“4 Year Storm:” BRU and Community Groups Look at MTA Post-Consent Decree

Happy Halloween, transit riders. All charts via: Transit Civil Rights & Economic Survival in Los Angeles

Yesterday afternoon, the Bus Rider’s Union and thirteen allied organizations released “Transit Civil Rights & Economic Survival in Los Angeles: A Case for Federal Intervention in LA Metro,” a report detailing how service cuts and fare hikes have devastated working class families in the past four years.  Since the expiration of a court ordered consent decree which mandated levels of service, Metro slashed 12% of its bus service hours while approving a series of fare increases.

“The tragedy of the MTA policies over the last four years is that they roll back almost all of the transit improvements – namely more buses, more bus lines, and lower fares – that MTA implemented under federal court order in response to the BRU’s civil rights lawsuit and 10-year federal consent decree,” states Barbara Lott-Holand, the co-chair of the Bus Riders Union and a transit rider herself for the last 35 years.

Metro and the BRU are awaiting the results of a Civil Rights Audit conducted by the Federal Transit Administration at the request of the Bus Riders earlier this year.  Only transit agencies in Atlanta and Los Angeles underwent this review in the past year.

A lot of the facts and figures found in the report won’t be new to regular readers of Streetsblog and others familiar with recent Metro policy, but it’s still striking to see some of the figures laid out, showing the cumulative impact of the service cuts and fare hikes that have been a major part of Metro’s bus planning since 2007.  The BRU also rejects Metro’s argument that the cuts are about increasing efficiency noting that Metro’s buses carry more passengers per mile than any bus fleet in America except New York City’s.

The report goes on to argue that the cuts and hikes have a disproportionate impact on struggling minority communities noting the higher rates of unemployment and poverty facing many bus riders.  90% of all bus riders are from minority communities and over 70% of all transit riders are minorities in Los Angeles.  In Los Angeles county alone, African Americans are facing a 19% unemployment rate while Latinos face 14% unemployment.

Some of the numbers in the report are a result of timing.  Much of the increase in Metro’s budget comes from Measure R, the half-cent sales tax passed by L.A. County voters in 2008 to fund transit and road improvements.  While most of the funds in these projects are “locked in” to certain projects and can’t be readily moved to fund transit operations, other sales taxes dedicated to Metro are more fluid.  One of the reports arguments is that some of those funds that are going towards rail expansion ought to be used instead to protect bus service and fare costs.

The result of all these cuts and increases is reduced ridership in an era where people have less disposable income to spend.  As a result, people’s ability to care for their families is reduced or their dependency on an expensive automobile is increased.

“When bus service cuts make it hard for people to get to medical appointments, jobs that feed their families, and schools, it’s an attack on their health and their rights,” explains Martha Arguello, Director of the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “And in the worst-polluted city in the US, Metro’s policies have driven down mass transit use, and the health effects of more cars on the road are devastating for low income children and families. ”

This chart is an update of one that appeared in an early draft of the report and a previous version of this article.

The report concludes with a series of potential fixes to the bus cuts/fare hikes crisis outlined in the report.

  • Reinvest resources in the bus system and keep resources in neighborhoods: Any changes to the bus systems made in the name of efficiency should be invested 100% back into the bus system.
  • Open an honest debate about Metro’s funding allocation decisions based on transparent accounting of the availability
  • of operation eligible funds.
  • Decisions about service changes should protect civil rights and be based on fair and balanced analysis of modes and
  • efficient use of resources.
  • Ensure minimum impact of service changes through strict standards for alternative service.

Joining the Bus Riders Union in the release of the report are the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Communities for a Better Environment, East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, Public Advocates Inc., Restaurant Opportunities Center – Los Angeles, SEIU-United Service Workers West, SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers, Southeast Asian Community Alliance, Strategic Action for a Just Economy, and Urban Habitat.

  • I.K.

    I didn’t vote for improvements to the bus system.  I voted for rail, road, and bus improvements.  Here’s hoping they don’t try for another BS lawsuit to get Measure R money redirected to local shuttles solely in the name of anti-discrimination. 

    Also, they totally ignore the fact that the drop in ridership might be related to higher unemployment since 2006.  But then, knowing the BRU, I’m surprised they didn’t try to pin the blame for that on Metro too.

  • Dan W.

    If a meritless lawsuit can be filed regarding transit, it seemingly will be.

  • Alex Thompson

    Figure 3 says the daily pass went from $3 to $5 and calls that a 100% change.  Ah, no.  That’s a 66.666666666666 (repeating) % change.

  • Ronrueda

    They probably did not fix the chart when the day pass was $6 dollars, that was a 100% decrease.

    But still that $5 dollar day pass is a steal. Some of these percentage that they are posting are only being used to scare people. Obviously these are going to be big changes when the order of magnitude of some of these fares are that small.

  • Ronrueda

    *increase* I mean

  • Anonymous

    You say “some of the numbers in the report are a result of timing,” but you neglect to mention that the big drop in ridership that happens at the end of the consent decree also coincides with the economic downturn and the rapid rise in local unemployment.  Fewer people with jobs means fewer people taking transit to work.  That headline graph seems incredibly misleading as far as cause and effect goes.

    Undoubtedly, the fare increases have hurt people’s pocketbooks at a bad time, but is it really reasonable to think that people dependent on the transit for their commutes have stopped riding it entirely because of those increases?

  • Anonymous

    Addendum: here’s a graph of total non-farm employment in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division:

    Given what appears to be a strong relationship to the data in the headline graph (note in particular the rise through the mid-nineties, the drop around 2004, and the fall starting in 2008), I’m surprised we haven’t seen even larger decreases in ridership during the recession. Central business district employment is almost certainly the largest factor driving transit ridership. Demonstrating that these ridership changes are due to MTA policy changes would require much stronger evidence.

  • The dude abides

    Talking about bus device in a vacume is kind of a dishonest approach to criticizing metro for decreased bus service. Voters approved an investment in rail/brt during that same period of decline. So cheaper to operate rail takes over some bus service yet that is not mentioned at all?

    I would challenge BRU to anylize the entire metro portfolio since the consent decree and see what the true service levels are.

  • Wow! Great work by the BRU. I am always impressed by their tireless efforts to keep the bus system funded, and to highlight who loses under Measure R.

    @ The dude abides… are you talking about Figure 7? I believe this graph *does* consider all revenue service hours in both bus and rail, based on the way the data source is stated. The title does say “bus service drops” not “transit service drops,” but I think that’s because all of the reductions in transit service during the period in question were reductions in bus service. The BRU’s point is that the bus system is being starved as money moves over to fund rail planning, construction, and operations. As the top graph in this post (Figure 8) shows, this is a poor move, and it has resulted in a decline in ridership. This happened in the 1985-1996 era and it is happening again.

    I would argue that the BRU has met your challenge. They’ve taken a closer look at the entire Metro system than anybody else is currently taking. It seems you should direct your criticism at the voters and politicians who focus on rail at the expense of the transit system as a whole. It is they who need to take a look at the entire Metro portfolio, in my opinion.

  • Can someone from the BRU clarify? Based on looking at the report a little further, it does seem that the decrease documented in Figure 7 is to buses only. What is the magnitude of the offsetting increase in rail service?

    Still, noting that rail service has increased still leaves us with the problem that the rail riders are systematically more wealthy and less transit-dependent than the bus riders. It’s wrong for Metro to decrease the service provided to a poorer and more vulnerable group in order to increase service for the wealthy, more powerful, voter-backed group.

  • As usual, the BRU’s figures are misleading. The base fare was frozen since 1994 at $1.35. The round trip fare (one round trip with transfer) dropped from 1994 to 2006 from $3.20 to $3, and only increased to $5 in 2008. The monthly pass was $42 since 1996 when the consent decree was signed, went up slightly to $52 in 2004, and only now is $75. LA bus riders have gotten a huge deal, and the changes are necessary to move from a cheap transit system to a good transit system. A cheap transit system would be like the ones in Texas, Phoenix, or the South, where fares are low but service levels are poor. You could have a Dallas or Tucson with lower fares, but then you have to accept the reduced level of coverage. 

    The other thing is that revenue service hours are misleading because MTA has increased the number of articulated buses, added rail, and transferred service to other agencies. Articulated buses reduce service hours but are more efficient for passengers and for taxpayers. There absolutely needs to be better service, especially at night and on weekends – hourly service after 8pm doesn’t cut it. The early bus rate keeps dropping but it needs to be at zero, since there is no excuse for an early bus. But overall things are moving in the right direction, and you have a guy that knows operations running the shop instead of a big picture planning guy.

  • The dude abides

    @ herbie

    Well let the BRU solve this problem by using a free market approach. Tell them and their many followers to forego using rail service and only use bus service. If their claim to a strong coalition of bus riders then the numbers will skew in favor of more bus service because there is a higher demand. So if you want to go to long beach skip the blue line and enjoy the longer ride on the 60.

    The reality is the Bus riders union is really a bus drivers union trying to protect the over paid union bus drivers.

  • @the dude – can i ask you to hold off on the ad hominem?

  • Anonymous

    Or is it that the “poor” would prefer using the Red, Purple, Green, Blue or Gold Lines instead of the comparable bus line? As “the dude” said, why don’t the poor chose to forego the Blue Line and just take the 60 bus. Plus, on my way home on the 720 Rapid, it appears more of the poor prefer the Rapid 720 and/or Purple Line than the Local 20. Why don’t the poor deserve better rail service? Why should they be regulated to a 2nd class/cheap transit system? Plus, don’t more of our stations serve poor/disenfranchised areas than “wealthy”?

  • Anonymous

    Wasn’t there a report that showed LA has the best transit service coverage in the nation?

    The problem with the BRU is that they are advocating of service for the 2% – 3% of bus cuts that deserve to be bus cuts. We cannot be reasonably funding bus services to the “boondocks”. Metro does a good job with bus service on heavy transit corridors; those corridors that deserve good service. But c’mon, do we really deserve lot of bus service in Altadena, Hawthorne, etc… Those places are so sprawled that bus service is a significant money loser. If they want to value bus service, go to a cheaper area (i.e. Willowbrook/Athens/Westlake) with much better transit service.

    Most of the bus cuts made by Metro affect such a small minority of people (less than 2%) yet BRU makes it sound like “Metro is killing bus service”. No. They’re making operations more efficiently.

  • The dude abides


    “Still, noting that rail service has increased still leaves us with the problem that the rail riders are systematically more wealthy and less transit-dependent than the bus riders”

    You nicely paraphrased what BRU a racist organization called rail users “white”.

    You and BRU keep stating that BS, but the fact is bus riders and rail rides are the same. Again if you want to actually live that statistic, then don’t use rail and only use buses. Furthermore the voters approved a sales tax on everyone to pay for Bus, rail and improved
    highway. the BRU will never win the mind of the people by using a myopic approach to transportation in LA county.

  • Anonymous

    Oops, posted a temporary image from he BLS, which has now vanished.

  • Anonymous

    Oops again.  Streetsblog converted the transparent part of the image to black, making it unreadable.

  • Here’s a recent MTA board report that shows the number of capacity hours of transit, a better measurement since rail has more capacity, and running bus service every 5 minutes when three of them bunch up every 15 minutes is unproductive – http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2011/04_April/20110420OPItem9.pdf If you consider capacity hours, MTA has actually been doing pretty well.

  • The real test of where the BRU’s agenda lies is if they would agree to contract out half of the service, similar to Denver, to receive a 10% reduction in pass prices (since contracted service costs about 20% less than directly operated service). You can start by contracting out Rapid Bus and the San Fernando Valley. Contractors are unionized just like MTA drivers are. But there is greater accountability because it is much easier to remove drivers who are early, accident prone, or can’t drive.

  • I would be happy to continue this discussion offline. It’s rather well documented that rail in Los Angeles carries far more choice riders and wealthy riders, and that the average income of rail riders exceeds the average income of bus riders. There is an intersection between the two groups, as you’ve correctly pointed out, but they are still distinct.

    I share the BRU’s concern that money and resources are being shifted away from the large network of bus service to a much sparser network of cost-inefficient rail service. Furthermore, I share their evidence-based concern that this shift in resources harms the transit-dependent and creates a poorer-performing system overall.

    Can I ask you to limit your commentary to what the BRU says and does rather than attacking them as a “racist” organization and calling them the “bus driver’s union”? Can I also ask you to state your disagreements without using the word “BS”?  I believe a dialogue that focuses on the facts instead of hurtful ad hominem will make all of us happier and better informed. I am fearful that if we attack each other we won’t be able to think clearly and craft good transportation policy and transportation policy critique.

    Finally – I think you are correct to ask who funds the BRU. Damien, can you do some reporting on this? Can you compare the BRU’s funding stream to Move LA’s funding stream? It’s my understanding that Move LA is backed by substantial contributions from corporations who are in the business of building rail.

  • Davistrain

    I haven’t ridden the Blue Line lately, but last time I did, most of the passengers were “people of color”.  I heard a story many years ago about some electric railway buffs who boarded the Blue Line at 7th Metro for a trip to Long Beach (having ridden the Pacific Electric in 1961), and got off and took a northbound train before the train got to 103rd St.  I think they were feeling “a bit pale”.

  • Anonymous

    @ Herbie It’s hard for us to stop calling them a “racist organization”, when they try to convince time and time again that Metro is racist……or that anybody who doesn’t believe in their cause is racist. They call me racist…….and I’m not even a white guy! It’s because I agree with their policies. Rail WILL attract more choice riders..that’s a given in any city in the world.

    Why does our transit system have to be a welfar system but it’s okay for cities like New York, Paris, London, Tokyo, etc… to attract “people of wealth”?

    I’ve stood at the bus stop on Venice around Robertson and many of those “disproportionately poor” explain to me that they’re looking forwad to the Expo Line. Wow! Poor folks looking forward to rail! No way!

  • Thanks AT, the chart has been fixed both in the report and in our article.

  • I appreciate the work put into analyzing this report by many of you below.  I know I’ve written this before, but I think that the BRU is making real efforts to reach out to the rest of the transportation reform community.  They’ve involved themself with the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group.  They regularly work with the LACBC on campaigns.  They led a pretty diverse coalition on the Wilshire BOL campaign.  To grab a phrase, it’s not your father’s BRU.

  • Sure, the BRU is a lot different thanthe 1996 BRU. They are building coalitions with other environmental groups, and they are willing to let more informed people take the lead rather than pontificating on everything. Still the BRU plays the race card too often, which doesn’t work when the mayor is Hispanic, most of the LA City Council and state legislators from LA County are minority, and there are still working class white people that take the bus.

    MTA recognizes that the voters voted for rail. While restriping Wilshire Boulevard to a bus only roadway during peak hours would probably provide more transportation work (persons per point per hour) than the subway, and cost less than 1% of the cost of the subway, it would never get passed. The BRU solution of throwing more buses on the street, while not simultaneously advocating for better control of bus drivers like the Straphangers Campaign does in New York, leads to a giant waste of money. The BRU’s Consent Decree driven policies did not relieve overcrowding on core routes (since buses bunched up anyway, and so were in violation of the 1.35 load factor), but helped decimate suburban, night, and weekend service – ironically used by many of these low income people (for example, the folks riding the 225 in Palos Verdes were not Palos Verdes residents but were the maids, servants, and nannies of them – and now they have no midday service).

    I would welcome such a forum to discuss the BRU’s impact. Let’s grab Tom Rubin, Kym Richards, myself, Herbie Huff, the Dude Abides, Esperanza Martinez, and some others and have a roundtable on this. Let’s look at the fact that the BRU thought about taking on the municipal operators back in 1994, but ultimately chose not to because they didn’t want to have Santa Monica, Culver City, and Long Beach firing back at them. How about the BRU’s opposition to contracting service out? Or the BRU’s forays into non transportation related items, like firing 15% of the LAPD or its support for Palestine over Israel, despite being funded by the Nathan Cummings Foundation (Nathan Cummings was Jewish)? The BRU has accomplished a lot, but their accomplishments are always going to be clouded by the unintended consequences of their actions.

  • Anonymous

    “Still, noting that rail service has increased still leaves us with the
    problem that the rail riders are systematically more wealthy and less
    transit-dependent than the bus riders”

    Except for Red/Purple Line trains travelling between LAUS and 7th/Metro Center, in the peak direction, during the rush, I have never witnessed a train full of majority-non-hispanic-whites as the U.S. Census defines it.

  • Anonymous

    Is it really any surprise that poorer people are on the bus? It’s not that buses are somehow preferred by poor folks, OR that “rich” (let’s say slightly less poor) people sneer at a bus until it has steel wheels and rides on rails. It’s because buses SUCK. They suck HORRIBLY. Rail is often a reasonable competitor to a car, because it doesn’t sit in traffic. Buses DO sit in traffic, and make a stop at every block so you can sit and wait for the light that would have been green but now has turned red because you were waiting for people to get off – just like you did the block before, and the block before that, and the block before that.

    So in effect, if you have money, you probably have at least some access to a car, or scooter, or a buddy with a car you can borrow sometimes, but you take the train when traffic sucks or you feel like kicking back and reading on the way to work. You DON’T take the bus, because the bus manages to be so damn slow it hurts, AND uncomfortable.

    The sad thing about all this is that buses CAN be awesome. It’s called BRT, and LA is the PERFECT city for it given the already massive road network. Chop a lane off of every freeway and 8-lane arterial, make it a bus-only lane, and you’d have a great network. But people already have this idea that buses suck (because buses here do) so getting anyone to ride them will be a Herculean task.

    I’m a cheapskate who usually rides a bike, though, because I don’t like paying for Metro. I ride BBB sometimes (usually if it’s raining) because I get those rides free as an SMC student, and I get to work slower than I do on a bicycle.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The focus should be on better transit for all people and not rail versus bus. Most of these differences are biases and not technological differences between these two forms of transit.

    A city with a great rail system–without a great bus system–does not work nearly as well as a city that has a great rail and bus network together. You simply cannot make as many routes for rail as you can with buses. The transit experience should be similar for all users.

    If the focus is put on increasing the frequency and quality of service for transit on main corridors, then it could very well be that you could get to where you need to go by that means, compared to if the funds are distributed over more routes. If there no more than a ten minute difference between transfers that are a short distance away, then that could be faster than having to wait thirty mintues or more between transfers on less used corridors.

    Take a look at another Human Transit article that discusses this situation in Los Angeles:


    To see another way of doing this, take a look at this article on the transit system in Paris, from the blog Human Transit:


    Notice that the interior of the bus looks very similar to the light-rail. Even with on-board payment, passengers can board the bus at all doors (cash payment at the front door only). The buses have their own lanes on most boulevards in Paris, according to the author Jarrett Walker.

    As Jarrett Walker states at the end of the article, “in Paris, light-rail is just what you do when you need a very, very long bus.”

    Contrast this to Los Angeles where bus riders, along mixed use, heavy transit corridors–such as Vermont Ave–have to typically stand on filty sidewalks at stations, with trash all around and no shelters. Then, passengers must form a single file to board the bus at the front door. Entering from the front only, slows down the average speed of the bus considerably on heavy use corridors.

    As the author states in this other article: “So if you can do proof-of-payment on light rail, why can’t you do it on high-volume buses?”


    The Orange Line in Los Angeles is the closest example to what the buses are like in Paris. But, the Orange Line has the extra added expense, and room needed for off-board payment boxes at every station. Off-board payment is much more difficult to install on sidewalks and Metro has yet to commit to putting any on sidewalks. Payment on-board at each door would be much more likely to happen as Metro is in control of that and doesn’t have to depend on the city to go along with it. There needs to perhaps be a different interior design for the buses though.

    The buses do not have the roominess at the entry of each door that the Paris buses do, or for that matter light-rail does. Since passengers tend to bunch up at the doors, having seats directly across from the door–as buses in L.A. do–tends to hinder entry and exit. Having this extra room would also make it easier to allow bikes on-board at off peak hours, as they would not have to block the aisle. Having less seats should not be a huge problem as most people are not traveling very far, and you can get more people on the train car or bus with less seats.

    On top of this, the buses on heavily traveled corridors will have caused a much more rapid wear of the street in the lane next to the curb, compared to the other lanes. This causes much more wear and tear on the bus and greatly reduces the ride experience for the passengers. Metro should be allocating funds to repair these lanes, much like they do for the Orange Line busway or the heavy rail and light-rail routes. This lack of maintenance is making a bus ride look technologically inferior to a train ride, when in fact it’s two different levels of set-up and maintenance that makes for most of the differentiation.

  • Anonymous

    “Still, noting that rail service has increased still leaves us with the problem that the rail riders are systematically more wealthy and less transit-dependent than the bus riders. It’s wrong for Metro to decrease the service provided to a poorer and more vulnerable group in order to increase service for the wealthy, more powerful, voter-backed group.”

    The reason that rail riders are wealthier than bus-riders is that rail service is faster and more reliable.

    By your standard, increasing the quality of service for Metro riders is a form of discrimination against poor people, because when you increase the quality of service it tends to attract wealthier “choice” riders.

    Before the Gold Line, there used to be a lot more bus service between Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles. That bus service has been cut. But if you ask transit-dependent riders in Pasadena, no one laments to existence of the Gold Line. The Gold Line makes it faster for most riders to get to downtown, and is dramatically more reliable than the pre-Gold Line busses.

  • Dennis Hindman

    “The reason that rail riders are wealthier than bus-riders is that rail service is faster and more reliable.”
    There is nothing inherent about bus technology that would make it slower than rail technology. It’s how the two are setup that creates most of the difference in speed. Rail is usually grade separated or has priority at crossings. Compare that to the Orange Line, which is at grade-level and most intersections do not give priority to it.
    Take a look at the BRT in Brisbane Australia, where it was designed to operate much like heavy rail.
    For the entry and exit superiority of trains versus buses, look at this Paris bus that has on-board payment at all doors, a interior that looks very similar to trains with lots of room around the doors where people tend to crowd. This would make it easier to allow bikes on-board at off-peak hours, as they would not have to block the aisle. The would be similar to the Red Line subway door entrances.
    The Orange Line is very reliable. My problem for reliability of this line usually had to do with whether I could put my bike on the front of it. At peak hours, if the bus is too crowded, you simply have to wait four minutes for another bus that will have a much lighter passenger load.
    The other argument for rail is that it would be cheaper to maintain and operate. Take a look at page 74 of this pdf of the Crenshaw Transit Corridor draft EIS/EIR document.
    On table ES-63 it states that a BRT would run 11.3 miles and the light-rail (LRT) would have a length of 8.5 miles. That’s due the difficulty of getting the light-rail past the Expo Line. The BRT would not have that problem.
    The estimated cost of building a BRT would be $554,375,0000 and the shorter LRT estimated cost is $1,305,598,000. The estimated cost for the light-rail Crenshaw Line is now up to $1.7 billion and it could go higher.
    Right below this is the estimated cost of operation and maintenance up to 2030. For the 11.3 mile BRT it’s $1,603,648,000 and for the shorter 8.5 mile light-rail, its $1,627,831,000. So the costs are much higher per mile for the light-rail compared to the BRT.
    The estimated 2030 daily boardings would be 16,680 for the longer BRT line and only 13,144 for the shorter light-rail line. The estimate is higher though, for the light-rail if you just calculate the rides between the Green Line and the Expo Line. Then again, the light rail has the last stop at the Expo Line and the BRT would non-transfer trip to Wilshire Blvd.
    The time savings between the Green Line and Expo line would be 17.2 minutes for the BRT and 21.6 minutes for light-rail. That’s mainly due to the recommendation that the light-rail should have some elevated sections and below grade sections. The BRT would just run at grade-level. This also accounts for much of the cost difference. But, if the BRT was constructed like the Brisbane BRT, with elevation and a tunnel, then the speed difference between the BRT and light-rail would disappear and also the passenger load differences would also greatly decrease.  A BRT along the Crenshaw Corridor would also allow a continuous ride to Wilshire Blvd, which light-would not.
    The question should be whether you would need a very, very long bus to determine bus or light-rail, as author Jarrett Walker states at the end of the article about the Paris bus system.

  • Dennis Hindman

    When most people have stated that the Orange Line should be rail, they usually fail to mention that a light-rail would not have a direct connection to Warner Center. You would have to get off at perhaps Canoga Ave and then transfer to a bus on Vcitory Blvd for your final stop at Warner Center. Judging from the current schedule of the Victory Blvd bus, you may have up to a 10 minute wait at peak hours for the bus. The arrival time for a light-rail versus BRT between the Red Line subway station and the Warner Center would be about the same, even though the current schedule for the BRT has it stopping at most intersections along the route.

    The speed differences when comparing the current BRT setup versus light-rail, along the Orange Line corridor, would be from the Chatsworth Metrolink station to the Red Line subway. I would have to ask though, who would want to get off the Metrolink train in order to transfer to the light-rail in order to get to downtown on the Red Line? I believe most people would just go the faster, easier and more direct route of staying on Metrolink.

    As for connecting Metrolink in Chatsworth to one of the two highest employment centers in the Vally, at Warner Center, again light-rail would require that you get off the train and take a bus to Warner Center.

    I believe that Metro may be considering platooning buses at the North Hollywood Orange Line station, in order to have one route that takes you directly to the Warner Center and another bus that would head up to Metrolink in Chatsworth. That would also more evenly distribute the passenger load that is coming from the Red Line Subway station in North Hollywood. It would also tend to decrease the delays for cross-traffic if two buses can go through the intersection together.

  • Anonymous

    Damien – I would love to support the BRU, and I also do not feel they are hiding behind the motives of bus drivers. Personally, when I hear them continue to demonize rail transit as being “the devil”, something that can actually benefit transit dependent (don’t they deserve world-class transportation as well?), but not put any blame on auto-oriented spending like freeways/highways, etc which are very little benefit to them, then the rest of us transit advocates get upset. If they would fight for all levels of public transportation like the Transit Coalition, MoveLA, Green LA, etc… then I’d be totally in support of the BRU. But if they want to continuously marginalize rail transit as killing their bus routes, then I have little respect for their group.

    As for Wilshire BOL, all transit groups supported this project. We worked together with BRU on this. But have you seen them speak at the Westside Subway Extension meetings? They’re fighting AGAINST Metro rail. Hence my feeling of BRU is very negative.

  • Ronrueda

    Dennis what you fail to mention in comparing the Crenshaw BRT vs the Crenshaw Light Rail is that north of crenshaw the BRT was supposed to run in mix flow a la orange line to warner center. No dedicated bus lanes for buses. that’s why rail was not going north at-grade.

    Also if you add tunnels and elevated sections to a bus line the cost difference between building the two systems becomes even less significant.

  • Ronrueda

    The point of connecting the orange line to the Chatsworth Metrolink station was never about getting Metrolink riders to transfer to Orange Line and use it to get to downtown, (though perhaps they could use it to get to Hollywood) but rather to connect the West Valley, and Warner Center to Metrolink and Vice Versa.

    The Orange Line as rail could have still gotten to Warner Center if it went into street running mode with dedicated lanes like the eastside gold line, or the blue line in downtown la or long beach. if that was not and option a small shuttle bus like the dash could still get passengers to warner center from the canoga station with a very high frequency service.

    I also believe some already that buses are already platooned at rush hour and the service is still packed.

  • Ronrueda

    I also believe some already said that buses are already platooned at rush hour and the service is still packed.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The Orange Line has platooning due to one driver catching up to another, that can happen at anytime during it’s operation. The schedule clearly states that the buses are started at least four minutes apart. If Metro did deliberately platoon the buses, then two would start at the same time and that would open up the four minute apart time slot to add one or two more buses, if they wanted to. Clearly, Orange Line is not at maximum capacity yet if Metro is not yet platooning the buses.

    Putting a light-rail down to Warner Center would be much more expensive and difficult compared to the current Orange Line BRT, which uses existing roadway. The same would be true of a Crenshaw Light Rail Line compared to BRT.

    As for making it a faster service if the Orange Line was light-rail, the 14 mile long Orange Line average speed is 19 MPH and the 6 mile long Gold Line extension is 15 MPH. So, it’s not necessarily the case that light-rail will be faster, it mainly depends on how each is implemented.

    Here’s a report on the Orange Line, in which the author explains the LADOT insisted that the line stop at many intersections, due to their concern that there is about a million motorized vehicles that cross it’s path along the 34 intersections that it transverses.


    Would LADOT have slowed down a light-rail line much like they did with the Gold Line extension? It’s quite likely, if it ran on surface streets, but then again, there is a state law that prevents light-rail from being implemented along this corridor.

    Here’s a preliminary evaluation of the Orange Line that was done in 2007, where the authors compared the Orange Line to the parallel Rapid line on Ventura Blvd and also the Gold Line light-rail. Their conclusion: “Currently, many believe that light rail offers benefits that are superior to any BRT system. The early experience with the Orange Line shows that this is not the case. The Orange
    Line demonstrates that, for agencies looking to implement a premium transit service, BRT can equal or exceed the performance of comparable light rail system, but at significantly lower capital and operating costs.” The Orange Line is handling about 26,000 passengers a day and this study also points out that Metro states that it’s current capacity is 40,000 a day. Opening up the four mile extension will increase that capacity.


    A light-rail train can handle about 333 passengers and the 60-foot Orange Line buses can handle up to 100 passengers. So, a light-rail can handle more than three times more passengers per driver. But, counter to that is the flexibility of BRT to make up for that. BRT can be brought off of the exclusive roadway as is done at the Warner Center and several different routes could use come in and out of the pathway. There is also the option to start two buses at the same time to relieve crowding on any one bus schedule.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Mixed flow isn’t necessarily a great impediment to the speed of buses. A engineer at the Metro Van Nuys Blvd outreach stated that putting a BRT down the middle of the street would not make much difference for it’s average speed compared to mixed traffic. There simply is not enough choke points to make a difference.

  • Dan W.

    It should be about better transit.  And most people believe, to your chagrin, that riding rail is “better” than riding a bus.

  • cph

    Metro could build a loop rail line through Warner Center, with certain trains serving the loop, others skipping it (going directly between the east-west and north-south portion of the Orange Line). The Warner Center loop could look something like the loop at the Long Beach end of the Blue line–a short, one-way loop.

    I think most of the people getting off the ttain in Chatsworth and transferring to the Orange Line will be destined to Warner Center, perhaps the Van Nuys Civic Center, or other points in the Valley…I used to take Metrolink from Chatsworth to LAUS daily and it only took about 45 minutes. Orange Line + Red Line is not going to beat that.

  • cph

    Let me put a bit of personal anecdote into this discussion:

    I started riding the bus (RTD and OCTD) in summer 1984, at the middle of the 3 years of 50-cent fare. I mostly took suburban routes (Claremont-Pasadena, Pomona-Brea through Diamond Bar, etc.) but they were busy, even crowded in the mornings. (There were a lot of college kids going to  Cal Poly and MtSac, younger kids going to school or hanging out at the mall, etc.)

    The fare went up to 85 cents in late 85 or early 86. I was riding the bus a lot more by then, going to UCLA in the summer of 86, and then UCLA graduate school from late 1987 to mid-1990. Buses (at least on the city routes) were as crowded as ever, occasionally dangerously so, and there were a lot of passups. On the otehr hand, the suburban ridership started to fall, as the “kids” grew up and moved away, got jobs “requiring” a car, etc. But there was no later group of “kids” to replace these riders.

    Service quality started to decrease as well in 1987-1988; bus breakdowns, grafitti, dirty buses, rude drivers, etc. Maybe this was in part due to an RTD institutional focus on building the subway, and not properly supervising the bus operations. I don’t know if that is 100% true, but it did drive customers away.

    The early 1990s had an economic downturn (I, along with many people, was laid off in 1991) , and soclal unrest (1992 Rodney King riots caused many people to move out of the city, to the suburbs or even other states). But even during these turbulent times, ridership in 1991 and 1992 was a bit higher than in 1990, according to the chart. The economy stayed sort of mushy until the mid-late 1990s (tech boom, etc.). 1994 in particular was when MTA had those huge meetings with proposals to cut all weekend service, and other draconian measures, due to a huge shortfall in tax revenues. The rail program was pushed back as well (anyone else remember the Gold Line bridge across the LA River? That bridge was completed, but no other work was done on the project until the early 2000s.)

    1994 also had a bus operators strike that hurt ridership. During strikes, some people find other ways of transportation, and never come back to the bus.

    Don’t forget the transfer of lines to other operators. During 1987-1994, most bus lines in the San Gabriel Valley became Foothill Transit, taking away about 15,000-20,000 RTD daily boardings. Other non RTD/MTA operators, such as LADOT, nibbled at RTD ridership as well.

    Rail lines, as they opened in 1990 (Blue),  1993  (Red), 1995 (Green),  1999 and 2000 (Red) and 2005 (Gold) also attracted some riders from buses. Some riders voluntarily switched to rail, others (most notably on the Hollywood Freeway bus routes) were forced to when RTD/MTA cut back the service. But even most of these passengers still used a bus for a portion of their trips.

    Ridership did start to pick up after the 1996 consent decree although how much of that increase can be credited to the decree is debatable.There were two more strikes, one in 2000 and another in 2003–I remember the 2003 strike being particularly long, therefore the big drop in ridership numbers for 2004. Ridership did pick up quickily after that, during the economic boom years before 2008. And of course, 2008 brought us the economic slump in which we are in now, again affecting bus ridership across the board.

    The BRU did help refocus needed attention on the bus system to a certain extent. But they’ve (unnecesarily) made rail the “enemy,” they play the race card far too much, and they argue for the retention of services that are really past their useful life (such as the #620 in East LA, the former #608 in the Crenshaw area, and a number of other clunkers I can’t bring to my mind right now). Their forays into non-transit related areas (such as the Palestinian “problem” or the LAPD) have diluted their effectiveness as a transit organization and have also probably cost them some support.

  • Anonymous

    The primary argument of the BRU is ad hominem – ie “Metro does what it does not for all the reasons they give, but because they are racist.”  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  • Dennis Hindman

    I should not have used the word ‘better’ in my opening sentence above. Jarrett Walker says said it much better than I, when he stated in the article below “…if your objective is to get where you’re going fast and reliably, the Right-of Way Class tells you a lot about a service’s potential to do that, while the rail-bus distinction, in isolation, tells you nothing. The fact is, both rail and bus technologies are capable of the complete spectrum of possiblities.”


    Or, in this next article where Jarrett states: “It may very well be that rail is culturally better than buses in your city, in which case all you’re really saying is that people in your city think rail is better than buses and will therefore tend to act in ways that make that true.” The passage of Measure R is probably due, in no small part, to that belief. That a subway extension and light-rail would improve the transportation greatly in Los Angeles.


    The problem I have is that Measure R is very explicit in what projects are to be done. It does not say that all transit projects are to be rail and in fact, the Canoga corridor and Van Nuys Blvd are described as Rapidways, which infers buses and not rail. If all transit capital improvements, under Measure R, is decided to be rail, then there will likely not be enough sales tax money to complete them all. In which case, which Peter projects do you rob from, in order to pay for the expensive Paul rail projects? Or perhaps do you take money away from another category, such as operations?

    Here’s another Jarrett Walker article, in which he points out that most of the arguments for rail and against bus technology, are really emotional and not intrinsic.


    I don’t care what technology is used to complete the Measure R projects, but I do strongly care that ALL the transit projects be finished, as the citizens of this county believed they would be when they voted for Measure R.

  • Jerard Wright


BRU: No Fare Hikes Without Public Process

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People’s Public Hearing on the state of the Bus System

More info Fighting Transit Segregation The BRU is initiating a People’s Public Hearing on August 20th on the state of the bus system. If you have something to say about the bus service cuts, this is your chance. Public officials have also been invited to hear your stories. On June 26th, close to 305,000 hours […]

Court Upholds Expiration of MTA/BRU Consent Decree

Photo: LA Wad/Flickr Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled in the case of the Bus Rider’s Union (BRU) v. MTA over the matter of whether or not to extend the 1996 "Consent Decree."  At issue was whether or not Metro was in "substantial compliance" with the standards set out in the decree: i.e. whether Metro […]