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Metro Revving Up to Debut new Silver Line Next Week

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A way overly simple map of the Silver Line | View Silver Line Basic Map in a larger map

Beginning December 13th, the Silver Line will whisk passengers between El Monte and South LA via downtown Los Angeles in under an hour. Despite its catchy name, it's not a subway, a light rail or even a busway like the Orange Line, nor will it be identified by a special paint color or bigger buses. It's the combination of a several canceled bus lines merged into one that will share car pool lanes on the 10 and 110 freeways and various downtown arteries. And although it's part of the "system" that every knows costs a buck twenty-five for one boarding, this line will cost you $2.45.

The Silver Line is phase one of a $210 million federal grant for Metro’s Congestion Reduction Demonstration Project, which will convert carpool lanes on portions of the 10 and 110 freeways leading to downtown into ExpressLanes. Translation: car pool lanes currently used by buses and car poolers will also be accessible by solo drivers for a price starting next year December.

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"A key element to the success of the program is to offer a lot of express bus service along those two corridors," explained Rick Jager, a Metro spokesman, over the phone. He says the idea is to better arrange the current infrastructure with the goal of changing commuter behavior.

The line will operate seven days a week with 5 to 15 minute headways during rush hour. During weekday non-peak times, expect a bus every 15 to 30 minutes and every hour past 9 or 10 p.m. (depending on which direction you're going) until last buses make their last trips starting shortly before 1 a.m. On Weekends, buses will operate every 30 to 60 minutes.

"We're really trying to beef up and provide very frequent express bus service along those corridors," said Jager. "As congestion pricing come to completion, there should be even more frequent service."

It will take about 20 to 25 minutes from either end of the line to reach downtown's two major stops at Union Station and 7th and Flower, according to the line's timetable. About 10 other stops will be made throughout downtown, connection with Red, Purple, Blue and Gold Lines. Along the 110 Freeway, the line will connect with the Green and Blue Lines at transit stations.

The line replaces lines 444, 446/447, 484, and 490, which currently operate on the Harbor Transitway and the El Monte Busway. These lines will be rerouted to provide connecting service to the Silver Line and be given new route numbers effective Sunday, Dec. 13.

There's been little buzz about the Silver Line when compared to the recent opening of the Gold Line, which attracted tens of thousands who packed the train, causing 40 minute waits just to board on its opening day.

"It's false advertising to call it the Silver Line and operate it differently from all the other 'lines,'" said blogdowntown's Eric Richardson. He's right: while naming it the Silver Line makes sense in one way--clarity of a frequent point-to-point service for marketing purposes--it's going to drag Metro's color branding scheme to a meaningless level. Until now, all colored lines have been dedicated routes. Even the Orange Line, which is a busway, operates on its own special street where regular traffic is not allowed.

The branding will also confuse the pricing model. While all other lines cost $1.25 per boarding, the Silver Line will be $2.45 one way (there are senior discounts). That pricing is somewhat based (or inspired) on zone charges, something many transit riders are unfamiliar with. Day passes will be honored at full fare, but weekly and monthly pass holders will have to shell out an extra $1.20 if their passes do not carry two zone pass stickers.

To that, one LAist commenter yesterday sniped, "Wow, that is really lame."
LAist will be riding the Silver Line when it opens and we hope you try it out, too (let us know!). We'll be reporting back on reactions from riders.

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