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Taking Metro's new North Hollywood to Pasadena express bus for a spin

The new 501 bus service connects the Orange and Red lines in North Hollywood with the Gold Line in Pasadena via a six-stop express service.
The new 501 bus service connects the Orange and Red lines in North Hollywood with the Gold Line in Pasadena via a six-stop express service.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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As Los Angeles County's transit agency gears up to open the latest extension of the Gold Line to Azusa on Saturday, the agency debuted a new express bus this week to better connect service areas between the San Gabriel Valley and the San Fernando Valley.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Line 501 service is a six-month pilot program launched Tuesday bridging the Orange and Red lines in North Hollywood with the Gold Line in Pasadena. The express makes six stops through North Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.

The ride costs $2.50 for the base fare with a two-hour transfer and operates seven days a week every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours. The full trip between North Hollywood and Del Mar station in Pasadena should take 35 to 50 minutes.

Metro's new express bus service makes six stops from North Hollywood to Pasadena.
Metro's new express bus service makes six stops from North Hollywood to Pasadena.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

 

"It is incredibly clean and it smells new, too," said Joanne Griffith, an editor for KPCC's Take Two, who took it for a test ride and is uniquely suited to offer a review.

Griffith lives in North Hollywood and has commuted daily to our studios in downtown Pasadena for five years, alternating between driving herself, taking the train and riding a slower bus, the Commuter Express Line 549 operated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which includes many more stops.

Griffith found Metro's express bus service reliable — her 8 a.m. bus on Thursday pulled out of North Hollywood exactly on time. Best of all, it got Griffith to work in record time. The bus took 41 minutes to travel from its origin in North Hollywood to Metro's Del Mar station in Pasadena. 

"I've been doing this commute for five years and I've never gotten here so fast," she said.

Because it utilizes the carpool lane on the 134 freeway for much of its journey, the express bus makes even better time than Griffith has managed driving alone.

"I’ll even have time to make a cup of tea before I have to be at the morning meeting at 9," she said. "Now, that is a commute."

The ride was, however, a lonely one. Griffith shared the bus with only one other person, who eventually got off in Burbank. For the rest of the trip, she was alone.

Metro hopes to attract about 1,750 riders a day to sustain the service. The line will be reassessed after the pilot program comes to an end in August. 

The agency has been facing declining ridership on its buses and trains over the past two years. 

Disclosure: Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority is among the sponsors of SCPR but is not involved with its editorial operations.