The first look at the results of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s nearly two-year study on how to get more people out of their cars and onto the bus was released last week, the first step in a potential major overhaul of Metro’s network of buses.
Los Angeles County transportation officials revealed the plan last week, dubbed the Next Gen Bus Plan, which calls for more frequent bus service to make buses slightly more competitive with personal vehicles.
The proposal calls for buses to arrive at least every 10 minutes, with someone running every five minutes on its nearly 30 major routes. According to Metro, that would mean that 83% of its current riders will be able to jump on a bus within 10 minutes of reaching a stop compared to the almost 50% that currently enjoy that frequency. Currently, only 16 of Metro’s major routes run under 10 minutes.
According to Stephen Tu, Metro’s director of service planning, that would potentially mean less stops along the lines with increased frequency, meaning a slightly longer walk, but shorter travel times.
In addition, the number of bus lines that run every five-10 minutes on the weekdays would jump from 16% to 29% and the number of riders who could theoretically walk to a bus stop that runs every five minutes would more than double, from 900,000 to almost 2.2 million.
The proposed changes come as Metro is dealing with consistently falling ridership numbers as Southern Californians increasingly turn to personal vehicles for their commutes. Since 2010, trips on Metro buses have dipped nearly 25%.
That dip in ridership has been impacting Metro’s bottom line tremendously. According to officials, Metro spends an extra $10 million a year to provide the same level of service.
According to officials, the change is expected to reclaim 15% to 20% of it’s ridership.
In a tweet, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that “the Next Gen Bus Plan reimagines our bus system to meet the demands of Angelenos in the 21st century, with more frequent and reliable service to help riders get where they need to go faster and meet our climate goals.”
But how much will this all cost?
Part of the Next Gen Bus Study proposal, was a new, five-year, $1 billion dollar capital plan, which includes $750 million to explore new bus-only lanes and $150 million to improve infrastructure such as bus shelters and benches. An additional $100 million will go toward improving bus onboarding technology.
Metro embarked on the Next Gen Bus Study in Jan. 2018. Additional details from the plan call for more all-doors boarding, and to improve the wait environment. During the research phases of the study, Metro learned that unsecured bus stops are a barrier to increasing ridership, especially amongst women.
Metro directors are expected to vote on the proposal at its Jan. 23 meeting. If approved, Metro plans to hold a series of public meetings from February to April, and the agency plans to begin publishing material, including changes to individual route sheets, starting Feb. 1, the first will be held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College at 2215 S. Grand Ave.
If approved, the results of the Next Gen Bus Study will be the first major change to Metro’s network of buses in 25 years. The rollout of the new system would occur in three phases that match up with Metro’s yearly service updates. The first change is expected to be completed in Dec. 2020, then continue in June 2021, with the last phase expected to be completed by Dec. 2021.