Don’t say we didn’t warn you. After the recent public relations victory, in which tens of thousands hopped on the Orange Line during its inaugural weekend, the MTA is now being characterized in less flattering terms. Developed over years of planning and construction, the Orange Line is a dedicated, bus-only corridor featuring futuristic buses straight out of Blade Runner (or at least Logan’s Run). The speed and visitor experience are meant to mimic that of light rail. Local leaders also hope that the Valley’s first high-capacity transit line will help relieve traffic congestion and focus development around stations.
Yet several serious crashes and dozens of injuries later, the press is focusing less on how the Orange Line can improve accessibility and reshape a densifying suburb and more on its potential to maim. File under: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Since buses speed through at-grade intersections with signal priority, red-light-runners risk serious accidents. LAT’s Steve Lopez has even dubbed the transitway the “Orange Crush”. That just hurts.
MTA is coping with this collision cocktail (mix one jigger of bad drivers with two parts bad intersection design, splash of sensational media coverage) by slowing buses down as they cross intersections – from 35, to 25, and now down to 10 m.p.h. – which hardly makes the Orange Line more attractive for commuters. The entire fiasco, as well the excruciatingly slow Gold Line and the frequently fatal Blue Line, makes one thing perfectly clear. When it come to rapid transit, at-grade gets low grades.