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.