Friday, July 25, 2014

Study OK'd for LA Orange Line conversion

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More quickly than many anticipated, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) on Thursday, July 24, 2014, approved a study weighing conversion of its Orange Line busway to light rail transit (LRT) operation.

Earlier this month California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that unwound the "Robbins bill," passed in 1991, that prohibited construction of any above-ground rail transit along a 3.5-mile stretch from North Hollywood to Hazeltine Avenue. Safety concerns, specifically involving grade crossings, was cited as the reason, but pro-rail voices note citizen opposition, aided by some unions opposed to rail development, thwarted original plans for LRT on the Orange Line, itself an old rail right-of-way.

Instead, the 18-mile Orange Line was implemented as a busway, which many argue now exceeds practical capacity, driving the need for a step up to LRT.

LA Councilman Paul Krekorian, a member of the LACMTA board, painted the current situation in positive tones to local media. "It is clear today that the Valley has not benefited to the degree of other areas," he said. "At the same time, the Orange Line has been a phenomenal success, putting to rest the unfair stereotype that Valley residents will not get out of their cars."

Stuart Waldman, president of the San Fernando Valley's Valley Industry and Commerce Association, concurred with Krekorian's assessment. "In some ways, the Orange Line has been a victim of its own success," he said. "It suffers from overcrowding, and the only way to get more people off the 101 Freeway is with a light rail system."

Krekorian, with unanimous support from the board, sponsored measure approving analysis of modal conversion of the Orange Line, to be conducted by LACMTA staff.