Orange Line Should Be Shut Down Until It Can Be Made Safe
Southern California transit, with the exception of the Red Line, the subway, is constructed so cheaply that it doesn't have the grade separation that marks even the most elementary European lines. Grade separation keeps public transit running on a different level than private cars and trucks, thereby averting the accidents that have killed more than 90 persons on Los Angeles' Blue Line, and the accidents that injured 17 persons yesterday on the Orange Line.
The trouble is that grade separation, tunneling or bridging light rail and the dedicated bus way over or under the streets and intersections, costs money. Hundreds of millions of dollars.
In his column in the L.A. Times today, Steve Lopez also notes that sound walls constructed for the Orange Line keep bus drivers from seeing oncoming traffic. The designers of the Orange Line should be held responsible for putting up barriers that have made the speeding buses a menace.
Another problem is that the line intersects major thoroughfares from odd directions. An intersection close to my house, Fulton and Burbank, has now become a six-way intersection, with the bus line coming in blindly. Stop lights are an inadequate safeguard; here, it is clear, there need to be crossing rails which can block traffic.
But even crossing rails have not prevented accidents on the Blue Line.
It is easy to blame careless drivers for many crashs, but the New York Times has done articles which say that the real fault for many of the accidents is the speeding trains, arriving at such high velocities they cannot be seen in time.
The planners of the Orange Liue boasted they would be able to offer rides lasting only 40 minutes from one end of the line to the other. This is a fallacy now that the buses have been ordered to slow to 10 miles an hour when approaching each intersection. What we are stuck with without grade separation is a slow line that provides no real advantage to anyone, while making traffic accidents inevitable.
Under these circumstances, public officials must swallow their pride, and close down the line until it can be reconstructed to operate safely. If they don';t have the money, the line should be closed until they do.
The European lines that offer grade separation are in countries without the resources in some cases that we have here in the U.S., so it is a travesty that the Orange Line was built in the way it was, presenting a new danger to both riders and motorists.
We'll soon see whether L.A. Times editorial writers will advocate the necessary actions to protect public safety, or stick their heads in the sand like they do on so many issues.