Metro releases draft $7.2-billion budget for 2020 fiscal year; service changes proposed

pdf here

Metro’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year — which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2020 — has been posted on metro.net and is posted above. A public hearing for the budget will be held at Metro headquarters at noon on Wednesday, May 15, and the Metro Board is scheduled to consider adopting the budget at their meeting on Thursday, May 23.

The balanced budget is for $7.2 billion, which is an increase over the current year’s $6.6 billion. The increase is due mostly to Metro expecting more revenues from its sales taxes, grants and bonds while increased expenses are due in part to costs involving labor and benefits, debt and the planning and construction of road, transit and active transportation projects. No changes to Metro fares are proposed in the budget. 

As part of the budget, Metro staff proposed some changes in service to make schedules and train lengths more consistent, improve on-time performance, allow more time for light rail vehicles maintenance and match service levels with actual demand based on Board-adopted policies.

The service changes proposed in the budget are:

• Weekday peak hour frequencies for the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines would have trains running every eight minutes instead of the current every six minutes (Blue and Expo) or seven minutes (Gold). During peak hours, all Blue, Expo and Gold Line trains will be three cars instead of the current mix of two-car and three-car trains. We think this will improve on-time performance and reduce delays.

• On the Blue Line, every train would run every eight minutes between 7th/Metro and Downtown Long Beach instead of what we’ve done in the past — with trains running every six minutes between 7th/Metro and Willow and every 12 minutes between Willow and Downtown Long Beach. Long Beach customers will experience significant improvements from Downtown L.A. to Long Beach.

• On the Blue and Expo Lines, the above changes would result in average wait times increasing by one minute during peak hour service. On the Gold Line, the average wait time at peak hours would increase by 30 seconds.

• Weekday mid-day frequencies on the Blue, Expo, Gold would remain every 12 minutes with two-car trains — which better meets the current demand. We will monitor ridership and provide three-car trains if needed.

• Weekend service on the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines would have trains running every 12 minutes between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and every 20 minutes outside those hours. Trains on these lines currently begin moving toward 12-minute service between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends.

• On the bus side, some frequent lines with unused capacity would go from running five trips an hour to four when demand is less. 

• Green Line service remains the same but extra hours have been added to accommodate the Crenshaw/LAX Line opening toward the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year.

• Overall, in the coming fiscal year bus service hours are about the same as this year while rail has 5.7 percent fewer hours.

As for the rest of the budget, planning and construction remain a priority as Metro continues to implement its Measure R and M programs. 

The major rail projects under construction — the Crenshaw/LAX Line (scheduled to open in 2020), the Regional Connector (2022), the Purple Line Extension’s Section 1 (2023) and Section 2 (2025) and the Gold Line extension’s first section to La Verne or Pomona (2025) — the terminus will be determined by available funding. 

Among other projects funded by the coming year’s budget are: 

• Planning and/or design work continues on many projects including new rail and bus rapid transit lines in many parts of the county. These include a new rail station adjacent to LAX, light rail between Van Nuys and the Sylmar/San Fernando Metrolink station, Orange Line improvements, the L.A. River Path Project, the Sepulveda Transit Corridor, light rail between Artesia and DTLA, three bus rapid transit projects (Vermont Avenue, NoHo to Pasadena and North San Fernando Valley), the third section of the Purple Line between Century City and Westwood, a Green Line extension to Torrance, an extension of the Eastside Gold Line and the Crenshaw Northern Extension. 

• Continued support for several Caltrans projects, including State Route 138 Capacity Enhancements, I-5 Capacity Enhancements between the 134 and 170 and the 605 and Orange County border, High Desert Corridor, South Bay Improvements, I-710 Early Action projects, I-605 Corridor “Hot Spots,” highway operational improvements in the Arroyo Verdugo and in Las Virgenes/Malibu subregions. 

• Continued support for the Alameda Corridor-East (ACE) Construction Authority and grade separations Phase II projects.

• Completing the order of forty 60-foot electric buses for the Orange Line along with charging stations.

• Delivery of 207 40-foot buses and sixty-five 60-foot buses with Near Zero Emission engines.

• Continued construction of new subway cars for the Red/Purple Line with delivery expected of two prototype cars for testing.

• Midlife modernization projects for both light rail and heavy rail vehicles to preempt vehicle service issues and increase operational performance.

• Continue rail improvements focusing on the effort to modernize the Blue Line and the rebuilding of the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station. 

14 replies

  1. Pretty unreal that Metro is cutting service on Expo even though it’s been the one line that has seen increases in recent years. Plus, NextGen will HOPEFULLY be advocating an increase in service frequency across the board, so cutting service frequency on trains doesn’t make any sense at all. Metro should be shaving costs at every opportunity to re-direct those funds to increased service.

  2. Cutting service and spending approximately one billion dollars more. It’s very apparent the MTA is not interested in improving service but instead spending money for pet projects that will not benefit the riders. And then you ask why patronage is decreasing every year.

  3. Fair enough. I’m a frequent rider of the Red and Expo lines and there are definitely times during the day where there is unneeded capacity on Expo. I’d like for the trains to be as convenient as possible but there’s no point to running them more often than needed. The grade crossings for Expo and the bottleneck at Flower/Washington are public relations disasters so hopefully this should help while a more permanent solution is found.

  4. “Weekday peak hour frequencies for the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines would have trains running every eight minutes instead of the current every six minutes (Blue and Expo) or seven minutes (Gold).”

    “On the Blue and Expo Lines, the above changes would result in average wait times increasing by one minute during peak hour service. On the Gold Line, the average wait time at peak hours would increase by 30 seconds.”

    I don’t understand Metro’s math here. The wait times for the Blue and Expo Lines would appear to increase by two minutes, not one minute, and the wait time on the Gold Line would appear to increase by one minute, not thirty seconds.

    • They’re estimating the average wait time. Worst case you just miss a train and best case your train arrives just as you do. The average is probably somewhere in the middle. The middle of an 8 minute gap is 4 minutes which is a 1 minute increase over the middle of a three minute gap.

      But they are definitely putting lipstick on a pig by defining it by wait time in terms of minutes. Another way to look at it is this is a 33% increase in wait time (an extra 1 minute is 33% of the original 3 minutes) and a 25% reduction in service. It’s a huge deal and trains will be more crowded and people with choices will start leaving.

      They really need to better explain the reasoning and provide less statistical rationalization. They should be working to provide better service, but are instead proposing to provide significantly worse service. We riders deserve to know why that is.

      • In a strange way the new schedule might be a benefit overall. There’s simply no way to fit the amount of Blue and Expo trains scheduled now on the Flower track. As the annoying person who always reminds people that Expo is a great way to get downtown and back, the first thing I hear is that it took 20 minutes to get from USC to 7th Street. Staring at the side of Trade Tech for ten minutes is a good way to lose potential and occasional riders. The grade separations along the line also destroy traffic in every direction. I think mass transit should always get a priority over vehicle traffic but many of the grade crossings, as implemented, are complete disasters. The sad part is that I think Expo (as built) cannot accommodate the frequency of service we have now.

        • Much of the delays in Flower are due to car traffic and those delays will not be improved by running trains less frequently. And much of the train bunching on Flower has been due to more frequent blue line issues that are being corrected through maintenance. It’s an issue but I don’t see this as improving the rider experience. Hopefully I’m wrong or better yet hopefully they decide instead to find alternatives that will improve rider experience.

  5. I hate to admit it but this might work. The current disaster on Flower street might function better if it didn’t have every train trying to get by at the same time. Lets wait and see before we start crying foul.

  6. “On the Blue Line, every train would run every eight minutes between 7th/Metro and Downtown Long Beach instead of what we’ve done in the past…”

    Ok, good, this is a worthy improvement, as well as having all 3-car trains despite the increase from 6 to 8 minute headway during peak times.

    But then…

    “Weekend service on the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines would have trains running every 12 minutes between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and EVERY 20 MINUTES outside those hours…”

    SMH… really, metro? still? 20 minutes is really pushing it for tolerable wait times on what are supposed to be rapid transit trunk lines. This is certainly no improvement over existing service and isn’t likely to attract any new riders who will simply opt for uber or lyft given the choice when out at night. This should be obvious. Metro is shooting itself in the foot with 20 minute headways as early as 8 pm. in a major city. On expo, for example, this means that if someone gets to the station in Santa Monica for example a few minutes after a train has left, that means once they arrive in DTLA, it will have taken over an hour and at 8 or 9 pm, driving would have been faster on the 10. Not a good image here for transit.

    “On the bus side, some frequent lines with unused capacity would go from running five trips an hour to four when demand is less”…

    Ok, so lets just further exacerbate the above problem, wow…

    “Overall, in the coming fiscal year bus service hours are about the same as this year while rail has 5.7 percent fewer hours”

    So, in other words, you guys are really struggling to keep the system running frequently with given current funds and just have to make overall cuts. Why not just admit it then instead of sugarcoating it as others have said?

    Is it because of things like this?

    //losangeles.cbslocal.com/2019/05/02/metro-saunas-steam-rooms/

    c’mon… like, what are you guys doing?

  7. The off-peak network is going to really hurt those who depend on transit to get to jobs that don’t offer the luxury of Monday through Friday 9-6. Especially with the still extant forced transfers at 7MC and LAUS, an additional potential 16 minutes will be added. That’s bad and will result in overcrowding (so more delays) and losses in ridership and support. Saturday Mornings after a maintenance shutdown can already result in dangerously full cars and platforms. Sorry to see this happening and sorry to see so many operational positions getting cut.

  8. All these cuts to an already devastated third world public transit system. Taxpayers are paying more and more to support this organization, while getting nothing in return. And for what? Oh, right. So that Phil Washington can get a $200,000 sauna on our dime. Where did this joker come from? GET RID OF HIM! And kudos to CBS 2 for uncovering this scam! Those of us who actually work for a living can’t even afford to go to the gym anymore. This whole situation makes me sick.