Frequent service plan released for NextGen Bus Plan

Currently, 48% of Metro bus riders have all-day service every 5 to 10 minutes.

In a big step forward for Metro’s efforts to restructure its vast bus system, the agency today released a draft service plan that would greatly improve the frequency of buses across the Metro system. Please see the map above. 

Under the draft NextGen Bus Plan — emphasis on ‘draft’ as changes can still be made — there would be much more frequent bus service on most routes, shorter waits for buses and more reliable service. If the new plan is adopted:

•Buses would arrive every five to 10 minutes for 83 percent of current riders compared to 49 percent today.

•The number of bus lines running every five to 10 minutes on weekdays would jump from 16 to 29 and from two to 14 on weekends.

•The number of Los Angeles County residents who could walk to bus lines running every five to 10 minutes would more than double from 900,000 currently to almost 2.2 million.

The draft plan aims to change current bus service to meet the demands of most Metro riders. To do this, the plan consolidates routes on streets with the highest demand and combines Metro local and most Rapid lines with the overall number of stops reduced. Buses would stop fewer times than a local bus but a few more than a rapid. The end result would be a faster door-to-door trip for all riders, whether they currently take Metro local or Rapid routes. 

Some bus service in underutilized areas would also be shifted to other bus agencies in L.A. County — in particular in areas where Metro bus service currently overlaps with other providers. In areas with bus service that is perpetually under-used or areas that we heard from the public are difficult to serve with full size buses on fixed routes, Metro will explore other ways to help people get around, including the agency’s future on-demand shuttle service.

Metro’s bus system is the second busiest in the United States. The study for NextGen Bus Plan began in 2018 and is the first major makeover of the system in more than 25 years. The study is a direct response to changing travel patterns in L.A. County and a decline in Metro bus ridership from 1.14 million average weekday boardings in 2013 to 878,862 in 2019. 

The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to vote at its meeting on Jan. 23 to formally release the NextGen plan for public review (here is the Metro staff report and attachments). If that happens, public workshops will be held in February and March (here’s the schedule) to be followed by meetings with stakeholders this spring. Public hearings would begin in June and would be considered by Metro Service Councils in August and the Metro Board in September. 

Later this month, Metro will also be releasing route-by-route changes and online tools that will better visualize what your bus ride would be like under the draft plan.

If approved, the rollout of the new bus system would take place in three phases that coincide with Metro’s twice yearly bus service updates. The first wave of changes would begin in Dec. 2020, continue in June 2021 and be completed in Dec. 2021.

To emphasize again: nothing is finalized and there is plenty of time for more public feedback.

Metro staff are also recommending that the Metro Board adopt a “Transit First” approach that would include capital projects to speed up buses (bus lanes and traffic signal priority, for example), make bus stops more comfortable, expand all-door boarding and add even more frequent service, among other improvements.

Over the last two years as part of its NextGen Bus Study, Metro has been conducting market research and analyzing local travel data. Metro has also held 260 stakeholder and community meetings, conducted on-board surveys of bus riders and held 20 interactive public workshops.

What Metro learned, in short:

•The public wants more frequent service to reduce oft-long and unpredictable wait times at bus stops.

•There is significant unmet demand for short rides of one to five miles from midday through the evening hours and on weekends.

•Bus routes on the 44 busiest corridors in L.A. County carry over 80 percent of the Metro bus system’s riders. To put it another way, our riders are largely concentrated on our busiest routes.

A long-standing criticism of the Metro bus system has been that it relies too much on legacy lines and that the agency has been reluctant to shed under-performing routes and bulk up service where it is used the most. The NextGen plan seeks, in short, to remedy that by putting service in the places we think current and future riders will use it the most.

Many other large transit agencies — including in Houston, Seattle, Chicago and New York — are either making changes or have made similar changes over the past decade with a decided trend toward more frequent and predictable service on the busiest streets.

What do you think, riders and non-riders? Comment please.

54 replies

  1. 111 east of Bell Gardens (Downey & Norwalk) needs at least 15 minute headway. For me, 30 mins to 1 hour doesn’t cut it.

    • I’m a often rider of both Metro rail & bus service and can say that its ok sometimes but awful other times. With the Expo Line about 70%-80% of the time it is fine with little complaints. The other 20%-30% the line is plagued with one part of the track is closed or there is some issue with a train in front of us which causes a 5-15 minute delay. Regarding the 534 route, it’s a great line but needs more service on that route. Instead of every 30 minutes, hopefully it can be reduced to 10-15 minutes for most of the day and 20 minutes for the off peak hours. Either have to have well past the schedule arrival time in the baking sun with no coverage or just miss the bus due to waiting ages.

  2. A frequent problem occurs whenever there is a transfer from one bus to another. It is very distressing when, as the bus that you are on is pulling up to the stop for the bus that you are transferring to, you see that bus pulling out before the bus that you are on has stopped. Since some buses are as much as an hour apart, this can waste a lot of time. Since transfer points are all known, it would seem that the timing could be adjusted such that there were enough time for this to not occur as frequently. It would seem that, using computers, since bus locations are known, that information could be transmitted to the driver of the arriving bus, so that if it were within a minute or two, he or she could wait that minute or two at the transfer point for the other bus. Also, especially for common transfers, the schedules should be calculated to make wait times not as long.

    • There are too many transfer points unfortunately, and both buses would essentially have to exchange passengers in a holding pattern at almost every major blvd.

      Ten minute to fifteen minutw service alleviates this. Wilshire and Vermont are a good example where frequency creates coordination.

  3. Glad to hear more frequent service is to be implemented! I live exactly one mile from the Gold Line and would visit Old Pasadena far more often if service along Colorado Blvd is more frequent and reliable (side note: if the Gold Line had been built in the old ATSF right of way along Walnut it would be far closer to the businesses there as well as a far more pleasant wait for the train than the 210-median stations)

  4. The idea of more frequent buses sounds great now tell me how you are going to keep them spaced apart so 3 buses don’t show up at the same time and you still have to wait for the next bus. I see thin on the Wilshire Rapid line and even the Orange line. One or two wheelchairs or bikes is all it takes to throw the buses off schedule.

  5. You got that right! The City of L>A> and many merchants have fought the idea. Remember this is “car Country”!

  6. According to the map above most bus routes will be improved in the Central LA Area and the Westside. It will not effect many bus routes in other areas. I know that in addition to Metro the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus runs good service and so does Long Beach Transit. Other cities not so much. The South Bay has miserable bus service; Torrance Transit & Gardena Muni Buses just don’t or can’t cut it. Another local bus service the Beach Cities Transit has the worst service I have ever seen. BCT seems to have no schedule at all they follow.

    • Hi Rick;

      FWIW, I live in Pasadena, which has excellent local bus service. It’s under-used and buses are slowed by frequent stops + traffic lights. But the coverage and frequencies are good and there is certainly some overlap with our system and Foothill Transit.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • “I live in Pasadena, which has excellent local bus service.”

        Huh? The majority of the buses there (256 & 268 definitely come to mind) have at least 60 min headway’s mid-day service.

        Unless someone lives near Colorado between Fair Oaks and Hill where COMBINED bus service is 5-15 min headways, then it’s just plain inconvenience to use the bus in Pasadena and nearby cities.

        Eagle Rock is also another area that comes to mind. Colorado Blvd all of Eagle Rock has COMBINED 5-15 min scheduled bus service, outside of that, have fun waiting 25-60 min for a bus.

          • Steve. The Pasadena service was rebranded as “Pasadena Transit” 4 years ago. Do you not use it enough to have noticed?

          • My bad. I’ve lived here 16 years and was used to the other name. No, I don’t use it often but I live around the corner from a stop and see the buses all the time.

            Steve Hymon
            Editor, The Source

      • Steve, the only true good bus service in the South Bay is the Silver Line. Many rapid bus lines on Hawthorne Blvd go as far as the South Bay Galleria and go no further south. The 322 that serves Hawthorne Blvd south of Artesia runs only every 45 minutes. It is an inconvenience trying to get to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center with buses that run on such a limited basis. Metro used to have videos explaining the Metro system and how it is being improved. I have not see any of those in well over a year. In addition, I also blame the fact that Metro does a lousy job of reaching out to the public about their system.

        • I couldn’t agree more! Metro has ALWAYS done a lousy job of telling people about detours, or service delays. You’re right operators should be given “forced time off without benifits/pay” if they fail to communicate with their passangers. A couple times of “Time off without pay” will convence them to do a better job of communication.
          As far as the South Bay, all I can say is this situation has been going on since I can remember. Back when RTD ran most of the service in the South Bay, service was hourely, at best.
          Today Most of the service in the San Fernando Valley is hourely, outside of rush hour. You go out to the Northwest Valley on a Saturday or Sunday and you’ll find service that is hourely, and on some lines, only from about 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM. At other times of the day/week service is only 45 min. Even though the Northwest San Fernando Valley has grown a great deal in the last 20+ years, bacically not much has improved in the way of either service or frequency of service. This MUST BE ADDRESSED!

      • Hi Steve,

        For the record, and I will save the worst (and best) for last

        * The only Foothill Transit Bus that has a route in Pasadena now is the FT 187

        * The last Pasadena Transit shuttles leave around 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Then the system shuts down for the night.

        * The foothill communities of Sierra Madre, Altadena, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Montrose, La Crescenta, Tujunga, Sunland and Lake View Terrace are getting deprived of Public Transit Service by Metro under the new plan.

        * And we all know about how much time, effort and pain it took for Pasadena to extract money from Metro to build the Gold Line here.

        So, looking at the dumb map, it seems that Lines 90, 177, 264, 267, and 268 will be discontinued. What an improvement!

        Here’s a look at some good news: http://foothilltransit.org/all-electric-double-decker-bus-foothill-transit/

        John Donlin

        • Fair enough. One clarification: the Gold Line was built by a Construction Authority, a state-created agency, although that was created for the reason you state.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

    • Beach Cities Transit has even lost a route that had been acquired from Torrance Transit: they should reconsider sending back their Line 109 to Metro as a new shuttle route and their Line 102 back to the Metro Line 215, which it was originally part of…

  7. This plan “…combines Metro local and Rapid lines with the overall number of stops reduced. Buses would stop fewer times…”

    Most people don’t live along a Metro line and, as a result, have to walk first to the line, then to the nearest stop. In many areas served by Metro, this is already a challenge, especially for the elderly and many people with disabilities. It will be great to see more frequent buses, but that benefit is completely negated for those who can no longer make the walk to a bus stop.

    As they say, the devil is in the details. Which stops is Metro planning to eliminate??

  8. From what is stated in the article, bus stops will be eliminated making the public walk further distances to catch a bus and trips will involve more transfers to reach ones destination. Great example is on Wilshire Bl. and Santa Monica Bl. west of Westwood Bl. Yes, the Big Blue Bus also runs on these streets but their headway is much longer meaning patron wishing to travel west of Westwood originally on a MTA bus see several MTA buses arrive prior to a BBB arrival. With over thirty years experience as both a Bus Operator and Supervisor with the RTD and MTA I can attest to the fact that many patrons travel further than Westwood. I actually used to leave Ocean and Santa Monica during rush hour with a standing load eastbound. The MTA wonders why their ridership has gone down. All one has to do is look within the agency and see how the MTA’s policies discourage bus patrons from using the system. This is not a surprise to me. The former L.A.C.T.C., the funding agency before the merger of that agency and the RTD were anti bus ridership and often threatened the RTD with loss of subsidies if they, the RTD, improved service. This philosophy has carried over into the MTA.

  9. I know the report is essentially about buses, but on page 16 it gives maximum (ie not more than the frequency suggested) headways for heavy-rail (subway) and light-rail too.

    Apart from the Red/Purple line peak frequencies, these are all worse than what is provided now. 20 minutes off-peak is not a turn-up-and-go service, which is what rail should provide. As the system grows, services will need to be more frequent, not less. I thought the whole point of the turn-back facility beyond Union Station was to provide 2-minute peak headways (ie 4 minutes on each of the Red and Purple lines). Rail needs similar frequencies to the core bus lines (at least 5 minutes peak; 7.5 midday; 10 minutes evenings).

  10. It’s hard to comment without specifics. Everyone appreciates more frequent buses, but what’s the catch? Eliminating infrequent buses and transferring those services to make other lines more frequent would be one way to achieve this plan. Or maybe it’s the elimination of parallel and adjacent services so places that may now have 2 buses that overlap on a route at 15-minute headways will be replaced with one bus at 10 minutes. That’s actually a reduction in service, but sounds good if you didn’t know.

    I guess that I’m hopeful, but unless you’re spending lots more money it could end up robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  11. Sounds great and I’m happy the metro is taking these steps. Please connect dense population centers to the metro with fast and express service. There should be an express train that goes on sunset straight to the 7th metro center

  12. You actually went and made the 28 north every 30 minutes or less. I’m astounded… guaranteed they haven’t been on eagle rock boulevard itself to see the extent of the densification happening. This is a perfect case on how trying to rank bus line effectiveness based on current ridership will tell you nothing about ridership potential and everything about the effectiveness of current service. People weren’t riding the 28 because it was already infrequent and habitually 10+ minutes late. Instead of fixing it, you’re just codifying the shortcomings.

  13. But the main issue I have with this plan is how, barring rapid service, duplicitous services which are ALSO heavily underutilized have been allowed to remain. I’m referring of course to downtown LA. The maps are available to all which show the area as big blob of low ridership per mile, barring the 20/720, reflecting what I have experienced. Funneling the routes to metro stations just outside downtown would save a great number of service hours. And yet you keep tossing the service into this ridership pit. All I want to know is why? Why does metro send 40-odd frequent bus lines through this high-congestion area when it’s thoroughly covered by metro stations, and will be even more by 2022?

    • “Why does metro send 40-odd frequent bus lines through this high-congestion area when it’s thoroughly covered by metro stations, and will be even more by 2022?“

      Giant transfer point from Those not currently served by rail. There’s only 3 stations being added by 2022 and it’s to connect existing rail lines, not new ones.

      What I do have a problem with Downtown is the fact that rapid went from having a stop every 3-6 blocks, to shared blocks (3rd and 4th shared, 5th and 6th shared, etc) to now almost stopping at every block.

      Why does the 704 stop at Broadway, Grand and Figueroa back to back is beyond me. This is slowing down the bus, which in turn will lower ridership. Metro really has no idea what it’s doing at all and yet still state “there’s a variety of factors that are resulting in lack of ridership.” Yes Metro, constant rapid bus stopping and other factors inside the bus are definitely other factors cause decline in ridership.

  14. I see a lot of good in this plan but we need bus lanes and other priority treatments to make sure the improvements stick. I also hope that some of the corridors that are getting 60 min all-day service get 45 min service instead. There are a handful of lines getting less frequent service in this plan. Not to mention some lines getting cut completely with little to no replacement service– like the 96 along Riverside Drive

    • We’re going to have maps and an online tool that will allow everyone to see the new routes and compare current trips vs future trips. We’re aiming to have those avail later in the month.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  15. Interesting to see posts from a few regular commenters who have specialized in slamming the comments of others in the past which they disagree with or simply don’t understand, but when their own pet peeves are involved . . . well, somehow that’s different!

    My major concerns about this “reform” include:

    1. Officials of retrograde cities (looking at YOU, Garcetti & Co.!) that STILL refuse to offer dedicated bus lanes and TRAFFIC-SIGNAL PRIORITY to packed light-rail cars (e.g., Gold Line in Highland Park; Blue L. on Washington; Expo L. near USC), or even to the most heavily used bus lines (e.g., 20 and 720 on Wilshire; 4 & 704 on Sta.Monica Bl.; 60 & 760 on 7th St. or Pacific Ave.; Orange Line). It’s long past time for LADOT, et al., to DE-prioritize single-occupancy vehicles at traffic signals, in favor of mass-transit vehicles serving many more–and more public-spirited–commuters!

    2. Metro has not figured out that certain long-distance bus lines NEED to make little jogs to allow passengers to connect with nearby busy LRT stations.

    3. Does Metro understand that recent downward trends in ridership on certain historically busy bus lines may have been caused by the years of terrible service delays owing to some of Metro’s ongoing multi-year construction projects (e.g., Crenshaw LRT)? Further punishing those riders by continuing to cut back service on those formerly busy lines is unfair.

    4. Metro needs to resume PROMOTING the use of TAP cards by bus-riders (new ones especially) to save them money on transfers (and the rest of us time on boarding). To discourage riders who currently deposit only enough for a single fare every time they start a new bus trip, Metro should require those depositing cash on TAP cards on buses to make a minimum deposit equal to at least two (or more one-way fares). Also, if most bus riders who don’t use a (daily/weekly/monthly) pass would carry a cash balance on his/her TAP card, the cost of converting buses on more lightly used routes to “all-door boarding” could be avoided.

    5. Metro needs to learn to make it a top priority to keep its passengers fully informed about significant unexpected breakdowns and other schedule delays. Bus and train operators that neglect to use their P.A. systems to explain these delays–AND DETOURS–should be disciplined.

    6. If passengers cannot conveniently use Metro to return home from an evening’s entertainment, they will use their autos to drive to those locations–thereby adding auto trips to the streets during the peak evening hours as well.

    • A large majority of Metro riders, especially bus riders, live below the poverty line. That plus many observations/studies find that these riders simply cannot afford the upfront cost of loading a monthly pass or large amounts of cash onto a TAP card, especially considering how inflexible the stored value is and how many riders travel with children and have to divide up money between different cards but can’t just use one card. It is counterproductive/unequal that we offer fare savings via a monthly pass that are cost prohibitive to those who can’t afford it.

      Ideally, the fare system (unified across agencies, of course) should be all TAP/debit card stored value based, with daily, weekly, and monthly fare capping at different income levels, and the flexibility to use one TAP card multiple times for multiple people. In addition, like other systems, let people load, unload, AND return their TAP card for cash.

      • @rfjl
        Charging fare according to income level would be another type of welfare (already, low income and older people get breaks).

    • @burbox
      Does Metro understand that recent downward trends in ridership on certain historically busy bus lines ….
      Your analysis is wrong. The drop in ridership coincided with the issue of drivers licences to illegal immigrants. Last count I heard, about 850,000 of them got licenses in California during that time… As for your proposal to encouraged TAP use in buses, you are right on.

  16. Does the plan contemplate bus-only lanes? My downtown bus commute would be at least 10 minutes faster if my bus wasn’t stuck in traffic backed up trying to get on the freeway. We need to separate mass transit from the riff raff that clogs the streets.

    • Hi Padric;

      Yes. Metro staff are recommending an approach that would include capital investments in infrastructure that would speed up buses — lanes, signal priority, etc. We’ll have to work with cities to do these things, but the plan definitely recognizes there’s more to running great service than just putting buses out there.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  17. Re this comment Metro needs to learn to make it a top priority to keep its passengers fully informed about significant unexpected breakdowns and other schedule delays. Bus and train operators that neglect to use their P.A. systems to explain these delays–AND DETOURS–should be disciplined. You are lucky if most the bus driver even look at you . A lot of them have terrible customer service skills. I have been on buses that have been on detour or there was some other problem and the drivers do not communicate it to the customers and now you have a bunch of riders going to the front of the moving bus to ask the driver what is going on.There is a PA system on the bus for a reason and the drivers should use it.

  18. Seattle has a network of express buses, so do Chicago. How many do LA Metro have? Currently only 10, with only 6 of them running all day, 5 of them with weekend service. After the bus plan, it will go down to 6 express, 5 of them running all day, 4 with weekend service.

    And we wonder why ridership is declining when cars ownership increase… The current service is just a pain for regional trips.

  19. glad Metro is trying to restructure the bus system. However, you forgot to mention some key issues that need to be addressed. Frequent riders should be rewarded by offering discounted passes and a wavier parking fee on metro stations. The cost of monthly pass plus the parking fee are simply unaffordable for many individuals as driving would cost similar or cheaper than riding metro. Rapid routes should be preserved and expanded to other key corridors with bus only lanes to support faster service, while other local routes that do not run with a rapid service should have the number of stops reduced to support reliable and sufficient service to riders. By the way does Metro develop a mobile ticket app, other agencies like OCTA and Omnitrans have implemented mobile ticket app to allow convenience for riders.

  20. Does this mean that the MTA will begin RESTORING all of the bus lines that they have previously ELIMINATED by chance? Kind of makes you wonder why they did all that if only to bring them back at a “later date”. Line 456 is a good example! Of course when you have bus line “configuring” being made by a bunch of yo-yo’s that NEVER RIDE THEM, this is the insanity that you get@

  21. Too little, too late. AFter commuting to work on the red and expo lines, I am back to driving and adding to the congestion. The metro system should have been built in the or 80s at the latest (the largest cities of the world with subway, think TOkyo, Moscow, New York, Mexico City, Montreal, etc.) built their system during this time or BEFORE!. Now it’s too expensive (Ideally, Expo line should have been underground).

  22. One can only dream of metro working hand-in-hand with other regional agencies to take over all of their routes. The buses will be repainted with the metro color schemes, new rapid and local lines would be created. This would be for the entire LA County from Palmdale to Santa Clarita to the South Bay to Montebello and the foothill areas. The agencies that come to mind are Montebello Transit, Beach City Transit, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Torrance Transit, Gardena Transit, Foothill Transit, Culver City Transit, Glendale Transit, Long Beach Transit, Pasadena, Palmdale etc. Metro would have more than enough buses to run in the county. The amount of funds that would be generated would be insane to a point where a lot of these transit project would be sped up a lot quicker than expected. More Freeway Express buses like the Silver Line could spread out across the county. I look at New York City and how there’s so many buses and trains (express trains included) running frequently in such a spread out state. But hey, one can only dream right?

    • And a day pass that works in all of LA County’s 45+ transit agencies!
      And a consistent fare structure!
      And a consistent numbering structure so that there aren’t twenty Route 1s
      And integrated bus schedules with timed connections! Connections between Metro and Muni are terrible.

      Metro should really look at Sound Transit and the coordination they have with other transit agencies. (Community Transit, KC Metro, Pierce Transit all participate in operating express buses under the Sound Transit Brand)

  23. Why did Metro spend so much money to essentially release a thinned out version of the 2007 bus network?
    Anyway, one concern is whether or not Metro will be making changes later on that will water down the frequent service. When the Rapid brand was first launched, they were supposed to run frequently throughout the day on weekdays. Today, many of them run at 20-40 minute headways.

    • Exactly. Metro has been cutting bus service every year. The cuts are so minor that they dont get advertised but they add up over many years. One year, a bus route may be running every 10 minutes and the next year, it’ll be running every 12, and the vicious cycle of
      decling bus ridership and (right-sizing bus service) continues every year.

  24. Almost everytime METRO has proposed running a new line, for example say Culver City, they [the muni] has opposed that idea. Santa Monica, for example, won’t use the same fares/transfers etc as Metro. Only in recent years have any of the muni’s even attempted to cordinate their schedules with Metro. Look what has happened with the South Bay, Bay Cities Transit was created where Metro/RTD used to have some service. Granted, it wasn’t great, but, at least it was service. It ran until like 1:00 AM and started around 3:00 AM. Today, you’re luckey if you can even find a bus at 6:00 AM or 7:00 PM.
    Don’t put all the blame on Metro, many of the municipal cities would rather run their own bus service rather than allow Metro to provide it. Also, you need to blame the NIMBY”s who don’t want a bus running down their street. Take that into account!
    These are just some of the reasons why we won’t really evcer have “GREAT” bus service. Yes there are way to many “forced transfers” too.
    Look at the whole picture!!

  25. Selfishly, I’m curious how the Big Blue Bus 7 line down Pico will be effected since that’s what I ride.

    I am fortunate to live near a line with frequent service that takes me close enough to work but for many its the long walks or slow transfers that discourage ridership and these could perhaps be addressed through a subsidized (with Tap Card) ride-sharing app or small bus-taxis similar to Colectivos.

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