Report and Poll Shows There Are Two Stories to the Los Angeles Commute

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(Editor’s note: If you want to dig a little deeper into the numbers on Metro’s customer satisfaction surveys, we have the full results in pdf form for bus riders, train riders, and everyone available for viewing or download. – DN)

Yesterday, Angie Schmitt, who writes the daily “” roundup, reported on an analysis that ranked cities based on the quality of the car commuting habits of its residents.  As usually happens with these sort of stories, the data shows that car commuters in Greater Los Angeles are taking it on the chin spending over $400 a month on gas and maintenance and losing 70 hours a year to congestion.


In direct contrast to the dire picture portrayed in the article on Bundle on car commuting, comes a survey of Metro’s riders, done on behalf of the agency.  The survey shows that  86% of respondents agree with the statement, “Generally speaking I am satisfied with Metro bus/train service.”

On one hand we have a picture of Los Angeles’ car drivers bogged down in traffic with their money flowing into the coffers of the oil industry.  On the other hand, we have a picture of Metro riders, content if not happy with their service and paying hundreds of dollars less.  Sometimes, I don’t even need to editorialize to make the point.

That being said, there are some cracks in Metro’s armor.  While The Source and LAist reprinted the good news from the survey off the press release, Streetsblogger and So.CA.TA. Board Member Dana Gabbard dug a little deeper into the numbers.  Over one fifth of respondents said they encountered a brokendown bus in the last month?  And what’s with the 65/35 split between English and Spanish speaking riders?  Gabbard’s full comments can be found after the jump:

It is a bit appalling 22% report encountering a breakdown in the past month and that 35% of bus riders report being passed up during the same period. Metro CEO Art Leahy has a ways to go to achieve the quality improvements that he has stated publicly are among his chief goals for the service Metro operates.

It is curious that TAP usage is 53%. Does this reflect a shift to paying per trip as the day pass lost appeal after it was boosted to $6?

It is no surprise 91% of those surveyed think Day Passes should be available on the buses. The sad aspect is the technocrats who have been in charge of the TAP program never grasped this and only belatedly are seeking to address this overwhelming need.

I guess that over half of those surveyed report being Metro riders for 5+ years dovetails with 75% stating public transit is their only means of transportation.

Given the demographics I observe riding the bus Metro needs to work to ensure future surveys include more Spanish speakers – a 65%/35% split of English and Spanish speaking users being surveyed leaves me with the impression that the sample isn’t representative.

  • The lack of day pass on the bus wouldn’t be so bad if Metro would activate the cash purse function on TAP and cap the 24-hour max fare at $6. Then it would function just like a day pass.

  • bzcat, the TAPucrats years ago said just those attributes (the purse and “fair fare”) were to be among the initial offerings when what then was known as the UFS (universal fare system) was being developed. Metro now says the purse will be implemented in the 2nd quarter of 2011. We’ll see…

  • Spokker

    How many Spanish speakers should they survey for God’s sake?

    Are there seriously that many people that don’t speak English?

  • I’m a bit less optimistic about this. It’s a survey of people who are riding transit. It’s kind of like surveying people who are buying ice cream and asking them if they like the ice cream.

    When transit is meeting the needs of more people it will show up in the percentage of commuters who use it. Fortunately, the share of LA County workers taking transit to work went up from 2000 to 2009, but just from 6.6% to 7.0%. Some of that might be related to the weak economy though.

    It comes down to urban design in the end. There are still too many places that aren’t dense enough to support decent transit service in a cost-effective way.

  • “There are still too many places that aren’t dense enough to support decent transit service in a cost-effective way.”

    When Metro spends over $100 to operate a bus for 1 hour, and $300 per train car hour, it will take very high ridership to become “cost-effective.” The Blue Line manages to keep costs down to an average of $0.38 per rider mile (even less at rush hour), but that means an average ticket from Long Beach to Los Angeles would cost over $8.00 to start turning a profit.

    We need higher density of housing, and especially employment, near rapid transit stops, a higher price for parking, and a price on the freeways, to give transit a fair shot at attracting ridership. But operating costs need to come down, or the subsidy needs to go up, to make a better transit system affordable.