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ORANGE LINE RIDERSHIP STILL ON THE RISE.

Byline: LISA MASCARO Staff Writer

Orange Line ridership set records in March, breaking the 18,000 mark on weekdays and hitting a new high for Sunday passengers, MTA officials said Friday.

The busway's ridership has been steadily increasing since its Oct. 31 debut, inching toward the 21,000 mark planners had predicted by 2020.

"It's a validation of the tremendous success the Orange Line has had and the receptivity Valley commuters have had to the Orange Line," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who also sits on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

"People have embraced it. Riders have embraced it," he said. "We should be aggressively looking to expand this concept, this technology, to other parts of the Valley, other parts of the county."

The $350 million, 14-mile busway opened on the former rail line between North Hollywood and Warner Center after years of debate over bringing mass transit to the Valley.

Like most transit agencies, the MTA counts every time a passenger boards the line, regardless of whether it is for a one-way or round trip.

During November, the busway had 16,626 average weekday boardings. Ridership dipped to 15,492 in December during the holidays but has been on the rise ever since.

March ridership hit 18,242 average weekday boardings - an 11 percent increase over the opening month. The MTA said Sunday ridership for March also set a record, with 8,818 boardings.

Orange Line ridership is on par with that of the Gold Line, the $898 million light-rail train between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena.

MTA planners had estimated that the Orange Line would attract 5,000 to 7,000 daily riders its first year, an estimate considered low by many experts.

The line is now on par to hit the 21,000 to 25,000 expected by 2020.

Transit advocate Kymberleigh Richards said it might be time to think about expanding the Orange Line.

"It's obviously a wonderful thing that we're getting great ridership and the ridership keeps going up. But it brings us closer to the point where the Orange Line will be beyond what it was engineered to be," said Richards, a member of the MTA's Valley sector council.

lisa.mascaro@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3761
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 15, 2006
Words:373
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