AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card The preliminary results show that 17 percent of the riders had not ridden MTA’s buses or trains prior to boarding the Orange Line and 14 percent used to drive a car solo – which officials say is a measure of the system’s ability to attract those who historically shun transit. Most of those who drove or car pooled used to take the Ventura (101) Freeway – and 77 percent of them said the Orange Line was faster. Nearly 78 percent had previously relied on other mass-transit systems, mostly other MTA buses, but also Metrolink commuter trains, subways and city bus service. Overall, 85 percent of riders said the Orange Line was faster than their previous way of getting around. Orange Line advocates said the popularity of the Orange Line shows that busways – which can be built cheaper and faster than light-rail systems – offer an attractive strategy for bolstering mass transit in Los Angeles. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who spearheaded efforts to build the Orange Line, said the survey results should push the MTA to proceed with plans for a north-south busway. “For the people who believe Angelenos would not get out of their cars for public transit – and certainly not for public transit that was bus-driven – I think once and again it puts the kibosh on that myth,” said Yaroslavsky, who also sits on the MTA board. “We really need to ratchet up the planning process for an Orange Line extension.” Roxanna Anderson said the busway can get her from her home near downtown to her job as an administrative assistant in Woodland Hills in about an hour – half the time it used to take on buses and the Red Line subway. “It changes my attitude, my mood, how I feel once I get to work,” she said. “It just makes me happier.” Similarly, high school student Scarlett De Leon said it saves her and her sister, Fransia, more than an hour in either direction between their home in mid-Wilshire and the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies. “It comes on time, all the time,” said Scarlett, a junior at SOCES. Cesar Hernandez said it’s nearly halved his 80-minute commute from Canoga Park to downtown, where he works at clothing factory. But experts caution against putting too much emphasis on the first survey, noting that more details are needed about ridership patterns and the system’s efficiency. Skeptics also note that the MTA’s Metro Gold Line commuter train in Pasadena saw a sharp decline in ridership after it opened in 2003, and they warn the same thing could happen on the busway. “If people are getting to where they want to go faster, then there is a benefit. If the travel time is being reduced, then it is a benefit,” said Tom Rubin, a former official with the precursor to the MTA who was a unpaid consultant to the residents group that sued the MTA in an unsuccessful effort to stop the line from being built. “It may be a little early to start drawing sweeping conclusions on whether this is working or not.” Experts further note that the busway’s ability to shift 1,000 to 1,500 cars off the 101 Freeway needs to be viewed in the context of the nearly 300,000 vehicles that travel the freeway each day. The survey said 36 percent of Orange Line riders had access to cars. “Anyone who think this is a silver bullet that’s going to kill the werewolf of traffic congestion, no,” Rubin said. Urban theorist Joel Kotkin adds that while getting motorists out of their cars may draw the spotlight, the emphasis should be on expanding the system for the vast majority of passengers who depend on mass transit. “The focus should be on the people who really need the system,” said Kotkin, an Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation, who tracks the line near his Valley home. “What we ought to be doing is thinking about using this method to create faster service for the people who take the bus.” Meanwhile bus riders last week said they appreciate the new ride. And despite a series of minor crashes after the busway opened Oct. 31, all caused by motorists failing to heed the traffic signals, the Orange Line has not been involved in a collision in nearly eight weeks, and riders say anecdotally they’re no longer spooked over safety. West Hills resident Mauricio Marroquin has been riding the Orange Line since opening day to his job as a mathematics professor at Los Angeles Valley College. He says he doesn’t mind the extra 10 minutes it takes because it’s an easier ride. “It’s fantastic… I get to work and I’m more relaxed,” he said. “It’s great for me,” said Lee Rugless, riding from Woodland Hills to his sales job off the Sepulveda station. “I don’t have to drive, I don’t have to pay those high gas prices. The atmosphere is very relaxed (compared to) if I’m driving on the 101 – you know what that’s like.” Lisa Mascaro, (818) 713-3761 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Nearly 20 percent of the passengers on the 3-month-old Orange Line are new to public transit and the vast majority have a faster commute than they previously did in a car or bus, says the MTA’s first survey of busway riders. And the $350 million busway across the San Fernando Valley continues to draw 16,000 daily riders – well above early projections – not only from the ranks of the transit-dependent, but also those who never thought they’d regularly ride a bus in car-crazed L.A. “I love it,” said Raj Chauhan, an Internet advertising executive from Northridge who rode the busway last week in his commute to his job downtown. “I just drive three minutes to the stop … I can do a bunch of e-mails … I’m pretty much done with driving, if I can help it.” The Metropolitan Transportation Authority surveyed 1,300 busway riders during the second week of January, asking them to complete an English- or Spanish-language questionnaire about their ride.