The San Fernando Valley had not seen a transit option like it for more than five decades. On opening weekend in late October 2005, an estimated 83,000 people converged in the East San Fernando Valley for a chance to ride L.A. Metro’s first Bus Rapid Transit line: a veritable “rail line on rubber tires” that would set a high watermark for premium bus service in Los Angeles and across the country.
The Metro Orange Line (now the “G” Line) — which was conceived by a former L.A. County Supervisor on a napkin following a trip to Curitiba, Brazil — officially hit the streets of America’s first suburb.
Shiny, double-jointed silver buses streaked across the Valley’s eastern edge between North Hollywood and Woodland Hills, stopping at stations that looked and functioned more like light rail stations. With buses running mostly unopposed by traffic along their 14-mile dedicated route, buses benefitted from traffic signal priority and reached appreciably higher speeds than their normal street-running counterparts, drawing favorable travel time comparisons with the oft-congested 101 freeway.
At a cost of just $349.5 million for its initial 14-mile segment and future Canoga Park station (the line was later extended to Chatsworth in 2009), the
Orange Line proved its cost-effectiveness as an innovative Bus Rapid Transit line complete with many of the bells and whistles one would normally expect from a far more expensive rail solution. What’s more, Metro debuted new and advanced accordion-style articulated buses that had not been widely used on the streets of L.A. other than Wilshire and Ventura Boulevards since the 1980s. These 60-foot buses featured cutting-edge designs when they launched on the Orange Line in 2005. The aerodynamic buses allowed for both front and rear door bus boardings, had ample room for 57 seated passengers and ran on compressed natural gas, which is much cleaner than the diesel that had powered buses in the past
Metro’s meager ridership estimates of up to 7,500 average weekday boardings for the line were immediately surpassed on Day One of service, not surprising given the fact that the BRT line essentially served as an extension of Metro Red Line (now the “B” Line) subway that allowed riders to travel farther into the interior of the San Fernando Valley.
The Orange Line’s success has generated momentum for other types of Bus Rapid Transit Projects in the Valley and beyond. Metro is currently planning the NoHo to Pasadena BRT project to better connect the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. The line will extend about 18 miles and will connect the Metro B (Red), G (Orange) and L (Gold) Lines as well as Metrolink and other municipal bus lines. The project has an anticipated opening date of 2024.
Metro is also pursuing the North San Fernando Valley Bus Rapid Transit Project, a proposed new BRT line that would enhance existing Valley bus service and increase transit system connectivity. The new BRT line is expected to open in 2025.
The G Line’s future is even brighter as a bonafide rail line to better carry future transit riders in the San Fernando Valley. The line will be the first to transition to zero-emission electric buses. Metro also plans to convert the G Line to light rail by 2057. The agency is now moving forward with near-term improvements that will improve bus riders’ safety, improve operating speeds and prepare the line for future rail conversion, including two grade separations and the future installation of four-quadrant crossing gates at most busway intersections.
Lastly, new rail lines are now planned to connect with the G Line to further augment transit connections for Valley residents, including the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project and the East San Fernando Valley Light Rail Transit Project. All these projects are funded by Metro’s transportation sales tax measures previously approved by voters.
“At 15, the G Line is just beginning to fulfil its role as one of the Valley’s most important transit services,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Through our multi-billion-dollar transit investments, the G Line will serve as a link in a broader regional transit network that will help keep San Fernando Valley residents moving.”