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Metro Service Changes Take Effect This Sunday, Including Fewer Night Trains

A side effect of additional "late night" train service will be to alleviate the strain on cars when Midnight Ridazz let's out (assuming the ride ends before midnight). Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/3138690971/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Gary Kavanagh/Flickr##
As of Sunday, Metro's "More Trains More Often" nighttime initiative will be over. Photo: Gary Kavanagh
A side effect of additional "late night" train service will be to alleviate the strain on cars when Midnight Ridazz let's out (assuming the ride ends before midnight). Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/3138690971/sizes/z/in/photostream/##Gary Kavanagh/Flickr##

This Sunday, June 26, Metro will be making their twice yearly "service changes" to bus and rail service. This typically means minor cuts, often justifiable, but still incrementally making riders' lives a little worse and incrementally contributing to declines in ridership.

Metro's The Source has a fair summary of the agency's latest round of transit service adjustments. As one would expect, the agency emphasized improvements:

    • All Gold Line trains will serve the entire new Foothill Extension. Since the new stations opened in March, they were only served by every other train out of Union Station, meaning trains to Azusa ran every 12 minutes. As of Sunday, peak-hour service to Azusa will be every 7 minutes.
    • Metro Rapid Bus line 744 night service has been adjusted to better serve Cal State Northridge.
    • Metro Bus line 230 night service has been adjusted to better serve Mission College.

The Source uses very neutral language to mention some nighttime service cuts for Metro rail lines. These cuts are generating some concern on social media. Right now, evening service (from roughly 8 p.m. to midnight) on the Expo Line and Blue Line runs every 10 minutes. As of Sunday, this will be cut in half to every 20 minutes. Some late night Blue Line trains also run shorter lines, ending at Del Amo Station. In addition, Red Line and Purple Line service for Friday and Saturday nights will be reduced from every 10 minutes to every 20. (Metro already reduced Sunday through Thursday night service to every 20 minutes last year.)

Relatively frequent night train service was introduced in 2011 as part of the Villaraigosa-era "More Trains More Often" improvements. This week's changes effectively end that 2011 service expansion. 

Why the reduced nighttime frequency? Metro has couched these rail service reductions in terms of the need for windows of time to perform maintenance, but another big reason appears to be cost savings. As part of Phil Washington's Risk Allocation Matrix initiative to trim costs, a January 2016 report [PDF] recommended Metro save $4.4 million in Fiscal Year 2016-2107 by "reducing night rail service" including "reducing headways from 10 to 20 minutes from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and replacing with bus service after 12 a.m." Metro has implemented the reduced headways but, so far, has not implemented buses to replace after-midnight rail service.

It is also worth noting that Metro did not implement the agency's high frequency network bus service overhaul, which had been tentatively scheduled for July 2016. One small component of that plan, the outsourcing of a couple lines, is taking place. As of Sunday:

    • Bus lines 190, 194 (El Monte to Pomona) and part of line 270 (Monrovia to El Monte) will be operated by Foothill Transit.
    • Part of line 270 (El Monte to Norwalk) will be operated by Norwalk Transit.

What do you think, readers? Is cutting evening rail service a prudent response to Metro's fiscal constraints? Or is it a retreat from serving mobility needs of riders who depend on Metro? Will it result in less ridership? Or, in the long run, will maintenance windows contribute to better overall reliability?

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