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 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.