Metro plans to reimagine and restructure its vast bus system

Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

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.

82 replies

  1. It’s a little more difficult to do now, but I’d like to see all future rail stations with 3-4 bus bays built-in. Constructing a rail station says “you will find a transit option at this spot for years to come” – constructing bus bays at a rail station says “you will find more transit options at this spot for years to come.” (In Seattle the overhead lines of the electric buses did a great job of advertising the existence of a route even when you couldn’t see the bus.)

    It’s sad that it’s going to take a consultant and a study and several years. This ought to be a built-in function at Metro where assessment is constant, tweaks are quarterly and appropriate bigger revisions yearly.

  2. 1) you have to have more 24/7 bus lanes along major corridor and traffic congestion black-spots. Traffic conditions are getting worse and causing many delays on buses which makes it unreliable. 2) you have to make the headway more frequent. There are many routes that operate with infrequent services (>30mins). You bus system needs to be more frequent and distributed to expand and improve the existing network. 3) more rapid and limited stop services please. These routes reduces travel time and relieve overloading problems on busy corridors. Please also note that some limited stop services should be running during midday on weekdays, (such as 302, 316), and possible to add Saturday services or transform it to a rapid route if the demand is high though. The rapid route should remain frequent headway, and should operate as late as 7-8pm. 4) expand your express/ commuter routes network. What a shame that Metro only has 7 express routes (4XX & 5XX). Other transit agencies, such as Foothill, Omnitrans, OCTA, LADOT has fantastic express networks throughout LA area. Metro needs to invest more on express routes. 460, for instance, consider adding express trips to Disneyland by skipping Norwalk, La Mirada and Buena Park.

  3. Funny how Metro needs to hire a consultant to do a study on something where they have the most expertise.

    The ridership decline really comes down to a value equation. There is a greater value in solo-driving, even with the added cost. There is greater value in using Uber/Lyft.

    The change the value equation the following must be done:
    1) Make bus transit faster, convenient, and more comfortable. We need dedicated bus lanes, smaller commuter coaches, and more frequent and distributed service.
    2) Make driving solo or using Uber/Lyft more expensive. This requires implementing congestion-pricing on all roads, not just highways.

  4. Line 158 should increase frequency of service and/or add express service. Why should it still only run hourly? It connects with almost all the major lines in the Valley, runs both north/south and east/west, and connects with Orange Line (twice) and Metrolink. Would take pressure off Van Nuys Blvd lines, especially during future construction in East Valley Corridor, and could also serve as the future North Valley connector or its forerunner. Reworking service on this line could do a whole lot of good relatively easily.

  5. I would like to see improved north/south service that links the Beverly Center to the South Bay, such as Torrance.

  6. Hi Steve,

    You should read the article in L.A. Times regarding this story. More importantly, read the comments the readers posted. I know the comments are anonymous but is quite telling and a commentary on the sad state of public fixed route in the County.

  7. Why Metro uses the 45-foot buses for Line 260 Line 76 os a;waus crpwded bu ot ises tje 40-fppter/ Tjos dpes mpt ,ale amu semse/

  8. metro will not implement any of these great ideas especially when it comes to increasing service in a way that makes a difference, as a 5 year metro employee i will tell you that all of metro bus divisions are currently operating at capacity. During current peak service times (5-9 and 3-7) there are next to no buses at all metro divisions because they are on the road and when they return from service during non peak hours there is hardly enough parking for all buses. The only solution here would be to build more bus divisions, in which metro dreads the idea of doing, so instead of taking these great ideas you guys have put forth they will instead do whats cheap like re-route current lines to serve rail stations or make lettering or numbering changes on buses, more bus shelters etc…, but metro is very cheap when it comes to anything that has to do with bus service but very generous when it comes to anything that has to do with rail service…so don’t hold your breath…but as far as numbering of the buses all rapids should be 1XXX for example the 108/1108, 20/1020, 210/1210, 204/1204…or they can simply put an X next to the number to indicate rapid 210X, 204X, 20X etc…another thing i forgot to mention is the reliability of the bus service even though sometimes when your bus doesn’t show they’ll tell you that, the bus broke down or was stuck in traffic, most of these are all lies metro is having a major manpower shortage. Metro loses on average 10 operators a week and are currently only replenishing about 5 a week and out of the 5 only 3 might stay after the first year, so there are not enough operators to cover assignments and this is due to metro’s poor working conditions, rules, and pay for its operators and its only getting worse.

  9. There really needs to be BUS ONLY lanes in downtown LA 24/7. All too often there are cars in the current “bus lanes” as well as parked cars which are there into the NO PARKING hours. Also limiting cars from taking turns near bus heavy busy intersections. For example, at the corner of Flower and 7th there are multiple bus lines from many different agencies travel south on Flower. When cars are turning right onto 7th they are held by pedestrian traffic, this leads to buses not being able to pull away from the curb and buses not being able to pull up to the curb. Also there have been close calls when cars cut in front of buses to turn right onto 7th. This also further delays the buses from pulling away. There needs to be a NO RIGHT turn at this intersection and possibly many others. it just so happens that this is the only one I use downtown.

  10. The numbering system is fine! What Metro needs to do is reintroduce some of the 400 series lines since not everyone live by a Metro Rail or Silver Line station. In the East San Gabriel Valley, Metro abandoned their routes and Foothill Transit took over. The issue with Foothill Transit is that it often cuts and does not run at hours that people often need it the most. Very recently when Metro did away with line 190/194, the bus lines have been suffering late buses and uncoordinated transfers with other lines in the Foothill Transit zone.

    As for Downtown and the rest of the city of Los Angeles, we need more rapid buses. The advantage of a rapid bus is that it would speed up the trip rather than having to wait for the slower local buses that stop at every stop.

  11. It’s the fare system that needs to be restructured first of all. Transfers should be free across the system, with perhaps a fare-by-distance component or a time-limited transfer to make up the difference. Unless my trip happens to be on just one bus route, I end up having to pay multiple fares. I mean, consider the absurdity: I can currently go from DT Santa Monica to DTLA on the Metro for $1.75, but if I wanted to get off in Culver City and take a bus just another mile from the station, I would pay double!

    I moved here from Toronto last year and that was the biggest shock to me. Back home, I take a bus to the subway, and then a streetcar to my final destination all for the same fare ($3 — transfer valid as long as the trip is in one direction). Here, such a trip would cost $5.25. Considering most of the time I can get an Uber Pool for short distances for $2.99, that’s not competitive.

    Also, connections between bus and rail services should be better integrated, with bus routes converging on Metro stops to provide feeder/distribution to the rapid transit system.

  12. I think the numbering system works great as it is. Imagine if Metro adored LADOT Dash’s naming system in which route names are 3 or 4 words long and then you still have to say in which direction it goes, so another 1-2 words. Done quick fixes Metro can do for the bus system include moving the chavez/vignes eastbound bus stop back to union station. Who in the world came up with the idea of moving this busy bus stop away from the station where everyone is obviously coming from to the deserted lot across the street? Also, I found a staff report about the “transit pavilion” that they built there. That’s quite a fancy term for two skinny bus shelters that did nothing while 15 of us were waiting for the bus in the rain. Also, I think it would be nice for tourists and new riders if that stop were announced as “Union Station” rather than by the street names.

  13. Coming from Chicago to LA, I would like to see the buses run on time. There has got to a better GPS system than what is being used today.
    Sometime I wait for a bus for 30 to 40 minutes and each time I update the tracker it says one is coming in 10 to 15 minutes.

    We need a train or bus that goes directly into LAX so we can get some of the cars out of the airport area.

    This is the second largest city in the US, we need a metro system that will get some cars off the road and get the traffic under control.

    • There will be a rail service direct to LAX at the 96th Station on the Crenshaw and Green Lines around 2023. HOWEVER, it will be a two-seat (Blue-Green) trip because LAMTA and LAX are not planning any facilities to provide ONE-SEAT service between Union Station, Downtown LA, and the LAX Automated People Mover. (APM).

      Most other major US airports have, or soon will have, ONE-SEAT rail rail service between the APM and the downtown area, but not LAX, the 2nd busiest US airport and 4th busiest world airport.

      I guess that the “powers that be” don’t feel that LAX should match what other airports have. We just have to do things different.

  14. I loved the ease of using the Austin, Texas metro system. Their app is actually useful! Great directions and you can also purchase tickets directly from your phone. Much more useful than old tap cards that expire. San Francisco has some great apps for their rides too. How can we host Silicon Beach and have a rusty old app with no capabilities?!

  15. It would be really interesting to see a true re-working of the LA Bus system. Is something like Houston planned?

    Ideally, the whole county should be on one system, or at the very least, some clearly defined zones of operation. We should end transfers at odd places just because we cross a municipal boundary or just random spots like Pico/Rimpau.

    The basic numbering system is sound but it should be absolutely consistent (and used by all the agencies).

    A better system of interagency transfers is needed. In the DC area, there are also multiple bus companies for different jurisdictions – but the bus system still feels like one system. Every local bus has the same fare. Free transfers from one bus to another, even from different agencies.

    • The Pico/Rimpau transfer point is not really random. It is a carryover from the days of the Los Angeles Railway, where the “P” Car tracks only went as far west as Rimpau, This transfer point has outlived its purpose for far too long, and all transit lines, irrespective of carrier, should merely pass through.

  16. I emailed MTA last year about looking into making it easier for riders to pay instead of JUST at stations: possibly adding pay stations at bus stops or maybe the ability to use your CC on the bus to pay.

    I received a response explaining how expensive it would be to implement, but I feel MTA needs to make things more convenient for riders to add funds.

    Right now we have to walk 15/20 minutes to the nearest metro station just to add funds, but if I was able to do that on the bus the closest bus stop is right on our street corner.

    I feel I would use metro more if that was possible.

  17. So I always liked LA’s grid system – made more sense than the hub and spoke for max revenue I had to endure in Sacramento and now New York City.

    If it has to be reimagined – as something I read here years ago said was being studied to change from the grid – I’d suggest making Rapids the backbone of the grid to get people crosstown to stations or destinations quickly, and locals as the direct feeder routes in a hub and spoke.

    It’s akin to Rapids 710, 704 and 712 being the express buses to Hollywood and modifying 210, 204 and 212 to have routes like the 40 and the old 42 – crosstowns to downtown from the suburbs, making all those time delaying turns in traffic.

  18. What needs to happen is that the 720 Rapid corridor needs to be extended east all the way to Whittier along the Montebello 10 route. Whittier is a city of 85,000 people (plus another 80,000 living in unincorporated South and West Whittier) and has hardly any transit at all. We need to be connected with the greater transit network in way similar cities are connected with rapid bus lines, the Silver Streak, and the Foothill Gold Line.

    • I brought that idea once at a section meeting and they say that Whittier Blvd corridor is Montebello territory. My hope is that Montebello start a rapid line on Line 10 or line 40 to the city of Whittier. That’s a no brainer. I live in Whittier and to say we don’t have any transit at all,is a stretch. We have Norwalk,Montebello,Sunshine,Foothill, LA County and Metro. Hopefully one day the Goldline and A Metrolink station near Rio Honda.

  19. I think the current limited service (3XX lines) is an awesome idea that works great on corridors that are busy but not busy enough to justify a full-blown rapid line. However, many of these lines only run during peak hours and often only in one direction too when it seems additional service would be justified (312!). Also, so often when I’m on a limited bus other passengers often have no clue there’s even a difference between the limited and local lines (i.e. 108 and 358) and become utterly confused when the bus skips the stop they wish to board or disembark at. A special limited livery for buses would provide a great distinction and maybe the implementation of some more limited lines (Rosecrans, maybe Lankershim, resurrection of a Manchester 315, etc.).

    I like the current numbering system and how just a glance at a number alone often can give you a general idea of where that bus goes (like how lines 2-96 do their counterclockwise loop around downtown), but it’s disappointing when the oddball line here and there goes against the system, like how the 603 seems far to long to be considered a short little neighborhood shuttle route. Also it can be annoying when the limited and rapid counterparts of their local lines don’t match the number entirely (granted, sometimes it’s not possible like the rapid version of the 4 and the rapid version of the 204 obviously can’t both be the 704) like the 108/358, 152/353, 166/364, etc. Although, as others have said it would be nice to see a standardized numbering system throughout the county between all agencies.

  20. First of all, Metro needs to get rid of the contractors it currently has to run Metro buses. They do not maintain their buses and have some of the oldest Metro buses in the system. For instance Line 232 on Pacific Coast Highway between LAX and Downtown Long Beach which runs through most of the beach cities in the South Bay has disgusting old buses which need to be replaced. Metro has newer buses on many of it’s lines but not Line 232. Second Metro needs to think about having buses connect to Metro Rail Stations. There are many Metrorail Stations that have limited connecting bus service or none at all. For instance there is only one Metro bus line that serves the Metrorail Redondo Station of the Green Line and it goes to Inglewood. There is very little Beach City Transit buses that serve this station. Getting off at this station there is no bus service to Redondo Beach or even a Torrance Transit bus going in to the City of Torrance. Also, the Metro bus that runs between Harbor Gateway Station to Rancho Palos Verdes only runs once an hour. If you come out of LA on the Silver Line and want to go to Torrance, you may have to wait an hour for a bus to show up. These are examples of why more people do not use the bus system.

    • “If you come out of LA on the Silver Line and want to go to Torrance, you may have to wait an hour for a bus to show up.”

      This is the main reason why I don’t use public transit on my commute between Pasadena and Torrance. I have no problem getting to Harbor Gateway, it’s those last 4 miles from Harbor Gateway to my office that are horrible. The Torrance Transit bus is the only option and it runs like every 45 minutes and never keeps its schedule anyway.

  21. Bus Shelters, 24/7 Bus Lanes, shorter headways, all door boarding, interagency TAP transfers, and more better tech.

  22. One no nonsense and relatively low cost idea:

    Bus shelters!! – You won’t need to spend political capital because stations already exist so make them more attractive and useful. Remember that after the vehicles themselves, stations are the most visible aspect of a transit agency. What does it say to a casual user and core user when you just plop down a sad looking pole and call it a day? Especially during the oppressive summer months in LA. Sell advertising space to help pay for the shelters.

  23. Yes! I am so glad to hear this. There are so many bus routes that have infrequent headways. Looking forward to an improved Metro Bus system.

  24. If you want to find out why ridership is decreasing, you should probably try listening to the true stories from your passengers. Check out the website BUSted Los Angeles – True stories about getting around LA, told by people who don’t drive. Live show has been all over LA for years, and they have over 100 videos of true LA Metro commuter stories on their YouTube channel. Next live show is on this Friday night at 9pm. Next live show is in Echo Park at Stories Books and Cafe on Sunday, May 28 at 5pm.

  25. The Silver Line busses are uncomfortably bumpy and noisy. They need better shocks.

  26. Has to focus on the user first. Simple as. Safety, reliability, speed of service, ease of use/payment. Otherwise it can’t compete with what is coming….

  27. I have so many thoughts as a rider! I’ll try to keep it brief!

    It’ll be interesting to see; a lot of these redesigns slash “coverage routes” and reallocate service on to major corridors with straightforward routes; meaning the agency displaces first/last mile responsibility onto the riders.

    The challenge I see with this is: in many ways, Metro’s network on major corridors is a bit bare bones (not all that frequent service with huge gaps in between corridors. I ask, where to cut? We do not have a very duplicitous nor over-served system (from my POV — differing perspectives welcome!)

    There is a local vs. long distance challenge here. The current bus system’s fares and routes are not great at going short distances a la style of the DASH. Yet, they’re not great for going long distance either because of their predominantly “local” orientation (stopping often). I’m all for serving as many stops as possible; I think that with more investment into a true diversity of services on a corridor (plentiful of locals and actually fast rapids, we could actually solve this).

    Ok, hope this was clear enough and concise enough to follow. One question if anyone knows the answer… is this a budget-neutral proposal (shifting around service without increasing service hours)? I’m all for rethinking the bus network; let’s do it right in LA!

  28. Steve,
    Using Street names vs. numbers is not a substantive change. The 720 already says Wilshire Blvd on it. My 3 takeaways are:

    1. Standardize signage county wide. All buses should display the same type of data in the LED sign: route number, destination, via “main trunk section street name” in sequence. A few agencies does this but not all.

    2. Harmonize numbering so it is easy to understand. the current numbering system that makes a distinction between bus heading to Downtown LA and non-downtown and adding a 4 or 7 in front for limited or rapid is outdated. The number itself should just tell you directions (e.g. Odd N-S, even E-W) and a prefix (or suffix) should tell you the service mode (e.g. Rapid, local, express) E.g. Instead of 720 and 20, call them R20 and 20. This way you avoid having Rapid and local with totally different numbers like on Vermont. It is also a lot more intuitive for novice bus users. And work with other municipal operators to adopt the same numbering scheme.

    3 unify fare system. There is no reason why metro and municipal operators are still on different fare systems now that everyone is using TAP. Transit riders should be choosing which bus to ride base on which one is fastest or most convenient; not which one has free transfer. If we want a functional system, fare must be unified.

    And of course more bus lanes. That goes without saying

  29. You’ve got an evolving system. Bus ridership patterns will change over time, with the various measure R and M projects in the works, and schedules and routes will periodically have to be reworked as these new lines are put into service. The upcoming restructuring should only be viewed as a long-term solution for areas that these projects don’t serve (or won’t for a while).

  30. Could DASH routes (aka useless circulators) be redirected into service a frequent , core grid of service. In that note, why do Foothill Transit, Bug Blue Bus, Culver City Bus, etc. even exist? I’d much rather just have one agency.

    • I agree, DASH are rarely ever useful. I really wish I could reprogram my Google trip planner to “Ignore Dash buses.” It would make my life so much easier.

      I would rather have 1 agency too, particularly when having to transfer and paying twice etc. I understand though that they are different agencies running them and funding cant all work out perfectly unless someone agrees to pay a subsidy. I would however like to see a consistent numbering strategy. My current commute involves either the LAMetro 501 or the Burbank Green routes. The two nomenclatures have nothing in common and just make things more confusing.

    • That would way too logical for some transportation planners. However, in the mean time we should eliminate the charge for inter-agency transfers and coordinate the schedules between connecting agencies.

      As for fares, I feel that perhaps we should go back to a universal zone system such as existed in the PE/LARY/LATL era with now, say, a $1 base fare and $0.25 more for each additional zone. With TAP stored value, this could be accomplished relatively easily at each zone boundary. For Metro Rail, this could be accomplished the same way as it is on BART and in Washington DC.

  31. Many good points — thank you!

    Throwing something else out there I’d like feedback on: what do you think of the current numbering and naming system for Metro bus lines?

    I’ve often wondered if it would be better to use street names instead of numbers for some bus lines (obviously many routes use more than one road, complicating matters). I think the current number system is well understood by experienced riders but somewhat daunting for new riders.

    I also wonder about the routes themselves: too complicated or about right considering our travel patterns?


    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

    • Metro’s current numbering system is dumb, not because they are numbers but because it is not consistent and the numbering system is not shared with other agencies.

      Take Wilshire. There is the 20 and the 720. Easy enough, the 720 is the limited stop version of the 20 and both travel on Wilshire. But east of downtown they end up on different corridors and get confusing.

      This sorta works on Santa Monica, Olympic, Venice.

      Then take Vermont. There is the 754 bus, so you would think the 54 would be the local version of the 754 right? Wrong, it’s the 204 for
      no good reason.

      Then look at he local agencies. Santa Monica BBB also has a route on Wilshire. Is it called some verson of the 20? The 520 perhaps? Nope, it’s the R2, because again that somehow makes sense.

      Metro should stick with numbers, but completely rework them. Probably go to a maximum of 4 digits, with most buses being 3 digit.
      LA is simply too big to have ‘the 4’ bus. Even numbers should be East-West. Odd numbers North-South

      • I believe it’s 754 because the 704 was already taken up by the 704 on Santa Monica which began service before Vermont got Rapid. I do believe this occurs in another line but it escapes me at the moment. Anyone?

      • I think the numbering system is fine. It just needs to be clarified. As a person who commutes from the San Gabriel Valley, I can tell you that the 200 series is the same 200 series for Foothill Transit. the 200 series is a north-south route. The 100-199 series are routes that go east to west, not service Downtown. The 1-99 serve Downtown as local. The 300 are limited routes. The 400 series are buses that go to Downtown via Express portions on Freeways. 500 are express routes that serve other areas other than downtown.

    • I have absolutely no idea what any of the numbers mean (if anything), and I bet most people don’t either. Other than the 700s are rapid.

      Street names would be much more useful, especially if the redesign makes good use of our straightforward grid system and becomes a grid network itself (stick to 1 or 2 streets, with predictable intersections with perpendicular routes). This way the bus route could have just 1 or 2 street names describing the route. Theoretically, with a grid as regular and widespread as ours, you should be able to get from wherever to wherever with 1 or 2 transfers. 1 east-west route, 1 north-south route.

      Another scheme to consider (assuming grid network): something like the interstate numbering system. Starting at the beaches from West and South, use numbers ending in 5 to indicate North-South, and ending in 0 for East-West.
      For example, the western most North-South route would be 5, then on the next route over 15, then 25 etc. Likewise the southern most east-west- route is 10, followed by 20, etc.

      Or you could use Union Station as a center point, using a round number like 500, increasing north and east, decreasing south and west. Bus along Alameda would be 505, Cesar Chavez/Sunset would be 500.

      As long as you make the system a true grid (stick to 1 or 2 main streets), it should be pretty easy for users. the route would read: Route 505 Alameda St./Figueroa (something like that).

      • Metro numbering system (from a brochure I had as a kid in Inglewood):

        1-99 – local buses to/from downtown
        100-199 – local buses traveling east/west but not to Downtown
        200-299 – local buses traveling north/south but not to Downtown
        300-399 – limited stop buses
        400-499 – express buses to/from downtown
        500-599 – express buses not to/from downtown
        600-699 – special services/shuttles

        700-799 – didn’t exist when I lived in LA, but previous trips showed they’re Rapid Buses
        800-899 – train routes (and I guess the Busways are included).

        • It it is simple already and people here are making it more complicated! This is the rule!

        • Foothill Transit generally follows this line numbering system, with 100-series routes east/west and 200-series routes north/south. They have numerous 400-series routes, but some them offer peak service only to and from the downtown area. At least one (Line 481) terminates in El Monte, while others such as Line 498 bypass El Monte.

          Unlike most others, the Foothill Transit website allows the user to click on any bus stop and see how many minutes it will be before the arrival of the next bus.

          Foothill Transit also has in interactive map at where you can click on a route and see graphically where each route operates. You can even selects multiple routes on the same graph and see which routes connect with others. Perhaps LA Metro can do the same but for each of its various service areas.

          In Orange County, OCTA numbers bus routes from north to south, and from west to east, with even numbered routes travelling west to east and odd number routes travelling north to south. For example, Route 47 (Harbor Blvd) is east of Route 29 (Beach Blvd.), and Line 30 (Orangethorpe) is north of Line 70 (Edinger) . One notable exception is Route 1 (San Clemente-Long Beach) which uses SR-1, or PCH) for much of its route.

          OCTA has Line 543 on Harbor Blvd. which is what OCTA calls “Bravo” service, similar to Metro rapid, with different bus livery. The 543 schedule references the 43 schedule for those seeking service to intermediate stopping points, but not the other way around. The 43 and 543 also differ in that the latter serves a truncated route. Line 43, but not Line 543, is so busy that it usually is served exclusively by articulated buses, which are beginning to appear on Line 29 next to where I live.

          OCTA has a Line 53 and a Line 53X, with the latter serving basically the same route but with fewer stops. They also have Line 29 and Line 29A with slight variations in routing.

          Although this may be impractical for a large system such as LA Metro, OCTA has on on-line bus book ( show all its bus schedules.

    • The numbering and naming system works great, however it would be helpful if a route map with frequency approximations was put on bus stop signs, similar to how the big blue bus does, so wet can get a general idea of where a bus goes and how frequently it runs, especially for the non app users.

      There also needs to be better coordination between lines. I hate riding the 218 over Laurel Canyon only to show up as the 750 on Ventura Blvd it’s already taking off. The 218 only runs every 30 to 40 minutes, and if I miss the 750 it’s another 20 minutes until the next one arrives. Better scheduling of the smaller lines that feed into the larger lines will improve efficiency and increase ridership by cutting down the time spent waiting for the bus.

      Finally, while the 2 hour in system one way transfers are nice, why not open it up to allow for 2 hours of systemwide travel. I think a lot of people would opt to take the metro over driving if they could hop on the bus for an errand trip knowing that they could just hop on and off as needed within the time period. The perceived value of not having to deal with parking (which is mostly free or free with a validation), a low price point, and reliable consistent service would do wonders for ridership. $1.75 every time you use the same line is too much for the casual user to justify over the convenience of a car for a simple multi stop errand run, and a monthly pass is a waste for anyone other than the daily commuter.

    • Steve, one problem with the current numbering system is that each transit agency has its own numbering system. It really should be a regional numbering system. Try explaining to someone not used to LA public transit that the bus going on Sunset is the #2 bus whereas the bus going on Wilshire is the #2 bus. Yes, one is Metro and one is Big Blue Bus, but that’s a bureaucratic distinction to someone who isn’t familiar with the system. Yes, I do realize that renumbering bus lines for 17 different agencies is slightly more complex than renumbering for 1 agency, but Metro is the 800-pound gorilla.

      • Hey Allon —

        Excellent point.

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

    • I think the numbering system is cool, but it kind of needs an update. The numbering system can be more like area codes (Ex. 1-99 remains, 100s: Southern LA, 200s: Western LA), or, update some existing flavored routes in this fashion: 300-349 is equivalent to 1-99 and 350-399 is equivalent to 100-199. Same with the 700/Rapids.

    • I’m fine with the current bus numbering system – it’s easier to look for numbers (which almost everyone uses) than to have people memorize buses named after streets, especially given the large number of tourists or residents for whom English is not their primary language. I almost missed the Green Line / Blue Line the transfer point the other day – I looked out the window and saw the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station sign and it took me a moment to remember that the station was no longer called Imperial/Wilmington.

      For the trains, I like the current color system – except for the fact that the Purple Line and Red Line trains look identical so people are always getting on the wrong train. I think if the train was only gray (silver) and black, it wouldn’t be as confusing as it is now. Because people see the red stripes and naturally assume it’s the red line.

    • The good news is that the numbering system is decent. At least for the 300/400/700 series route numbers. You have to differentiate your system out by route class (Express/Rapid/Limited achieves this).

      As for the rest of the local routes, the question is whether or not these routes HAVE to go through downtown (start/end) or crosstown routes. The naming systems, admittedly, would need to change. To reflect the main route of travel, or whether you want to just list the points of travel (e.g. 205 would be Willowbrook-CSU Dominguez Hills – San Pedro). However, if a route primarily travels on one road, you would defer to just the name of the street only (e.g. 79 – Huntington/Mission or 115 – Firestone/Manchester).

      In terms of route design, that’s up to your service class and those standards – are we addressing point-to-point travel, where you’d have to connect to rail or rapid or transit hub, or have localized service (to what the municipal routes and LADash would accomplish). If you have trunk routes that serve the point-to-point service, those numbers could be different than localized service.

      Of course, travel patterns are important. And the express and limited routes would need to be discussed at a different level.

    • I say we make it more comlicated and add letters to routes that split off. All sarcasm aside I never had an issue with the number system, but if I was a tourist having the system use street names wouldn’t be a bad idea.

      • I think safety for bus drivers are more important and passagers also. Different stops that are heavy travel points. Should have a officer there. Be under cover to see what’s going on.

  32. All things considered, the rail, Rapid, and MetroLiner system should be the spine of the network. By establishing these corridors (current and future), municipalities can focus on major hubs in their locales and connect with the spine. Metro Express can still function but with niche markets and priorities on per-trip ridership; and Metro Local/ LADOT should focus on addressing last-mile efforts.

    Technology will also be helpful in the grand scheme of things too with TSP and Bus only lanes should effective improve service quality; but in the end we would have to look at transit from a customer service POV. The entire customer experience (and this is something I preached at Pace Bus in Chicago) was that if you make the system easier on the end-user (this includes frequency, fares, transfers, connectivity, real-time info), it should assist with sustaining or growing ridership.

  33. We need a complete network of bus-only lanes that focuses most immediately on the densest, most transit-dependent parts of the city. Take care of your most loyal riders. Make our lives easier. Study, sure, but start to take action on improving speed and reliability on the busiest routes right away.

  34. Houston just did a big redo of their system. I would like a better focus of bus feeding rail since rail can do volume and frequency. Some bus routes are just too long

  35. Thank God! Also, what ever happened to that “blue-ribbon” study done a couple of years ago that identified a High Frequency network that would be worked on?
    Is this a decision to scrap that and start from scratch in a much more comprehensive matter (similar to the approach of Houston and Seattle)?

    My two cents: Since the metric Metro is clearly being held to is ridership/cost, the goal should be to get frequent service (15 min or better) to the highest percentage of residents possible (within 1/4 mile walk). This should be regardless of provider. Whether its metro rail, bus, or municipal operator, the key is coordination to avoid duplication of efforts. This should be a pretty straight forward metric to measure and use for planning.

    This will require focusing on the highest use areas and spending much less on “coverage” schemes. While it may feel bad to cut service to some more sparsely populated areas, this simply isn’t the metric that Metro is measured by. If you don’t like it, talk to your representatives. Metro is evaluated (by politicians, the press and voters) on providing more transit to more people for less money. period.

    We have a pretty consistent grid throughout the county. Make use of it. Doglegged routes take longer for more people, and if you need to make a connection, as long as the frequency is high, it won’t cause a lot of heartburn.

    also: MORE BUS LANES

    • And by 15 min or better, I mean consistently throughout the whole day. people without cars don’t suddenly have cars outside of rush hour. Make life easier for your core users, and it becomes easier for everyone.

  36. There seem to be too many studies, that are disconnected from each other. For instance Metro already had a Blue Ribbon Committee in 2009 and a Comprehensive Operations Analysis which their staff did in 2016 – – a Countywide BRT study, Strategic Bus Network Plan (which apparently never was finalized), and different agencies like Foothill Transit and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus have done their own studies in the past. Is this study going to be another way for consultants to make money, or are we actually going to see results?

    • Excellent point.

      Things I agree with in the other comments:
      -More coordination between the various bus operators, and consolidation where feasible
      -More frequent, reliable, and safe bus service
      -More bus lanes with coloring and BARRIERS to prevent cars from coming in on Metro Rapid routes
      -15 minute service outside of rush hour on more routes

      My suggestions:
      -What is the Office of Extraordinary Innovation suggesting?

      -I bought a bike because Metro buses are slow and unreliable (especially on Wilshire, in part due to construction, Adams, and Venice). With Metro, I don’t have a good sense of when the bus will actually come. I can consult the app for when it is scheduled to come, but that doesn’t mean it actually shows up on time. If the bus comes early or is delayed, it could be 15-20 minutes till the next one. Once the bus shows up, it travels at something like 8-10 miles per hour. I bike faster than that, and I am not a pro. So between waiting for the bus and its low speed, biking or bikes+rail makes more sense than the bus for a majority of my trips. (Except that right now the Blue and Expo Lines also have a lot of delays on the downtown section, so they are not reliable heading downtown).

      Potential solutions: fewer bus stops, all-door boarding, and greater frequency=less crowding, faster boarding, and faster travel. Well-maintained real-time next arrival signs. More hours during which people can call and get next-bus information.

      -Real-time next arrival signs should have information for nearby/parallel bus routes. If I am on Wilshire and Fairfax at 9 PM and I just missed the bus, the sign should suggest that I could take a 9:05 bus on 6th St. or a 9:08 bus on Olympic, if I am willing to walk to those streets. Google Maps has this element, but many Metro riders don’t use it–they are older, immigrants, don’t have smartphones etc.

      -Keep fares as low as possible. Most riders are very low-income. Metro had higher ridership in the 1980’s than today because it had lower fares.

      -Metro should partner with Google and LA ExpressPark to give travelers price information on Google Maps/Directions for major events. Let’s say I am heading to Dodger Stadium. I’d like Google to include the cost of parking in downtown, Venice, Hollywood, Westwood etc. on the Google Maps page displaying the travel times between cars, bikes, and transit. They already show airfare prices for trips between cities like LA and San Francisco. Including the price information would show driving (not including parking time) might be faster than the bus, but in some instances, travelers will save $20+ by taking the bus. In instances where the train will be crowded (USC games on the Expo Line), buses like the 38 and 102 could be faster and calmer than the train…Metro should make that clear to more casual riders.

      -CicLAvia brought people into the streets for bicycling and exercising. Could an equivalent event convince people to ride the bus consistently?

      -Stronger signal priority for bus routes that meet certain ridership criteria, not just Metro Rapid. Metro Rapid’s signal priority is not enough.

      -At busy bus stops, have a sensor sense the bus is approaching and announce, “the 33 bus to downtown LA is arriving”. This means I can get distracted on my phone or sit, rather than standing on the curb and looking for when the bus shows up so I don’t miss it. It also helps on streets where multiple buses operate, like Flower and Figueroa, so I don’t have to keep looking at each bus as it approaches. I wait until I hear the name of the bus I want to take.

      -More bus shelters

      -More all-door boarding, especially for buses that are crowded. The bus driver has to wait for people to move to the back. When people get on through the back door without paying…they would otherwise hold up the bus for a minute or two, bickering with the driver about why they expect to ride without paying.

      • Regarding bus numbering, I’d like the bus automated announcers, the visuals on the front and side of the bus, and paper fold-up schedules to more prominently state the major attractions along the route. For example, the 720 bus could say “passes LACMA and UCLA”. The automated announcer on the 38 could always say, “this stop is a ten-minute walk from Expo Park” when it reaches Vermont Avenue.

        I bet ridership would go up if the Expo Line trains announced bus transfers at the stations that opened in 2012, like they do for the stations that opened a year ago. “The next stop is Expo/La Brea. Transfer here to the 212 and 312 with service to Inglewood, LACMA, the Grove, and Hollywood”.

        In 5-10 years from now, I’d like to see the following:
        -720 bus approaches Vermont Avenue
        -Automated announcer says, “now approaching Vermont Avenue. Transfer here to the 704 and 754 to USC and Expo Park. The next southbound bus will arrive in 5 minutes.”

        I know this would require a lot of technology upgrades.

  37. One good thing about this: re-envisioning the LA MTA bus system is a way of doing the most good for the most riders and making a big difference relatively quickly.

    Most important thing is removing the perception of danger on the bus. If it is more pleasant and less scary to ride the bus, people will. Uniformed guards/LEOs on buses?

    Can we take lessons from ridesharing apps about making buses and perhaps even minibuses more responsive to clients?

    This is frankly, quite exciting.

  38. change can be scary, but given the time frame, its time to take a good long look at the service to better serve everyone.
    One thing I would like to really see happen (and I know this is far fetched and out of the hands of metro alone) is either 1.all transit agencies in the 5 county area consolidated to one greater system to better serve regional transportation – I feel that commuters do not embrace public transit as they should… crossing county shouldn’t mean hours spent on public transit. (side note Google told me last night that it would take 3 hours to go from chino to my home in long beach, and 5 hours to go from chino to my work in anaheim – this sums up the problems with public transit on so cal in general …why should someplace twice as far take almost half the time..*caugh caugh OCTA 8 caugh caugh*) OR a more sensible option, 2. have Metro oversee all agencies in the 5 county area, making transfers easier, making TAP a standard, and aligning timetables for travelers as they have done in LA county.
    – and no, I do not feel metrolink is the solve all solution that OCTA makes it out to be…

    • Then there is the long ignored 2008 “OCTA-LA Metro — Orange and Los Angeles Intercounty Transportation Study: (see IBI Group that addressed the lack of public transportation between LA and Orange Counties. There was also a now defunct 4-corners transportation study around where LA, Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties meet,

      Both these studies have led nowhere. I guess that the freeway congestion across the various county lines is just a “figment of imagination” in the eyes of the various transportation planners, I realize that this is sarcastic, but if this congestion actually existed, then I assume by now that action would have been taken to address this situation.

      There was also the SCAG 2013 Pacific Electric Right-of-Way study at and that actually proposed extended the LAMTA West Santa Ana Branch to Santa Ana. This obviously should be accomplished,

      For some time, I have advocated the creation of a New SCRTA (Southern California Regional Transportation Authority) similar to the old SCRTD but now including Ventura County. To me the current situation is a disgrace. Each county could continue to operate their local bus systems, but the SCRTA would be responsible for ALL inter-county rail and bus service, including Metroloink.

      The New York MTA at has jurisdiction over all subways, all local and inter-borough bus service, and the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North commuter rail lines. Manhattan-bound inter-borough bus service is pick-up only in the outlying boroughs and discharge-only in Manhattan, with the opposite pattern for buses leaving Manhattan, Theses inter-borough bus lines operate all day and on weekends, A similar arrangement could be used here for buses between LA and the four adjacent counties,

      If this takes legislation then lets do it. The sooner the better.

      • I agree there should be a more robust system between the 5 counties. But who is going to pay for all this? LA County has been voting repeatedly to tax themselves to provide better transit WITHIN LA COUNTY. To get quality transit outside of LA County, Ventura, San Bernnardino, Orange and Riverside Counties need to step up their levels of funding.

    • That would be the same as giving a moron the keys to fort Knox, metro does not know how to run what it has they are the most incompetent transit system in the country

  39. #1 priority should be convenience for the transit rider. That is: shorter headway.

    Nice photo, btw.