The Orange Line Extension -- Another Reason to Leave Your Car at Home

A lot has been written about the Orange Line extension to Chatsworth, and this great new transit project deserves the praise. So for those who haven't ridden it yet, I'm adding my voice to the mix in the hope that it reaches some Angelenos and tourists who may be inclined to ditch the car in a town that is rarely fun to drive in. Unless you are transporting your horse from Chatsworth to the polo field at Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades, there is no reason not to ride the Orange Line.

The much-maligned San Fernando Valley is now blessed to have even more of what has to be one of the country's finest (bus rapid transit) BRT lines. On opening day I biked from the Westside over the Sepulveda Pass to the Orange Line bike path en route to my final stop at the Chatsworth Metrolink station. As excellent a transit option as the Orange Line is for bus riders, the landscaped bike path is a leafy, cool reprieve from riding alongside car and trucks in LA. While the path has a few unfortunate gaps, the sidewalks are generally wide enough to accommodate both riders and pedestrians. In addition to the views of the mountains from the Chatsworth Metrolink rail overpass, I like the illusion you get riding the bus west of Balboa that the Valley is still a bucolic lemon and orange ranch.

If more of my neighbors on the Westside would only take the time to try the Orange Line between North Hollywood and Chatsworth, they'd see what they are missing and start agitating for the Wilshire BRT and the accelerated completion of the Expo Line to Santa Monica. Now that the Orange Line extension is complete, LA and Metro should focus on making sure the America Fast Forward inspired money in the new transportation bill goes to giving Angelenos a mass transit option between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, and that 20 years past due subway to the sea.

And now for the part of my piece that isn't so easy on Metro.

The focus needs to be on speeding the pace of both Expo Phase 2 construction and the pace of the train itself. The slow speed on the stretch between 7th Street Metro Center and USC is unacceptably painful. Expo isn't a streetcar crawling through downtown L.A.; it's light rail and should operate as such. It must be hurting the engine as much as the passengers to move at such a slow crawl, particularly at Washington Blvd.

The public isn't stupid. It knows that there are technical and safety issues that need to be worked out before the speed of the trains and frequency of service can be increased. So work it out already! Having delivered Expo years behind schedule, the agency has sure as hell had enough time. If Metro wants people to ride its trains and buses it needs to make service faster and more consistent with the public's needs. If it can't, then maybe it doesn't deserve our patronage.