Metro Unveils Student Field Trip Plan, Transit People Weighs In

Apparently little sister didn't think much of big brother's photo op.  Photo: Tim Adams/Transit People
Apparently little sister didn't think much of big brother's photo op. Photo: Tim Adams/Transit People

At tomorrow’s meeting of the Metro Board’s Executive Management and Audit Committee, the Board Members will take their first look at the agency’s “free transit to field trips” program first proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and approved by the Board last year. While Metro still hasn’t reached out to local experts on working with schools to get classes to educational destinations via transit, I did reach out to Transit People to help review the program.

Tim Adams gives an overview

…it looks like they’re trying to implement a good program.  I think they’re obviously stalling for time as they try to craft a program structure, and I can hardly blame them for that.  I gather from one of your earlier e-mails that this all caught them unawares, that the program was the mayor’s idea.

The red flag is the “fare media,” referred to on the bottom of page 2 and at other points in the document.  I think this warrants hollering and jumping up and down about, if only to spare hundreds of overworked teachers the misery of schlepping to and from One Gateway to pick up stickers that simply aren’t needed, now that the motion has been passed.

When Adams refers to the staff recommendation to start slow this Spring and grow the program for the next school year.

An initial small-scale demonstration program will be offered in March that limits participation and concentrates on utilizing rail and major bus lines to reach significant cultural and historical destinations. The demonstration program will be used to gauge demand and design an appropriate Field Trip program that can be efficiently managed. The target date for launching the more comprehensive program is August, 201 1

Where Adams has his chief problem with the proposal is a requirement that teachers make a trip to Metro Headquarters to pick up the tickets for the class.  Isn’t there an easier way to give out tickets?  Adams writes…

The potential for fraud is very low.  How many riders show up to take a bus or train with 20+ students in tow?  Teachers completing Metro qualification could be directed to a private web link that would let them print out trip authorizations on their own.  Or, the web link might permit them to print out ID cards qualifying them to lead trips of this type — complete with teacher-provided .jpegs.  Or, Metro could postal mail the ID cards.

Some other considerations via Transit People:

  • We pushed our limit to 24 kids for bus trips, to accommodate larger class sizes in K – 3.  I can’t argue with limiting the number to 20, but that’s going to severely limit the number of classes that can book a trip on a public bus.
  • Our groups generally leave school at 8:30 and are on the first bus or train between 8:45 and 9:00.  A 10:00 a.m. start is quite late.  That’s going to make it a lot harder for many participants to travel to and from a destination in school hours.
  • “One teacher/chaperone” per five students is a bit high.
  • Many of the destinations listed in Attachment B aren’t educational destinations.  I suspect this was an oversight; I doubt anyone thinks that teachers will book trips to, say, Buster’s Coffee House, by the Mission station.
  • Bob Davis

    This would be especially good for students in suburban areas where the “Buses are for poor people” mindset is common. My daughters grew up in Duarte, which was even more suburban in the 60’s and 70’s than it is now. There was a period when I took them home on the old RTD #64 bus quite regularly, and they were among the few in their circle of friends and classmates with public transit experience. They also learned about southern California’s rail transit heritage at Orange Empire Railway Museum, which we joined when it was still the Trolley Museum. I was quite proud of my younger daughter when she and a friend (when they were in middle school) took the bus from Duarte to Glendale to do some shopping.

  • Chris

    Since Metro has cut service on many routes to the bare minimum, what if a school takes a field trip on a bus that runs every hour, which causes the bus to become overloaded and unable to pick up passengers further down the route, which could cause people to wait as long as 2 hours for a bus?

  • Re Chris’ comment: I think neither TransitPeople nor any other program should book trips on lines that would be thus affected. This is one of several reasons we favor bus lines that run frequently. If a 720 is full, well, there’ll be another one in a few minutes.

    For what it’s worth, the once an hour buses haven’t been that crowded — although my experience here is limited, and I’ll defer to Dana or any SoCaTa experts who might want to join in and tell me otherwise. (Or to Kymberleigh Richards, who probably has extensive, long-term experience with infrequent running lines in the Valley.)

    The line I worry about — and have mentioned before — is the 96. There’s no transit alternative to the zoo, and the contractor sometimes runs a mini-bus on the southbound leg. The mini bus guarantees standing room only for a big group, and a headache for everyone else.

    And while I’m writing: good for you, Bob Davis, for those tips on the old RTD 64!

  • Erik G.

    ONE Field Trip per Year???!!!???

    “Students will be issued (and required to use) Metro Fare Media”

    C’mon LA Metro, WTF?

    Does this mean the kiddos have to hold on to their tickets? Could there not be a creative use of the now-in-its-tenth-year-of-development TAP card to allow the teacher to tap once to pay for her/his 20/24 charges?

    Also, notice how all documents related to the trip can be downloaded…except the tickets!!

    This again lays proof to the stupidity of moving to the turnstiles which, we are promised, will someday only be openable by the TAP card.

    Without turnstiles (or with staffed stations) the tickets could be printed from home JUST LIKE IN ALMOST EVERY OTHER OTHER MODE OF TRANSPORTATION!!!

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