How We Roll, April 8: high-frequency buses in Houston

Reminder: the next public meeting to learn more about the draft spending plan for Metro’s potential sales tax ballot measure is Monday at 6 p.m. at the Marvin Braude Constituent Center in Van Nuys. There are meetings across L.A. County this month — the full list is here (scroll down).

Metro CEO Phil Washington explaining the ballot measure's draft spending plan at the meeting in El Monte on Thursday night. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

Metro CEO Phil Washington explaining the ballot measure’s draft spending plan at the meeting in El Monte on Thursday night. Photo by Luis Inzunza/Metro.

From the Department of Transit-Oriented Baseball: 

As long as Dodger Stadium remains a proverbial mansion on the hill, bus service will have to do for Angelenos. The Dodger Stadium Express — free to those with game tickets — runs between the ballpark and both Union Station and Harbor Gateway.

Some music for a rainy Friday morning: 

Art of Transit: 

The NoHo-Pasadena Express bus service in action. Click above to learn more about the new express bus between Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank and NoHo. Photo by Peter Watkinson/Metro.

The NoHo-Pasadena Express bus service in action. Click above to learn more about the new express bus between Pasadena, Glendale, Burbank and NoHo. Photo by Peter Watkinson/Metro.

High frequency: why Houston is back on the bus (Streetsblog)

Some of this should look and sound familiar. The Houston metro area isn’t crazy different from L.A. County (i.e. it’s big and sprawling) and it had a lot of bus routes that had been around for decades.

The difference is that Houston’s new bus network debuted all at once, whereas L.A. Metro is moving toward a more frequent network over time. Here’s what I wrote in December:

Metro will at times be shifting some bus service hours from low-ridership lines to higher ridership lines. This is part of the frequent service plan mentioned above. It’s important to know that Metro will not be canceling bus service in areas where there is no other bus service or no other bus agency willing to take over a Metro route.

Metro will be reducing the number of bus stops on some routes in order to speed up bus service and help keep buses on schedule. On local lines, the average distance between stops will be a maximum of one-quarter mile while the average distance on limited lines will be a maximum of .6 miles. Don’t fret. Busy bus stops will remain in service. The idea here is to eliminate stops that are already used infrequently and are close to other stops.

Metro currently designs its service to limit the number of people who stand on the bus to no more than 30 percent of the number of seats. The agency is increasing that number to 40 percent to provide more flexibility in the way it schedules buses. Bottom line: some routes in the future may have a few more riders who must stand, while others may have less.

More about the proposed changes for June here.

I do think the Houston example raises an interesting public policy question: is it better to do these kind of reimaginings all at once or over time? Personally, I’m not sure — I think there are good arguments on each side.

I do think that our bus system here is not exactly intuitive for newcomers. There are some bus lines which largely stick to one street — which is good, I think — and many others that zig-zag all over the place. Some of this is due to our geography (often, grid systems separated by mountains) and some due to the way things have evolved over time.

Plus, we have all the muni service, some of which overlaps with Metro service. Within a half-mile of my home, there are buses from Metro, Foothill Transit and Pasadena Transit rolling by on a frequent basis and I have a hard time believing it’s a 100 percent efficient system. Your thoughts?

Hillary Clinton’s MetroCard adventure. Swipe. Wince. Repeat. (NYT)

Fun piece on the midadventures of the Democratic candidates when it comes to dealing with the New York Subway. Hillary Clinton had problems with her MetroCard (which are notoriously fickle) while Bernie Sanders told an interview that tokens are still the way to pay a fare (they’re not).

Highway congestion, America’s Soviet bread line problem, needs a price (Mobility Lab) 

The argument is that bread lines and traffic are similar because: “neither group paid (or pays) enough money for what they want; neither group faced (or faces) market-based prices to mitigate demand, and both paid (or pay) in the valuable commodity of time.”

As part of the article, Metro’s Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank was interviewed.

As for congestion pricing, Metro runs the ExpressLanes on parts of the 10 and 110 freeways. The draft spending plan for Metro’s potential sales tax ballot measure also calls for ExpressLanes on the 105 between the 405 and 605 and for ExpressLanes over the Sepulveda Pass on the 405.

39 distracted drivers cited during El Monte crackdown (SGV Tribune)

Kudos to the El Monte P.D. I wish there were crackdowns 24-7 across the region, especially around crosswalks and bike lanes.

A guide to L.A.’s inventive architecture (New York magazine)

 

Metro’s new Division 13 bus maintenance facility gets a nod, as does Johnie’s Coffee Shop that in a few years will be subway adjacent. Also mentioned is Tongva Park in Santa Monica, which is easy to access from numerous bus lines and the Expo Line (in six more weeks).

8 replies

    • Whoops. And thanks! I knew something was off with my coffee this a.m.!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  1. Any news on proposed bus changes such as combining the 485 and the 258? I remember reading that somwhere on here.

  2. The link above for the proposed bus service changes coming this June takes us to the December 13th, 2015 changes.

  3. The link to the proposed bus services changes coming in June takes us to the December 13th, 2015 changes.

  4. I am glad to hear that “Metro will not be canceling bus service in areas where there is no other bus service or no other bus agency willing to take over a Metro route.” The problem that many of these “system reimagining”, “service restructuring”, “Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA)”, “Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP)”, “Next Network” and other similar efforts have had is that they have created winners and losers when they operate in an environment of no new resources. Often, the winners get some incrementally better service while losers are left in virtual transit deserts.

    Unfortunately, Metro has had so many route cancellations within the past decade, accompanied by service thinning/reduced frequency. It shouldn’t be a surprise that ridership has dropped 5% or so; in fact, I’m surprised the ridership loss hasn’t been greater. Often, these stealth service cuts are hidden-Metro only shows route changes and only positive frequency improvements when it lists service changes every 6 months. For greater transparency, you should list all changes (such as frequency is reduced from 15 to 20 minutes during weekday peak periods), not just something vague like “There is a schedule change on routes 206 and 209”.

    Finally, you should publicly evaluate your service changes 6 to 12 months after they occurred. What effect did cancelling a route have on ridership? What effect did reducing service from 15 to 20 minutes have? Sometimes, those effects are negative but it is important to tell the truth. This would better inform the public and policymakers on the very real impacts service changes have on real people.