NextGen Plan to improve Metro Bus system is approved by agency’s Board of Directors

The maps above show the difference between the frequency of Metro’s current service and what is planned under NextGen. The differences are most pronounced during the midday hours — a time when many members of the public said they wanted more service.

The NextGen plan to restructure Metro’s vast bus system was approved on Thursday by the Metro Board of Directors on a 10 to 1 vote. The plan will increase frequency of buses, improve service on most routes and put more buses in areas with the greatest demand.

NextGen has been in the works for nearly three years and is the most sweeping overhaul of the Metro bus system in 25 years. Under the new plan — to be implemented in stages, beginning in December (more on this below) — buses will arrive every five to 10 minutes for 83 percent of current riders compared to around 48 percent today.

Line by line changes can be viewed here. There is also a trip planner that allows you to compare current rides with future ones.

Metro runs the nation’s second busiest bus system, but ridership has declined over the last decade. The NextGen plan is a direct response to better serve existing riders and attract new ones.

NextGen is also a blunt acknowledgement that the agency’s bus fleet does the heavy lifting ridership-wise, carrying more than 70 percent of Metro’s boardings on a typical day. Metro’s own data indicates that Metro’s bus system is a mobility lifeline for numerous riders who don’t have many choices on how to get around. Our bus riders have an average annual income of almost $27,000 (prior to the pandemic) and 57 percent are impoverished.

What riders need to know:

•Metro will make changes to service over its next three planned service changes — in Dec. 2020, June 2021 and Dec. 2021. The majority of changes will come in June 2021.

•Prior to any service changes, Metro will provide notice to riders  both via signage and online to ensure the public is informed of the service changes.

•When the plan is fully implemented, 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.

•As a result, 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.

•Under the plan, most local and rapid buses will be combined. These new lines will stop fewer times than a local bus but a few more than a rapid. Transit signal priority that has been a key part of rapid service will also now work these new lines. The end result will be a faster door-to-door trip for all riders, whether they currently take Metro Local or Rapid routes. On average stops would be a quarter mile apart.

•The 720 (Wilshire Boulevard), 754 (Vermont Avenue) and 761 (Van Nuys Blvd. to the Westside) will continue in service.

•In a small number of cases, a Metro bus line will be instead operated by one of L.A. County’s many municipal bus systems — in particular in areas where Metro bus service currently overlaps with other transit providers.

•In some areas with bus service that is perpetually under-used or areas that are difficult to serve with full size buses on fixed routes, Metro is planning on launching an on-demand shuttle bus service called Metro Micro. The initial two Metro Micro service areas are scheduled to launch in December. We’ll have more info as we get closer to opening. Four additional zones are planned to launch in mid-2021.

•NextGen was approved by Metro’s Service Councils over the summer and public hearings were held. Based on public input 35 changes were made to the draft plan — mostly restoring service in some areas. Overall, more than 300 meetings were held as the NextGen Plan was developed and more than 18,000 comments from the public received.

One new challenge going forward for NextGen will be restoring service. In response to safer-at-home orders and a drop in sales tax revenues and ridership, Metro is running on average about 80 percent of its normal service this fiscal year for roughly half the pre-COVID number of riders.

To fully implement NextGen as envisioned, Metro will need to increase service back to pre-pandemic levels. That has been a particular focus of some Metro Board Members and stakeholders in recent weeks.

Metro staff are due to deliver a plan to the Board later this year on how the agency plans to increase service while dealing with funding issues related to the pandemic.

The plan for now — pandemic and funding permitting — is to add service as demand grows so that we can return to pre-COVID-19 service levels. At Thursday’s meeting, Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said funding will be available to add enough service to meet NextGen’s goals.

These are real issues and we’re not trying to gloss over them. At the same time, Metro believes the NextGen Plan creates the foundation for a significantly improved bus system.

And we’re not done.

Several bus rapid transit projects with funding from the Measure M sales tax are in the planning stages and Metro staff continue to work with cities across L.A. County on improvements including bus lanes, traffic signal priority and more comfortable bus stops with better protection from the elements and more rider data.

What are your thoughts, readers?

28 replies

  1. Is there any additional information on the stop consolidation process? I don’t think that there have been any changes since the list of stops to be eliminated was posted. Also, I noticed that buses have been getting additional time added to their schedules for more on-time performance over the years, with many buses running early at certain times of the day on certain portions of their routes (even pre-pandemic) and having to wait until the time on the timepoint. With more frequent service, will Metro reduce the emphasis on timepoints so that we do not have to deal with the fact that there are no longer Rapid buses combined with waiting for the timepoint? Honestly, I do not believe eliminating 5 stops from a 15 mile long route does much of a difference speeding up buses, but if the timepoint problem could be eliminated on Tier 1 daytime service, that would help a lot.

    • As a former Bus Operator and RTD/MTA Road Supervisor I have knowledge of what you are speaking of. Time Points have always been a vehicle to keep buses from running ahead of schedule and catching up with the previous bus. But that then creates the problem of the following bus often running late due to overcrowding caused by patrons expecting the bus running ahead of schedule already passing their bus stop. Originally Rapid Buses had no Time Points. We became very aware of bunching of Rapid Buses and then long wait times for the next buses. Patrons must be aware there are Bus Operators that are able to operate buses faster and more efficiently than other Bus Operators. This is caused by experienced Bus Operators verses new Bus Operators on the same line, faster and slower buses on the line and lastly traffic condition changes that day or day to day. In addition, running time as provided by the Scheduling Department may be flawed. They may allocate excess or not enough running time between Time Points or overall travel time on the entire trip. Lastly, Bus Operators are not supposed to sit out Time Points, it’s a Rule Violation. They are supposed to judge their operation so as to leave the Time Point on time. Arriving two to three minutes early at a busy stop or a stop where a Wheelchair Patron wishes to alight is acceptable as long as they depart on time.

      • Thanks fine7760 for the thorough explanation! I’m aware of those issues too, but perhaps Tier 1 under NextGen might be frequent enough that the bunching issue might not be as significant? It’s also true that bus operators do not sit at timepoints, but they may wait 40 seconds at each of the three stops before the timepoint, drive at 5mph, or both. I don’t blame the bus operators because the schedule is inaccurate, but perhaps the problem could be reduced if timepoints were less emphasized on frequent lines, or if Metro could update schedules with more accurate run times by checking bus speeds at more times of day. I have noticed that every single 770 bus has this issue on Saturdays, so it’s not just due to driver skill levels. The problem might just be using the weekday run time and applying it on the Saturday schedule. This has the irony of making the Rapid 770 actually slower than the Local 70.
        Steve, is the stop consolidation list updated and final?

        • “Metro could update schedules with more accurate run times by checking bus speeds at more times of day.”

          – This!! Wow this statement is so accurate. It makes no sense why a Rapid Line would have the same run time at 10pm as it would at 4pm.

          “The problem might just be using the weekday run time and applying it on the Saturday schedule.”

          – Really? Cause if so, then this is such an idiotic and lazy approach to scheduling. Metro wonders why ridership is getting lower.

          • Sorry Dave, I don’t work for Metro, so I was just speculating based on my actual experiences riding Metro. Metro staff would be the only ones who would be able to confirm the statements, or not. just for the record.

  2. The idea of more frequent buses sounds great. How are you going to keep the buses spaced apart so two or three of them do not show up at the same time or within one minute of each other like they do on line 720?

    • Hi JBL;

      That’s a good question. I do think that Wilshire is a particularly challenging environment given the amount of traffic and that it runs through multiple cities. As for NextGen, the answer is we’ll do our best to keep the buses spaced apart and running on time. That may not be possible with every bus on every street, but we think we can do it much of the time.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. The maps at the top of the article is different then the ones on the linked website. I can’t tell if the 733 Rapid is getting better or worse.

    • Hi Evan;

      I emailed you the 733 page — which wordpress won’t let me post here. Hope it helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. On the Stops Consolidation Maps pages for Line 76, I wonder if it is a typo to have the Valley & Garfield stops removed in both directions.
    1. It is a very obvious major intersection, and transfer point to Montebello Line 30
    2. The on/off numbers shown, are noticeably high

    Thank you.

    • I agree. The next bus stop would be 3 blocks east and west of the Valley/Garfield stop. I emailed them months ago but never heard back as to why they are making that change. This would make it much more challenging to transfer.

  5. How many staff members/planners are working with cities to implement bus lanes? Does Metro have specific goals or strategies to increase City partnerships in this?

    Will Metro increase the number of people at the bus operations center supporting operators to keep buses on time and safe? My understanding is there were roughly two dozen people at the center before the pandemic to coordinate bus service for several hundred thousand riders daily.

    Thank you for updating us.

    • Hi A.A.;

      I don’t have an exact headcount but there have been — and will be — working groups that are talking to the cities in our county about traffic signal priority, bus lanes and other improvements to make bus rides and waits more comfortable. I don’t have news at this time, but I think as we settle into 2021 we’ll have more news.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing back the 450!!! When my firm reaches the point where we are encouraged to work from the office I will consider returning to metro.

  6. This is the big reason why transportation is terrible in LA in contrast to New York. Many other major cities have 1 sole bus operator. LA has an excessive number of municipal transit operators. With all of them having different fares and not accepting each other passes at transfer points, its a rather confusing and inefficient system as a whole. The practice of metro giving away their routes to municipal operators has to stop. I feel really bad for the passengers of metro lines 130 and 256, 268. An unnecessary added muni extra charge transfer. Remember when metro gave away lines 190 and 194 to foothill transit? Terrible choice. The majority of line 130 transfers at the HGTC are metro riders, not municipal. At least the disneyland and knott’s berry farm express line 460 is saved.

  7. Hi, Steve, is there any way to get the new maps in PDF format? I have visual limitations and cannot enlarge ANY of the new, proposed, maps enlarged enough to understand the changes that are taking place.

  8. I don’t understand how the board can vote in favor of the Nextgen plan but still not be clear on when service is going to be restored to pre-COVID levels. Shorter headways on these routes is the whole point of the plan! Are they just voting in favor of the restructured routes and the extra service will come later? Because that would be a disaster if so and not really what Nextgen was supposed to be about.

  9. Reverting the J Line to it’s pre-December 2015 state is bound to cause a protest in San Pedro.

  10. If the daily fare is going down does that mean the price of a monthly bus pass is going to be reduced?

    • Hi Cindy;

      We’re studying going fareless. No decision yet — and won’t be considered by our Board until early 2021 — but we’ll keep everyone informed. For now fares remain the same as they have been.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. For Line 910, please just call it Line 910. It is not in rail line configuration. It basically runs on streets and not right-of-way. The street stops do not have TVM’s, and the stops are not labeled as ” … Station”. It does not meet the requirements as an alphabet line.

    Please do not call it J Line. Line 910 is a bus line, and it is nothing more than a bus line. Better yet, renumber it as a 400- series bus line.

  12. I saw just stop removal list of some of the critical Lines I use and LMAO!

    I seriously hope this fails BIG TIME. You couldn’t even keep the 720 from bunching up these past 20 years, what makes you think without bus lanes you can do that throughout the ENTIRE system?

    Hey Metro, removing 7-10 stops from a bus route isn’t going to make buses faster, it’s just going to make people walk longer to their stop and now a bus will have to wait a bit longer to pick those people up and drop off.

    People are gonna be super pissed when their Rapid Lines disappear in December, you can definitely count on that. I said it back in July and I’ll say it now. If you couldn’t deliver and you couldn’t do the true wide outreach that couldn’t be done because of the pandemic, to delay this rollout at least another year. This may seem difficult for Metro to comprehend, but people aren’t really thinking about and expecting a sudden drastic changes to their routes right now.

    The only real hope I have now is that for thousands of people to be pissed at the initial changes and yell at Metro so bad that they will have no choice but to actually pause the rollout.

    Also, have you guys even started replacing the livery of the Rapid buses that will soon cease on almost every route? Are you seriously going to tell me that we will continue to have buses in Rapid livery still running on local lines? You guys can’t be this bad as to desperately get this rollout going without even making a basic change to buses?

    Lastly, why did this have to be an all or nothing approach? What is good for someone in the Valley is not the same for someone in the South Bay, which in turn won’t be go for someone in the central LA area, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected for you guys to understand that.

  13. The bad part of this is. In the SF Valley. some parts will lose bus service. And the comments I was told. Its ok to be forced to walk one mile to get to a decent bus route. I live off of Burbank Blvd and Lindley. And my commute will be made worse. Because the bus I been relying on for 41 years is being cancelled and there is no replacement being offered. Other then to walk one mile. Or having to back track. My oftens will affect me being able to commute. But I guess that is acceptable to Metro. I went to the Meeting that were held.