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BUSES MUST BE ON TIME MAKING CONNECTIONS KEY TO ORANGE LINE'S SUCCESS.

Byline: Lisa Mascaro Staff Writer

When President George W. Bush urged Americans to consider mass transit as a means of conserving gasoline, he probably didn't count on having to wait for a bus that never came. Or one that runs late. Or one that doesn't run often enough.

One of the keys to the success of the $330 million Metro Orange Line, which is preparing to start operations Oct. 29, will be ensuring that there's efficient, reliable connections with the rest of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority system.

``Connections are seriously important,'' said commuter Gail McConnell, a legal assistant from Sherman Oaks, riding the Ventura Boulevard Metro Rapid bus last week on the first leg of her trip downtown.

``The hardest part is the buses don't run on time. They break down; there's traffic. You just have to be patient.''

Buses on the Orange Line will run often - every five to six minutes during rush hour - to whisk riders along a former rail line between the North Hollywood subway stations and Warner Center in Woodland Hills.

But questions remain about whether there will be enough traditional buses and local shuttles to get riders to and from the new trunk line and the places they need to go.

``No, I don't think anybody is truly satisfied that the system we will have in place on Oct. 29 is everything we need it to be to make it as easy as possible to use the Orange Line,'' said Coby King, chairman of the MTA's Valley governance council, which has handled all bus route changes.

``Like so much else, it's a work in progress. The council's going to be looking very carefully in the opening month of the line if there are changes that need to be made.''

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, an MTA board member, said he'll monitor opening operations, and notes that changes can be made as needed.

``The great thing about the Orange Line - and this whole technology - is you can adjust, you can fine-tune it.''

Already, bus service has been bolstered on the major routes to guarantee a connection with the Orange Line every 30 minutes - and more like every 10 minutes on big streets such as Reseda, Sepulveda and Van Nuys boulevards. It's a vast improvement over hourly buses that had been the norm on many of the north-south boulevards through the Valley.

Additionally, the busway has 3,000 Park and Ride spaces along the route, although many of the thousands of daily users are expected to come by bus.

But putting even more buses on the streets costs money, and officials say they're in a Catch-22 situation of being unable to bolster service on sleepy suburban streets until residents demonstrate demand.

``No transit agency has infinite resources,'' said governance council member Kymberleigh Richards. ``When you don't have resources, you base your decisions on the demand ... You will have people who think we should have a bus on White Oak every 15 minutes. That's just not going to happen.''

Only one north-south connector - the Woodley Avenue bus - is still scheduled to run just once an hour, but the MTA is working to improve that to every 30 minutes by opening day - at a cost of nearly $180,000.

Additionally, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has proposed beefing up its midday DASH bus around Warner Center to serve the western terminus of the Orange Line.

And the city of Burbank already operates its NoHo Line South, a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes during rush hour, taking commuters from the Orange Line's eastern terminus at the Metro Red Line subway to the Media Center.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel is convening a meeting of Valley business leaders to see what companies can do to help boost connections to the Orange Line and make it attractive to their workers.

She envisions having businesses and government chip in jointly to fund shuttles to and from the Orange Line, among other ideas.

``Everything needs to be on the table,'' the councilwoman said. ``My goal is to create really a seamless transportation system where people will have the opportunity of leaving their cars behind.''

Facing down $3-a-gallon gas and increasingly jammed freeways, MTA riders say when the system works, they love having lower transportation costs and avoiding the stress of L.A.'s legendary gridlock.

But when the system lags, as it's known to do, it can make the difference between an efficient ride and sheer frustration.

Aldo Hernandez waited 40 minutes along Van Nuys Boulevard last week for the 233 bus that never showed up. It actually stopped a block away from where he was waiting, despite the sign posted at his bus stop. MTA officials said they would fix the problem.

MTA officials remind that their buses boast high on-time performance ratings, but have to fight traffic just like the rest of Los Angeles vehicles, and that can lead to delays.

But Valley resident Mike Christopherson, a downtown attorney taking the Ventura Boulevard bus to the Red Line, said the key to successful mass transit is making sure the buses show up on time.

``The buses are unreliable, in terms of time, which is the frustrating part,'' he said after riding Line 151 to the subway Wednesday morning.

``In order for public transit to become appealing for people who have a choice, it has to be more reliable.''

Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761

lisa.mascaro(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Mark Wickliffe listens to music while riding the Metro Rapid bus along Ventura Boulevard to work at University City. But riders say the new busway must let them make vital connections.

Tina Burch/Staff Photographer

Box:

Metro Line Bus Waiting Times

Source: MTA

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 6, 2005
Words:957
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