Busway estimate ‘low-balled’
AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week But transportation experts say MTA has deliberately underestimated Orange Line ridership, possibly to prevent another misstep. They feel certain the Orange Line is sure to draw more riders, in part, because some Valley bus lines already carry 10,000 riders. The rule of thumb is one-third of the trips on a new system should be people new to public transit. “I think the 5,000 number is really low-ball,” said Professor James E. Moore of the University of Southern California’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “They’ll have absolutely no trouble beating that 5,000-passenger-per-day figure.” Moore hesitated to make his own ridership projection for the busway, Line 901, without doing formal computer modeling, but expects much higher numbers. “Don’t be surprised if it’s double that. Don’t be surprised if we hit that 20,000 to 25,000 this year, as opposed to 2020.” Former Los Angeles transit official Tom Rubin also said the 5,000 estimate was “very low.” “If that’s all they get, boy, they should be devastated,” he said. “They should either be ashamed of themselves for opening a line that’s going to have ridership that low or they should be ashamed of themselves for playing these silly games so they could say they’re exceeding their expectations.” The Orange Line is a $330 million buses-only route – only the second busway in the nation – with the trip between North Hollywood and Warner Center expected to take about 40 minutes. The 60-foot-long Orange Line buses will run every five minutes from 5 to 8 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, and at slightly longer intervals during off-peak hours. Westbound service starts at 4:37 a.m. and ends at 1:36 a.m. weekdays; eastbound service runs 3:39 a.m. to 12:44 a.m. Residents have been mixed on the busway since its inception. Some commuters say they’ll welcome any alternative to the crowded Ventura Freeway, but others complain the busway will not be fast enough to convince them to leave their cars at home. Veteran bus riders have also had a mixed response. While some look forward to a trip that’s faster than current east-west routes, others say the MTA hasn’t provided enough connecting buses to make the system effective – especially for those living in the North San Fernando Valley. “It does nothing for us,” said Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, an advocacy group for bus riders. “The amount of money they saved by not providing connecting services marginalizes the Orange Line,” he said. “There is a huge amount of shooting yourself in the foot when you’re spending one-third of a billion dollars and don’t bring in the supporting cast to make it work.” Valley business leaders and elected officials also are concerned about the number of connecting buses and shuttles, and they’ve been working to beef up the those services, saying they’re key to the success of the busway. Still, the MTA is confident ridership will grow as veterans riders become familiar with the service and new riders give it a try. Officials point to escalating ridership on its rail lines as an example of how service grows. The Metro Blue Line quadrupled its ridership in 15 years since it opened, from nearly 20,000 daily riders in 1990 to almost 80,000 today. “We know that this is going to grow,” Littman said. “If we had said this was the best it’s going to be, I doubt that would have justified building a project,” he said. “It’s going to grow. But we’re not going to give you an unrealistic estimate for the first year.” Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MTA officials project 5,000 to 7,000 people a day will ride the Orange Line busway during its first year, but other transit experts call that a “low-ball” estimate and expect double the number of passengers. Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said they made a “conservative” projection for ridership on the Metro Orange Line, set to open Oct. 29, based on the use of the existing bus system in the San Fernando Valley. Their models estimate the Orange Line will get 21,000 to 25,000 riders daily by 2020. “In the past, we’ve given first-year ridership figures before we’ve done operational testing,” MTA spokesman Marc Littman said. “They don’t pan out. That’s why we’re reluctant.” Before its Metro Gold Line opened in 2003, the MTA predicted it would lure 26,000 to 32,000 riders daily its first year. In fact, ridership dipped to 14,000 shortly after the opening, then leveled off at 18,000.