The continuing popularity of the Orange Line has spurred MTA efforts to extend the 14-mile busway and connect residents living outside the San Fernando Valley with the hugely popular “subway on wheels.” A $6 million study is being conducted on a plan to extend the line – which now runs between Woodland Hills and North Hollywood – northward to the Ronald Reagan Freeway in Chatsworth. Transportation officials hope the connection would entice commuters from Santa Clarita or Ventura County to park their cars and climb aboard. “We’re trying to be better than cars,” said Walt Davis, Metro’s transportation planning manager for the San Fernando Valley. “We’re trying to get you from Point A to Point B faster.” Researchers in the multimillion-dollar study – expected to be completed by August 2008 – also are studying whether the busway can be extended north along Canoga Avenue to the Chatsworth Metrolink Station and whether there’s land near the freeway for a Park and Ride lot. Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials propose extending the busway along the former railroad right of way that the agency owns along Canoga Avenue – land now holding used-car dealerships and auto-body shops. The MTA has included $300,000 for community outreach as plans for the bus line shape up. Lures needed If approved by the MTA board, construction could start by 2009 and be completed in three years. But luring people out of cars and onto public transportation could be difficult unless they have to cope with a long commute, high gas prices or costly parking fees, said Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Why would they use it?” Taylor asked. “For people with automobiles, it has to be worth their while to make the switch, and the time savings has to be strong.” But tens of thousands of Valley commuters have found the Orange Line to be a godsend during morning and evening rush hours. Except for an occasional dip – during summer vacation and the winter holidays – the busway has averaged more than 20,000 daily boardings since shortly after it debuted Nov. 1, 2005. To meet the demand, Metro plans to experiment this summer with 65-foot-long buses. Each could hold 14 more passengers than are held by one of the 60-foot-long buses now in use. The MTA could eventually use 80-foot-long buses, boosting the capacity to that of rail lines. Averaging 35 mph, the Orange Line makes the 14-mile trip in about 40 minutes. By comparison, the Red Line subway averages 32 mph, taking 29 minutes to travel between North Hollywood and Union Station. The subway makes up time, however, as it accelerates to 70 mph traveling under the Santa Monica Mountains between Universal City and Hollywood, said MTA spokesman Marc Littman. Potential use the key Robert Rodine, who co-chairs the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s transportation committee, heralded the proposed Ronald Reagan Freeway connection. Commuters from Simi Valley and Moorpark need more alternatives, he said. “If the Orange Line is attractive enough to them, they will perhaps exit the freeway, park their cars and ride the Orange Line the rest of the way,” he added. Daniel Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Research Center at California State University, Northridge, said the link could ease freeway traffic and air pollution, but he questioned how frequently commuters would use the busway. “As long as it would be used and not running empty, I think it would be terrific,” Blake said. [email protected] (818) 713-3746 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!