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Metro on road to better bus system, utilizing community input in redesign plan

Metro is planning to update its bus network and service by December and will continue to seek out community feedback to inform its changes. This will be the first time in 25 years that Metro has updated its network. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Emmi Deckard

Jan. 23, 2020 12:28 a.m.

Los Angeles Metro aims to update its bus network and service for the first time in decades by December.

The bus system, which carries 70% of all Metro transit riders in LA, was last updated 25 years ago.

Metro began evaluating the current bus service in 2018 and is currently drafting a new service plan. For the new plan, Metro collected over 14,500 comments from the public and stakeholders and will continue to seek feedback.

Under what Metro calls the NextGen Bus Plan, the authority aims to simplify bus routes and schedules, coordinate with other LA bus agencies and provide LA residents with real-time bus tracking information. It also aims to create a safer environment for travelers by enhancing security features, increasing the frequency of buses and decreasing walking distances and wait times.

As part of the community feedback initiative, UCLA officials have engaged with Metro by attending most NextGen meetings.

UCLA would like to see reduced wait times and improved reliability, according to a statement from UCLA Transportation. Additionally, it wants Metro to optimize bus routes for UCLA students.

“UCLA Transportation is pushing for streamlined service in areas with the highest demand and simplified routes and schedules to encourage UCLA community members to utilize the service regularly,” the statement read.

Metro is updating the bus service in consideration of a wide variety of criteria and changes taking place in LA, said Martin Wachs, a distinguished professor emeritus of urban planning at UCLA and a member of Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation advisory board. Wachs is not currently working on the NextGen project.

“As population shifts, as business patterns change and, most recently, as new transportation options open up, like Uber and scooters and bike-share and so on, it’s important to update transportation services constantly,” Wachs said.

The arrival of ride-share apps and electric scooters has created some competition for public transit. Metro expects its plan to transform its bus system into a competitive transportation option, according to Metro’s website.

Metro’s OEI is considering incorporating ride-share and bike-share options into Metro in the future, capitalizing on these services and making public transit more user-friendly, Wachs said.

The main goal of the NextGen Bus Plan is to better its service to current customers, while also earning back past customers and attracting new customers, according to Metro.

“They have the opportunity for better service to alleviate traffic congestion and that’s a very complicated job in a region as huge as Los Angeles,” Wachs said.

Some UCLA students who use the bus expressed their concerns with Metro’s current bus service, citing what they believe to be poor security and maintenance.

Chloe Tsai, a graduate computer science student, uses bus services at least three times a week, but she prefers the Big Blue Bus to Metro.

“I think it’s better than Metro bus because it’s clean and new,” Tsai said. “I feel safe. Metro is a little bit dirtier.”

Jose Rodriguez, a first-year anthropology student who uses the bus weekly, said he thought Metro could make several improvements.

“Sometimes the buses are broken down,” Rodriguez said. “It happens a lot. They could have more security. It would be pretty cool to see more of the staff on site making sure that everything is functioning well.”

[Related: LA Metro report finds men, women perceive public transport safety differently]

Metro expects the first phase of the project to be implemented by December. The public can provide feedback for Metro’s plans at meetings or online.

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Emmi Deckard
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