Rising Ridership Spares Some Metro Buses

The 751 to Huntington Park wasn't on the chopping block, but the 611 "Huntington Park Shuttle" was. Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/39569101@N07/4320061590/lightbox/##MetroBusRider/Flickr##

I was still on the Carmageddon high on Monday afternoon when the press release rolled in to my Inbox announcing more bus service “changes.”

I hate covering bus cuts, even when it’s a much more minor adjustment than what we’ve gotten used to seeing the last couple of years, and even when some advocated assure me the cuts and restructuring actually make sense; I can’t help but think how annoyed I would be if the bus line that runs outside my house was cancelled, or if the Expo Light Rail Phase II never comes to fruition.  A major reason we live where we live is because of the transit options (existing and future) near our house.

I read the release and began outlining my story.  Three bus lines, the 246 in the South Bay, the 611 in Huntington Park and the 612 in South Gate were going to be eliminated.  Two other lines would be truncated but three lines would be extended.

But then, two days later, Metro announced the cuts were being put on hold indefinitely.  One Metro official told me there were very few lines to do a costly outreach.  Last night, I got an email forwarded to me from a member of one of the service sectors that gave a different story:

As we have seen at our monthly meetings, Metro transit ridership has been increasing over the past six months.  Even though the regions unemployment rate remains very high, Metro is attracting more riders.  This is in spite of the fact that about 75% of the trips on Metro are historically work related.  This increasing transit demand should be taken into account.  Thus Metro staff will be analyzing the latest ridership data and travel patterns on these lines.  Staff may return with these proposals or modified versions next year for Service Council consideration.

So, there’s two pieces of good news for bus riders.  First, there’s no more bus cuts coming down the pike this year.  Second, an increase in ridership held off a relatively small service cut.  The big question is if ridership continues to rise, will Metro find itself restoring some of the 800,000 hours cut in previous years?

  • Unless metro can get a handle on the rising costs of pensions, healthcare and paratransit (taxis service subsidized for the disabled, a federal requirement), which are rising with an aging population, it will be difficult to restore service even with economic recovery, without new revenue sources or a major change to labor contracts. It currently costs Metro over $110 dollars per hour to operate a bus.

    A better solution may be for Metro to focus on long-distance routes and service for downtown LA, while letting the municipal buses (like the BBB, LB Transit, Culver City transit, etc) handle more of the route on the periphery, since most of the munis can operate a bus for only $60 to $80 an hour.

  • They actually printed the thousands of brochures necessary for this. I found them at Union Station Carmageddon weekend. Going through the then proposed changes, these changes were done primarily to improve connectivity or to address whiny residents. For example, the 246 was proposed to be cancelled south of 23rd Street primarily as a result of whiny residents in San Pedro who don’t like the fact that the bus has run there for the last 50 years, but now thanks to Neighborhood Councils have political power and the ears of a councilwoman who wanted to appease any factions to ensure she could waltz into Congress. The changes to the 611 and 612 were done because the 611 and 612 were shuttle lines created when Metro staff (i.e. Jon Hillmer) had a fetish for creating shuttles on low performing sections of routes, instead of shortlining them or appending them to longer routes (see also 607, 645, 681, 684, 685, 686, 687).

    While originally the 611 and 612 was one of the few 600 series routes that actually worked for riders, running every half hour, over the years they were cut back so that the 611 runs every 50 minutes and the 612 runs every hour. The 105 extension essentially restores the route to what it was before MTA screwed it up, as does the 254 extension. Unfortunately the SE LA County cities of Bell, South Gate, Maywood, etc. have incredible levels of poverty and a lot of people who shouldn’t be driving since they don’t have licenses. Unfortunately a lot of the residents are driving anyway, and part of it has to do with the incredibly horrible level of service provided to those communities. The fact that thanks to the Balkanization of cities, the reason that fostered situations like Bell and Maywood (corruption) also discourage political input to the powers that be that control transit in these neighborhoods. These areas are as densely populated and as poor as South Central, yet there’s no service and people aren’t riding the bus.

  • MTA operates like that already, to a certain extent. For example, the Wilshire local (#20) normally only operates as far as Westwood; if you need to go further, you take the Santa Monica #2 (or the #720 Rapid)

    Or traveling on Long Beach Boulevard, the #60 only goes as far south as Artesia Station (and most trips terminate at the Green Line station on Long Beach Bl). It’s either the train or Long Beach Transit for continued travel into downtown Long Beach…

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