Streetfilms Praises Orange Line BRT and Bike Path

While in town last month, Streetfilms took its second look at Los Angeles’ Orange Line as a model for BRT’s around the country.  In his summary of the above Streetfilm, Clarence Eckerson doesn’t hold back his praise for the Orange Line calling it "one of the best Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in the U.S" and "really fabulous."

And despite some of the well-documented problems with trash along the bike path and the debate about whether or not it should have been designed as light rail; it really does have some technological features that are above and beyond what many cities experience with their "Bus Rapid Transit." But perhaps the best part of the film is Metro bike coordinator Lynn Goldsmith talking about the importance of multi-modalism in solving our local transportation crisis.

As always, the comment section is open to discuss the film or the Orange Line itself.  Have at it.   And if anyone wants to explore the Orange Line Bike Path they should join the LACBC, Metro and Councilman Tom LaBonge for this month’s "Car Free Friday."  For more information on that ride, you can read LACBC’s press release after the jump.

L.A. City Council
member TOM LABONGE TO join THIRD official
“Car-Free Friday” BICYCLE Ride
ALONG METRO ORANGE LINE MARCH 27

  • New campaign
    strives to offer transportation alternatives that will help reduce
    congestion, reduce carbon footprint, keep people healthy, and help
    save Angelenos money on commuting costs.

LOS ANGELES,
Calif
. –Friday
morning, March 27th, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
(LACBC) will be joined by L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge on the
third official “Car-Free Friday” bicycle ride along the
San Fernando Valley’s Metro Orange Line as part of the
coalition’s ongoing campaign to encourage Angelenos to bicycle
as a commute alternative to driving at least once per month.

Members of
the public are invited to join the ride and show their support for
bicycling as a healthy, cost-effective and sustainable commute
alternative that also helps reduce regional traffic congestion. Both
new and experienced riders will help prove that Angelenos can and
will leave their cars at home to help build a more livable future for
Los Angeles.

Riders
will meet
at 8 a.m. at the North Hollywood Metro
Red Line Station and will ride along the Metro Orange Line bike path
approximately four miles to the Van Nuys Metro Orange Line Station.
The Van Nuys Station provides bicycle and transit access to several
major government job centers as well as schools, hospitals, libraries
and businesses.

Councilmember
LaBonge is the third prominent L.A. City Council official to promote
the benefits of bicycle commuting so far this year. L.A. City
Council President Eric Garcetti kicked off the campaign with an
inaugural ride through Hollywood in January, and Bill Rosendahl
joined riders in West Los Angeles in February.

Tom
LaBonge has been a supporter of cycling in Los Angeles for years. He
helped push for the repaving of parts of 4th Street, an
important bike route for commuters. He also hosted four bike rides in
his district in the summer of 2008 to showcase the importance of
cycling as a viable form of transportation.

"I
support biking in Los Angeles whenever I can,” said
LaBonge. “The best way to see and enjoy the city up close
is from the seat of your bicycle.  It’s a healthy form of
transportation and reduces traffic congestion.  It’s good for
the waistline and great for the City of Los Angeles."

The
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
supports bike-to-transit commuting as a comprehensive alternative
that can fully replace the automobile for many daily work trips. The
Metro Orange Line, for example, enables commuters to begin their
commute from home by bicycle and travel longer work distances via
fast, high-capacity bus and subway service. The agency is now
investing in additional bicycle lockers and racks to provide greater
storage capacity along the Orange Line route.

The
Car-Free Friday campaign really reinforces on an ongoing basis the
goals that Metro is trying to achieve in encouraging people to get
out of their cars,” said Lynne Goldsmith, Metro’s Bicycle
Program Planning Manger. “We’re hoping initiatives like
these will offer new biking and transit commute incentives and will
reach more and more people as they reconsider the realities of
constant car commuting.”

"Bicycling
is an important way to solve a lot of problems – from gridlock to
global warming" says Joe Linton, a co-founder of Los Angeles
County Bicycle Coalition.

According
to Bikes Belong, a national advocacy coalition, “Bicycling is
good for communities, great for health and a solution to many of our
most pressing societal and environmental problems. It also
contributes to the U.S. economy through bike and equipment sales as
well as tourism dollars.”

Founded
in 1998, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) works to build
a better, more bike-able Los Angeles County. LACBC is the only
nonprofit, membership-supported organization working exclusively for
the millions of bicyclists in Los Angeles County. Through advocacy,
education and outreach, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition brings
together the diverse bicycling community in a united mission to make
the entire L.A. region a safe and enjoyable place to ride.

For
more information on the benefits and importance of bicycling in Los
Angeles County, visit to www.la-bike.org. 

  • I just want to mention that, a couple of months ago, I noticed on the MTA website that one could order a L.A. County bike-path/lane/route map from Metro. I clicked the link and got an e-mail address for Lynne Goldsmith. Wrote her a quick e-mail asking how I could get a couple of maps and how much they cost. She replied saying that, for onesies and twosies, they are free and she would mail them to my home address. When they arrived, not only had she included two lovely color bike route maps, but she included some pamphlets on L.A. and CA bicycle laws and regulations, as well as a couple compact bike kits for fixing flats. I know this may seem like a small thing, but the gesture was really nice, and she seemed to go above and beyond what I was asking for in an effort to encourage cycling. I was really pleased, and she seems to be doing as great a job as could possibly be expected, given Metros limited bike funds.

  • Eventually the Orange Line will hopefully be turned into Light Rail. Also imagined is a North/South route that connects the Westside to the Valley via the Sepulveda Pass.

    Beyond those two, this brings up the following two pieces of the puzzle.

    1) What is the best option for Ventura Blvd.? A bus-only lane? A streetcar? A subway?

    2) What about connecting the North Hollywood station with the Gold Line in Pasadena via Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena?

    ————-

    I rode the Orange Line just yesterday it was jam-packed even on the weekend. If it were ever to be a upgraded, south Valley politicians would need to stand up to the NIMBYs who legislatively thwarted above ground rail via former State Senator Alan Robbins.

  • Dan, I’m obviously no expert, but my opinions:

    1.) Ventura Blvd is a strong thoroughfare, and a nice section of walkable neighborhood. That said, I don’t think it’s on the same scale as Wilshire Blvd, and I highly doubt a subway under Ventura would have the ridership to justify the expense, though grade-separated rail is always the “ideal” solution, in my opinion. Ventura is also much more narrow than Wilshire, so bus-only lanes would be really hard to implement, as certain sections of the blvd are only 2 lanes in each direction, and sometimes there are cars parked in the curbside lane. I think Ventura would be a great candidate for a street-car, but again you have the narrowness of the street to contend with, and any construction or street-car structure taking up some of the streetspace will result in enhanced car congestion on the parallel streets to the North.

    All that said, I don’t really think Ventura Blvd needs to be seen as the focus of an east-west transportation thoroughfare. The Orange Line is where we should focus efforts on rapid east-west transit in the Valley. Ventura is the type of street you might just want to leave alone. It’s got the 750 and some other local bus lines along it, and people will want to park and walk along the street in certain sections. I’d rather efforts be made to improve, grade-separate, or convert to light rail the Orange line than invest in a new attempt at east-west transit improvement on Ventura.

    2.) I would selfishly love it if there was some better rail/bus connection between the S.F. Valley and Pasadena, since that will become my commute in a few short months. At the moment, it looks like the best transit connection one can make is to get to the North Hollywood metro station and take a commuter express bus along the 134 into Pasadena. But that is a LONG rail line extension we’d be talking about. Still, there is still at least some right-of-way that I think is being unused, starting at NOHO and heading west. This is the rail right of way over which the orange line was built to the west of NOHO, but nothing was done with the part heading east. I think that extends into Burbank. A light rail connection might possible, but I bet that connection falls far down the list after projects like the wilshire subway, Expo, and the Sepulveda pass connection. So I’d guess we’d be talking 20+ years in the future.

  • iDevin

    While the Orange Line is better than nothing, it still takes too long to cross the valley on it. There should be more grade-separated crossings and the buses should receive even greater priority at crossings. Perhaps even installing barriers at high-risk level crossings to safely allow the buses to cross without a reduction in speed.

    I would say that most Orange Line riders have to make a connection to either a local bus line or the Red Line. When I have to go downtown I frequently just drive to North Hollywood station and get on the Red Line instead of taking the Orange Line and transferring due to the amount of time it takes – and I live only two blocks from my nearest Orange Line station.

    I’d also like to see the Orange Line be developed into a proper light rail line due to the amount of riders (the buses are almost always packed when I ride it). Failing that I would at least like to see it converted to a quiet, zero-emissions electric trolleybus system and the existing CNG buses repurposed for other Local or Rapid lines. I’ve always wondered why a dedicated transit line would use anything other than electrified vehicles given the fact that they do not deviate from their specified course.

  • You live 2 blocks from an orange line station and you don’t use it to get to NoHo? To each his own, I guess. You must not be doing this at regular commute times, because I’ve found that the NoHo station parking lot is PACKED before 10 am on weekdays.

  • Justin Walker

    “Still, there is still at least some right-of-way that I think is being unused, starting at NOHO and heading west. This is the rail right of way over which the orange line was built to the west of NOHO, but nothing was done with the part heading east. I think that extends into Burbank.”

    The portion of the old SP Burbank-Chandler ROW east of Lankershim was converted in 2004 to a rather nice bikeway linking North Hollywood and Burbank. It’s a great asset to the region and allows for near-continuous bike path travel from Warner Center to Long Beach. I wish the right-of-way was large enough to accommodate both a transit line and a bike way.

  • Thanks Justin. I forgot that they had turned that into bike path. Would hate to see a nice bike path removed, but one would think that right-of-way would still be the best place to put light rail between NOHO and points east, if anyone ever decides to do that.

    For others interested, here’s the point in Burbank where the bike path ends and the old rail tracks begin:
    Link to google map.

  • Whoops. Try this link instead of the one in my previous post. (screwed up the previous google maps link).

    This should work.

  • What a great film!! Love all the interviews and everything.

  • Interurbans

    This was a great 4 minute film. But what it did not show was the slow brumby ride, the long dwell times to load or unload the bikes and wheelchairs on the bus. It does not show that a LRT line would carry 5 times the riders with the full trip taking half the time with half the employees and half the operating cost.

    It does not show that the Orange bus line was at capacity within months of opening and additional service can not be added do to delaying cross traffic. It does not show all of the Orange bus line riders who returned to driving after their poor experience of overcrowding, a rough ride and long running time.

    This film does not show what a real failure this line is compared to how good a line it could have been as a LRT or an extension of the Red Line.

  • iDevin

    David, I drive to NoHo and park when I have to go downtown which is usually on weekends when no permits are necessary to park at NoHo. Since the Orange Line opened I have mostly worked around the Universal City station, and I would take the Orange to the Red in that case. This would usually break even with taking the 101 time wise in the morning but take longer than driving in the evening.

    The sad truth here is that the Orange Line is only slightly better than nothing. Many people want to take it but don’t because it is slow. Some people are willing to put up with that, but don’t take it because it is obscenely overcrowded (even at off-peak hours due to less frequent buses). The great free parking lot near my Orange Line station is rarely ever more than 1/4 full as that is really the largest amount of commuters Orange Line can feasibly get out of their cars.

    The idea should be to create a faster, easier, cheaper alternative to driving. We should be creating a system that encourages those with cars to give them up, not just one to accommodate the existing car-less population. The Orange Line definitely has good intentions, but unfortunately that isn’t good enough.

  • @iDevin:

    I hear what you’re saying. And it does make sense to drive to NoHo station when the parking lot isn’t full and there are no fees. I’ve done that before when heading to Union Station to catch a surfliner.

    I think the Orange Line in general was a compromise. Subway extension of the red line would have been ideal, but was too expensive for the ridership to justify it along that corridor. Surface light rail was blocked by NIMBYism, so MTA did the best they could, which was BRT. Since the ridership hit capacity within just a few months, I do hope that this will justify conversion to light rail, and I’d hope that by now the NIMBY’s will reallize that a light rail isn’t going to bother them or impact the neighborhood any more than the BRT already is. My worry is that, since the Orange Line is already there and operating, upgrading it will sink down the priority list behind other projects along corridors that are not yet developed. For instance, I think upgrading the Orange Line should be a higher priority than the Gold Line foothill extension, in terms of the potential ridership increases, since the valley is much more population dense than the area east of Pasadena. However, since the Orange line is at least operating and transporting people, while the Gold Line foothill extension doesn’t yet exist, MTA will prioritize that because it would put new transit service somewhere it currently doesn’t exist.

    Finally, though a surface light rail would definitely have much higher capacity, addressing the “crowding” issue of the orange line, I don’t expect it would be able to go much faster along the route than the orange line already does, mainly because despite the signal priority, the orange line is still streetrunning, and will sometimes have to stop at lights. Anyone who has ridden the blue line knows that streetrunning slows a light rail down immensely. So, though you might be able to justify upgrading to LRT by the capacity issue alone, I expect a light-rail orange line wouldn’t improve the trip times significantly. We’d need more grade-separation for that, and I don’t really see that happening.

  • Marcotico

    Before the Orange Line is upgraded to a lightrail it would be nice to have it upgraded with quad gates, and full signal priority, and see what effect that would have on running times. It will also be interesting to see what happens when it is extended to the Chatsworth Metro station. Is there a market of exurban freeway commuters who might get off there, and take the Orange Line to destinations along the line? Doubtful, but still interesting.

  • Correct me if I am wrong, but there do not seem to be the level of advocacy in the San Fernando Valley as there is in the San Gabriel Valley. Supporters of the Gold Line extensions are numerous and loud.

    Who of the power brokers in the San Fernando Valley is lobbying for an Orange Line upgrade or a north/south project from Sylmar to LAX as much as the San Gabriel Valley pols are lobbying for the Gold Line?

    What elected official would dare to repeal the Robbins bill to allow for light rail in North Hollywood?

    Does VICA have a position on any of this?

  • iDevin

    VICA makes no specific mention of converting the Orange Line into a light rail, however “VICA supports extending Metro’s Purple Line into West L.A. and Metro’s Red Line deeper into the San Fernando Valley either above or below ground.”

    Also, “VICA supports efforts to connect commuters with job centers and airports ranging from the Antelope Valley to the South Bay communities of L.A. County. These efforts can be facilitated by public transportation modes that include freeway median light rail, monorails and/or hydrobus lanes.”

    VICA has a PDF of their positions on transportation located here: http://www.vica.com/documents/Trans%20principles.pdf

    It’s my understanding that the Robbins Bill and Prop A are stopping the switch of the Orange Line from BRT to rail. The Robbins Bill requires it to be a subway until the 405, but Prop A prohibits local funding for new subway projects in the valley thus making it impossible to secure federal/state matching funds for a subway project.

    So theoretically if either one of these laws were repealed, the Orange Line could be turned into a rail line. If Robbins were repealed it could be LRT, if Prop A were repealed it could be subway. Of course, LRT is more likely to happen due to the much lower cost to build and the fact that the right of way already exists – why bother putting it underground.

    One solution to get around these laws would be to extend the Red Line to the 405 and then either connect to an Orange Line LRT or have the Red Line go above ground and replace the Orange Line. This would make for a very long Red Line but it would be better for ridership. Imagine going from Woodland Hills to Union Station on the same train. That’s considerably less likely to happen than repealing Robbins and conversion of Orange to LRT, though it’s a nice thought.

    Anyways, enough dreaming – what would it take for us valley folks in support of Orange Line rail to become numerous and loud like those in SGV?

  • As long as we’re blue-skying here…

    My perferences for the San Fernando Valley would be to covert the Orange Line to light rail, and continue it to the east, eventually traversing to Glendale and Pasadena (where it would go underground to serve the Rose Bowl) and eventually link up with the Gold Line.

    There would be a subway under Ventura Boulevard, which would start at Valley Circle Blvd. and end at Universal City.

    The Red Line would get extended northward, with two branches: one to Burbank Airport and Burbank, and another one continuing up Lankershim, finally reaching Sun Valley, San Fernando and Sylmar.

    Another subway down Van Nuys Blvd. from Pacoima, tunneling under the foothills and reaching UCLA, where it would end at the Purple Line at Wilshire.

    And finally a north-south light rail in the middle of the 405 which would terminate at LAX.

  • Even just talking two lines, converting the Orange Line to light-rail and extending through Burbank and Glendale to the Gold Line in Pasadena, and a north/south line from Sylmar to LAX, I just find it so strange there is the advocacy activity in the San Fernando Valley as there is in the San Gabriel Valley.

    There are individual advocates of course, but not the sort of political coordination by elected officials to bring a rail project to the SFV. Why aren’t Brad Sherman and Howard Berman working together in the way that Adam Schiff and David Dreier are for the Gold Line. The state legislators in the SGV are firmly behind the Gold Line extensions as are Supervisors Molina and Antonovich.

    The only explaination that comes to mind is that in California and Los Angeles County’s “too large” legislative districts, many of the people representing the south SFV have most of the political weight of their districts on the Westside.

    As a Westsider, I benefit from this, but as someone who used to live in North Hollywood for six years I find it curious.

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