Full Statement of Dana Gabbard on Metro Proposed Service Changes for June of 2011, 1/4/11

Folks may want to review Conan Cheung’s comments on the philosophy underpining these proposals as a starting point for analyzing them.

As a resident of the Westside/central service area I can comment most knowledgably on the proposals for that service area:

The changes to Line 2 and Line 704 are driven by the overlap of eastbound Sunset and Santa Monica Blvd. service into downtown through Echo Park after those streets merge at Sunset Junction. The solution of truncating 704 at Alvarado and force riders who wish to go further east to transfer seems draconian. I also expect those riders who are taking the 2 to downtown don’t want to be stranded at the far north end of downtown. And for the same reason most of the folks riding the 704 will avoid the 2 and wait for the 4, which will still run into downtown. Sounds like a recipe for unbalanced loads. Also, frankly if Metro wants to provide service along Sunset to Union Station they should simply extend selected trips of the 60 to do so, as it did until a few years ago. Theories are fine but transit service is not a simple game of numbers and causing disruption in people’s mobility out of dire desires to squeeze larger loads onto buses and save relatively little seems a poor idea.

Line 26 has admittedly weak ridership on the Virgil portion of its service mid-day and in the evening, but my observation is it is fairly healthy during peak hours and service on Virgil should be preserved in the peak as the alternatives are about 1/4 mile away at Vermont and already fairly crowded to boot. Line 209 similarly warrants service in peak hours. I often see 10+ folks clustered at its first southbound stop at Wilshire/Western circa 6 p.m.

S*I*G*H – Dumping eastbound riders of the 217 at Vine to force them to transfer to the 180 or 780 to go further east seems much like the above described 2/704 proposal — theory driven but in my view disruptive and impractical.

Line 757 carries a goodly load when I spot it arriving at Wilshire/Western, north AND southbound. My one theory is ridership is overly concentrated on a small central segment of the route, which isn’t a ridership pattern Rapids handle very well.

Hopefully the “additional details” promised after January 17 will include details about ridership and maps that clearly illustrate the changes proposed, plus more in-depth explanations about why these particular proposals have been made. Hopefully the vague statement “… the proposed modifications will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public transportation system through a better use of resources” isn’t the sum total of explanations offered.

The consent decree WAS myopic in its focus on crowding as the main priority driving bus service allocation for 10 years (1996-2006). As a consequence, much to the dismay of some transit advocates who champion coverage and serving demand, Metro has been engaged in an ongoing program of cutbacks, hand-offs to municipal operators and contracting — all focused on low ridership services. Metro Rapid to some extent provided more efficient service which when it works constitutes a win/win for the agency and riders. But as the Dec. 2010 and proposed June 2011 service changes have illustrated, Rapid has its limitations and deployment too often was undertaken during the heady early days of the program without in some cases taking care to apply it only to the appropriate corridors for which its characteristics are well suited.

When Leahy speaks of “better service” I can see for the agency many of the proposed changes may be welcome but I am not convinced they necessarily benefit the riders. I see the peak hour bus lanes along Wilshire as a clear signpost of making changes that are improvements that benefit riders. Political clout should be concentrated on getting those lanes started ASAP, not wasted defending niddle piddle bus service proposals that in the big picture seem not much and based on my tentative look at the ones in my area as often being wrong-headed or excessive. Ditto the bus service quality improvements Leahy mentions in his interview with Steve Hymon; those are issues relating to competent management and labor relations; I am hard pressed to see what these service change propsals achieve for the admittedly laudible service quality goals Leahy speaks of.