Study Line 580X
(Tri-City Transit Link Express)
A new express line was proposed by the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena to operate between North Hollywood Red/Orange Line Station and Del Mar Gold Line Station in Pasadena, with two in-route stops, one in the Burbank Media District and the other in downtown Glendale (off the 134 freeway).
Line 580X first appeared in the concept maps of Metro San Gabriel Valley's 2006 restructuring study.
Subsequently, Ara Najarian, who is a City Councilmember in Glendale and a member of the Metro Board of Directors, requested an allocation of $165,000 in the FY 2006-07 budget to study the line. An internal Metro Task Force and an external task force comprised of Glendale City Council members and a variety of Metro staff from the Service Development Group, Planning Group, Contract Service Providers Group, San Gabriel Valley Sector, and the San Fernando Valley Sector was formed to look at the feasibility of providing the new service. Conflicting reports exist regarding the participation of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) regarding how their Commuter Express Line 549 service -- which operates in the same corridor -- would be affected; by some accounts, LADOT has been invited to participate in the discussions on the pilot project but has declined, and by other accounts they were deliberately excluded from the meetings of the external task force.
LADOT realigned Line 549 to serve North Hollywood Station February 12, 2007, the same month as the public hearing for 580X by Metro San Fernando Valley. Phil Aker, LADOT's primary transportation planner for Commuter Express, testified at the hearing that "Tri-City Transit Link Express is duplicative of Line 549 and an overlay service would do little other than split existing ridership."
In April of that year, Governance Councilmember Marsha Ramos requested a status report on Line 580X, and sector general manager Richard Hunt reported that a meeting with Pasadena, Burbank and the City of Los Angeles was planned, and that Metro was developing a plan to provide service on the Tri-City Express corridor for one year in order to evaluate ridership trends, and that a service proposal would be recommended for Board approval that summer.
While meetings took place over the ensuing months, the Governance Council was never asked to vote on Line 580X; the June, 2007 service change program that was approved referred to the Tri-City Transit Link Express as "under review for a possible pilot program." In September, Richard Hunt prepared a report for the Metro Board of Directors requesting authorization for staff to develop an implementation plan for a test period run of the service to determine its viability. The Board has never took action on that request.
If a test period of service were to be approved, Metro staff has proposed to operate Line 580X Monday through Friday during peak hours only (6:00-9:00am and 3:00-6:00pm). There would be no service operated during midday or on weekends. Two service frequency options are being considered; the first would operate as an independent service at 10-minute intervals. The second option would operate it as an overlay to LADOT's Line 549 at a combined 15-minute service interval. (The proposal estimates that the first option would require 15,300 revenue service hours for a one-year test, while the second option would reduce that to 5,000 revenue service hours.)
The timing for suggesting the new express service was less than ideal, with Metro having nearly implemented major service cuts in June, 2008 because of a structural operating deficit. The fate of Line 580X depends on finding the $510,000 to $1.56 million (based on Metro's $102 per hour service operating cost) to finance the test period run. (Amazingly, there were some planners in the cities of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena who believed a pilot program could be funded for the original $165,000 allocation.) In the meantime, LADOT continues to operate Line 549.
At the August 4, 2011 meeting of the Metro Board, Director Ara Najarian requested that the line be given further study as part of a motion to identify new bus rapid transit corridors. However, not content to wait for the study to be completed, Najarian, as chair of the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments (SFVCOG), had a "progress report" given at the SFVCOG's July 12, 2012 meeting. The report was given not by Metro staff but by the COG staff, and called for a "position paper" from the SFVCOG supporting funding for the line.
On March 14, 2013, the SFVCOG adopted a set of their multimodal transportation priorities, including "an express bus pilot program" between North Hollywood Station and the Gold Line. Two weeks later, the Metro Board of Directors formally recognized those priorities and requested a response by Metro staff as to how those projects would fit into the Long Range Transportation Plan, estimated costs and potential funding opportunities, and implementation strategies. Aker appeared at the Service Council's April 3 meeting and said LADOT "would be happy to run the Line 549 service (which by then had celebrated its 21st year of operation) all day if funds were found to operate it." The Council was to have discussed the SFVCOG priorities but the agenda item was held over to a future meeting.
The discussion and debate continues; Metro staff has indicated that there will be no major service change program until June, 2014 at the earliest.