Friday, October 28, 2005

First Orange Line crash

It had to happen. It's buried in Daily News staffer Lisa Mascaro subway story, but somebody finally crashed into an Orange Line bus:

The Orange Line had its first collision just before 4 p.m. Thursday when a northbound motorist driving on a suspended license ran a red light at Vesper Avenue and hit

an eastbound bus, authorities said. There were no injuries.

Now I'm not saying I know what kind of car the motorist was driving, but it could be one less Camry on the road.

The Rod report

I reviewed the new Rod Stewart standards disc in today's Daily News. The key in evaluating these kinds of records -- wildly popular, necessarily compromising -- is to put yourself in the shoes of those (and there are many) who buy them. Here's the lede:

Guys like Stewart have all the luck. The crooner has sold 13 million of these "Songbook" discs since the series began in 2002, with a new one issued each year. But can Rod the (former) Mod hit the notes? Yes, and some impossibly high, too. Are the arrangements top notch? Absolutely. And one thing about that voice - it's an original.

Here's a quibble:

As on Stewart's earlier standards discs, instrumental solos are limited to restating the theme in eight bars or less, no solos allowed, even by big-name guests. Trumpeters Chris Botti and Roy Hargrove, guitarist George Benson and saxophonist Dave Koz are wasted.

And a caveat (Ilene says this part is too musically nerdy):

But on all 13 songs, Kenny Asher's bread-and-butter piano and Bob Mann's steady rhythm guitar keep the proceedings humming along.

And summing up:

If you love Stewart's voice, there's no better way to hear it than here. And if you can't stand it, at least give the guy credit for tackling the Great American Songbook, although the millions he's made from the venture is probably thanks enough.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Not everybody lives so close to the Orange Line

So how to get there, or not? If you're close to Van Nuys Boulevard, take the Metro Rapid and get a transfer -- I'm gonna see how often THOSE buses come in the morning and evening.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Daily News and the Orange Line

My paper, the Los Angeles Daily News, is doing a pretty good job of covering the Metro Orange Line, offering a daily countdown -- "8 days to the Orange Line," says today's logo.

Go here for all the stories.

Today's story is all about the motorists failing to stop for the new traffic lights on the busway. The ticket is $350. Ouch. And in a previous story, Lisa Mascaro writes about resistance to using the Orange Line, with quotes like this:

"Why would anybody with a car want to take that, even with the cost of gasoline?" said John Nakahama, a retired architect in West Hills.

"I won't do it myself. I'm not even curious to try that. It's a bus."

Lisa also reports that estimates of only 5,000 to 7,000 riders per day are way too low, possibly to make it look that much better if/when they exceed expectations:

"I think the 5,000 number is really low-ball," said Professor James E. Moore of the University of Southern California's Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. "They'll have absolutely no trouble beating that 5,000-passenger-per-day figure."

Moore hesitated to make his own ridership projection for the busway, Line 901, without doing formal computer modeling, but expects much higher numbers.

"Don't be surprised if it's double that. Don't be surprised if we hit that 20,000 to 25,000 this year, as opposed to 2020."

But there's also skepticism about whether the project is doomed from the get-go:

Veteran bus riders have also had a mixed response. While some look forward to a trip that's faster than current east-west routes, others say the MTA hasn't provided enough connecting buses to make the system effective - especially for those living in the North San Fernando Valley.

"It does nothing for us," said Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, an advocacy group for bus riders.

"The amount of money they saved by not providing connecting services marginalizes the Orange Line," he said. "There is a huge amount of shooting yourself in the foot when you're spending one-third of a billion dollars and don't bring in the supporting cast to make it work."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here in Van Nuys on the Orange Line

I totally missed that Andrew from Here in Van Nuys was in the L.A. Times story right here:

This is going to … join us again to greater metropolitan Los Angeles," said Van Nuys resident Andrew Hurvitz, noting that the opening of the busway comes three years after the Valley tried to secede from Los Angeles. "It's going to de-isolate the Valley.

"I feel like we're at a turning point," he added. "We are finally becoming less of a cliche than we were before. We're a dense, urban city and must live differently than we did in the 1950s. We can't [all] live in a single-family house with a three-car garage anymore."

But Hurvitz, an associate producer for a documentary film company with offices on Ventura Boulevard, said he's unlikely to ride the Orange Line, although he thinks a student to whom he rents a room in his house might.

Will the Orange Line work?

The L.A. Times' Amanda Covarrubias weighs in with the following think piece on the Orange line:

There's the hopeful:

"This is going to … join us again to greater metropolitan Los Angeles," said Van Nuys resident Andrew Hurvitz, noting that the opening of the busway comes three years after the Valley tried to secede from Los Angeles. "It's going to de-isolate the Valley.

"I feel like we're at a turning point," he added. "We are finally becoming less of a cliche than we were before. We're a dense, urban city and must live differently than we did in the 1950s. We can't [all] live in a single-family house with a three-car garage anymore."

The skeptical:

But the Orange Line "doesn't go anywhere you would want it to go," said Joel Kotkin, a Valley Village resident and Irvine senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "It's a tour of the industrial bowels of the Valley. And there's no place to stop to get a cup of coffee."

Kotkin and others believe the Orange Line, like most bus lines in the city, will fill a need for low-income workers and students. But, he adds, it won't do much to unclog the 101 — or even nearby surface streets, such as Ventura, Victory and Van Nuys boulevards.

"I think it might be a great thing for a teenager in Valley Village who's got a job three days a week at Nordstrom" in Woodland Hills, he said. "For a woman cleaning house in Chandler Estates and living in Reseda, for that person, it works."

L.A. Observed's Kevin Roderick:

"You won't notice it on the 101 Freeway. It won't be those kinds of numbers," said Kevin Roderick, author of "The San Fernando Valley: America's Suburb."

Low expectations:

MTA officials ... calculate that the line will have 5,000 to 7,000 riders a day in its first year, low even by Los Angeles mass transit standards. They hope daily ridership will grow to as much as 25,000 in 15 years.

Future plans:

MTA officials point out that the busway could be converted to light rail if it became wildly popular.

And of course ... people who live in the Chandler Estates area and own not one, but TWO adjacent houses. The kind of people who throw stacks of $100 bills in the fireplace when they need a little heat ... not your typical L.A. bus rider, and they're not happy:

Mitch and Tess Ramin live in a small, one-story house on nearby Chandler Boulevard with their baby daughter and are renovating a larger home next door that they plan to move into. Their tree-lined neighborhood in Sherman Oaks resembles that of "The Brady Bunch," the classic family sitcom set in the Valley. (The "Brady Bunch" house is in Studio City about two miles from the Orange Line's eastern terminus.)

The Ramins question whether the busway belongs there.

The real estate investor and his wife are concerned that the bus corridor that runs behind their backyards will cause noise and crime, pointing out that a transient has already moved into the landscaped easement between the sound wall and their back fence.

MTA officials "don't care as much as we do because they don't live here," Tess Ramin said. "We moved here because of the backyard, to get away from the noise of the traffic…. Now there's no escape."

What's more, during test runs this month to introduce bus drivers to the new vehicles and the route, the Ramins said they noticed that drivers were honking their horns as they drove through the blind intersection at Ethel Avenue just up the street.

Do you know the way to San Jose Downtown L.A.:

West Hills resident Dan Blake, an economics professor at Cal State Northridge and director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center, said he's looking forward to using it to get to Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday nights. It costs about $6 to park downtown but only $3 for a Metro day pass to ride any bus, subway or light rail train in a 24-hour period.

"It really does connect," he said. "From one end of the busway, you can go to Long Beach and look at the aquarium."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Metro Orange Line Schedule

... is right here.

Leave the Van Nuys station at 8:23 a.m., arrive at Warner Center at 8:52.

That's 29 minutes (and the buses come every 5 minutes during rush hours). Not bad. Give me 10 minutes each way to walk to and from the stop for a total commute of 49 minutes. Longer than driving (20 to 35 minutes depending on traffic and route) but doable. And at $1.25 per trip ($1.10 with prepaid tokens), there is some savings over what it would cost in gas at the current $3 per gallon, not to mention wear and tear on the car.

For comparison's sake, the current MTA bus No. 164 on Victory Boulevard, which leaves every 10 to 20 minutes during the morning rush hour, takes 34 minutes to make the same trip.

The more-frequent Orange Line service, plus the dedicated bus route (minimizing the effects of vehicle traffic) should take the guesswork out of arrival and departure times.

What I'm not so happy about is that the "every 5 minutes" Orange Line service leaving Warner Center and heading east suddenly becomes "every 9 to 12 minutes" after 6 p.m. What's the deal? Since when was "rush hour" from 3:10 to 5:51 p.m.? I don't blow this joint until 6, and for that I have to wait an extra 4 to 8 minutes? Are there really that many more people traveling between 3 and 6? Maybe between 5 and 6, but not between 3 and 5. Sure it's only a few minutes, but 5 minutes here, 5 there, and the whole thing starts to unravel a bit when it comes to advantages over driving. It'll all come down to pumping it out of here on food and getting to the stop quickly.

Now, if I get a skateboard/scooter/rocket jet pack, I can shave a few minutes off of the trip to and from the bus stops.