Chatsworth Station Under Construction. For more pictures from last week's tour, visit us our Flickr Page
Last week, I had the chance to tour the new Orange Line BRT extension from where the Orange Line currently ends in Canoga northward for four miles to the Metrolink Station in Chatsworth. Even as construction of some of the stations continues, test buses run along the route. Greg Spotts, with the Mayor’s Office, predicts that the line will open sometime next month, although you never know what problems can arise as testing continues.
The tour consisted of both a car trip up and down the roads parallel the route followed by a tour of the actual line on the bus. Adding a twist to the tour, Spotts and I joined a group of Brazilian journalists touring and reporting on American BRT in advance of a twenty kilometer (just over twelve miles) route opening in their country.
Below are some thoughts and media on my first impressions of the route as a rider. The below video is from my flip video pointing out the front of an Orange Line bus as we head from Chatsworth back to Canoga. The entire trip took about twelve minutes, although the bus driver told me that the transponders that will communicate with traffic signals were not completely synched at the time of our tour. You can hear the Brazilian news team in the background, and occasionally I’ll narrate some interesting occurences while the video rolls.
As for my impression of the line, if I didn’t know what to look for I might declare it near ready to open. The trip was smooth and even though it was off-peak the bus kept pace with a cars’ congestion free trip on an adjacent road. I sat most of the way to Chatsworth and stood on the way back to Canoga. Some of the features that make Bus Rapid Transit more than just buses on a fixed guideway were still being worked out. The bus arrival announcements weren’t operating and as mentioned above, the signal sync that gives priority to the buses at intersections wasn’t worked out.
For more first impressions in the form of a captioned photo essay, read on after the jump.
One of the parts of the tour that made me happiest was that we saw a handful of joggers and cyclists using the multi-use trail even though it wasn't officially "open." The wider right of way for the trail allows for a more consistant trail than the one planned for Expo. As a member of the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, I was jealous.
One of the questions that the Brazilian media team asked me was "how do you explain a project coming in early and under-budget." While the economic climate and lack of opposition have something to do with it, the project team headed by Hitesh Patel deserve credit to. One of their best ideas was designing the mammoth elevated overcrossing of Lassen St. and Metrolink railroad tracks before putting the project out to bid. Rather than have a consultant debate and work with Metrolink, Metro did. Metrolink controls that small part of the Orange Line right-of-way, and the whole project could have been stalled.
The first time I met Spotts at our December fundraiser, he excitedly told me that the Expo Phase I bike lanes were repaved. Whatever mistakes were made for on Expo Phase I weren't repeated here as the entire route adjacent to the BRT extension is already repaved. While cyclists and pedestrians won't have to fight for space on the street thanks to the wonderful mixed use trail. However, it's always nice when a project benefits all transportation system users in a tangible way.
Following L.A. Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne's bashing of the station design for Expo, I went back through my pictures and found this excellent montage on the ground at the Chatsworth stop. The Source has a story on the art program last week.
The other things the Brazilians were interested in was the integration of the bicycle and pedestrian facilities with the busway. The trail stops short of the Chatsworth Station but the project team promises that the transition will be smooth. I guess we'll have to wait and see on that one. However, we did get to see the bike lockers installed at Chatswoth.
“I've taken a closer look at the supporting documents and I'm even more convinced that Metro is making a mistake with this bike expansion plan. ... The expansion plan should be based on the following principles:
1) Contiguity ... 2) In-fill ... 3) New markets”