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.