Metro to pursue four-phase plan to restore bus and rail service

With some aspects of our local economy expected to reopen in the weeks ahead from Coronavirus safer-at-home orders, Metro will be implementing a four-phase plan for restoring bus and rail service.

Before we go further, it’s important to remember that Los Angeles County’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic is a dynamic situation. Safer-at-home orders and rules governing local businesses and schools could change in response to the decline or growth of virus cases.

Under the plan, we’ll be ramping up bus and rail service between now and early 2021. The idea is to match our service levels with actual and expected ridership and the need to maintain physical distancing on our buses and trains as well as more cleaning.

With that in mind, Metro’s four phase plan is presently this:

•Phase 1 is projected to take place in June with some modest gains in service on our busiest corridors to accommodate returning non-essential trips.

•Phase 2 is projected to take place as early as July and August with additional service with an eye toward providing transit service for students returning to school and additional people returning to work.

•Phase 3 may be implemented between September and November and include modest gains in service in areas where and when we see demand growing.

•Phase 4 is projected to take place between December and January and is expected to begin implementing changes and enhancements proposed under our ongoing bus restructuring effort — called NextGen.

The NextGen effort has been underway for the past two years and was developed with considerable public input and scrutiny. The emphasis of the NextGen Plan (here’s a blog post on the draft plan) is to provide much more frequent service on Metro’s busier routes that would result in faster door-to-door trips for most of our riders.

We think our plan will accomplish our primary goal – providing appropriate levels of clean and reliable transit service for those who depend on Metro the most that reflects the new post-pandemic normal. That means devoting more of our financial resources toward running enough service to maintain physical distancing and enhancing the cleanliness our vehicles, stations and terminals.

Some background that may be helpful: After Los Angeles County issued its safer-at-home orders in March, Metro ridership fell by about 70 percent with many workers and students remaining at home — in raw numbers from about 1.2 million average weekday boardings to 360,000.

In response, Metro adjusted service in mid-April to reflect changes in ridership and the availability of operators and vehicles. The bus and rail service we’re currently running is an enhanced Sunday service plan that overall is about a 30 percent cut in bus and 20 percent in rail from our pre-pandemic service. To put it another way, we’re running about 70 to 80 percent of our pre-pandemic service for 30 percent of our normal ridership.

That is expensive to do but there are obvious and important benefits. Over and over again we’ve heard from riders who depend on us for their mobility needs. We’re pleased that we have been able to continue service for them —  and yes, we know it hasn’t been perfect — while making adjustments along the way.

Going forward, we believe our four-phase plan will provide safe and reliable service for our current riders while also making transit a good option for those who will be returning to Metro in the future. We’ll also be providing frequent updates on the particulars of service changes on The Source, our social media channels and to the local blogs and media that cover us.

5 replies

  1. Thanks Steve for the update. The NextGen improvements were supposed to include more workshops for people to provide input and Metro was supposed to respond to some of the feedback and potentially make modifications to NextGen. However, the workshops and NextGen outreach efforts have been cancelled due to legitimate safety considerations and devoting resources to managing the current emergency. Will Metro resume these efforts prior to phase 4?

    • Hi John;

      There will definitely be more outreach before NextGen goes to public hearings and the Metro Board for approval — but I’m awaiting details on how that will happen. It’s been a crazy (for lack of better term) last couple months and I think things will settle down a bit in the weeks ahead. As soon as I have details, we’ll post them here and elsewhere.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. So which of the phases will the bus schedule change from Sunday schedules to regular bus scheduled times?