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Posts from the "Orange Line" Category

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Guest Editorial: Don’t Destroy the Orange Line, Improve It

Line 4 of the Metrobús BRT in Mexico City. The full system with five lines moves 850,000 people a day. Photo: Adam Wiseman/ITDP

Line 4 of the Metrobús BRT in Mexico City. The full system with five lines moves 850,000 people a day. Photo: Adam Wiseman/ITDP

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a high-quality bus based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities, has enjoyed rapid growth over the past few decades in major cities internationally, and is gaining momentum in the United States. Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Seattle are set to join L.A. and the handful of U.S. cities with true BRT.

Today, L.A.’s Orange Line is one of only eight true BRT corridors in the US. It is not only an international best practice and a leader in surface mass transit; it is a cost-effective and valuable asset for the city. But since construction began on the corridor in 2002, the Orange Line has been derided by some in the community who, not understanding the potential of true BRT, would prefer light rail (LRT) transit.

On Tuesday, Governor Brown signed California Legislative Bill AB 577, removing the prohibition against surface rail-based mass transportation in the San Fernando Valley. The intent of the bill, and those advocating for it, is clearly stated: convert the Metro Orange Line BRT into a light rail.

Light rail, its proponents argue, would better meet growing transit demand in the greater San Fernando Valley. The bill states that the area has “outgrown” BRT, and would be better served by rail. A conversion would signal to other US cities that BRT’s benefits are limited when measured against LRT. This is typical of the misinformation about BRT, which, despite the massive gains that this transport mode has made internationally, is still common thinking in the U.S.

Last year the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP,) in partnership with the foremost international experts on BRT, released The BRT Standard, a definition and scoring designation for systems around the world. The Standard is a recognition scheme which scores corridors as Gold, Silver, Bronze, Basic BRT; any corridor falling below that basic is not true BRT. By laying out the essential elements of this transit mode, it provides a framework for system designers, decision makers, and the transport community to identify and build top-quality BRT systems. The Orange Line scores bronze – a notable achievement placing it among the ranks of Pittsburgh, Cape Town, Jakarta, and Nantes – but its bronze ranking also proves that there is plenty of room to grow.

Comparing true BRT systems to light rail shows that LRT has no operational advantage: speed is comparable and the daily ridership of BRT can even surpass that of LRT. Innovations in BRT have increased the maximum daily ridership of a BRT system to nearly two million passengers (or 35,000 passengers per hour per direction), which is the current ridership of Bogotá’s gold-standard TransMilenio BRT. This far outstrips the capacity of any light rail system. Upgrading the Orange Line to silver- or gold-standard would grow the ridership and answer the criticism that BRT cannot meet the growing needs of the region. With a current daily ridership of almost 30,000, increasing capacity on the Orange Line two or three-fold is entirely workable with some minor changes.

First, simply increasing bus frequency would be an obvious improvement. While there have been concerns that increasing frequency will cause bunching at intersections, this appears to be due to a signal timing issue which favors cross street traffic over public transportation on the Orange Line corridor. Timing traffic signals to favor automobiles shows an outdated mode of thinking. It would take some political will on the part of the city to change the signal timings, but it is a simple solution, far cheaper and faster than upgrading to light rail which would still be faced with signal timing problems.

Read more…

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The Myth of the Magic Bus: The Weird Politics and Persistently Strange Logic Behind the Orange Line

Despite the Fanfare, the Orange Line Was More Expensive Than Some Light Rail Projects. Photo: Roger Rudick

Despite the Fanfare, the Orange Line Was More Expensive Than Some Light Rail Projects. Photo: Roger Rudick

The other day I was reading about New York City’s proposal to build a north-south busway on Woodhaven Blvd., starting in my old ‘hood of Jackson Heights.

It’s a great plan—by making the center lanes bus-only and providing train-like amenities, such as pre-paid, multi-door boarding, New York will have an improved north-south bus route. It’ll take a predicted 45 minutes to ride clear across Queens, instead of the current 65. Since it’ll be running on existing roadway, the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) upgrades can be built for a fraction of what it would cost to install light rail or subway.

As with most busway proposals, articles cite the Orange Line BRT in the San Fernando Valley as a model.

The Orange Line is celebrated as a transit success story in the press. Ridership exceeded expectations almost from the day it opened in 2005. It peaked around 29,000 daily passengers. At rush hour, demand exceeds capacity. This is something that busway supporters boast about.

They should stop boasting.

If you built a ship that carries 500 people but you found 1,000 people on the dock, you screwed up. Similarly, the higher-than-capacity demand on the Orange Line corridor just means Metro should have built a rail line.

Oops. Read more…

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Updated Report Shows CAHSR’s GHG Reductions Less Costly Than Thought

UCLA’s Lewis Center revised some of the estimates in its recent report comparing the costs of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using California high-speed rail to those of bike, pedestrian, and local transit projects. The report’s authors found that high-speed rail is not as expensive as an emission reduction as they first thought.

Lewis_yellow_box_REVISED_copyThe update makes several adjustments to the analysis, which compared CAHSR to Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line light rail and the Orange Line bus rapid transit route, as well as the bikeway that runs parallel to it. Originally, the report found high-speed rail to be a much less cost-effective way to reduce GHGs than any of the three urban transit options. While the new cost-benefit analysis for high-speed rail looks much better, it’s still not quite on par with local transit investments.

The new comparison of costs among high-speed rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and the bikeway is shown in the table below. As discussed in our previous story on this report, the authors consider anything less than the current price of a metric tonne of emissions under the cap-and-trade system (about $11) a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The lower the cost, the greater the cost-effectiveness.

The UCLA authors’ new cost/benefit estimates.

The new estimate for CAHSR is -$335 per metric tonne, compared to the previous $361. Those estimates are the full public cost plus user savings (in the case of high-speed rail, that’s the price of a ticket compared to the cost of driving or flying). However, the bus rapid transit, light-rail, and bikeway are still more cost-effective at -$676, $1,233, and $3,569, respectively.

Here’s why the numbers changed: Read more…

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Report: In Cutting Emissions, CAHSR Expensive Compared to Local Upgrades

Streetfilms featured Los Angeles’ Orange Line BRT and bike path in 2009. A new UCLA report says infrastructure projects like the Orange Line are a better way to invest cap-and-trade funds than CA High-Speed Rail.

UCLA’s Lewis Center published a report yesterday finding that California’s High-Speed Rail project is a relatively expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the near-term, compared to upgrading local transit and bicycle infrastructure.

Comparing CAHSR to Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line light-rail and Orange Line bus rapid transit route and bikeway, the report finds high-speed rail to be the least cost-efficient investment the state could make.

The high-speed rail project costs more per metric tonne of GHG emissions than the current cost of allowances under cap-and-trade, the report says. If the savings costs to users are included in the calculations, then the light-rail, busway, and bikeway projects cost far less than the cap-and-trade auction price, which makes them more cost-effective ways to meet the emission reduction goals set out in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32.

“There are a lot of projects that can reduce GHG emissions,” said Juan Matute, one of the report’s authors. “And differentiating between them will become more important in the future. One way is to look at the cost-effectiveness of the reductions.”

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cap-and-trade expenditure plan includes $250 million for high-speed rail to be spent in the next year alone, but very little for other transit or bicycle and pedestrian projects. High-speed rail isn’t scheduled to be online until 2022, so the savings it yields won’t help meet the state’s 2020 emission reductions goals. Meanwhile, the funds could be used for more local investments such as transit services or bicycle and pedestrian connections that would reduce GHG emissions more quickly. Read more…

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It’s Not Just a Bus Line. Streetsblog Explores the Orange Line Extension’s 25 Art Pieces

Ken Gonzalez-Day is the artist at Canoga Station's new platforms connecting the "old" Orange Line to the Orange Line Extension. This picture gives you an idea how large both the art panels and ellipses are.

Last week, I was given the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Orange Line Extension’s bike path and public art installation.  For both the Expo Line and the Orange Line Extension, Metro commissioned a team of L.A. County artists to personalize the stations by creating public art projects to reflect the community.  Los Angeles Times architecture critic Chris Hawthorne mocked the stations as “aggressively banal,” but Streetsblog South L.A.’s Sahra Sulaiman writes about how community groups are working to make the art even more accesible to those passing through.

With Sahra’s article fresh in my mind, I was wondering how the art could improve a station.  After all, there’s even less customization one can do with a bus stop, even a full Bus Rapid Transit stop and station, than you can with Expo Line stations.

Metro commissioned twenty five pieces of art at four new stations and the new platform at Canoga Station.  Each station had it’s own artist who created two pieces of elliptical art on the pavement and either three or four art panels that were in place of wind screens.  The exception is Chatsworth Station which only has two panels and one ellipse . The number of panels varied based on whether or not the panels faced the public.  In some cases, the back of the panel faces a wall.

Over one hundred and fifty artists submitted proposals based in part on community profile create by a local art advisory panel and other community leaders.  The profile described the local culture, heritage and in some cases artistic styles of the area surrounding the station.  For Metro, the community involvement in creating the guide was critical so each station provides not just some eye-pleasing art but some context on what kind of community one is entering as they step off the bus.  Because the street adjacent to the Orange Line Extension is commercial, with freight yards, strip malls and even a strip club facing the stations; it’s the art that provides the real introduction to the Station area.

In an effort to use this program to advance artists’ careers, Metro did not require that the artists have experience with either panel art or the glass mosaics that were on the station.  Artists were allowed to work in their preferred medium and specialists helped fit the original art into the mediums at the station.

Our review of each station is after the jump.  But even if you don’t ride the Orange Line on bus or bike, you can still visit the art.  You can arrange a tour for a group of 15 or more through the all-volunteer Metro Art Docent Council by calling 213-922-2738.  Don’t have 14 friends interested in a tour?  Metro is co-organizing with Valley College an exhibition about the Orange Line art.  Titled, Translations: Artists of the Metro Orange Line, it will run from early October to early December. The exhibition will take place at Valley College’s Art Gallery.  We will have more details as they become available.  But for now, on to the art!

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Rider Review: The Orange Line Bike Path Extension

A sign along the bike path notes that among the many "mores" of the Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth is "more bike paths." For more, visit the Streetsblog Flickr page.

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit all five of the new Orange Line stations on a tour of the newly installed art (more on that tomorrow.)  The afternoon also gave me a chance to ride and review the Orange Line Bike Path.  While I found the bike trail easy to use for the most part, the delay caused by the crossings create a trail of two bike rides.

While my overall review of the path itself is mixed, that it exists at all is still a victory for cyclists.  Just as the Orange Line extension busway is a four mile extension of the Bus Rapid Transitway from Canoga Station north to Chatsworth, the bikeway is a parallel extension.  While it’s being referred to as a bike path, it’s actually a 10 foot wide mixed use trail.  Along the path, there is more than adequate bike parking at the stations, although we should note it was over 100 degrees last Wednesday, and it wasn’t exactlty pleasant biking conditions.

The afternoon ride began at Canoga Station at the corner of Canoga Ave. and Victory Blvd.  The actual path extension begins at Canoga Ave. and Vanowen Boulevard.  I set out in the late morning with Metro’s Senior Creative Services Director, Heidi Zeller and Sammy, my two-year-old co-editor.  Zeller is also a member of the CicLAvia steering committee.

The actual start of the trail at Vanowen and Canoga

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Congestion on the 4th of July, the Orange Line and Dennis P. Zine

Anyone lucky enough to attend “Councilman Dennis P. Zine’s July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza Presented by Keyes Automotive Group” were treated to an afternoon and evening of free music and fireworks in an open space.  They were also treated to hearing the “Keyes on Van Nuys” theme song about 122,000 times (I counted.)

But right before the fireworks, they were also treated a surprise endorsement of Metro from the Councilman’s mouth.  For much of the afternoon and evening Zine and Congressman Brad Sherman, both in tough election campaigns, served as unofficial emcee’s to the event, a job which seemed to require thanking everyone they saw in the audience that they recognized and asking for the “Keyes on Van Nuys” theme song to be played again.  However, as the crowd started to file out, Zine hit a different note:

“Those of you that came from afar, thank you.  Those of you that rode the Orange Line, you’re going to have a great trip home.  Those of you that drove could have long waits to access the streets.  Maybe one or two hours.  Be patient.  But those of you that took the Orange Line are gong to have a great trip.”

Go Metro.

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A First Look at the Orange Line Extension from Canoga to Chatsworth

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. Read more…