Monday, September 1, 2008

Orange Line Full, Driving Away Riders

We've covered this issue before, but here's an article written by a suit and tie guy that loves to ride this bus who is getting fed up with the crowding. It again shows that Americans are not the same as Brazilians and are not willing to put up with that type of passenger crush load in its buses. Thus the comparison to Curitiba again gets fresh debunking.
I take the line at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. That’s not bad for a guy in a suit and tie. We’re a rare breed on the busways of Los Angeles and a segment of the population that the MTA wants to attract. I live near one end of the line at the Chandler subway in North Hollywood and work at the Business Journal at the other end of the line in Warner Center.
So he's even reverse commuting away from downtown Los Angeles but to another major job center that is surely growing. Yet the end to end run time is getting slower. As said before, the Gold Line is the same length and 15 minutes faster. It's also been able to take the ridership hit because of two car trains and now we see ridership jump to 27,000. Over the last year, that's a 39% increase versus the constrained 8% of the Orange Line.
And the buses seem to be getting slower. It’s supposed to take 45 minutes to cross the Valley on the Orange Line. It’s five minutes longer than that many times. That may not seem like much, but if I’m spending 50 minutes traveling I might as well be in my car and in control.
Sure the Gold Line was a bit more expensive to build but the Orange Line won't be able to take much more growth, so something will have to be done soon that will make the Orange Line much more expensive than it had to be. Hopefully things will get fixed before more people start talking like this.
The point of all this: I don’t really want to ride the Orange Line anymore under these conditions. A champion of the service has become disillusioned. And considering this city’s track record on mass transit, I’m skeptical things will be fixed.

8 comments:

arcady said...

The unfortunate thing is that even if the sales tax passes in November, there's really not much that can be done for the Orange Line in the short term, since there are so many other, more important projects all around the county. They might have to try some operational fixes, like short turns and local/express service. And things will only get worse, as more lines are built In the worst case, they'll have to try and push local trips out onto local buses and leave the longer distance commuters on the Orange Line.

Anonymous said...

orange line is supposed to be red-and heavy rail...wtf? yeah, I know the cost overruns, etc...but here is a perfect example of now you have a busway that cannot be converted to rail without a huge closure to upgrade...sigh...

Tom Rubin said...

First, it is very simple to add capacity to the Orange Line; all MTA has to do is to "platoon" buses. Just like a two-car light rail train, just run two buses together.

The "bit more expensive ... than the Gold Line" was about twice the cost; if $400+ million more is a "bit," I'd rather not find out what a "lot" is.

The problem with the Orange Line, of course, is that it shouldn't have ever been built -- and light rail would not have fared any better. The problem is primarily the alignment and MTA's idiotic decision to try to go through 30+ very strange and complex at-grade intersections at 45 mph with protection limited to signs and paint on the pavement. They knew that the only place this had ever been tried (Miami), the result was a bloodbath -- and just didn't care. When it finally did acknowledge that this type of speed was impossible and slowed down, the result was the rather slow speed; in fact, the "regular" bus lines did the Warner Center to North Hollywood trip in 50 minutes, if you take out the wait time for the transfer.

If they had put in a series of Rapid Bus lines, like on Ventura, starting with Victory/Lankershim, the end-to-end travel time would have been under 40 minutes (MTA's projection, not mine) -- and it would have been easy to add more Rapid Bus lines on Vanowen, Sherman Way, etc.

If light rail had been built the same way as BRT -- no protected grade crossings -- the speed would be about the same. If a properly designed light rail had been built, the cost would have been far higher than the Gold Line, which was already one of the highest in the nation on a per mile basis.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Keep typing TAR. Apparently the Orange Line already often Platoons buses, but then the next set comes at 8 minutes instead of 4. It's called bus bunching. Also, you're paying two drivers what one driver could be doing. Not to mention, the Warner Center is a rather large employment center and will be growing. So since the Orange Line is full Tom, why should it not have been built at all? Is there no demand there? Perhaps the New York City subways shouldn't have been built either. The city would look the same today as it did then right? Even without the subway?

Also, I like you're comment about 50 minutes, "If you don't count the transfer" TAR, I think you add a lot of IFs into your analysis. The problem is it's never a truth.

Also, the build on the Orange line ROW would have not had viaducts and tunnels like the gold line, so stop pretending like it was a normal cost LRT project. It's misleading statements like that which make you not credible and seen always as a skeptic or a friend to the Libertarians.

arcady said...

The one key difference between the Orange Line and light rail in the same alignment is that light rail would almost certainly have had crossing gates and been able to run at 55 along the entire alignment, rather than being limited to 35 for most of it, and 10 at street crossings. Of course, if the line had been built as LRT, there would have been grade separations, because it crosses some quite busy streets that, by the MTA's design standards, require grade separated crossings.

Also, running two buses is not like running a two car train: you need two bus drivers, and I would speculate that riders don't see it the same way either and don't distribute themselves between the two buses evenly. A bus just isn't a train.

Justin said...

Platooning almost always never works. People tend to board the first bus, and not want to walk to the second bus. Especially if the second bus is not there.
The Orange Line Busway should have been built as Light Rail. The ridership was there, and the MTA simply cheaped out.

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Matt Fisher said...

Mr. Tom A. Rubin,

In rebuttal, it just isn't possible to couple two buses together "like a train". You claim not to be "anti-rail", but you have collaborated with Wendell Cox before.

Besides, the Orange Line should have been rail. I've heard you make the same suggestions before. LRT would have fared better than you say. It was just another f**ked up decision. California is not a Third World country like Colombia. California, even if there isn't enough money, as we are told to accept, is a state with a large economy.

You just appear to be an ally of the vulgar libertarians.