While Los Angeles is known as the nation’s car capital, that reputation is changing thanks in large part to the good work of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro). The visionary passage of Measure R has enabled transit, bicycling, and walking to become viable alternatives to driving in many areas of the County. Locally, Mayor Eric Garcetti has set out a course toward Great Streets, and I am proud to partner toward a healthier and more sustainable transportation vision in my district and the region.
That’s why I appreciate the effort led by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, with Mayor Garcetti, Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Director John Fasana and Director Ara Najarian to enhance service and ridership on the Orange Line by studying improvements including a possible conversion to rail.
The Orange Line carries thousands of riders to get to work, school, and recreation. Unfortunately the trip from Woodland Hills to North Hollywood is about 45 minutes, and the total time to the Civic Center via the Red Line is about 90 minutes. In fact, the Orange Line runs at about the same speed as the Metro Rapid Bus 750 which travels on City streets, and about the same time as a drive to City Hall.
To truly transform the Valley and change the car culture, we have to ask more of the Orange Line, a dedicated busway and lifeline to jobs and opportunity. It’s not unreasonable to imagine that the Orange Line could cross the Valley in 30 minutes, and for about 30,000 people a day that would make a tremendous difference.
Given the high ridership of the Orange Line, it’s proven to be a vital transit line and potential route to the Valley’s green, pedestrian friendly transformation. The demand for transit along this corridor is growing in both directions, and the Orange Line should meet that demand and provide the best possible experience for riders without causing massive delays in road traffic.
In particular, Warner Center in the Woodland Hills area of my district is an economic engine for the region and in particular for the San Fernando Valley. Warner Center provides about 40,000 jobs, and will grow with economic opportunity via the recently passed Warner Center 2035 Specific Plan. A blueprint based on principles of sustainability, community connectedness, accessible public transit and jobs, Warner Center 2035 will stimulate job growth and economic development with a transit-oriented development approach that relies on the Orange Line.
In an ideal world, the Orange Line would be a rail line, safely apart from cars, pedestrians, and bicycles by grade separated crossings, with gates and signal preference to move at higher speeds.
A conversion of the Orange Line from busway to rail was not considered as part of Metro’s 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan, in part due to State law which has since been changed. Thanks to AB 577, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian’s recently signed law which eliminates the state prohibition, Metro is no longer blocked from exploring rail conversion.
While improving the Orange Line, let’s not aggravate the traffic backups where it crosses major streets. These North/South streets are important corridors for heavy car and bus traffic which slows considerably at crossings. Safety improvements should also consider pedestrians and bicycles and seek to reduce risks for collisions.
The at-grade design of the Orange Line limits the speeds and frequency of buses along the route. The capacity of the line has nearly been reached and it is not possible to add buses or reduce headways with the current design. That capacity cap also limits its ability to support job creation and the transformation from car culture.
Upgrades could dramatically improve travel times, safety and ridership if funding were available. By exploring options, such as grade separations for major intersections, converting the bus line to light rail, or improving crossings with other features that facilitate improved bus speeds such as prioritizing signal timing, Metro could make better use of this transit asset and make it a better option for more people while reducing the traffic impact. If reconfiguring boarding platforms, adding gates, or changing signals could reduce the time from Woodland Hills to North Hollywood from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, we should explore and implement those options.
Councilmember Krekorian and his colleagues’ measure will explore the viability of these options through a feasibility study to explore the related costs and benefits. I urge Metro to support and complete the feasibility study as quickly as possible to identify and implement measures to improve service on this crucial corridor.
I look forward to continuing to work with Metro on transit and transportation improvements that will make a difference in the mobility of the region and the San Fernando Valley.