Can you believe it? Metro's Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit is 10 years old. Since its beginnings on Oct. 29, 2005, the Orange Line has become one of the most innovative and successful transit lines of its kind in the nation. It has more than earned its reputation as "the Valley's best shortcut" and exceeded all ridership expectations.
Before the first bus hit the pavement, Metro projected an average of 5,000 riders per week. Within the first few weeks, that expectation was blown away by reality, with 16,000 average weekday riders. It was hard even then to predict how fast the Orange Line's popularity would grow. Today, nearly 30,000 riders are using the 18.7 mile busway each day, with a grand total of 74 million Valley residents and visitors served over the past decade.
With the Orange Line and the very popular Red Line light rail, Metro has put the lie to the notion that the Valley's two million residents don't want transit. We have proven unequivocally that if you build it, people will use it.
In fact, despite an outdated reputation as the epicenter of U.S. car culture, Valley residents have a long history of embracing and using public transportation. My mother and her generation have fond memories of riding the old red car rail lines across the Valley before they were dismantled in the early 1950s. Click here for a map of Valley rail circa 1938.
Our more recent transit infrastructure improvements have given Valley communities access to more efficient mass transit with Metrolink, the Red Line and the Orange Line, along with plenty of bikeways and pedestrian paths. Our modern and growing public transit system has changed the conversation about Valley transit and, if we do the right thing, we'll soon be changing the conversation once again.
This is a critical moment for transit in the San Fernando Valley. We're embarking on a discussion about a possible 2016 ballot measure that would inject tens of billions of dollars into public transportation. If we accept this challenge, we can improve the Orange Line and our overall transit network in the San Fernando Valley for future generations of Valley residents.
Last year, my colleagues on the Metro Board of Directors approved my motion to study converting the Orange Line to light rail. I truly believe that rail is the future of this line. As great as it is now, we need more capacity to accommodate the number of riders who want to use it, and we need it to be even faster at getting those riders where they need to be.
We have the best opportunity we may have in our lifetimes to reshape how people get aroundour Valley. And we can't afford to miss it. Everyone who rides public transit, who believes in public transit and who wants to make our neighborhoods more livable should get on board.
As the Orange Line proves, Valley residents need to be front and center in this discussion so that we can have more rail, more buses, more bike paths and more ways for people to get around ourneighborhoods. The Valley deserves its fair share, the people of LA County deserve more transit and we can work together to make it happen.
Happy 10th anniversary to the Orange Line and here's to our Valley's transit future!
Click to read the Daily News coverage of the 10th anniversary event.