LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors agreed last week 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 the MTA’s most-used lines.
Twelve public workshops are scheduled to take place in February and March, followed by meetings with stakeholders this spring.
The first public meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 1 at Los Angeles Trade Tech, 2215 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Other meetings will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Clearwater Building, 16401 Paramount Blvd., Paramount; 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at East Los Angeles College’s Ingalls Auditorium, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 22 at MTA Headquarters, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles; 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Bell Community Center, 6250 Pine Ave., and from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Foundation Center, 11633 S. Western Ave., South Los Angeles.
Public hearings will take place in June, and the input from residents will be reviewed by MTA Service Councils in August and by the Board of Directors in September.
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 MTA Board, issued a statement, 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 [public transportation] 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.”
MTA Board member and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said the MTA 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 the MTA 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. MTA 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 MTA bus service overlaps with other providers, officials said.
In areas with bus service that is perpetually under-used, officials said they will explore other transit methods.
In the last two years, as part of its NextGen Bus Study, the MTA 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.
MTA 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 MTA bus system’s riders.
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.
The MTA 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, the MTA 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.
“We won’t be satisfied until all Angelenos see [public transportation] as a convenientway to move around the city.”
— Mayor Eric Garcetti