Update on effort to restructure Metro Bus system: more short trips could yield more riders

pdf here

What should the Metro Bus network look like in the future? The agency’s ongoing NextGen Study has been underway for a year and is Metro’s attempt to restructure and reimagine its bus network, with changes aimed to begin late next year.

Metro staff have issued a new report with some interestingness on the work thus far. Some excerpts:

•The Metro Bus network still carries about 70 percent of boardings on Metro’s transit system, which includes bus and rail.

•Seven percent of L.A. County residents are frequent riders on the Metro Bus system and account for 80 percent of all Metro Bus boardings. But the number of frequent riders has been declining.

•From the report: “The question becomes whether it is prudent to continue prioritizing a shrinking ridership base or explore emerging markets which may have different travel preferences.” 

•From the report: “Both current riders and non-riders agree that the most important service parameters Metro should focus on are being fast, frequent and reliable.”

•Metro captures the largest market share on trips over 10 miles — which are only 16 percent of all trips taken in L.A. County.

•By contrast, 46 percent of all trips are one to five miles. If Metro had the same market share of short trips as long trips, bus ridership would increase significantly.

•Short trips primarily occur during midday or evening whereas long trips tend to be during peak commute times in the morning and evening.

•Metro believes that people will take the bus — as long as it doesn’t take more than twice as long as driving. The agency’s strategies for speeding up bus trips are to push for more bus lanes and transit signal priority and bus stop consolidation. It’s worth noting that local cities or the county control traffic signals and lane configurations on roads.

•From the report: There are two areas where Metro should focus on to better meet the needs of LA County travel — by making long-distance trips faster and serving more short distance riders by running more frequent buses.

•From the report: “The initial assumption of the NextGen Bus Study is to develop a service plan within the range of 7 million service hours, plus or minus 10 percent (6.3 million to 7.7 million hours). However, this does not preclude Metro from developing a service plan that exceeds this range should the benefits justify any tradeoffs to other Metro projects and programs.”

Here is the NextGen Study’s home page. Thoughts on the new report? Comment please.


15 replies

  1. I’m guessing that Metro isn’t getting as many long bus trips because they do typically take more than twice as long as driving. This is where rapid transit becomes more useful – and is probably why your rail lines are packed like sardines during rush hour. The new projects can’t come fast enough, I say.

  2. I feel like at one point, Metro already had good service. It was probably between 2005 and 2010, and then all of a sudden, the buses began to not show up as frequently, lines were cut, and now we have to reset?

    (‘ll stay on the topic of buses here, since it seems our rail system has also slowed down also, but that isn’t being addressed here.)

    I used to commute from Sepulveda and the 405 to Hollywood and Highland. There were a combination of buses I could ride, the 33 or 733 down Venice to the 217 and 780 at Fairfax; or, the 212 and 312 on LA Brea.

    If we got to Fairfax which is a far stop and I didn’t see either bus pulling up, id go down to La Brea.

    On a good day, the ride was under an hour and I could achieve this two or three times a week.

    Today, i’d be lucky to get this quality of service twice a year.

    I hope this study helps get us back to a better time.

  3. While I think this fixation on short trips is misguided; if they want to easily increase short trips they should change the basic fare of 2 hours of boarding in one direction to 2 hours of riding in any direction. Thus short round trip prices are cut in half.
    Metro needs to grasp that most of the riders are and will be poorer folk. “Transit dependent” is the code word.
    Until they accept this reality, they are running after unicorns.

    • I totally agree… often I’m trying to figure out inconvenient routes with a lot of walking to be able to take the 50 cent Dash bus when possible… fares by zone traveled would really really help low income riders… even the low income monthly pass doesn’t help since I don’t ride $75 worth of trips in one month.

  4. As long as Metro understands that improving short trips should not preclude improving long trips as well. Overall whats called for is more robust service. More frequency of buses. Measure M did not given Metro 10s of billions so it could operate the same bus budget it had prior. We need a much better high frequency network, hopefully utilizing many new bus-only lanes. People want freedom when they chose what mode of transportation they will use. A bus that arrive frequently is freedom. A bus that arrives every 20 minutes or worse is constriction.

  5. If we’re going to talk about adding more rapid service, then bring back the 711, 715, 730, and introduce a rapid line along La Brea. La Brea, til this day is the only major North/South Street that lacks a rapid line, as the other busy streets such as La Cienega, Fairfax, Crenshaw, Western, and Vermont already have thus service in place. Since metro is also planning to extend the 212 towards the south bay galleria, also well as discontinuing the 740, a 712 rapid line from the south bay to Hollywood would be the ideal way to not only introduce the new line, but also keep rapid service on Hawthorne Blvd since the 740 will be no more.

  6. more rapid route including weekend services, eliminate some of the local bus stops, add more express services (point to point or intercounty bus routes), and add permanent bus lines for rapid routes and the Silver Line along major streets.

  7. One thing that should be considered is more tradeoffs in service hours for far-flung areas vs. improving dense urban core service. I live in a very suburban area and rarely take the local bus, but when I do get on one, it makes me sad because there are like 4 other people. If we’re going to look at extraordinary innovations, perhaps non-peak service could be canceled and the money redirected to offering subsidies for existing ride share services that are also disabled-accessible. Denver RTD did this for awhile when they partnered with Uber and a local city in subsidizing trips that originated/ended at a light rail station or commuter lot.

  8. I was a frequent bus rider until service nosedived after the end of the consent decree. Since that time I’ve lived both in Historic Filipinotown and Highland Park. Both the 14 and 81 locals have horrible frequency off-peak (despite having direct connection to frequent Metro Rail service), so I’m hoping that Metro really takes increasing frequency seriously. So many times I’ll see the bus across the street, pulling away, and I look at the NextBus app to see that another bus won’t come for 30-40 minutes. I’ve needed to rely more of Lyft in these circumstances, but I really feel for the folks who don’t have that luxury.

    I think that local/rapid in LA doesn’t make much of a difference (especially during peak hours), but what does make an impact is frequency. If your bus is coming every 10 minutes, it becomes a workable part of your life.

  9. Frequency is THE biggest issue with metro buses. It must be fixed system wide. Metro needs to finally see the bus system as an all day frequent service for everybody, rather than just peak period relief services with bare minimum service levels off-peak for those who have no other choice. This is an outdated philosophy all too common in American bus systems and it’s well past due for a change. This is also one area metro has complete control over, as opposed to bus lanes and signal priority, which naturally require inter-agency agreement, not that those aren’t sorely needed. But if metro is going to fix one thing first, fix frequency.