Six Hurt in Latest Orange Line Crash

Times Staff Writer

Six people suffered minor injuries Wednesday when a sport utility vehicle running a red light crashed into the side of an Orange Line bus, authorities said.

The 11 a.m. collision at an intersection in the Lake Balboa neighborhood was the sixth in six weeks along the new 14-mile Orange Line busway.

The spate of crashes has transportation officials rethinking some of the east-west busway’s 36 San Fernando Valley intersections -- adding some safety measures while removing others that don’t seem to help.


On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked the city for help in installing red-light cameras at 12 busway crossings. The MTA also plans to equip buses with special cameras to record sudden braking or speed changes to help them identify problems. City engineers are reducing the number of traffic signals at six intersections to lessen driver confusion.

“We’re taking out the second set of lights for northbound motorists,” said Sean Skehan, a senior transportation engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “We really felt those lights were not that effective. They’re being replaced with flashing bus-crossing signs.”

MTA officials say Metro Orange Line buses aren’t more accident-prone than buses elsewhere. Since the Orange Line opened Oct. 29, its buses have traveled about 160,000 miles, and Metro buses typically are involved in about 3.5 accidents every 100,000 miles, they said.

The driver of the Chevrolet Suburban in Wednesday’s crash told police that her brakes failed. Police investigators impounded the SUV to verify that contention, said Lt. John Baylis of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which patrols the Orange Line for the MTA.

The bus driver and one bus rider were taken to hospitals after they complained of neck pain. Four other riders told authorities they were injured, but declined medical help at the scene.

After the Orange Line’s most serious accident sent 14 people to hospitals on Nov. 2 -- mostly for minor injuries -- the MTA slowed buses to 10 mph through intersections. They also began equipping buses with strobe lights to make them more visible. City traffic engineers added some signs at intersections and lowered others to make them easier for motorists to see.

Some motorists say the proliferation of lights and signs has made the intersections even more confusing. The busway’s route, between North Hollywood and Woodland Hills, was built over an old railway that intersects a few streets at odd angles. Some busway crossings also are right next to regular street intersections, so motorists encounter more than one traffic light.