Back in January, Metro released the first draft of its NextGen Bus Plan – a system-wide set of changes designed to improve the overall bus riding experience by increasing access, travel speed, bus frequency, and system efficiency throughout Metro’s service area. After the initial draft of the plan was released last winter, Metro spent several months collecting stakeholder input through a series of community workshops, as well as online and via phone and e-mail. After reviewing that input, Metro recently released a new draft of the NextGen Plan, and is now holding another series of community meetings – online this time – to publicize the latest tweaks and once again seek stakeholder comments.
We listened in on the workshop held on Saturday, August 22, which provided details for all of Metro’s service regions – including, but not limited to, our Westside Central area. (All graphics below are from the Metro presentation.)
In the session, Metro officials said they based the most recent revisions to the NextGen Plan on the extensive public outreach done earlier this year, which indicated general support for the Plan, but which also reflected stakeholder requests for more information…and some specific concerns including lost service coverage in some areas, and the need for transfers in others.
The next steps, said the presenters, will be turning the feedback into specific improvements, including discontinuing as few current route segments as possible, making bus transit as competitive – fast, frequent, and reliable – as possible, making sure routes go where people need to go (today and into the future), improving service on the most-used short route segments during the noon-evening hours when they’re used most, and focusing on service equity for all communities.
In general, the major technique NextGen uses to reach its goals is combining existing Local and Rapid lines into new NextGen lines that will adjust both the number of stops and the frequencies of certain routes to create more balanced service throughout the day and along the specific route.
But the updated draft plan also contains a few other changes:
Amongh these, MicroTransit, a flexible, van-based service with online or phone reservations, will be particularly instrumental in bridging service gaps and bring service closer to those who need it most. The vans, which will debut in six pilot zones – some starting in January, 2021 and the others in the fall of 2021 – are especially designed to address mobility issues, and to help with “essential trips,” such as grocery shopping and medical visits.
According to the presentation, the changes proposed in the latest draft of the NextGen Bus Plan would provide 83% of Metro’s bus riders with frequent service at all hours of the day (see red lines in the map below), compared with just 48% of riders having access to that level of service today.
More specifically, only a very few lines – again shown in red on the map below – currently feature service with buses running every 12 minutes or more…
…while the revised plan would greatly expand the number and reach of lines with that level of frequency:
During Saturday’s meeting Metro also addressed ridershp issues, noting there was a big drop in bus ridership at beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, as fewer people went to work and school each day, but that there has also been a “steady recovery” through May and June, with the system currently at about half of normal ridership levels.
According to Metro, the NextGen plan is based on normal ridership and travel plans, but because there is still strong bus usage on major corridors, and Rapid routes are still running, the NextGen improvements will still be useful during the pandemic, and service can also evolve as the coronavirus situation developss, with phased-in changes during post-pandemic recovery.
In addition to the overall changes and improvements outlined on Saturday, Metro also provided more information for specific bus routes in its various regional service areas, including our Westside Central area.
As with the overall system, said the presenters, the NextGen plan aims to speed up overall service across the region. In the Westside Central area, that means establishing four Service Frequency Tiers, with some lines running service every 1-10 minutes or better, and others every 12-15 minutes, every 20 or 30 minutes, or every 40-60 minutes. In our area, as listed below, 43 of 55 routes – including those along Wilshire, Olympic, La Brea, Beverly, Melrose and more – will have buses running every 15 minutes or more.
Also in our area, Lines 18/20/720, 28/728, 33/733, 170/217/780 will become new “high frequency lines,” with buses running more frequently, and with more stops, than their current Local routes.
Also, bit further afield, routes along Santa Monica Blvd., La Cienega Blvd., Vermont Ave., and Western Ave. will receive the same upgrade.
And so will the Crenshaw/Rossmore/Vine, La Brea/Hawthorn, Sunset/Alvarado, and Slauson corridors:
And routes along Beverly Blvd., 3rd Street, and Pico Blvd.
In addition to the system-wide meeting on Saturday, several more community meetings are planned to provide information on and seek further stakeholder input from the specific service areas. The one specifically for the Westside Central area will be held this Wednesday, August 26, at 6 p.m.
Wednesday, August 26, 6pm
Listen in English: 3462155#
Listen and Comment in English: 3756379#
Listen in Spanish: 4127050#
Listen and Comment in Spanish: 4127057#
Listen in Russian: 4127062#
Listen and Comment in Russian: 4127071#
Video will also be available at https://www.metro.net/about/board/board-directors-meetings-audio-archive/ once the meeting begins.
After the rest of the public meetings, Metro will make further adjustments to the NextGen plan based on the comments it reeives in this round of public input. The next draft of the plan will be presented to Metro’s five regional Service Councils in September.
Here’s the schedule for those Service Council meetings and votes:
After the Service Council votes, the NextGen Plan will go to the full Metro Board for final approval in October. And after the board approval, roll-out of the improvements will begin in December, with a second phase coming in June, 2021. (Metro regularly adjusts its service and schedules in June and December each year.)
If you’d like to submit comments on the NextGen Plan as a whole, or on specific route improvements that are part of the plan, you can do so until midnight on Thursday, August 27. Comments can be submitted:
- During the public meetings
- Via e-mail to [email protected] (subject line: “NextGen Bus Plan Proposed Service Changes”)
- By postal mail (postmarked before the deadline) to:
Metro Service Planning & Development
Attn: NextGen Bus Plan Proposed Service Changes
1 Gateway Plaza, 99-7-1
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2932
For more information, see the full set of presentation slides from Saturday’s meeting at https://media.metro.net/board/Items/2020/08_august/20200822rscitem3.pdf
And you can find the full schedule of meetings and presentations (including audio/video of past meetings at https://www.metro.net/about/board/board-directors-meetings-audio-archive/