Preliminary Statement of the Transit Coalition on Metro’s Proposed Service Cuts for June of 2011 – 1/4/11

Faramarz Nabavi

Metro June 2011 Bus Service Cuts Need Fixing

In preparation for the June 2011 service adjustments, Metro has announced the changes it is proposing for review at public hearings in February.  The stated rationale is that there is excessive service, both in terms of ridership levels below the agency’s own targets, as well as between parallel routes nearby.  The bottom line?  Metro is going to cut more bus trips, even though sales tax revenues are rising again.  Although improving efficiency is a laudable goal, these changes appear to be based primarily on load factors, rather than eliminating duplication.

For example, Metro has not proposed removing the Rapid segments that parallel the Red Line on Vermont and Wilshire; instead, it is proposing to eliminate the entire Western Rapid Line 757.  The first two lines have higher load factors than the last one, so that may be why Metro proposed taking out Western instead.

Nor are some of the changes proposed by stakeholders that would enable service to “be better integrated with rail service provided by Metro” included here.  For example, the Orange Line runs 10 minute headways midday off-peak and weekends, while the Red Line runs 12 minute headways during these times.  If the Orange Line headway was adjusted from 10 to 12 minutes, riders would have a better service through timed transfers, while Metro would save money.  Note that overcrowding is only a problem during peak hours; this would actually improve the off-peak load factors closer to CEO Art Leahy’s targets.  However, staff is reluctant to touch a high-profile route such as the Orange Line without guidance from policy makers, even if technically such a change might not require a public hearing.

Thus, The Transit Coalition believes that the relationship between staff, the Regional Service Councils, and stakeholders needs to be reexamined.  Suggestions by stakeholders for alterations to proposals are not necessarily addressed by staff.  At a bigger picture – at the policy level – the Regional Service Councils should give guidance to staff on which factors to prioritize when putting forward service change proposals, and then require data from staff on how many trips or hours will be cut vs. reallocated.  The council members do not have this data at their fingertips, so there is no way for them to know what the results of their decisions will be.  For example, The Transit Coalition is calculating the number of trips that were eliminated vs. reallocated on the Ventura/Reseda corridors as a result of the December 2010 service cuts; staff should presented this to council members beforehand so that they can make an informed decision.

So what could be some alternatives to a singular focus on increasing “load factors” (e.g., crowding) on the bus?  Differentiation of corridors by service levels and traffic congestion.  For example, a 50% change from a 4 to 6 minute headway does not appreciably increase wait times, but going from 20 to 30 minute headways does.  Another factor is traffic congestion: some corridors have severe traffic problems, such as Ventura Blvd.  If Metro commits to providing a frequent level of service, such as what occurred at the beginning of the Rapid line in 2000, ridership will increase and congestion can be reduced.  While ridership on Ventura has declined due to both the Orange Line and the Great Recession, after slashing service on the Valley’s top commercial corridor by over 50% in five years, Metro has basically pushed choice riders off the bus, leaving only the transit-dependent – and worse traffic congestion as a result.

Here are some specific recommendations regarding the proposals, [in brackets].

Metro Westside/Central

704 Downtown LA-Santa Monica via Santa Monica Bl
Discontinue service at Sunset Bl and Alvarado St.
[Ridership is high up to Echo Park Blvd., one stop further east, so if the line is shortened, that should be the terminal.]

757 Hollywood-Hawthorne via Western Av
Discontinue service and reallocate resources to augment Line 207 service.
[Analyzing the duplication on Line 754’s Hollywood-Wilshire segment or Line 720’s Vermont-Broadway segment would seem more logical if Metro’s goal is to integrate better with the Red Line and eliminate duplication, though The Transit Coalition is not advocating for eliminating those segments per se.]

Metro San Fernando Valley

96/155
96- Downtown LA-Sherman Oaks via Riverside Dr, LA Zoo
155-Universal City-Burbank Station via Riverside Dr, Alameda Av
Shorten Line 96 northern terminal at Burbank Station. Modify Line 155 route to replace canceled Line 96 segment between Burbank Station and Sherman Oaks. Service proposed to operate on Olive Av instead of Alameda Av in Media District and extended via Riverside Dr to Sherman Oaks.
[This would be a good idea *IF* Metro keeps the same number of trips between Burbank Station and Universal City Station, improving the service reliability relative to the current Line 96 that is frequently late by 20 minutes or more.  Also, the Line 96 library detour in Silver Lake should be eliminated, thus saving some additional service hours due to unnecessary left turns.]

183 Sherman Oaks-Glendale via Magnolia Bl
Proposal #1 – Simplify route in Burbank and Glendale; discontinue Kenneth Rd route segment and extend route via Colorado Bl in Glendale to Eagle Rock Plaza; discontinue segment to Glendale Station.
[This proposal eliminates a non-duplicative segment – Kenneth on the hillsides – in favor of a duplicative one, sharing Colorado with Lines 180-181.  The proposal should be modified to keep the Kenneth segment and short-line the route in Burbank, eliminating the duplicative Glendale segments.]

92/183/234
92- Downtown LA-Burbank Station via Glendale Av, Glenoaks Bl
183-Sherman Oaks-Glendale via Magnolia Bl
234- Sylmar Station – Sherman Oaks via Sepulveda Bl, Brand Bl
Proposal #2 – Discontinue Line 183 service. Extend Line 92 from Burbank Station over route of Line 183 to North Hollywood Station and terminate. Extend Line 234 east over Magnolia Bl from Sepulveda Bl. to North Hollywood Station and terminate. Through patrons on Magnolia east and west of North Hollywood Station will transfer between proposed Lines 92 and 234 extensions. Discontinue Kenneth Rd to Glendale Station route segment.
[This proposal needs to be fixed in three places for it to be viable: 1., Line 234 needs to connect to the Ventura and Sepulveda pass routes; this proposal would eliminate that connection. 2., The Kenneth segment in Burbank needs to be retained; under this proposal, that would have to be transferred to another route, such as Line 155. 3., Line 183’s western anchor is the Sherman Oaks Galleria; without that destination, ridership on Magnolia between Sepulveda and North Hollywood would be very low. Hence, Line 92 would need to go there and meet Line 234 there instead.]

230/634
230- Sylmar Station – Studio City via Laurel Canyon Bl
634-Mission College – Sylmar Station via Hubbard Av/St
Combine Line 634 route with Line 230 to Mission College, eliminating a transfer. Line 634 will be cancelled.
[This is a good idea which The Transit Coalition supports.]

Metro South Bay

246 San Pedro-Artesia Transit Center via Pacific Av, Anaheim St., Avalon Bl.
Operate off-peak service hourly.
247 San Pedro-Artesia Transit Center via 7th St, Harbor Bl.
Discontinue service.
[This is an area with high safety concerns – Metro even ran a pilot program several years ago allowing late-night drivers to diverge from the route by up to 1/2 mile to drop passengers at their destinations.  Thus, this may be a case where retaining service frequency may be justified by reasons other than load factors, so if Line 247 were eliminated, the trips should be reallocated to Line 246.]