Orange Line, golden age
May 29, 2012
Sometimes it’s hard to spot a great leap forward when you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
But that’s what we’re living through these days in L.A. County.
Our public transportation system, a national laughingstock just a generation ago, is on a roll. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say we’ve entered a golden age of public mass transit. I’m not arguing that our notorious traffic congestion is likely to disappear anytime soon; as long as our population keeps growing and 16-year-olds continue to head down to the DMV to get their first driver’s licenses, that’s going to be a fact of L.A. life. But we’re finally in a position to offer the traveling public some meaningful alternatives to sitting and stewing on our freeways and surface streets.
The Orange Line Extension is the latest case in point. This rapid transit bus line opens to the public on Saturday, June 30, with free rides and festivities. Its four-mile route, which runs from Warner Center to the Metrolink train station in Chatsworth, is a northward extension of the original Orange Line, which opened in 2005 to rave reviews and significantly higher-than-projected ridership. (It now stands at more than 25,000 boardings a day.)
The Orange Line Extension—which is coming in under budget and ahead of schedule—promises to continue that success story, offering thousands of new riders not just a better commute but a better quality of life.
As important as this project is to bringing transportation alternatives to our traffic-jammed region, it’s only a small part of what’s now happening across Los Angeles County. Look in just about any direction, and you’ll see signs of a transit revolution.
The long-held dream of building a Westside Subway moved into high gear last week as Metro’s Board of Directors voted to approve the project’s route, placing it on track to break ground as early as 2013.
Meanwhile, the Westside’s first light rail since the Red Car is now open for business. The Expo Line started carrying passengers between downtown and La Cienega in April, and will be reaching Culver City later this summer. Work also has begun on Expo’s second phase, which will extend the line all the way to Santa Monica.
On the other side of the county, the eastward expansion of the Gold Line is underway, with a dramatic bridge taking form across the 210 Freeway as the light rail rolls ahead toward Azusa. And projects ranging from the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Regional Connector are moving closer to becoming a reality.
These projects—many of them made possible by county voters’ overwhelming approval of Measure R in 2008—are about so much more than moving us from Point A to Point B. Every time we build a mass transit alternative, we return precious time to the daily lives of real people. We restore choice to commuters who have been held hostage to the freeways. And we move our region toward a healthier, less car-dependent future.
I encourage you to hop onboard the Orange Line Extension when it opens June 30. And be sure to take a photo. You can say you were there as L.A. was making its move from public transportation punch line to public transportation powerhouse.