Metro’s Conan Cheung Updates on Next 18 Months of Service Planning

Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Service Planning and Scheduling Conan Cheung made nearly identical updates on service planning at the agency to the November 13th meeting of Southern California Transit Advocates and the November 17th meeting of Metro’s Citizens’ Advisory Council. Those who are unfamiliar with Metro’s practice of semi-annual service changes (known as “shake-ups”) should review the explanation in my Dec. 11, 2009 post “Metro Tweaks Schedule This Weekend. New Routes to Start on Monday”.

Here is an outline of Cheungs’ key remarks:

Screen shot 2010-11-23 at 11.58.00 AMThe recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel adopted by the Metro Board in July will guide a service restructuring effort that will occur over the three consecutive shake-ups of June 2011, Dec. 2011 and June 2012.

Among the goals of the changes will be better coordination of Metro service with that provided by municipal operators and
local return systems. There will be quarterly meetings with these providers and an inventory is being undertaken of when they have their shake-ups to facilitate aligning changes occurring to Metro services that connect with muni and local return lines .

Several pilot projects are in various stages of implementation to test the concept of cross-agency cooperation in corridors:

The Silver Streak

The Silver Streak

Metro’s Silver Line and Foothill’s Silver Streak have overlapping service along the El Monte busway between downtown Los Angeles and the El Monte Bus Station. Foothill’s fare policies allows discounts for seniors and disabled on the Silver Streak only during non-peak hours. These populations therefore switch in peak hours to riding Metro’s Silver Line contributing to an imbalance in use between the two services resulting in Silver Streaks operating with empty seats while the Silver Line is crowded. Metro hopes to integrate the fare of the two services, compensating Foothill for lost revenue resulting from aligning its peak hour fare policies regarding seniors and disabled to mirror Metro’s.

Currently, Metro has half its Silver Line service as truncated short lines running between El Monte and downtown Los Angeles due to the the difference in demand along the two busways it serves (El Monte and Harbor Freeway); Metro’s hope is the fare integration with Foothill will shift enough riders in peak hours to allow it to eliminate some of these short lines, trying to address some of the shortcomings of the busway linkage I previously pointed out.

Montebello’s line 10th along 3rd Street where it runs parallel to the east side Gold Line extension.

Improved service for the Glendale Metrolink/Amtrak station by Metro, Glendale Beeline and Burbank Transit.

The latter two are in the tentative stages of discussion relative to the discussion’s regarding the Silver Line and Silver Streak, but no timetable was offered for when any of the three efforts may bear fruit.

The second goal is to focus on having rail as the backbone of the regional system.

The third is to simplify Metro’s network by eliminating short lines, branches, services that run on multiple streets (“L” shaped or doglegs). This includes if two services are running on parallel streets with each having weak performance consideration will be given to eliminating one of the routes to consolidate ridership into a single corridor but with more frequent service on that remaining line.

The fourth is to right size the rapid system, given ridership results after lines have operated for at least a year. This often means reassigning revenue service hours to the applicable local service. This process has already begun as part of the Dec. 12, 2010 service changes. Cheung noted elimination of poorly performing routes was a priority of the impending Dec. shake-up and that line cuts will not be the focus of the changes that constitute the next shake up in June 2011. Metro staff also plans to continue recent efforts to have local and rapid stops located together instead of separated near side/far side (at this point only 22% of rapid stops are separated).

The fifth goal is to implement the bus/rail interface plan for the Exposition light rail line Phase I whenever it opens (Cheung mentioned a tentative date of sometime in Sept. 2011 but wouldn’t vouch for how firm that is).

Some of the other initiatives to occur in the next 18 months:

Facilitate service quality improvement by retaining the same number of mechanics and transit operations supervisors even though service hours are being reduced in Dec. with the peak fleet reduced by 190 buses.

Evaluate service in the Wilshire corridor. Cheung claimed the Purple Line stub operating between Wilshire/Vermont and Wilshire/Western has a peak utilization of 11%.

Services that operate to downtown or through downtown run half full in the downtown segments; this has led to discussions of having some routes truncate and fewer run into downtown.

There is a desire to examine fare structure, including distance based versus time based. This may be a longer term project given the complexities.

It is hoped the soon to be implemented paper TAP will allow a return of the line continuation transfer (this would for example allow someone who accidentally got on a Rapid 720 that only runs to Westwood Blvd. to continue travel by transferring to a 720 running to Santa Monica without paying an additional fare).

One bit of news Cheung offered is the rapid version of Torrance Transit’s route 3 should begin operating in the next few months.