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Wad

Thank you, New York Times, for crapping in Los Angeles' punchbowl.

The editors let Jennifer Medina indulge in Dickensian rabble-rousing, because Narrative Trumps All.

The facts on the ground: Line 305 was a Consent Decree line that never did much to begin with, and it was around for more than a decade.

All those turns zig-zagging through South L.A. made the line confusing to use and slow end-to-end. Jarrett explained very well why this will be no big loss. The same trips can be accomplished with one transfer, but between much more frequent (and sometimes Rapid) north-south and east-west services.

Oftentimes, if you want to expose someone's ignorance, show them a system map.

Most of L.A.'s 200-series lines run on a single street generally between Hollywood to the north and to the south, either the 105 Freeway and Green Line or in some cases deeper into the South Bay (in the case of Crenshaw).

East-west lines running to the "affluent" Westside, north of the 10 Freeway, almost all have very high frequencies.

There's no loss of mobility for the riders, and this service was cut to stop putting resources into laggard lines. It's better to eliminate Line 305 than to cut the equivalent amount of bus hours from a productive route. Take 4-6 buses away from, say, Vermont, and you've hurt more riders than the entire 305 ridership.

Wad

If anyone is curious, here are LACMTA's numbers. Ridership is on page 142. This is from 2009.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14037876/Overview-FY09-Q2

Line 305's ridership was about 3,000 on weekdays. It's pretty low considering the length of the line.

EngineerScotty


There's one important point of the article that you missed, Jarrett, though you've almost certainly commented on it before (I'm too lazy to look it up):

LACMTA's policy of requiring an additional fare for transfers.

That said, even that policy can be mitigated for regular riders who purchase a pass; as LACMTA provides "all you can ride" monthly passes for $75, equivalent to 50 single-ride tickets. Only slightly more expensive than 2 regular passes during a 4 1/2-week workmonth, and allows the user to additionally use transit for other trips as well. (Plus there are subsidized passes for the poor available).

Zoltán

On a tangent from the original post - how I wish there didn't need to be separate maps for the frequent network and the rest of the network. Given the simple two-colour scheme of the map, it would be easy to simply demarcate the frequent lines, as well as the lines that don't run very often at all and deserve minimal attention. Such would be useful for some of those seeking an alternative to the 305.

Morgan Wick

To be fair, LA is a patchwork of many different transit agencies, of which MTA happens to be the biggest. Such a map could get very confusing very quickly.

Dexter Wong

For those traveling between the endpoints of the 305 line, MTA's own trip planner only lists Line 305, however, Google Transit suggests either a combination of Metro Green Line and Metro Line 6 (which is said to be faster), or Metro Blue Line, Metro Purple Line, Metro Line 22 and Metro Line 720 (also said to be faster). But riding more than one line can increase the fare paid because there is no free transfer between Metro lines. Buying a pass would be cheaper overall, but there is a bigger outlay. Riders could apply for Rider Relief Program for a low-income subsidy, though. Now since I don't know exactly where the Line 305 riders go, there is no way to know if these alternatives really help.

Zoltán

@Dexter

You could go on for hours about all the different possible combinations of routes, but you've already hit on the key point here - that the network already offers many alternatives, including rail and fast buses.

@Morgan

I don't think it would, with just a thicker line, darker shade or something like that for frequent lines. It would still give you far less of a headache than Portland's multicoloured map.

Ben Smith

This article reminds me of what happened in Toronto earlier this year. In an attempt to avoid a fare increase mixed with some very poor fiscal choices of the new mayor, several poor performing routes had late evening and off peak service cuts. While many cried bloody murder over this, once mapped out it turned out that the vast majority of these routes were well within walking distance of much more frequent and reliable lines.

While I don't live in Toronto proper, I will walk the extra distance to the main road to take the frequent bus service than wait at the top of the street for the bus which runs every hour - and rarely on time to boot.

Dan W

The most complicated aspect of bus riding in Los Angeles are the interactions between smaller municipal agencies and Metro.

While striving to "reduce duplication", this creates artificial terminals which require people to transfer even if they are headed in the same direction. East/West travel at Westwood Blvd. and Pico/Rimpau comes to mind.

Plus, a county regional bus pass allows a rider to use Metro and these municipal lines, with the exception of LADOT Dash buses.

Any "turf disputes" that arise from time to time are generally not helpful to the ridership.

Joseph E

Riding the 305 between endpoints is insane. You can take the Blue Line (light rail) from Watts to downtown and transfer to the 720 (a very very frequent, limited-stop bus), for a faster, 1-transfer trip, or you can transfer to the subway and then take the 720 from Western, for an every faster trip, about 1.5 hours, compared to 1 hour 45 minutes on the 305 (assuming the streets are not jammed up).

If you care going from Willowbrook to the UCLA medical center (the exact endpoints of the line), you should instead take the Green Line (fully grade-separated light rail!) to the 6 bus, which will only take you a hour and 15 minutes, MUCH faster than the 2 hour trip on the 305 bus.

You have to be very, very poor to think that saving 1 hour of time a day is not worth paying an extra $3 a day, or more realistically, not worth buying a monthly pass for $75.

Is there some selection of trips within the middle portion of the 305 which might be faster than the end-to-end trip? Sure, but only if you don't care about frequency or reliability. That's why the 305 is only getting an anemic 3000 rides per day, compared to tens of thousands on most of Metro's limited-stop bus lines.

The sad thing is, there were several major cuts to bus service that really were bad ideas, including eliminating several straight-line limited-stop routes (for example, 760 on Long Beach Blvd south of the Green Line, which has over 3000 ons/offs in only 5 miles), which really are useful, but the NYT didn't focus on that.

Wad

@Dan, the turf wars were baked into the cake when Metro was created in 1993.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is in fact a state agency. So any changes to its composition or functions requires an act of the state legislature.

The state legislature also deliberately withheld plenary powers from Metro. A primary reason was so that Metro cannot take over any municipal bus carrier. The legislature enshrined local control, but didn't stop to think about anything beneficial, such as regional planning. Municipal buses for a long time became a proxy for L.A.-versus-suburbs mudslinging. Cooperation among carriers was flouted just to make a point.

Structurally, Metro is a toothless giant. It is a state agency that has to carry out highway functions, act as L.A. County's bursar of federal and state transportation funds and county transportation sales taxes, and ... take on the burden of running the nation's second-busiest bus system and ninth-busiest rail system all because no one else wants the job.

The city of Los Angeles has 4 seats on the 13-member board, designed that way because that approximates the population distribution of the county. However, because Metro is responsible for directly operating transit service, 70% of passenger traffic is within L.A. city limits. L.A. is woefully underrepresented in that regard.

Personally, I often wish for a reorganization where operations and planning were split. Metro would be given plenary service planning authority like a German verkehrsverbund.

Operations, meanwhile, would be devolved to sub-county clusters. This means Metro's divisions would be merged with municipal carriers, and some carriers themselves would be consolidated.

WestBus, theoretically, would be the operating company that would be Metro's West Hollywood and Venice divisions, Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus and Culver CityBus. Coast Gateway, for example, would be the new name for Metro's Carson and South L.A. divisions and the big-bus munis south of the 105 Freeway (Long Beach, Gardena, Norwalk, Torrance). Foothill Transit's zone would be expanded to take over Montebello, Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank.

alfred

This got me thinking of a couple issues:

1. Creating a line causes some people to organize their lives around it, thus it's much more pain taking away a line than enthusiasm around creating one.

2. There may be some cases where zig-zag lines could be faster: if certain parts of the grid are more congested than others. Is this one of them?

twitter.com/calwatch

The 305 got 26 passengers per hour, though, far from the lowest and at about the 30th percentile - not one of the worst lines in the system by any means. In most cities, 26 passengers per hour would be considered average - in any of the municipal operators (other than Santa Monica and Long Beach), above average.

Service has been cut severely from the consent decree heyday, as has most fringe-area service. Seven years ago it had 20 minute peak, 30 minute base and weekend service - http://classic-web.archive.org/web/20040725212637/www.metro.net/riding_metro/timetables/images/305.pdf - which made the line much more useful. At 40 minute peak and 60 minute base service, it is not very useful - yet this is the tactic to remove lines that were useful before, but not useful now. Other examples would be the 485 from Pasadena to Cal State LA and Downtown (15 minute peaks and 30 minute base and weekends to 40 minute peak, 60 minute base, and no weekend service), the 209 (20 minute peaks, 30 minute base to 60 minute peak and base), and the 202 (20 minutes peak and 30 minute base to 60 minute peak and no base or weekend service). Many of the riders were old 576 riders - http://www.caitlinliu.com/articles/the_nanny_express.html - when that line was deservedly cancelled (higher fares and a useless freeway section did that bus in).

Bypassing Downtown does help, and it provides redundancy in the system - never to be forgotten. Anytime the Blue Line goes down for a significant period of time, MTA waives the "express" surcharge on the Silver Line for that reason. The 485 gets packed when the Gold Line is disrupted by a trespasser. The article is correct in that the grid is NOT perfect - in a true grid, you would always have two ways to get from one point to another. There is no north south bus line intersecting a bus route south of Vernon Avenue (105) from Sepulveda (Culver City 6, separate system, separate fare structure) to La Brea Avenue (212). Indeed, for the ENTIRE 4 mile stretch between UCLA and San Vicente Boulevard (the section on Sunset Boulevard), there is no intersecting north-south bus route AT ALL. It helps to look at a geographically accurate system map - http://www.scribd.com/doc/21859893/MTA-System-Map-0108 is the last one published.

Although all of Westside Los Angeles is severely congested, the zone around Wilshire Center and Downtown is even more so. Thus the zigzagging does work when you need to avoid Downtown. Extending the 30 to cover the portion of the 305 that doesn't duplicate anything (San Vicente Boulevard) doesn't make any sense because there is no connection to the Expo Light Rail, which was the alleged reason for the service cut.

Incidentally, the service will not end until the next regular service change after Expo Light Rail opens up. Given that the date has slipped from November 15 to a date unknown, the line is likely safe in its emasculated form until June 2012.

twitter.com/calwatch

I wrote this to The Source, which as an agency blog is obviously trumpeting this post, and repost it here:
Steve, the fact that the NYT posted this is more of an indictment of the lack of local media in the areas served than any indication of interest. We are talking about a constituency of riders that has no Patch, no suburban daily or upscale weekly covering them. The LA Times daily coverage of transportation has gone from average to abysmal, with more focus on 405 trivia (today’s eruv story) than daily transportation issues. The NYT is noted for finding interesting stories in interesting places. In the Bay Area, a lot of people prefer the NYT over the local papers, and I can only imagine that it is starting to be the case in LA.

Christopher Parker

Designing a service around a demographic may be questionable, but I think it's good to design around, say, an employer. That is, to look at where large flows move and make sure that some service is tailored to them instead of to the "one size fits all" approach that could mean mediocre for everyone. If, for example, you run an express bus between employer and subway, it will take less buses and drivers to serve that clump than on the all-stops local.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Christopher Parker.  Designing a service around a single employer only makes sense if (a) the employer fills a bus by itself or (b) nobody values the higher frequency or longer span that would come from serving multiple employers or destinations and thus building a larger ridership base or (c) the employer is paying for the service.  Jarrett

Zoltán

@Jarrett @Christopher Parker

In any case, a service existing purely for one employer, running only infrequently, probably has no business appearing on the agency's main maps and publicity, lest it add a false impression of complexity. As such, a service of that kind would be irrelevant to discussion of a city's transport system as a network.

Another alternative to working around single employers is to create route variations on frequent routes in and out of employer premises. You see some bus schedules, especially in small cities, full of footnotes reading "via [some company name]".

Of course, that leads to the service becoming bafflingly complex, especially for passengers without the inside knowledge of quite where those locations are, and whether it leads the bus to miss out any of its regular route. I generally think it's better to insist on a safe pedestrian crossing near the employer, and expecting people to walk to the main road along which the bus would normally be going.

david vartanoff

calwatch1 got it right sbout wrecking schedules to "prove" a service should be abolished.
as to single employer destinations, that tradition is ancient in transit. Whether AC Transit today providing runs to/from a USPS sorting facility or CTA 60 years ago having an extension of a regular route to "Ford Plant" at shift times, everyone gets it.

Steve Lax

@Jarrett - When funding for new service is constrained (almost always in my work experience), starting a service which primarily meets the need of a single employer helps build demand/justification for additional frequencies, especially (but not exclusively) when the additional service is temporal on an existing route (for example, a single late evening trip to bring workers home or two to four trips on a Sunday where there was no previous service).

For example, a local supermarket chain frequently asked us to add trips when they expanded store hours or opened new stores in locations with insufficient service. They paid a small portion of the cost of these trips for a period of time (generally two service change cycles). In every case, the service survived after the employer contribution was discontinued and in three cases we were able to build a meaningful headway around the trips we added for the supermarket. In all cases, most of the users were not supermarket employees.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@Steve Lax. Agreed, An employer contribution can justify a trial
service which may later turn out to meet standards for subsidy. But
I'm reluctant to do this unless I can see a way to grow the demand
beyond one employer AND the proposed service works with the larger
network rather than against it as 305 does. I also think that
culdesac employers, like all culdesac development, must expect lower
service or higher contributions because their needs can't be combined
with other markets.

305 rider

This article was written in a completely theoretical mindset without any attempt to even pretend to evaluate the actual service conditions, and destination points. You can do better than that Jarrett. As can most of the commentators.

On top of the total unreliability of the 6 during rush hour in Sepulveda traffic (the same of which can be said about the Wilshire 720) is the fact that most of the workers do not board or depart at major destinations like UCLA or the Watts Blue Line station. They are departing from local stops, which the 305 operates as for more than half its route. Force these passengers onto rapid stops and you greatly extend their travel time, by requiring either another transfer or a longer walk. (Since when is destination to station and station to destination not a component of trip time?)

The perfect example is the 720, which stops at Wilshire/Westwood, which is NOT on UCLA's campus or UCLA Medical. Its a healthy 5 min walk for a fit person and longer for someone who is not. I know from personal experience that it was ALWAYS more time consuming for me to walk down to Wilshire/Westwood from the UCLA Medical Center and take the 720, transfer to another rapid (service of which is constantly being reduced by Metro) than simply wait for the next 305. The only time I EVER did it was when I just missed the 305 and the gap in service was more than 20-30 mins.

(Written from an actual rider on the 305).

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

@305 rider.  Great to hear from a user of the line.  But in response to your complaints about the alternatives, the question remains:  Why should YOU have this specialised diagonal shortcut when vast numbers of people make diagonal trips in LA every day, and have to use the grid services that you deride? 

Shouldn't the transit agency be focused on improving the speed, reliability and frequency of the grid lines -- which benefit the whole city -- rather than investing in a service that's micro-designed around the needs of relatively few people?  The high-frequency grid can be useful for almost any trip in LA.  That's why Metro continues to invest in it, with rail lines that follow straight paths across the grid (Expo, Crenshaw, eventually Wilshire) and with what bus improvements they can afford, notably the Wilshire bus lane that will speed up the 720.

There's the reason 305 was so unusual.  It's a relic of a time when people really did try to plan transit lines as a collection of specialised services for self-identified groups, rather than to build a network for the whole city.  But transit systems made mostly of such services weren't systems at all, and they were much, much harder to use than the grid in LA.

Wad

@Calwatch and @305rider,

What would be interesting to peruse for Line 305 is a Stop Dots diagram. Metro has done these for lines targeted for major changes. It shows the route along with how many people get on and off at each stop.

This would give an indication of ridership, and just where riders are using the service.

Line 305 is carrying about 3,000 boardings and has 26 pph. It is a very long line (2 hours end-to-end) -- and it's possible that the line might not be used for end-to-end ridership.

If Line 305 shows a lot of big dots in South L.A. and a lot of little dots north of I-10, then the line wasn't serving its purpose. It might just be used as a circulator.

Ed O

Jarrett,
With a journey-to-work transit mode share of around 5% in Los Angeles, the transit grid couldn't be much less relevant to the travel needs of LA's population. How many decades has Los Angeles had a grid network? - How do you know that diagonal routes are no good for LA?

It may be a resource reallocation or cost-cutting thing with the 305, but what I'm saying is: how do you know that a few more choice, well designed and frequent radials, or diagonals won't get more people out of their cars, compared to further consolidation of the existing rectangular grid?

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Ed O. 

305 doesn't make sense because it's a single line designed around a many-to-many market.  Any one bus line can connect the "poor south" to the "affluent west" symbolically, as the NYT drawing shows, but it can't actually connect very many people in one area to destinations in the other because both areas are so spread out.  If it were about taking people diagonally into a really dense centre, that centre might attract enough demand to justify some diagonals, at least on the peak.  That's not what 305 is.

Los Angeles has many destinations scattered everywhere, so radial forms (or just diagonal shortcuts aimed at major destinations) have limited relevance.  These do exist to some degree going into the largest centres like downtown and Westwood, but the kind of centralisation of demand that all Aussie cities are used to just doesn't exist in LA. 

More fundamentally, if you want to optimise travel times for everyone in such a multi-destinational city, continued investment in the basic grid delivers that outcome more effectively, because it services are useful to such large numbers of possible trips.  The Wilshire Rapid, for example, can be useful to almost anyone travelling between the Westside (pop 1m or so) and the inner or eastern parts of LA (pop 4+ m depending on how you count) because such a diverse selection of L-shaped trips can be routed along it.  Rerouting such trips onto diagonals would make the network much more complicated and less frequent -- more like typical Aussie networks in fact.  It would also reduce the case for bus lanes on Wilshire because many people who could optimise their travel time using the bus lane are instead being routed away from it. 

Wad

@Ed O,

how do you know that a few more choice, well designed and frequent radials, or diagonals won't get more people out of their cars, compared to further consolidation of the existing rectangular grid?

Because they don't.

A 5% mode share is not a trivial number. The number 5 may be small, but you are talking about the second-busiest bus system in the U.S. You are talking about more than 1 million boardings. Also, Metro is L.A.'s most productive bus system. The systemwide average is 58 passengers per hour.

You know people are always saying that only buses are needed in L.A. because they are more flexible and go everywhere? Well, flexibility works on the downside, too.

Metro's red bus network at its peak was 28 lines. About half of those lines have now been canceled due to low ridership. In this case, flexibility means taking the buses and service hours for Rapids and putting them back into slower local buses.

L.A. also had a very extensive freeway-express bus network. It is all but disappeared because the rush-hour traffic on freeways did not give the bus advantages over driving.

Diagonals don't work because L.A. doesn't have a grid of diagonal streets like Washington D.C. If a bus were to travel diagonally, it would have to hopscotch like Line 305. Turns make a line slower, more confusing to use and too infrequent to attract a decent ridership base.

Continued ...

Wad

Continued from above ...

What we do know works in L.A.:
1. Rail. It turns professional wisdom of unsuitability on its head, as they have managed to have healthy ridership and modal gravity (riders will go to it beyond its catch area).
2. High frequencies. Riders are more attracted to a service if it runs more frequently. It may sound obvious, but when we hear that in L.A., ridership has increased by 4-5% percent because of high gas prices, the ridership doesn't distribute itself equally. It's biased toward rail lines and bus lines that run often. Routes that run 30 minutes or worse don't see any gains.
3. Limited/Rapid stops. This was the speedy service, not freeway express buses, that is more suitable to riders. They follow already established local routes, and improve upon speeds by only stopping at transfer points.

twitter.com/calwatch

Here's the dot map: http://www.metro.net/images/attachment_e_sb_maps.ppt

26 passengers per hour was pretty good. I think that weekend usage may be dubious, but weekday usage was robust and included the both intra-South Central trips and trips to the UCLA/Beverly Hills end.

Wad

@Calwatch,

I think there's a way to salvage some sort of 305 service after Expo line opens.

What could be done is preservation of Exposition Boulevard service, essentially taking Line 102 and extending it north along La Brea to San Vicente. It could be tied together from the bus resources from the present 102, 305 and 550.

When Expo Line is running, there will need to be a parallel bus line to serve the gaps between the stations.

The high percentage of boardings in South L.A. versus the smaller dots on San Vicente and Sunset indicates that 305 was supplemental service over much more frequent local service.

twitter.com/calwatch

It doesn't mean much because the service is running limited in South Central, thus concentrating the ridership. You have to look at real stop by stop ridership data for that.

Ari

The Times article states, in the lede that "It will be more than an hour before they arrive at work, and soon the same journey may stretch to nearly two hours." The whole article builds upon that supposed reduction in service.

Go ahead and plug in to Google Maps locations near the endpoints of the 305. I've found that there is generally a ±5 minute difference between the 305 route time and the time based on the blue, red and any number of Rapid buses for the same journey; a number of locations on the Expo Line will also soon be more accessible. Yes, some users may have to walk five or maybe ten minutes further to get to the Rapid bus lines (but LACMTA is not operating a paratransit service, and, really, Los Angeles has pretty decent weather for walking) but the resulting trip is much more frequent and not any longer.

The lack of transfers is an issue (especially for casual travelers or those paying with cash) but there are certainly work-arounds there. Perhaps LA needs to implement some sort of transfer system. Hmm?

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