Why we’re making significant investments in the Metro Bus Program for better service

Metro’s bus system is the foundation of our entire public transit system and these days carries about 75 percent of our riders. As part of the agency’s Vision 2028 Strategic Plan, we remain committed to investing in a world-class bus system that is reliable, convenient, and attractive to more users for more trips.

Metro’s NextGen Bus Plan, approved by Metro’s Board of Directors in October 2020, includes restructuring of the entire bus network, along with a comprehensive bus speed and reliability program through targeted, quick-build investments that, over the next five years, will fully support a more efficient and effective bus system for Los Angeles County. Progress to date includes:

  • Full deployment of the restructured bus network (December 2021).
  • 10 lane miles of bus priority lanes have been installed, representing an increase of 53% in bus lane miles in the City of Los Angeles and up to 30% in improved travel speeds on specified bus routes.

Metro remains committed to delivering the full NextGen Bus Plan. Metro continues to roll out a range of tactical transit engineering improvements through our NextGen Bus Speed and Reliability program (this new Metro staff report details the program’s work). These updates prioritize buses throughout the region, improving speed and reliability on Metro’s highest ridership corridors. This program delivers a critical and equitable win-win for our riders, improving the customer experience and expanding access to opportunity.

One of the main goals of Metro’s proposed $8.8-billion budget that will be considered by our Board of Directors on Thursday is to restore our transit service back to pre-pandemic levels — 7.1 million annual service hours for bus. Even though our ridership isn’t back to pre-COVID levels yet, we’re doing everything we can to deliver good and convenient mobility to our current and future riders.

Using Priority Bus Lanes Improve Customer Satisfaction

Working with the City of Los Angeles, Metro has already been successful in implementing eight highly effective bus priority lanes that are now providing improved service reliability and faster bus service for thousands of Metro riders.

Since July 2019, 10 miles of bus priority lanes have been installed, representing an increase of 53% in bus lane miles within the City of Los Angeles. Travel speeds have improved by 13% on Alvarado Street traveling southbound and by 18% on Olive Street during peak morning hours and 22% improvement on Olive Street in the afternoon peak period.

Over 20 additional miles of bus priority lanes are planned for La Brea and Florence Avenues later this year, more than tripling Metro’s progress, with many future corridors across the Metro service area where they are needed most (and not just in City of Los Angeles). Other investments include upgraded and expanded transit signal priority, bus bulbs for streets not suitable for bus lanes, as well as all door boarding equipment to speed up boarding and improve the customer experience on our busiest bus lines.

As the Bus Speed and Reliability program has been rolled out, the project elements have been fine-tuned through more detailed implementation planning to improve the cost/benefit of the program. Bus lanes are focused primarily in the locations where the slowest bus speeds exist and where lanes can be most effective.

Metro works closely with many stakeholders to consider community tradeoffs like parking or traffic impacts. Significant synergies have also been achieved by making bus improvements in coordination with work on other street improvements such as new bike lanes or road repaving. This has accelerated the pace of installation and helped reduce costs by doing the work now instead of later when construction costs would likely be higher.

Other Tools to Modernize the Metro Bus Experience

Similar to bus lanes, some bus bulbs have been added at no cost to Metro through municipal projects to enhance corridor safety and reduce bus stop delays because of in-lane stopping. The use of a cloud-based technology for signal priority, rather than relying on older legacy loop-based technology, should provide additional efficiencies for that program element. Metro has also moved forward this year to purchase all door boarding validators to install on all lines that run every 15 minutes or better.

And we continue to look at ways to improve the customer experience at bus stops throughout the region. We’re currently spearheading a Bus Stop Sketch Planning process that brings together all the available resources for the planning, funding, installation and maintenance of bus stop amenities. This will include bus stop lighting projects and the installation of additional street furniture and bus stop canopies to provide bus stop shading under our “Shade for All” campaign.

Budgeting for Results

The FY23 NextGen Speed and Reliability budget of $27.4 million reflects program elements ready for detailed design and implementation and will be supported with the hiring of five new employees to fulfill the technical and community relations needs to accelerate the pace and scope of this program. These new staffing resources in FY23 and a total of $263 million in the proposed FY 23 budget for all bus improvements will position Metro and supporting partners to deliver an even larger program in subsequent years. 

Metro currently estimates that a revised 5-year program delivering travel time and reliability improvements could be completed for under $350 million. Given the ongoing detailed planning work for the program, this estimated figure will evolve and Metro will continue to develop an annual program that reflects more accurate cost figures tailored to meet the needs of the NexGen Speed and Reliability program. 

Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

9 replies

  1. Hello
    Do Metro buses have signal priority at intersections throughout the county or only within city of Los Angeles? If they have the priority, does it require bus operator activate the function or the bus vehicle automatically have the signal priority function on when it’s on the route? Thank you

  2. Reseda Blvd is perfectly suitable for bus lanes. You simply choose to install bus bulbs instead. Voters approved BRT for North Valley. If you’re going to water that down into signal improvements, (1) acknowledge what you’re doing, and whom you’re appeasing and (2) water down the freeway expansions that cost 100x more than your $27m bus improvement budget.

    Widening freeways = more cars in Metro’s core service area competing with Metrobus for street space, reinforcing the need for bus and bike lanes. I’m not saying every single arterial street needs bus lanes. I am saying, though, that most arterials in Metro’s core service area between El Monte, La Cienega, and the 105 are severely congested, and traffic is getting steadily worse.

    The federal govt requires toll and HOV lanes to flow at 45 miles per hour. When they are congested, the operator has to raise toll prices or raise the number of vehicle occupants from 2 to 3 to get the speed above 45 mph again. Will Metro adapt a similar policy for arterial streets with bus service? Will you set a minimum acceptable average bus speed? Perhaps 10 mph to start? 14 mph would make them competitive with bicycle speed.

    Metro’s annual budget is nearing $9 billion. Your plan to spend ~$70m a year (less than 1%) on bus improvements doesn’t reflect your riders’ needs; as you are well aware, 75% of us take the bus rather than the train.

    Unnecessary white elephant rail projects costing more than your regionwide, 5-year bus improvement budget include the Inglewood People Mover, DTLA Streetcar, Centinela Grade Separation (pending new, increased cost estimate), Green Line to Torrance, and 3-mile Gold Line extension from Pomona Metrolink to Montclair. Since you building more trains to nowhere (or at least nowhere that matches low-income riders’ needs; nowhere that will halt or reverse your ridership losses over the last 10 years), I hope you will find money and political will to invest seriously in a functional bus network that is competitive with driving in your core service area.

    • The Eastside 2 Extension to Whittier is the biggest waste of them all. Metro wants to spend $5 billion to build a subway from Atlantic and the 60 freeway to the Citadel outlet mall next to another freeway. $5 billion to get 2 new stations, one at Whittier (a corridor that actually warrants major investment) and the other at the mall. Eastside 2 will break the record for most expensive transit project in the world, per new station, and all it will give us for the next decade or two is a 2 stop subway, with a reconstructed station by the 60 freeway. Then Metro will have to come back for the next spend, spending another $2 billion to extend rail along Washington Blvd from Greenwood to Lambert, one of the lowest ridership and low trafficked corridors in the entire county, with almost no significant destinations or places many people want to reach.

      • This. They could honestly just do Major improvements and add stations along the Riverside Line, add hourly service and rush hour express trains and that would still see better results at HALF the price of the Gold Line Extension to the citadel alone

      • The Eastside extension should not be built especially since it one of the most expensive projects in the system aside of Sepulveda Pass.

        – The bus counterpart Montebello Line 50 is unreliable as it is infrequent, lack of evening service, and no Sunday service. Ridership on the 50 merely had 3000 riders (pre-COVID) which I can see the extension will barely increase ridership while the 50 will drown. A better way is to upgrade Line 50 to the same frequencies as Tier 3 Metro bus routes. Too bad, MBL is considering splitting Line 50 in half in Greenwood, which hopefully the 50 would be saved from being split or a least retaining the La Mirada segment.

        – The demand likely east of Citadel won’t be high enough. I could see it would only reach the same ridership levels like Douglas, Mariposa, Redondo Beach, Wardlow, Maravilla, Farmdale, and East LA Civic Ctr stations.

        – This extension is middle to nowhere (except Pico Rivera Town Center, Downtown ELA, and Citadel) especially since it is terminates a few miles before Uptown Whittier which would’ve boosted more riders and probably been the busiest station east of Citadel. Instead, riders will forced to walk at least half-hour or they will have to take an unreliable bus service like Norwalk 7 and Montebello 50 to Uptown. They already made the same mistake on the C Line when first built and will do it again in the Santa Ana Branch rail.

        – A better option instead of the E Line Eastside extension. Metrolink should add stations on Riverside Line like Dave said. Metrolink is still considering to add stations at Citadel (relocation from the existing Montebello Station) and Rio Hondo College.

        • Hi, I was shocked and Upset When Metro eliminated the Route 30 portion of West Hollywood, I Mean I always used that route to get to school, and some of the next gen plan was terrible

          • Although this scenario won’t come ever irl. But in a perfect world, I would love Metro to run Line 30 to run from Indiana Station (select trips would start/terminate at Little Tokyo) to Sepulveda E Line Station with owl trips extended at Santa Monica. Meanwhile. the rapid counterpart, Line 730 would run between Union Station to Santa Monica via Pico Bl. Both lines would act similar to Lines 4/704 and 33/733 pre-NextGen. Meanwhile, SMBBB Line 7 would terminate in Century City instead of Rimpau in favor of Lines 30 & 730. Extending Line 30 to Santa Monica or West LA would be a much better route than it used to WeHo because ridership on Pico west of Rimpau is much stronger than San Vicente Bl. I am aware this won’t happen as Metro and SMBBB would have conflicts about this change.

            For the San Vicente segment, I would like Metro to reinstate Line 305 (with a minor modification via La Cienega, 3rd, Robertson, Burton, Santa Monica, Beverly Glen, Wilshire, and Westwood) to serve Downtown Beverly Hills and Century City. Of course, this won’t happen anytime, unfortunately, as Metro doesn’t bother reinstating discontinued route segments, unless if the demand wanted that segment to be back.

  3. Re: “bus shelters”

    As is usual practice with Metro, you seem to have ignored the needs of the ACTUAL bus passengers when you built the new, glitzy, but poorly designed, new bus shelters along some former “Rapid” routes a few years back–often simply replacing perfectly adequate (if old) existing shelters.

    The “new, improved” shelters are actually worse than the old ones that they replaced–in soooooo many ways. For example, the old ones had a solid metal roof that at least provided some actual effective shade from the glare and heat of the summer sun, as well as some shelter from rain. The new ones have a roof of translucent material (glass or plastic) which seems to be higher up (measured above the ground or above the seating and provides less shade (both in area and in darkness).

    The new ones often are sited further out on the sidewalk, providing less space for pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, etc. to pass in front of waiting passengers than did the old ones.

    Now Metro is talking about spending large sums of money to replace old shelters that at least were adequate with new ones that are less serviceable for those of us who actually ride your buses.

    Do you ever think of bothering to ask us bus riders what we want? Or do you just want to spend money with vendors/contractors who can contribute big bucks to political campaigns?

  4. These are piecemeal investments when compared to the highway expansion budget… once again Metro fails to take the bus network seriously, especially as evident in the catering to NIMBY opposition with the north valley BRT. Also, 10 miles of bus “priority” lanes so far out of thousands of miles of streets is incredibly underwhelming to say the least. At this rate we won’t have a robust bus-only lane network for decades… And let’s not even get started with what’s wrong with the so called “next gen” bus plan which merely redistributes existing services but doesn’t actually add new total service hours, at least to my knowledge.