The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors agreed Thursday to move forward with a series of public meetings on a proposed overhaul of the agency’s vast bus system in hopes of attracting more riders.
The NextGen Bus Plan is intended to increase ridership primarily by slashing wait and travel times on Metro’s most-used lines.
Twelve public workshops are scheduled to take place in February and March, followed by meetings with stakeholders this spring. Public hearings will take place in June, and the input from residents will be reviewed by Metro Service Councils in August and by the Board of Directors in September, Metro officials said.
The list of public workshops is available at www.metro.net/projects/nextgen/events/.
Under key elements of the plan:
— buses would arrive every five to 10 minutes for 83% of current riders, compared to the current 49%;
— the number of bus lines running every five to 10 minutes on weekdays would jump from 16 to 29 and from two to 14 on weekends; and
— the number of Los Angeles County residents who could walk to a bus line that runs every five to 10 minutes would more than double from 900,000 to nearly 2.2 million.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is the vice chair of the Metro Board, issued a statement from Washington, D.C., praising the board’s action. Garcetti said the plan will help get more cars off city streets and help reduce overall carbon emissions from vehicles.
“We won’t be satisfied until all Angelenos see Metro as a convenient way to move around the city,” Garcetti said. “The NextGen Bus Plan steers us in the right direction, toward dedicated bus lanes, higher ridership and faster, more reliable service.”
Metro Board member and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said the Metro will “undoubtedly” get feedback from residents whose bus lines are cut, but the underperforming lines represent a minor portion of the hundreds of thousand of annual riders.
Bonin also said he wants to make sure Metro has enough to pay for the infrastructure and rerouting, which could cost more than $1 billion over the next several years.
The plan seeks to consolidate routes on some streets. It would also combine some local and rapid lines by reducing the overall number of stops — meaning buses would stop less frequently than existing local lines but slightly more than rapid lines. Metro officials said the move would result in faster trips for all riders.
Some bus service in low-ridership areas would be shifted to other transit agencies, particularly in areas where existing Metro bus service overlaps with other providers, Metro officials said.
In areas with bus service that is perpetually under-used, Metro officials said they will explore other transit methods.
In the last two years, as part of its NextGen Bus Study, Metro has been conducting market research and analyzing local travel data. The agency has hosted stakeholder and community meetings, conducted on-board surveys of bus riders and hosted 20 interactive public workshops.
Metro officials said in that time, the transportation agency has learned:
— the public wants more frequent service to reduce often long and unpredictable wait times at bus stops;
— there is significant unmet demand for short rides of one to five miles from midday through the evening hours and on weekends; and
— bus routes on the 44 busiest corridors in Los Angeles County carry more than 80% of the Metro bus system’s riders.
Metro officials said one of the biggest criticisms of the current bus system is that it relies too much on “legacy lines” and that the agency has not cut routes to bulk up service where it is needed the most.
Metro has seen a decline in bus ridership from 1.14 million average weekday bus boardings in 2013 to 878,862 in 2019.
Later this month, Metro will also release proposed route-by-route changes and online tools that will visualize what bus rides would be like under the draft plan.
The rollout of the new bus system would take place in three phases. The first wave of changes would begin in December, continue in June 2021 and be completed in December 2021.
The board also approved to move the bus system toward a “Transit First” approach that includes capital projects to speed up buses, make bus stops more comfortable, expand all-door boarding and add more frequent service, among other improvements.
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