Blue Ribbon Committee: Metro Should Focus on the Lines People Use

7_13_10_long_beach.jpgSupporting dense neighborhoods and rail lines were two things that the panel wants Metro to focus on. Photo: Salaam Allah Westcoast Transit Photography KING!/Flickr

Six months ago, Metro officials convened a Blue Ribbon Committee to provide a strategy for the transit agency to keep its operating budget under control as escalating costs, declining revenue and cuts in subsidies continue to play havoc with their projections.  This Thursday, the Metro Board’s Operations Committee (it’s item #4) will vote on whether or not to send the recommendations to the Metro Board of Directors to guide Metro’s policies moving forward.

So what does the Blue Ribbon Committee recommend? Basically, that Metro should focus on the service that people use the most.  Daily and weekend service along major corridors and dense areas should be the primary focus, with a secondary focus on late night service.  Owl service is put way on the back burner.

The committee also refers to rail as the future backbone of the transit system and encourages a greater level of connectivity between the bus system and the expanding rail system.  More localized service is placed on the back burner as the committee urges Metro to focus on more frequent service every half-mile to a mile.

A lot of this might seen like common sense to Metro watchers, but the recommendations are sure to rankle the Bus Rider’s Union and their supporters who will object to cuts to non-commuter hour trips and the emphasis on rail.  Combined with a Long Range Plan that calls for a predictable schedule for fare increases, this outline is sort of a worst-case scenario for an organization focused on cheap and plentiful bus service.  The BRU would argue that while Metro may have to tighten its organizational belt in the future, they should be cutting back on rail service not making it the backbone of the transit system,

There are also many suggestions that won’t be controversial, such as ones to better coordinate with local municipal service and another to optimize use of the TAP system.  If you have a chance, check out the entire report on the Operations Committee Agenda.  If adopted by the full Board next week, it could guide Metro as it grows, shrinks and adapts in the coming years.

  • ml

    re: “they should be cutting back on rail service not making it the backbone of the transit system”

    Sometimes Capital versus Operations is a better frame than Bus versus Rail. Metro spends considerable local funds on capital projects.

  • Wow. This would mean eliminating at least two, possibly three lines to Highland Park. Every year residents have to fight to keep the 256 through Hermon and Garvanza from being canceled. It is the only bus service in these neighborhoods. The 176 that goes hourly on weekdays from Highland Park through the San Gabriel Valley would likely be killed. Service and range for that line has been getting reduced every year. And I don’t know how many times Owl Service on the 83 line has saved my butt after the Gold Line has stopped running after 11:30pm!

    Metro didn’t need a blue ribbon panel to tell them running buses during less-used times to less-used areas isn’t as profitable. They need to form a blue ribbon panel to remind them what exactly the term PUBLIC Transit refers to.

  • “This outline is sort of a worst-case scenario for an organization focused on cheap and plentiful bus service.”

    ————–

    Every transit advocate supports that.

    It is the BRU’s ludicrous arguments and tactics which have squandered their credibility, not to mention their effectiveness

  • why do they call them blue ribbon committees? does anyone else find that asinine?

  • The Blue Ribbon Committee also recommends completely ignoring where 40%+ of it’s budget goes: highway construction, maintenance, and ancillary services.

    Last time I checked, it wasn’t the disconnected suburbanites that are turning out at polls in droves – but a growing number of bourgeois urban voters from mixed backgrounds that want a better city to live in, not drive away from.

    I live in the city, and the decisions of the MTA affect my life daily – from incredibly loud buses, to their continued funding of “improvement” funds for streets that make them more private auto-friendly (in the name of improving bus service, which is rarely the case).

    Isn’t it a bit shocking that this transit agency underwrites so much of the happy-motoring-drive-thru-cool-ranch-doritos economy? When will the blue ribbon panel address that?

  • “Last time I checked, it wasn’t the disconnected suburbanites that are turning out at polls in droves – but a growing number of bourgeois urban voters from mixed backgrounds that want a better city to live in, not drive away from.”

    ————-

    This is a really good point.

  • Rich Alossi

    Yes, like ubrayj, I find it cruelly ironic that the agency in charge of mobility in LA County spends so much of its budget on ensuring those who don’t live here can get in and out as quick as possible, thereby robbing local cities of residents, jobs, tax revenue and vitality. Good point.

  • Ken Ruben

    Hi Everyone:

    There are several well-known transit advocates on the Committee who know their stuff (IMHO).

    I have been at most if not all of the meetings, and from what I saw at the last meeting of the rough draft recommendations, they look good.

    FYI, I am a lifetime transit rider METRO and predecessors and am currently a Director for Southern California Transit Advocates that I know some on this forum are familiar with.

    —“Ken” Ruben—

  • Spokker

    “Yes, like ubrayj, I find it cruelly ironic that the agency in charge of mobility in LA County spends so much of its budget on ensuring those who don’t live here can get in and out as quick as possible, thereby robbing local cities of residents, jobs, tax revenue and vitality. ”

    It’s not the Mexicans we should worrying about, it’s those bastards from other counties!

  • I took a look at the RISTI (and other surface transit improvement) funds that get handed out through the MTA’s Call For Projects and in the name of “bus travel time improvement” all sorts of road widenings, highway construction (which our region is incapable of maintaining in the long term), etc. was taking place.

    So, to me, this focus on transit without even mentioning the HUGE role the MTA plays in local car-only infrastructure building is a complete whiff. The money laid out for bus improvements on surface streets needs to be removed from car-only ventures and put into … actually improving bus travel times on surface streets. So on and so forth down the line of the hundreds of millions of dollars that funnel through the MTA – put them to use getting us off foreign oil, improving transit, improving air quality, and reducing vehicle miles travelled (all of these are goals in either Prop A or C).

  • TransitPlanner

    I agree with most of the findings, but cutting late night and owl service on major corridors seems to be a contradiction. Headways already drop off at night in L.A. more than any other comparable system. Major routes with 5-10 minute headways during they day operate every 30-60 minutes after the P.M. peak, while most cities would continue to operate major corridors every 15-20 minutes until after midnight. Owl service is very important for service workers. Evening trips of major corridors frequently have higher productivity than weekday service on low-density routes.

  • Jerard Wright

    ” that Metro should focus on the service that people use the most. Daily and weekend service along major corridors and dense areas should be the primary focus, with a secondary focus on late night service. Owl service is put way on the back burner.”

    Where does it say all the night time and owl services will be cut? It states that the focus should be… a very different and important difference.

  • Spokker

    There are more important things to focus on.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrolibraryarchive/4743424647/in/pool-metrolosangeles

    Like keeping turtles off the track.

  • An anti-highway jihad is a non-starter. A simple political reality that some persist in ignoring.

    Transit service is a balancing act between serving need and providing adequate coverage (geographic and service levels). Owl service is most frequent in the few corridors that get all that much ridership–Vermont, Wilshire and Santa Monica Bl. In an era of tight budgets the BRC is basically coming down on the side of serving the most urgent needs. Yeah, it isn’t rocket science but it was a good idea to lay itout as the product of a process that had the inclusion of key stakeholders.

  • Stella

    Planners must consider transit options for a county four times the area of Delaware as well as connection routes to local area transits. I’ve ridden RTD/MTA all my life: LA public transit has improved tremendously. I.e, please refer to the ambitious 30/10 plan, which details trail transit plans for the next 15 years. Subways require far more planning due to seismic activity; citing BART is effectively comparing apples to oranges when one considers the area of LA vs.SF. Complaining is a waste of energy. How many of you participate in public forums? I agree with Dana and commend Dan and Walt for partcipating in the planning process. Less talk: more action. Public involvement in local transportation effects change: my father participatedand succeeded to save a bus line in his local area schduled for cuts. Public transit does not involve urban depleting urban areas of vital resources evidenced many new dwellings built at rail stops including the revitalized downtown. Planners need community input.

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