COVID-19 Metro Operations: Bus Ridership Down 65 Percent, Rail Down 75 Percent, More Service Cuts Starting Sunday

Metro bus
Metro bus

Tomorrow morning the Metro board Operations Committee will hear an update on current Metro transit operations a month into the Coronavirus panedemic. Ridership is way down. Metro is adjusting service to meet the new on-the-ground realities.

In mid-March, Metro had announced ridership losses at 50-60 percent. At that time, Metro had trimmed service by about 10 percent.

A new staff presentation, dated April 2019, states that Metro bus ridership is down 65 percent, and Metro rail ridership is down 75 percent.

Starting this Sunday April 19, Metro has announced a further reduction in service – to what Metro is calling “a modified Sunday schedule every day of the week.” A straight-up Sunday schedule would mean about a 45 percent bus cut and a 25 percent rail cut – but it appears (based on the revenue service hours on page 8) that Metro will trim bus service 29 percent and rail service 14 percent. Service cut details are at The Source.

Metro is evaluating closing some rail station entrances “to reduce touchpoints, maintenance resources, cleaning supplies and required PPE.” This would only be at “grade-separated stations which have more than one access point” and would maintain ADA access. Other transit agencies, including Washington DC Metro, have partially closed stations under COVID-19. A Metro station entrance closure plan is expected to be finalized by April 19, so could be presented at next week’s board meeting.

Metro is continuing its current expensive Mobility-on-Demand pilot, where the agency is attempting to emulate a money-losing Lyft/Uber ride-hail model. It is not clear what is being gained by this wasteful pilot, as all fares and shared rides have been canceled.

Metro appears to be slowly moving forward with its even more wasteful MicroTransit pilot, scheduled to start Summer 2020. Metro will “initiate minimum preparation work with contractor” and “review situation every 30 days.” Given the COVID-19 crisis’ deep cuts to bus and rail operations, if there is one thing that Metro really should pull the plug on it’s this $30 million shared-van-ride scheme. Are people really going to share van rides (Metro’s plans call for seven to ten passengers per Microtransit van) starting this summer? That $30 million is operations funding – now in short supply due to big declines in Metro revenues. Perhaps Metro is already evaluating how to get out of its MicroTransit commitments.

The Operations Committee meeting will meet (remotely) at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Boardmembers will receive the staff presentation with staff remarks, and staff will respond to board questions. The public can watch and comment via the Metro board webpage. Streetsblog will be listening in and tweeting the meeting.

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In my circles, there has been a lot of discussion swirling around Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times article, Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California, by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel. The Times’ authors cast a disparaging light on recent downturns in ridership: “Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail […]