Metro answers rider questions and concerns about recent NextGen bus service changes, COVID-19 and crowding

As many of our riders know, on Sunday, Dec. 13, Metro began implementing its NextGen Plan to provide more frequent bus service on many routes.

We also adjusted some routes to better meet riders’ needs and launched our new Metro Micro on-demand service in two areas — Watts/Willowbrook and LAX/Inglewood — to complement bus and rail lines and provide better local service.

We have received some feedback from riders since Dec. 13 — and we welcome more. Customer comments help us make sure our bus service is performing as planned.

One frequent concern amongst riders thus far is that buses are too crowded to accommodate social distancing.

A few points we want everyone to consider:

•The ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County is regrettably impacting our bus service and is a significant reason some wait times are longer than normal and some buses are more crowded.

•For example, this past Monday, Dec. 21, Metro had to cancel about 7.7 percent of its bus trips because of bus operators calling in sick. Some are quarantining, some are caring for family and some have tested positive for COVID-19.

•The canceled trips are not evenly distributed among our 13 bus yards around the county as staff absences vary from day to day and have increased significantly in recent weeks in line with the regional spike in COVID cases. That means that on some days certain parts of our bus system are hit harder than others — and some bus lines are impacted more than others. A canceled trip or two on any bus line is likely to result in more people aboard the bus than we’ve planned for.

•To put it another way, the crowding riders are sometimes experience is due to COVID-19 and not the recent NextGen service changes. These impacts to bus service will likely continue to happen until the number of COVID-19 cases decrease in our region and more bus operators are able to return to work. We’re not alone among transit agencies — LADOT yesterday issued an alert about impacts to their bus service due to COVID-19.

•We encourage riders to use Transit — Metro’s official smartphone app — to plan bus and rail trips and check crowding predictions. We also suggest allowing some additional time for your travel.

•We also received some comments concerning the eight corridors where we combined rapid and local lines — and we know that will take some getting used to after running the rapids for so many years.

The goal of combining rapid and locals is to improve door-to-door travel time for all riders by running a single bus line with improved frequency, more optimal bus stop spacing (so bus stops are not too close together or too far apart) and more green lights for buses. Combining the rapid and local lines was supported by public feedback as part of the NextGen process and our data showed it would lead to better service.

As for crowding on these combined bus routes, our data does not show any sustained periods of crowding. But there have regrettably been some bus trips in these corridors due to missed trips stemming from COVID-19.

Again, we feel like the crowding that has happened in these corridors has more to do with COVID-19 than with the NextGen Plan. As with all the NextGen changes, we will definitely keep an eye on how bus service in these corridors performs.

•We are trying to provide as much room for social distancing on buses as is practical within the financial and staffing resources we have. We are trying to keep buses at no more than 75 percent of seated capacity — lower than the 130 percent standard we used prior to the pandemic.

Metro has also joined the American Public Transportation Association and transit agencies across the nation in committing to specific measures to help ensure the safe return of riders to our system. 

As part of that effort, we’re requiring all riders to wear face coverings, we’re ensuring good ventilation on buses and trains and we’ve enhanced cleaning of our system with an emphasis on high touchpoint areas.

•We also want to remind everyone that Metro Micro on-demand service is now running in the LAX/Inglewood and Watts/Willowbrook service areas. Metro Micro uses small vehicles to provide rides within the service areas shown below.

Metro Micro’s Watts/Willowbrook service area.

Metro Micro’s LAX/Inglewood service area.

•Metro Micro rides are currently $1 (not including transfers to buses or trains). Service hours are: 

–Watts/Willowbrook from 5 a.m. to  11 p.m., seven days a week.

–LAX/Inglewood from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

•To book a ride, use the Metro Micro app for smartphones (available now by clicking the following links in the Apple Store and Google Play stores), this website or Metro’s call center at 323.GO.METRO (323.466.3876). Metro Micro will only pick up riders within the service areas above.

•After you order a ride, the app will provide a pickup location near your present location. Metro Micro is also taking several precautions to keep riders safe during the pandemic, including reduced capacity in vehicles and requiring all riders to wear face coverings.

•Metro Micro provided more than 200 rides during its first week of service and the app currently has positive ratings from customers.

Finally, we want to make clear that Metro takes seriously the need to provide essential service during the pandemic and we absolutely will continue to run as much of our scheduled service as we safely can. This is also the reason we want our frontline staff to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Many people rely heavily on Metro to get them to their essential jobs and other critical destinations — and we want to continue to be there for them.

Thoughts about the Dec. 13 service changes and/or Metro Micro, readers? Comment please.


26 replies

  1. Please resume front-door boarding and collecting bus fares (both cash and TAP).

    It is reactive and may not help much, but it will help some, to deter those riders who ride just because it is free. Many of them happen to be the same people who have no regard of hygiene or any Covid-19 measures. We the actual bus riders have also seen the silly yellow chain at work whenever someone requests the ramp.

    Doing so would also be a perfect opportunity to simplify Metro’s fare structure. You can keep having Muni-to-Metro TAP stored value transfer pricing, but charge base fare (half price for senior) on ALL bus lines (Local, Rapid, Freeway-Express, J-Line [rush hours and non-rush hours]), so that all fares on buses and rails are uniform across the board.

  2. 75% capacity means that you aren’t even getting 3 foot separation between people. At the very least, every articulated bus that can possibly operate safely, should run during the pandemic.

  3. well I have a concern about the cancellation of the rapid lines because if almost all of the rapid lines get cancelled, then I am very worried that there could be a potential overcrowding on local buses if almost all of the rapid lines get cancelled. Also, for line 258, I feel that line 258 should keep serving the Monterey Pass road segment instead of going onto Floral/Eastern because the industrial workers on Monterey Pass road really need line 258 to get around to/from work. Cutting the Monterey Pass road segment is unacceptable because industrial workers on Monterey Pass road would have to walk very far to catch the bus and it would waste their time finding a bus line if there is no line 258 service on Monterey Pass road. Besides there’s no need to run on Floral/Eastern because there is already a bus line that serves Floral/Eastern: East LA’s ELAC/City Terrace bus shuttle. Also, the 40-foot bus would not be a good fit for turning corners at the intersection of Eastern/Floral because it could potentially build up more traffic around there and would lose their travel time. And so, I strongly urge Metro to reconsider and reinstate line 258 back on Monterey Pass road because the industrial workers on Monterey Pass road really need line 258 to get around between home and work as well. Is there anybody that I can talk to regarding about my concern about NexGen? That would be very grateful if there’s anybody that I can talk to.

    Thank you

  4. What’s with all these brand new buses that have no way of opening the sealed windows ? Not a good time to implement this during Covid. Why did you order these….years ago, you found out that the air cond. often goes out on these. So you re-tooled all those older sealed window buses to have windows that open. Didn’t you learn anything from that ? How quickly we forget. There might be something in the new bus contract that, in light of Covid, allows you to alter your bus order to retro- order new buses that have opening windows, instead of the sealed window buses.

    • Hi Tim;

      I think it’s worth pointing out that ventilation on buses is provided in two ways: the air condition system which circulates air and has air filters and the opening and closing of the bus doors. I understand wanting to open the windows but I’m not sure it helps.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Are you using HEPA filer on the bus and train, and are they being replaced frequently? You never see a passengers car with complete sealed windows in the markets, and I bet you will not buy that car. I have encountered with failed A/C ventilation on your sealed window bus and train a dozen times over the past few months, it is very hard to breathe inside the cabin without A/C and open windows available. Why is it so hard to configure open windows in all buses and trains??? If you go with cost saving over passenger safety you will pay the price for continuing drop on ridership.

      • Saying you’re not sure that opening windows helps is insane. How has Metro not figured this out already? Could’t Metro make a simple call to the CDC to get guidance for this? We’re 9 months in and Metro isn’t sure whether a seemingly obvious way to reduce passenger risk works?

  5. 51,52 &60 is always crowded people have been getting the bus and having on any mask bus operators don’t say nothing. People that comes on the bus rolling their chronic on the back of the bus where you can smell it.

  6. I would like to echo the comment above about numerous riders not wearing face masks. I’ve seen other passengers offer masks and riders refuse. Obviously the solution is not to jail people. But I feel unsafe with the number of people on buses at once + the number of people not wearing masks. Many people not wearing masks do not appear to be homeless. They tend to be men over the age of 40.

  7. Happy Holidays!

    It great to see Metro is aware of the crowding of the Buses! However, that’s the least of our problems! In my opinion Metro Bus Driver’s are causing the SPREAD OF COVID-19 DUE TO THE FACT THEY’RE NOT WEARING THEIR MASKS!

    In the past when complained, I was told it was not done in a timing manner. Really? Wow! So here’s an example that you may be able to review if it’s not too late to investigate:

    Wednesday, December 23, 2020 at 12:08pm
    Metro Bus: Line #212
    Metro Bus: #5714
    Metro Bus Stop Location: La Brea / San Vincente Traveling South to La Brea / Hazel
    Metro Bus Driver Wore His Mask With Nose Exposed So In My Opinion – Metro Bus Driver Placed His Passengers in DANGER!
    Metro’s Driver With Mask Not On Properly (Nose Exposed) Departed the Bus (Grateful) at Slauson / Overhill
    New Metro Driver Had Mask On Properly upon entering the Bus.

    Suggestion. Perhaps the cameras on the Bus should be viewed more frequently.

    Thank you,

    JM Noflin
    Metro Passenger Playing Russian Roulette While Being An Essential Worker

    • Hi JM;

      Thank you for the heads up and I’ll pass the info along.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  8. Many buses have windows that can open, but many run with all the windows completely shut. Can they by default be opened? And can Metro label the windows requesting that they be kept open so passengers don’t close them?
    Also, are the El Dorado buses shorter, in height? I noticed that my head touches the ceiling when standing in the back. Never happened on any of the other buses before.

  9. Hi Steve,
    Is there anyway to get in contact with you via email for a private matter with regards to bus service.
    I’d like to see if you could assist me with getting to the right person up the chain.
    I’m readily available to operate.
    Thanks, and Happy Holidays!

  10. I normally ride the 78 or the 79 going towards Arcadia or going towards downtown LA I know the buses are not taking bus fare but the bus drivers do not pull up to the curve anymore you have to take two steps to get onto the bus it’s really bad for elderly’s and the bus drivers don’t even say anything when people get on the bus without a mask or playing loud music quality has gone really down I know covid 19 a problem with the drivers but they just don’t seem to care as much about the customers or they jobs which very unfortunate.

  11. Hello
    I’m currently using Via at the service zone in El Monte area. I’m not sure if Via will not be free any more after Metro Micro starts in the future at El monte area?

    • Hi Ray;

      We’ll have more news about Metro Micro and Via in 2021.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. Fix your turnstiles, your fare vending machine, and your TAP card checkpoint sensors so that they turn off a minute before the final train of the night operates. That will prevent passengers for paying even after the train has stopped running for the night.

    • “so that they turn off a minute before the final train of the night operates.” – As someone who has caught the last train of the night one minute before final train arrival a few times. . . NO. Even Tokyo rail lines don’t pull this stunt because that 1 min cut off windows is literally losing money especially when those trains rely on profits.

      Seriously, how about taking personal responsibility here? If someone like myself solely makes the decision to take the risk and attempt to catch the last train literally seconds before departure, that’s on the person themselves.

  13. In regards to operators being out due to Covid the process of getting them back to work is taking too long. I know a operator who has been sitting at home for 5 WEEKS waiting to come back. Can you guys explore option of qualified operators covering lines from other divisions? In regards to crowds some lines have reverted back to shorter buses when they ran 60ft ones(like the 111). Maybe provide a mix of longer buses like what’s done on the silver line for some trips.

  14. Don’t play a recording on the Wilshire Boulevard bus lines that Western, Irolo Street, Normandie, Vermont, or Alvarado are connection points to the Red Line, or the Purple Line, after those subway lines have stopped running for the night.

  15. Metro is still not doing anything to have its passengers wear face masks. Every bus or train car which I have ridden in has at least one or two passengers who are not wearing face masks. Several times, there have been so many passengers without face masks that I have gotten off the bus or train.

    Metro brays that it is making face masks available for those passengers who need one. Yet, for the past 9 months, I have never seen a Metro employee, a police officer, a sheriffs deputy, a security officer, or a homeless outreach worker offer anyone a mask. For the past 9 months, I have never seen face masks on any bus, rail car, or train station, which are available for passengers to take.

    Metro says that is educating, or forcing its passengers to wear face masks. Yet for the past 9 months, I have never seen a Metro employee, a police officer, a sheriffs deputy, a security officer, or a homeless outreach worker ask or tell anyone to wear a mask.

    Most of Metro’s passengers do wear face masks, no thanks to Metro’s management. Metro tries to encourage the use of face masks by continuously insulting us by playing a recording, telling us to use face masks. Tell the people who are ignoring this rule, don’t keep telling us.

    Metro’s recording continues to tell us not to take “non-essential” trips. Metro’s board of directors members who serve as mayors and county government officials are the ones who let a business or recreational facility open—the ordinary passengers don’t make that decision. If your bosses on the board of directors let a business or recreational facility lawfully remain open, I will take Metro there. If your bosses close someplace, I will comply with the closure order. If you don’t want me to take a “non-essential” trip, don’t play your recording on my bus—take it to Metro’s Board of Directors meeting, or play it on an internet meeting for your board of directors.

  16. With all your hoopla concerning service and lack thereof you continue to duck the question about the cleanliness and lack of it on MTA buses and trains. The majority of buses and trains are in service in excess of eight hours per day. Even with every passenger wearing a mask the virus can still be spread by those passengers using the seats and hand rails. When one multiplies the number of trips each vehicle make by the number of passengers per trip the positivity rate will be extremely high. Buses and trains need to be thoroughly cleaned at the end of the line. If that is not possible then the lines affected should be cancelled. While Public Transit is deemed essential like Liquor Stores, Smoke Shops and Tattoo Parlors the chances of contacting virus is extremely higher on buses and trains due to the lack of or the ability to practice Social Distancing.

  17. Metro Micro should not need another app for such a small service area. Metro Micro was not adequately advertised.

    Integrate it with the TAP app.

    • Integrating it with the TAP app doesn’t make sense either. TAP is a multi-agency matter which would confuse those outside the Metro coverage area, This should be integrated with the Transit app or the actual Metro app assuming that still exists. Not sure why Metro thought having to create yet another app would help here however.

  18. We need Metro Micro in the East San Fernando Valley. The need will only get more pressing when construction starts on the East San Fernando Valley Rail Line.