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Why Replace Successful BRT With Rail?

The Orange Line, a bus rapid transit line running through Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, has been a success. To those calling for an expensive conversion to rail, several experts say, why bother?
August 20, 2017, 11am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Dating from 2005, L.A.'s Orange Line now serves more than 25,000 riders a day. Patrick Sisson writes, "In its 12 years of service, the Orange Line has carried more than 74 million passengers and proven there's an audience and ridership in the region. It's so successful that it's often crowded at rush hour, leading Metro to explore an upgrade."

Calls for a light rail replacement have encountered pushback from many experts. "The push to lay down track and replace a successful bus line begs another question: Can a bus line, even with all the right support, ever be enough?"

Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA's Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, says the Orange Line has succeeded on many levels. "'The Orange Line has been an extremely cost effective transportation amenity,' [Matute] says. 'You could build five Orange Lines for the cost of a light rail corridor.'"

Rail advocates argue that the conversion will spur efficiency gains. It'll also cost an estimated $1.4 billion. Sisson writes, "If the bus line were treated like rail, instead of being replaced by rail, the transit authority could accomplish many of the same efficiency gains at a much lower cost."

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Published on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 in Curbed Los Angeles
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