivity in segments that warrant it.

    While not in my lifetime, once the Orange Line is converted to light rail and first extended to Downtown Burbank Metrolink station and possibly past the I-5 into Downtown Burbank, then we continue in segments maybe then to Downtown Glendale and finally on to Pasadena.

    Besides the Gold to Orange connection, proper connection on Downtown Burbank Metrolink station allows travelers coming in from both the Ventura County Line and the AV line to connect to jobs/destinations in Downtown Burbank, Downtown Glendale and Downtown Pasadena. A triple win.

    Sometimes I feel we just need to wait for something better later, than something poor now.

  14. Excited about this! — if it is set up like the Orange Line with dedicated lanes and all door entrances. Other cities around the world use this cheaper but similar alternative to rail lines — I think it’s brilliant! The Orange line multi-modal features (bike lanes) and landscaping make it a fabulous addition to the valley.

  15. Better improve the existing bus service along the corridor first. The segment between Glendale and Pasadena is now served by rapid 780, which I consider as BRT service. It will be better if the line 501 serve directly to the Galleria, and making its transfer points of both 501 and 780. Secondly, expand the 780 service to 8/9pm on weekdays, and additional service for Saturday service, 8am – 6pm, 30 frequency between Pasadena and Hollywood/ Vine. Thirdly, add some bus only lanes along the Colorado Blvd and the 134 fwy so 501 and 780 can skip traffic. I will see how the result will go before adding very similar BRT service from NoHo to Pasadena.

  16. “features that may include dedicated bus lanes” It isn’t BRT if it doesn’t have dedicated lanes. If that is going to be the case with this project, than this line will hardly be more useful than the existing 501 except to provide more local service and higher frequencies (which is obviously needed in its own right). However this line needs dedicated lanes the whole way or almost the whole way for it to be truly effective, otherwise it’s just another bus. The silver line somewhat gets a pass as BRT at least because it’s using controlled toll lanes for traffic flow though that is a bit dubious and its still subject to variable traffic. This NoHo to Pasadena bus route should not be seen as an adequate long-term stand in for an LRT extension from the orange line once converted. Also, it would be a good idea to simply continue current orange line buses down this route, providing a one seat ride from places along the orange line to Glendale / Pasadena etc. It might require a slight reconfiguration of the orange line turn loop so they can get onto Lankershim, but beyond that it would not seem very complex to operate. Why force the transfer if buses can just continue on the route. It’s not as if they are incompatible. Something to seriously consider.

  17. Whoo, this is gonna be another long one:

    I’m sorry but “MAY” have dedicated lanes?

    Uhh, no, with the exception of the freeway and Zigzagging in the Burbank media district (eww!), Bus Only Lanes will be just fine throughout the ENTIRE route.

    Keep the 501 running Rush hour or have different levels of service: Limited (all stops), Rapid (12-18 stops), and (Freeway) Express (5-10 stops). Let’s stop using the excuse of “different levels of service may confuse patrons,” cause sorry but simplicity can only get us so far. Educating the public helps. Other places have different levels of service as well.

    Why hasn’t Metro considered this on the Orange Line. I get why this can’t be done with rail at this time but the Orange Line definitely has the flexibility for a “Rapid Express” type service.

    And yes, connect this to the Orange Line and North SVF BRT. Again, there is no reason to not interlink these. It’s already being done for Line 10/48, 14/37, 28 (with 84 in the past), etc. It can be done here as well. If you want to avoid confusion, implement the different levels of service on all 3 BRTs and interlink them together as well.

    If we’re gonna be stuck with these BRT services for the next few decades then let’s at least make the most out of them.

    . . . Or at the very least, remove the Townsend (why??), Verdugo and Alameda stops. There, I just spared 3 min for ya.

  18. I think we deserve some direct answers about how this will cost $15 million per mile. Where exactly is the money going to be spent? Other than on consultants of course.