Metro Imagines More Buses Running on Time

Street Art on Melrose Ave.

Tired of waiting for buses that seemingly never show up on time? Do you get doubly frustrated when after waiting for an eternity, two buses show up within moments of each other? Well, the Metro Board feels your pain.

In May, Metro conducted a survey of the largest transit operators in the country. Not surprisingly, Metro had the worst on-time performance for its bus fleet. Only 62.7% of Metro buses run on-time.

In response, Board Members Yvonne Burke and Bonnie Lowenthal moved that Metro make increasing on-time performance a top priority of it’s long range plan and funding priorities. The first phase of their plan will be voted upon next week when the Metro Board voted on adding two new transit operating supervisors to each of their service sectors.

But is it fair to blame Metro for buses’ performance? After all, as Roger Snoble noted at one of yesterday’s committees, Los Angeles is home to the most congested roads in the country. If news reports are to be believed, that congestion is breaking up as a result of gas prices. It will be interesting to see if the anecdotal evidence of reduced traffic heralds better on-time performance from Metro buses.

In the meantime, it’s up to Metro to come up with more ways to move more buses as quickly as they can. The introduction of six new rapid lines on June 29th is a good start.

Artist: Unknown Photo: Rodrigolab/Flickr
  • LAofAnaheim

    Bus only lanes?

  • Contrary to BRU propaganda, bus-only lanes are not a viable substitute or alternative to a comprehensive rail system. However, bus-only lanes are an important component to an overall transit system.

    I’d START with Wilshire, Santa Monica, Vermont, Western, Hollywood, Ventura, Van Nuys, Pico and Fairfax, and then build from there.

    However, the automobile-entitled will fight tooth and nail to stop even the Wilshire bus-only lanes from happening.

    The previous bus-only lanes on Wilshire in Brentwood lasted about 30 seconds before small businesses and the automobile-entitled started lobbying to have them removed.

    We certainly NEED transit-only lanes (bus and streetcar), but they are unlikely in the current climate and not a true substitute for rail on Wilshire.

    However, we also need to think in terms of moving people first, not vehicles first.

  • Dan,

    Hell yes, I agree with you about moving people first and not focusing exclusively on cars.

    However, BRT is a viable transportation solution. It is not just Bus Riders Union wackos who like BRT.

    One clear thing that killed BRT along Wilshire was the requirement to remove parking as opposed to removing a private car travel lane. That really would have hurt local businesses.

    The conversation should be about taking away car lanes, and putting BRT in their place. I know that is controversial – but it really is the right way to go, and it prevents the type of local push-back that you get when you mess with the livelihood of merchants.

  • chris

    I think BRT on Wilshire until there is a “subway to the sea” should definitely be implemented. The main issue with east to west public transportation is the traffic above-ground on wilshire. the rails are great, but once you hit the streets – argh.

  • “However, BRT is a viable transportation solution. It is not just Bus Riders Union wackos who like BRT.”


    Oh, I agree with you that BRT is a viable solution in many places. My point is that it is not an adequate substitute where a rail corridor is warranted. There are lots of places where BRT would be viable, where rail is not, and there are some places where both BRT and rail is warranted.

    However, BRT on Wilshire is not an adequate substitute for rail where it is warranted. A needed compliment, yes. A valid subsitute, no.

  • Wad

    Brayj, funny you bring up the Bus Riders Union position on BRT.

    Its posturing on the Wilshire bus-only lane is as comical as it is sad.

    The BRU is, at heart, an anti-rail group. The BRU was an early opponent of bus rapid transit. The Bus Riders Union opposing buses? Well, yes, because Metro was introducing bourgeois service-quality elements to buses. It took a while before the BRU “got” Rapid bus, but it did raise a good point that Metro should not have built a zero-growth Rapid network by reducing local service and coverting local runs to Rapids.

    Really, the BRU will tolerate bourgeois service to the extent that it stops rail. So the BRU wants bus-only lanes on Wilshire because it figures L.A. will never have to build the subway.

    With that out of the way, I am critical of “BRT” because it has become a Mad Libs transportation mode. The only consistency among all the BRT programs is that they use buses. Otherwise, transit agencies around the country use the term to mean whatever they want it to.

    L.A. has THREE kinds of BRT.
    1. Actual bus lanes on freeways, where buses run strict commuter service or a combination local-express line. See: El Monte Busway and Harbor Transitway.
    2. The Rapid bus network, a federally-funded marketing gimmick to take existing limited-stop buses and trick people into believing it’s a completely new and fast service. See: 700-series lines and 300-series lines.
    3. A rail equivalent but using buses. See: Orange Line.

    In the rest of the country, there’s a combination of L.A.’s 2 and 3 in surface streets (Las Vegas and Eugene), a peak-hour point-to-point express bus service (Phoenix), but mostly they are tarted-up limited-stop buses (Albuquerque, Oakland and San Jose).

    Which kind of BRT should L.A. have?

  • calwatch

    The other issue, though, is that Metro schedules much more aggressively than the other oeprators do. Omnitrans can get close to 90% and OCTA can get 87.5% only because they schedule a lot of slack time so that the bus is not late, especially in the midday and evening hours. On many OCTA routes you’re liable to sit around at a timepoint for two or three minutes, every 15 minutes or so, solely because of lazy scheduling (allocating the same amount of time between timepoints no matter what time of day it is). With aggressive scheduling, this means that it is rare for a bus to be early (which is much more annoying than being late), but any screwup in the number of passengers, traffic, etc. will result in the bus going off schedule, which will ultimately lead to bus bunching.


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