Metro's Orange Line, the workhorse busway that shuttles 25,000 San Fernando Valley residents between Chatsworth and North Hollywood every weekday, will benefit from numerous upgrades and changes following the passage of the Measure M sales tax initiative. A new post on Metro's blog the Source details what the future may hold.
One of the earliest Measure M projects calls for improving travel times along the Orange Line by building grade separations as key intersections, as well as implementing traffic signal upgrades and crossing gates.
Although the exact scope of the project has not been determined, a technical study is now analyzing five intersections as candidates for either elevated crossings or underpasses: Fulton/Burbank, Woodman/Oxnard, Van Nuys, Sepulveda and Reseda.
A groundbreaking is slated for 2019.
Conversion to Light Rail
In 2014, years of discussion finally built into political momentum, as Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill overturning a ban on light rail transit along a portion of the Orange Line right-of-way. This lead to the inclusion of a Orange Line rail conversion within Measure M, although the ballot initiative's expenditure plan does not call for a groundbreaking until 2051.
However, that timeline could be accelerated should additional funding materialize.
Last year, the Metro Board of Directors instructed staff to begin implementing battery-powered zero-emission buses on the Orange Line by 2020, replacing the current stock of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. The agency has now ordered five 60-foot articulated electric buses for a test run, after which point a larger order would be required to phase out the existing fleet.
Starting in 2016, Metro began increasing the speed of Orange Line buses across certain intersections. This was a reversal of a 2005 policy change that was intended to prevent collisions between Orange Line buses and private vehicles, but also significantly slowed travel times by causing the buses to miss coordinated green lights.
Metro also intends to rest "in-pavement lights and parking-lot style gates" at four locations to prevent drivers from making illegal right turns across the busway. Installation is expected to start in 2018.
Changes to the Warner Center Loop
Since opening in 2005, Orange Line buses have ended their westbound trips by leaving their private right-of-way towards a final stop near the Westfield Promenade shopping center. The Source reports that ridership on this segment of the route only accounts for 750 weekday passengers, likely owing to the limited number of stops and Warner Center's auto-centric built environment.
To improve service, Metro has proposed cutting Orange Line service into Warner Center and replacing it with a dedicated shuttle service. The proposed shuttle would run every 8 minutes at peak hours and every 16 minutes at other times, with several stops throughout the neighborhood. Two potential routes are seen below.
NoHo to Reseda Short Line
As ridership on the Orange Line drops west of Reseda Boulevard, Metro is proposing short line service between North Hollywood and Reseda, with 4-minute frequency at peak hours and 8-minute frequency at off-peak hours. Service between North Hollywood and Chatsworth would continue every 8 minutes at peak hours and every 16 minutes at off-peak hours. This would save service hours that could then be reinvested into the proposed Warner Center shuttle.
Metro has already implemented a similar arrangement with the Blue Line, in which every-other train turns back at Willow Station rather than proceeding to Long Beach.
The proposed shuttle service and Reseda short line will be vetted by Metro's San Fernando Valley Service Council, and could go forward as part of the agency's annual service changes in December.