However, I do not subscribe to the belief that a seat on the bus is as "good" as a seat on a train, nor do I agree with the choice of Metro to brand busways with official colors like the "Orange Line" and the "Silver Line".
The San Fernando Valley seems to be left out of mass transit planning in
Just how did this former rail corridor end up as a busway anyway?
The majority of the Orange Line is built on part of the former Southern Pacific Railroad Burbank Branch right-of-way. This had passenger service from 1904 to 1920, with stations at several locations including
and Van Nuys. It had Pacific Electric Red Car service from North Hollywood Northto Van Nuys again from 1938 to 1952. Hollywood
The right of way was purchased by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (now Metropolitan Transportation Authority) in 1991 along with several other rail road right of ways across the Southland for future use in transportation projects.
The California Legislature passed a law in 1991 introduced by Alan Robbins which prohibited the use of the corridor for any form of rail transit other than a "deep bore subway located at least 25 feet below ground". Later Los Angeles County passed Proposition A in 1998, promoted by supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, which prohibited Metro from using its county sales tax funding to build subways anywhere in the county.
With subway and light rail now off the table the only option left to develop the transit corridor was to build a busway.
The "Orange Line" busway is already at capacity and shows the limits of BRT. The San Fernando Valley deserves an east-west rail project that connects
In Measure R which was approved by voters in 2008, there is a project study for a north-south transit project connecting the Orange Line with Wilshire/Westwood through the
What about east-west rail travel? The most obvious solution is to upgrade the existing Orange Line to light rail.
I asked the incomparable Kymberleigh Richards (http://transit-insider.org), member of Metro's San Fernando Valley Governance Council, her thoughts on the issue and the possible challenges and here is what she had to say:
Here are the problems that would be faced:
1. You would need to retrofit the busway without seriously disrupting existing service, otherwise what's the point? You wouldn't want to inconvenience the existing passengers by forcing them to a slower alternative during construction. The most likely way to proceed would be to close one segment at a time, one lane at a time, then cut grooves into the pavement down to the roadbed and install the rails so that they were flush with the pavement (like a grade crossing, only along the entire alignment) then reopen the lane to bus traffic. Service would continue to run with only a minor delay by using the remaining open lane to run both directions, with flagmen. Grade crossings would require a bit more logistics, especially the major arterials like Van NuysBlvd.
2. You would have to use a low floor light rail vehicle in order to avoid having to retrofit the existing station platforms. This means the existing light rail cars would not be compatible with the Orange Line. So there would be a third fleet of LRVs at Metro; heavy rail subway (Red/Purple), high floor/high platform light rail (Blue/Green/Gold/Expo/Crenshaw) and low floor/low platform light rail (
). So forget any Orange Line extensions that would interline with something else. Orange
3. Because of the constraints of construction, the technology will have to be something other than overhead catenary for power. Installing that would require full busway closure for longer periods of time, which puts us back to inconveniencing passengers during construction. Third rail power, like the Red/Purple Line, is also out of the question because of the open-air operation (you can't have passengers in danger of making contact with the electric source). A DMU, like the
system, is going to be far too expensive for this and brings constraints of its own to the process. So either you need a protectedthird rail (very costly; they are experimenting with this in some of the Middle Eastern countries, where cost is no object) or a self-contained, rechargeable on-board power source. Perhaps some type of storage battery that could plug in at the layovers? San Diego
4. The street running segment between Canoga Station and
would have to be negotiated with traffic engineers at LADOT. I doubt they'd give up traffic lanes for the light rail, and I don't savor the idea of running light rail in mixed-flow traffic. Warner Center
And of course, you'd have to do an entire new scoping/AA/EIR/EIS and figure out where the funding is coming from. Just that last part (the $$$) pretty much means all the Measure R projects would have to be underway and near completion before you could start programming funds for an Orange Line upgrade.
No one has ever done a busway-to-light rail conversion. We'd be breaking new ground, which is why there's no hard research available on the subject.
Hmm. Sounds problematic, doesn't it? However, why couldn't this be the first corridor to attempt a busway to light-rail conversion? I'm game.
In any event, the Robbins bill would have to be repealed for any light rail project, so start lobbying your state legislators if you want to see ANY rail service in this area, for a subway ain't coming to this corridor this century.
What about alternatives? Metrolink commuter rail is in the northern San Fernando Valley, but many people travelling to the
1) San Fernando Valley transit advocates could lobby for a subway under