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Metro prepares to upgrade the Valley’s popular Orange Line bus route

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Gated crossings could shorten trips by up to 17 minutes

Orange Line bus
The Orange Line runs between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.
Oran Viriyincy | Flickr creative commons

Metro will soon embark on a project aimed at improving service for riders of the agency’s popular Orange Line rapid bus route.

A report on the project that agency staff will present to Metro’s San Fernando Valley Service Council tomorrow shows the project could result in slightly longer wait times for drivers—while cutting travel times for bus riders by up to 29 percent.

Major construction on Orange Line upgrades is expected to get underway next year, with work wrapping up by 2024. The project includes installation of crossing gates at up to 35 key intersections along the route, which runs between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.

The plan also calls for construction of aerial stations at Van Nuys and Sepulveda boulevards, allowing the bus to bypass busy street-level crossings at those streets.

Metro predicts these changes will make for a significantly faster ride. An end-to-end trip on the Orange Line now takes between 53 and 55 minutes, but agency staff estimate that could come down to 38 minutes after the project.

The report indicates that speedier bus service, for the most part, won’t slow down drivers too much. Delays at more than 80 percent of the gated intersections will amount to less than 55 seconds by 2025, according to a traffic analysis. A handful of crossings will see longer wait times, but only at three will drivers hit delays longer than 80 seconds.

These projected wait times also include normal delay drivers are expected to face with or without the project.

Still, Metro will consider strategies to mitigate the impact of these delays. According to the report, those include a gate activation system and a system in which buses “platoon,” following closely behind one another to travel the route as efficiently as possible.

The bus line, which opened in 2005, will eventually be converted to light rail under Metro’s Measure M spending plan. The current project is, in part, aimed at preparing the route for that transformation.

With more than 22,000 daily riders in 2018, the Orange Line is already one of the most heavily used routes in Metro’s bus network. But the agency predicts that the line could attract even more passengers once improvements are complete.

According to the report, daily ridership is expected to jump nearly 40 percent, with the bus carrying 35,000 daily riders post project.