After years of relatively few changes, Metro is beginning the process of reimagining and restructuring its bus system to better meet the needs of past, current and future riders, Metro officials said at the agency’s Board of Directors committee meeting on Thursday.
Before we go further, I want to emphasize this: this is the beginning of a three-year process. There are no particular changes proposed at this time.
In a presentation to the Board’s System Safety, Security & Operations Committee on Thursday, Metro officials also stressed that this will be a transparent and open process in which the public will have plenty of chances to review proposed changes and provide input.
Here are the essential things to know:
•By the end of this year, Metro plans to hire a consultant to: identify the different transit markets in L.A. County; study the agency’s current bus system and how well it serves current and potential customers, and; recommend how best to transform the system to be more relevant to what people want today.
•The bus system review is planned to be complete by April 2019 followed by public hearings and Board later that year. Any changes that are approved would go into effect starting in Dec. 2019.
•Ridership on Metro and many other agencies across the U.S. has dipped in recent years. Average annual weekday boardings on the Metro system have declined about 15 percent since April 2014 when ridership began falling (bus system has declined 20 percent since April 2014 while rail ridership has increased about three percent).
•Metro’s bus ridership remains the second highest in the country behind the New York MTA. So this will be a big effort and one that we know will be closely watched.
•Metro has not embarked on such a systemwide effort since the 1990s so it is timely given the significant expansion of the Metro Rail system this century, growth of municipal operator services and the popularity of other transportation options (i.e. ride hailing services such as Lyft and Uber).
•Metro is also partnering with the 16 other largest bus agencies in L.A. County on a concurrent study to develop a plain to retain current riders, reclaim past riders and recruit new riders.
•The bottom line goal here for Metro and those 16 other agencies: retain current riders, reclaim past riders and recruit new riders.
•Metro has 170 bus routes covering more than 15,000 bus stops serviced by a fleet of more than 2,200 buses.
My three cents: I think this is welcome news. We know there’s an appetite for transit in our county — after all, more than 71 percent of voters supported the Measure M sales tax last November.
We also know that while many Metro buses remain busy with plenty of passengers, the ridership declines can’t be ignored any longer. It’s time for a good and hard look at the system. Measure M will fundamentally change the Metro system by investing in more rail, more bus rapid transit and more walking and bus opportunities. So it makes sense to ensure the bus system works well with those changes.
Your thoughts, riders and readers? What do you like and not like about the current bus system? What would keep you riding? If you don’t ride, what would it take for you to try the local bus system? Comment please.