East-West Valley Busway

(Based on my comments before the MTA board of directors on March 22, 2001. This rant also appeared on the MTA's Stakeholders site.)

Having had the opportunity to attend a presentation by MTA staff on the proposed east-west busway in the Valley, I am convinced that this concept will never be implemented ... at least, not in a way that won't doom it from the start.

I remain skeptical that a bus-based system can handle the potential ridership; ever since the Red Line was extended to North Hollywood, passengers have been clamoring for an east-west connection and it appears that the number who would ride on this corridor would quickly overwhelm the capacity of even high-capacity buses. Blue Line-style light rail seems much more appropriate, especially since the corridor was originally used for rail transit.

But where the busway proposal would appear most designed to fail is in the area of connecting service; the proposal is based around MTA operating frequent Metro Bus service on the major streets the busway would cross. But MTA's board of directors has taken an interest in (and funded studies regarding) a separate agency to operate Valley bus service. The agency -- or "transit zone" -- would be responsible for the buses on those major streets, such as Reseda, Van Nuys, and Sepulveda Blvds., and MTA would be without leverage to force a zone to run the extra service that appears critical to the busway's success.

In fact, the busway proposal has put forth the concept of combining Metro Rapid-like "limited stop" street service with busway "express" service, meaning that at best MTA would be competing with the zone for passengers along the streets where the heaviest ridership exists. I doubt the zone would go along with the idea, so the busway is likely to be the deal buster, since I doubt MTA will turn Metro Rapid over to the zone.

MTA's board has taken a "gung ho" attitude toward both the busway and the zone. What a shame they haven't realized that their pet projects directly conflict with each other.

(Addendum: When the service sectors were created in 2002, the proposed transit zone for the San Fernando Valley was quietly dropped and that allowed the busway project to move forward. The Metro Orange Line has been in service since October 30, 2005; the combined limited-busway concept was rejected in favor of running a pure busway service.)

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