First Look at Metro’s Proposed Budget for 2019-2020: Cuts in Bus, Rail Service

Budget was made public one day after Garcetti unveiled Green New Deal for L.A.

Metro is planning bus speed improvements. Photo via David Guo/Flickr
Metro is planning bus speed improvements. Photo via David Guo/Flickr

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On Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti released a plan to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city. One of the ways that L.A.’s Green New Deal plans to do this is by tripling transit ridership. Despite this goal, critics savaged the plan for failing to make a meaningful investment in bus infrastructure, whether general operations or specialized lanes such as Bus Rapid Transit.

On Tuesday, we found out why. Metro released its proposed $7.2 billion budget for the next fiscal year, starting on July 1. Unless amended, it contains small cuts to bus service (masked by the additional day of the leap year) and some deeper cuts to rail service. Also of note: the budget does not include an operations budget for the Crenshaw Line, which was originally scheduled to open in December of this year—about halfway through the fiscal year.

At first read, the program doesn’t look bad. The budget claims a one percent increase in bus service hours and a larger cut in rail operations. However, twitter user @calwatch drew attention to an important point: because 2020 is a leap year, what looks like a tiny  increase in net hours is actually a small cut in bus service, and the cut in rail service hours is six percent (adjusted for leap year). Calwatch’s full thread on the budget, which is incredibly detailed, can be read in its entirety here.

This change will be felt most at rush hour, especially on light rail.

The Blue, Gold, and Expo Lines will see a drop in service from one train every six minutes to one every eight minutes, a drop of 25 percent during rush hour. In the hours that buffer peak commute times, service could go down to once every 12 minutes (a 50 percent cut). The Green Line may see an increase in service as a result of the implementation of the Crenshaw Line. It is unclear how these hours would be distributed.

For those of you worried that there has been a “bait and switch” because sales tax increases in 2016 and 2020 promised increase service, not just increased construction: the cuts could have been much worse. Sales tax revenue is up 3.4 percent, which helps offset a projected drop in fare revenue of 6 percent. Wages have also increased due to a new union deal between Metro and bus/rail operators.

The budget for the July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021 budget could look much different than the current one. Metro is in the “development stage” of its NextGen Bus study. While the study looks closely at bus service, it will be considering rail service as well, to make sure that lines are not duplicating service.

The full Metro Board will vote on the proposed budget in June. Comments can be sent to the Metro Board of Directors, here.

  • Colin

    Were getting swindled

  • P.

    It would be nice if the rush hour headway on Expo were every 8 minutes during the AM Commute. it’s every 10 or so. I realize the headway may improve when the Downtown Connecter comes online, but light timings at grade crossings still needs to be addressed for service on the Expo line to improve

  • What the fuuuuuck. Also anybody else notice it’s always 2 car trains on the expo nowadays for the last month or so? Always packed. Since blue line is truncated this esp makes no sense.

    Why are they increasing wages if they have to cut service?

  • Ennnne

    It’s none of my business really, but imo your standards for official honesty are much, much too low.

    “For those of you worried that there has been a “bait and switch” because sales tax increases in 2016 and 2020 promised increase service, not just increased construction: the cuts could have been much worse. ”

    If you put up with these shenanigans, it will only get worse. You-all should never, ever have given them a sunset-less tax hike. They *literally* never have to ask us for input ever again. But go on and send them your complaints if you think that will help. I am sorry to be pointed in these remarks, but it is very frustrating to watch.

  • Nah it’s every 6 min rn or even more often

  • Oren Ben-Joseph

    The reductions will allow for three-car trains to serve all three lines during peak hours.

  • I’ve been a 2 round trip a day rider for 4 years for the last 3 years til a month ago it was 99pct 3 cars it just changed to being almost all 2 cars something’s very fishy

  • P.

    I live two blocks from Expo/Western I had to start biking to work because of problems with headways going west to Culver City. On the rare times I’m now taking it, between say 8:30-9A, when I just miss the train, freqently I’m waiting 10 or so minutes for a train, unless they are 2 minutes apart because the headway is screwed up.

  • Jason
  • BH90008

    Yeah don’t know what’s going on, since they should have plenty of trains now. It seems like they’ve switched back to 3 cars though for the time being.

    Also, right after rush hour trains are at 12 minute headways, so I think a 10 minute gap would be an improvement, no?

  • Ok I’m always going downtown to Culver City so maybe but they loop so? I haven’t seen those frequencies myself stg

  • calwatch

    The claim with this “on street reality” stuff is by cutting service you can make buses more reliable. I don’t really buy that, especially since on street TOS’s (supervisors) were cut many years ago and have not been replaced.

  • helloWorld

    too bad they cut the CEO’s sauna in that budget. /s
    I think the only reason I didn’t get a job at metro’s auditing department is because I wanted to cut waste