The Orange Line averaged 16,360 passengers each weekday during its first month, nearly triple the original ridership forecast and on track toward long-term goals, MTA officials said Tuesday. Ridership in November topped the 10,000 to 11,000 weekday boardings reported during the opening week and soared above initial forecasts made for the San Fernando Valley busway of 5,000 to 7,000 passengers. In fact, the number of passenger boardings was closer to the 21,000 figure that officials had hoped for by 2020. “Demand is very strong – a very successful first month,” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Dave Sotero. The line’s boosters were thrilled. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “MTA customers who work in the Valley and live in the Valley have voted with their feet and issued an unequivocal vote of confidence in the Orange Line,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, an MTA board member and a moving force behind building the busway after efforts to get a subway or light rail for the Valley failed. “It’s a huge victory. People said, ‘It’s a bus; nobody will ride a bus.’ Well they were wrong.” Longtime transit advocate Bart Reed said the showing was impressive. “Wow! Those numbers are actually consistent with the first-month numbers of the Gold Line,” he said, referring to the light-rail route from downtown to Pasadena. Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, said three-month and six-month figures will be especially significant. In estimating ridership, transit agencies traditionally count boardings – essentially, one-way trips. MTA officials said the lower numbers reported for opening week were based on ticket sales, while the updated numbers were based on head counts taken aboard the 60-foot-long buses. Weekend averages were 11,220 for Saturdays and 8,126 for Sundays. But MTA officials could not say whether riders were coming from cars, other bus routes or even Metrolink trains, and they noted that parking lots remain about 20 percent below capacity. The 14-mile-long Orange Line had great success in its first days, but a handful of mostly minor crashes – caused by motorists running red lights or making illegal turns at the newly designed intersections – raised questions about its safety. James E. Moore, a University of Southern California professor who previously called the MTA’s projections of 5,000 initial riders a “low-ball” estimate, said there is no way to fully analyze the line without having more detailed data about riders. Still, he said, anecdotal ridership evidence is encouraging. “I’m not the least bit shocked they beat their initial forecast,” said Moore, who has predicted that the line will hit its long-term goal of 21,000-plus rides in the first year. “The fact that there are folks on the Orange Line who otherwise would be on the 101 (Freeway) is interesting and encouraging.” Los Angeles Police Department officials rode the busway Tuesday and witnessed a close call between the bus and a car at the Lindley Avenue intersection. “People need to pay attention,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore, whose officers have ticketed nearly 100 motorists since the busway debuted. “They need to slow down and recognize these are brand new traffic patterns.” Riders continue to take the line that has given suburban Valley freeway drivers a new alternative and regular bus riders a faster route that can cut their travel time in half. “It’s more peaceful for me,” said Lourdes Fallis, a Reseda mom who has been parking her car at the Reseda station to take the busway to her job at a law office downtown. “When I got home before, I was so tired from the traffic. Now I can just read or relax (on the bus).” Regular bus rider Felicitias Jauregui of Van Nuys said the Orange Line has trimmed 30 minutes from what had been a 90-minute commute to school downtown. She said “there’s a lot more room for people” on the bigger buses, and one comes about every five minutes, so she doesn’t have to hurry in the morning to catch a regular bus that comes less often. “I’m not in a rush like I was before,” she said. 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!