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Capacity problems hinder LA BRT

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LA Orange Line BRT.
Photo by Matt Johnson.

LA’s Orange Line is one of America’s most well-planned and successful BRT routes. It’s real BRT, with a dedicated busway and rail-like amenities. And it has a big problem: Just 8 years after opening, it’s hitting maximum capacity.

At rush hour, the Orange Line runs 60′ articulated buses every 4 minutes. That’s already peak efficiency.

More buses would add more seats, but would also disrupt the traffic signals along the line, slowing buses and causing bunching. Capacity would technically go up, but the line would slow down for everyone, and traffic on surrounding streets could get worse.

Even with a dedicated busway, you just can’t run vehicles more often than about every 4 minutes without a lot of negative effects. Not unless you fully separate every single intersection with elevated flyovers.

At some point, the most effective way to increase capacity is with larger vehicles. That means rail. And at about 30,000 riders per day, LA’s Orange Line is hitting that threshold.

Oh by the way, Arlington’s Columbia Pike corridor is projected to have over 30,000 transit riders by 2030. And it won’t have a dedicated busway.

May 21st, 2013 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: BRT, streetcar, transportation

  • LetsGoLA

    Even with a dedicated busway, you just canu2019t run vehicles more often than about every 4 minutes without a lot of negative effects. Not unless you fully separate every single intersection with elevated flyovers.nnnThat is just not true. The 4 minute headway is not a technological limit but a decision made by LADOT. There are other east-west roadways that intersect the north-south arterial roadways that conflict with the Orange Line, and these roadways intersect at normal intersections with normal traffic lights. And those east-west roadways are allotted enough green time to allow more than two vehicles to pass every 4 minutes.nnnThe only exceptions are at the intersections of Burbank and Fulton, and maybe Woodman and Oxnard, where the Orange Line crosses diagonally and would need its own signal phase. I am all for building good rail transit here in LA, but the idea that a busway carrying 30 veh/hr is at capacity is incorrect.

    • http://twitter.com/beyonddc BeyondDC

      “Without a lot of negative effects” was an important part of that sentence.

      • LetsGoLA

        I think we could probably cut the headway to 3 min or maybe even 2 min without a lot of negative effects. All that would have to happen would be LADOT retiming the lights and giving better transit priority, and maybe separating Burbank/Fulton. That would increase capacity 50%-100%.nnAgain I am all for building more rail in LA, but given the huge transit needs in the region, we should squeeze every bit of capacity out of the existing system, and at 4 minute headways, there is still a lot to be had. That frees up money to build rail elsewhere (and we’re building a lot!).

  • http://twitter.com/ranpuba Randall Myers

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for LA to consider changing LA’s Orange Line to rail. It seems that most BRT’s have qualities that make that conversion possible. However, LA’s system has a few legal hurtles…nnhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_Line_%28Los_Angeles_Metro%29#Conversion_to_light_rail

  • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

    Actually no, more capacity does not mean rail. Bi-articulated buses are common the world round, and because the busway is 100% exclusive, they can be used there too. 50% more capacity, without spending hundreds of millions on making it rail.

    • http://twitter.com/beyonddc BeyondDC

      Biarticulated buses are illegal in most of the US, including, I believe, California. Definitely in Virginia.

      • TS

        Couple question out of curiousity.nnn1) What’s the difference between articulated and bi-articulated?nnn2) Why are Bi-articulated banned? What are the drawbacks?

        • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

          Articulation is the bendy part. Single has one bendy, bi, of course, has two. nnA standard bus is 40 feet (45 on some LA lines). An articulated bus is 60 feet. Bi articulated reach 80 feet. nnTheyre banned because an arbitrary limit of 60 feet was set. LA already runs buses bigger than that, and triple trailer trucks also exceed that amount.

      • http://stopandmove.blogspot.com/ Jass

        Illegal means nothing. 65 foot buses are also “illegal”, except Metro runs them because they received a waiver. They can apply for another waiver for 80 foot buses. Because the line is 100% separate, it shouldnt be an issue.nnAlso would like to add that triple-trailer-trucks exceed 60 feet, and are allowed on certain highways.

  • Chuck Coleman

    The Orange Line’s problems are made in Sacramento. The legislature can easily legalize biarticulated busses to provide short-term relief. Right now, the Orange Line can only be converted to underground rail. A change in the law can enable surface light rail.

  • Bob_Bruhns

    When properly done, dedicated busways build up a business and transit corridor, and establish a right of way for future rail. The mistake that people are making in the Washington DC area is to leap prematurely to rail, before establishing the business and transit corridor. That foolish mistake, along with excessive project prices and the use of outdated (2004) EIS ridership projections, are causing big problems financing the Dulles Rail / Silver Line.nnAs Loudoun County is dimly beginning to realize, a hugely premature leap to rail means that there is no business to tax, to PAY for the rail. I say ‘dimly’, because Loudoun County nevertheless proceeded to Gerrymander a new data center business out of the rail tax district that they did set up, and then pushed to approve a pre-rail coffee shop design, where only big mixed-use construction was to be done – according to their own Comprehensive Plan.nnBottom line: the biggest problem in transportation is crooked and incompetent government. Arlington’s nearly-forgotten million-dollar ‘Super-Stops’ are a fine example of this. By the way, what ever happened to the investigation of that mess, that we were promised from WMATA and Arlington County? Everybody seems to have forgotten all about that, in the two months since that promise was made. I suspect that we were SUPPOSED to forget.



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