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L.A. Metro Extends Silver Line, Boosts Rapids, Quietly Reduces Local Bus Service

9:43 AM PST on December 15, 2015

Metro is thinning some bus stops starting this month. This one is located at 37th Place and Vermont Avenue. Photo by Axel Hellman
Metro is thinning some bus stops starting this month. This one is located at 37th Place and Vermont Avenue. Photo by Axel Hellman

Twice a year, Metro makes changes to its bus routes and schedules. Last week, the agency announced changes coming into effect this winter, including detours to avoid construction and minor schedule adjustments.

The most dramatic change is an extension of the Silver Line that will bring bus rapid transit to Carson and San Pedro. The former line 450 was folded into the Silver Line, re-branded as “Silver Line Express” service. The new Silver Line will offer more frequent service to San Pedro, and faster skip-stop service to passengers boarding in other areas.

There’s more than meets the eye to these changes. If you look through the new schedules, there are several unannounced cuts – and improvements – on various bus lines. These details were not included in the official announcement, brochures, or social media posts. Some riders who don’t closely study the timetables will see an unexpectedly long wait for their bus. Riders on other lines will find a pleasant surprise in the new service changes, giving them a faster bus ride or shorter waiting times.

In many cases, service is being cut on a local line, offset by a service increase on the corresponding Rapid line. For instance, Metro is cancelling 36 trips on line 45 down South Broadway, which is going to decrease the frequency of service. But the agency is adding 38 trips 745 Rapid, which services the same route. That route will now run every 12 minutes on weekdays, up from a 22-minute headway.

Similarly, Metro is reducing service local service on lines 4, 28, 60, 180, 181, and 204, while increasing service on lines 704, 728, 760, 780, and 754. The trade-off here is that passengers who board at local stops will see increased waiting times, but Rapid riders will have faster trips.

On lines 751 and 18, service is being increased with no corresponding shifts in service on other lines. Other lines, including the 207 on Western Avenue, will see buses run less frequently. On this particular route, service is being reduced by 10 percent. Local buses will run every 10-12 minutes in the morning rush hour, down from every 6-8 minutes.

Over the past few years, bus ridership on Western has declined. According to The Source, one of the ideas behind the schedule changes is “shifting some bus service hours from low-ridership lines to higher ridership lines.” Bus ridership is in slow decline system-wide, even on some lines that are getting service increases, so it’s not clear exactly how these decisions were made.

Another way service is being reduced is by turning buses back early. On the west end of line 2 on Sunset Boulevard, most “short line” buses will turn back at Beverly Drive instead of at UCLA. On the east end, several runs that used to go all the way into downtown L.A. will turn back at Alvarado Street. New schedules indicate that Metro is making the same kinds of cuts on the 704 and 720 as well.

An important change that will impact Metro’s customers is bus stop consolidation. On several lines, certain bus stop are being removed. Once this is done, the remaining stops will be no farther than one-quarter mile apart. At most, the people who used to use those stops will now have to walk an extra block or two. Metro tried to minimize negative impacts on riders, saying “the idea here is to eliminate stops that are already used infrequently and are close to other stops.” Stop thinning like this is often unpopular, but can significantly speed up bus service.

Bigger changes to L.A.’s bus system are just around the corner! Next time, Metro is proposing a much larger package of service changes. Public hearings start in February.

Axel Hellman is originally from beautiful Montclair, New Jersey, a town whose official marketing slogan is "where the city meets the suburbs." He is currently a graduate student at USC studying urban planning, and is interested in bike, pedestrian, and transit issues.

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