Comparing Poppies and Oranges

County Supervisor and MTA Board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky has decided that his pet project -- the east-west Metro Rapid busway across the San Fernando Valley -- should be named the Metro Orange Line.

Never mind that MTA policy has been to name rail lines with colors, and that this is a bus line (no, Zev, I'm afraid calling it "rail on rubber wheels" isn't fooling anyone). Also never mind that this new name replaces the previous name that Zev championed for the project, the Metro Rapidway. The truth is that this latest bit of political grandstanding, complete with Zev presenting each of the MTA directors with an orange at the meeting where he put this to a vote, is going to have a negative effect on the people this line is really being built for.

That's right ... the passengers.

When I was appointed to the MTA sector governance council for the San Fernando Valley, it was because of my long-time activism as a transit advocate. I'm allegedly supposed to be looking out for the interests of the people who put their money in the farebox and ride our buses. So why is a decision affecting the passengers in this sector made without even consulting the nine of us who are responsible for governing bus operations in the sector?

That question was purely rhetorical. The reality is that Zev, like most politicians, never consults with people who might know enough to tell him his ideas have problems.

In this case, the Metro Orange Line will be running 60-foot buses painted in the red colors of Metro Rapid, MTA's rather successful bus rapid transit project which has not only improved travel times on Ventura Blvd., but attracted new ridership as well. On the other hand, MTA is in the process of repainting the Metro Local bus fleet a color called "California Poppy" ... in other words, orange. But Metro Local buses won't be running on the Metro Orange Line busway.

Confused yet? Well, MTA passengers will undoubtedly be in that state when this line starts running in the summer of next year. After all, we are talking about a group of people that includes those who ask the driver of a bus whose destination sign says "Burbank" if the bus goes to Burbank. I know that's sad to report, but it's true, and if passengers have trouble deciphering destination signs, they're never going to understand why MTA has red buses running on the Orange Line while orange buses don't.

Somehow, I have the feeling this is going to be another "I told you so" for me to say later.

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