Bus Rider’s Union: Metro Bus Service Barely Passes (Updated, 5:29 P.M.)

8_27_09_the_BRU.jpgFor more from today’s press conference, check out the LA Streetsblog Flickr page.

<editor’s note: Metro provided a response to the BRU Survey which can be found just before the jump. Also, since we already have a thread where people make their feelings clear on the BRU, can we try and keep the comments focused on this survey and related issues?)

As promised, the Bus Rider’s Union rallied at a press friendly-event earlier today and released the results of the "rider’s report card," a survey of over 3,000 bus riders on lines throughout the city. The results were not great for the MTA. The survey shows that if Metro was being graded by its bus riders, it would be in danger of being held back.

Breaking down the results further, those surveyed gave Metro a "D" on "On Schedule," "Overcrowding," "Fares," "Frequency of Service," "Weekend of Service," and "Accessibility." Metro received an "F" for its "Night Service."

One way to look at survey results is to compare the positive responses, the "A" and "B" grades against the "D" and "F" results. In every case, the results were overwhelmingly negative. On schedule had a 24.8% positive response to 44.2% negative. Overcrowding was 23.9% positive compared to 45.8% negative. Affordability, 14.4% to 66.8% negative. Frequency of service is 14.5% positive to 66.2% negative. Weekend services was 12.7% positive to 67.8% negative. Night services were 11.4% positive to 69% negative. Last, accessibility was 18.6% positive to 57.5% negative.

Ouch.

What is the BRU’s prescription for this performance? Why it’s the Clean Air and Economic Justice Plan, which demands that the MTA roll back fare increases, spend more money on increasing bus service instead of highways and train service, and an end to service cuts. The Plan provides an alternate plan for Measure R funds than the one passed by the voters that would divert many of the highway, heavy rail, and light rail project funds to bus expansion and fare stabilization.

Meanwhile Metro has responded that they are comfortable with how their passengers feel about bus performance even while emphasizing Metro CEO Art Leahy’s commitment to improving bus service.

… improving on-time bus performance is one of Art Leahy’s priorities at Metro. The agency is making steady progress improving on-time performance. Over the last year, for example, on-time performance increased by 10 percent (65 percent in July 2008 to 72 percent in July 2009). While that is an improvement, more efforts to improve bus performance and service reliability will be made.

However, a June 2009 Metro survey of 15,800 systemwide riders conducted by L.A.-based Applied Management and Planning Group found that 80.6 percent of respondents were satisfied with Metro Bus service. The survey also found that 73 percent of respondents agreed that buses generally run on time (within five minutes), and 73.3 percent reported that Metro Bus service is better now than last year.

The survey cards will be mailed to three members of the Metro Board so they can see the results first-hand. The Board Members targeted are Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar.

Esparanza Martinez explains why Metro did so poorly on the survey and why they need to do better.

"The MTA has a thirty year plan to increase the number of cars on the street by expanding the highways and prioritizing costly rail construction…but they don’t have any money to operate the rail system…

…The MTA is basing their plans on a survey they did a couple of months ago that shows that people want highway projects and rail projects. Now we have 3,000 postcards that challenge that conclusion. Even stronger than that we have an actual proposal for the MTA that will ease the economic crisis that is not going to get better and will only get worse as the environmental crisis gets worse."

Based on the response to the BRU’s announcement in yesterday’s "Today’s Headlines," I was prepared to ask BRU about their methodology. Instead of summarizing their methodology, you can hear the explanation from Manuel Criollo, one of the BRU’s lead organizers, and Julian Lamb, who was in charge of the survey project, below. Criollo and I are talking at the start of the clip, and Lamb joins us about two-thirds of the way through.

[audio:http://la.streetsblog.org/wp-content/pdf/ManuelandJulianBRU.mp3]

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