Home > transit, transportation > Metro Prepares for Cuts / My Thoughts

Metro Prepares for Cuts / My Thoughts

“These are cuts, upon cuts, upon cuts,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who cast one of six dissenting votes on the measure; seven board members voted yes. “The only way this system is going to work is with a first-class bus system and a first-class rail system.” – Los Angeles Times

The above quote comes from an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 25, discussing what it calls “deep cuts to service” at a time when boosting the profile and service of public transit is needed most. Long Beach will only be directly affected by the discontinuation of a section of the 577X’s route to the Transit Mall, but changes elsewhere could make getting around the area more difficult.

With the price of gasoline on the rise again, it’s only natural that people will look toward alternative methods of transportation. In the United States, we have enjoyed relatively low fuel costs when compared to other countries, especially in Europe. Now that the LA area is again seeing $4.00+ per gallon prices, it’s clear why putting all over our “transportation eggs in one basket” isn’t going to work. In the same way that financial experts will suggest a diverse investment portfolio, we need to invest in a diverse transportation portfolio to make sure the public is served in the best way possible.

One startling aspect of public transit I’ve noticed since moving here is that there are too many municipal providers operating for normal people to make sense of it all. Metro alone operates Merto Local & Limited, Express, Rapid, Shuttles & Circulators, and Liner buses, in addition to the 45 other municipal providers that operate in LA County. I have made the comment before, as well as read multiple times on the blog St. Louis / Elsewhere, that one of the best ways to make public transit more convenient and reliable is to use one system. The common example is the Red and Gold line buses in St. Louis, serving Washington University. These lines used to be separate from the Metro fleet, and used as shuttles for Wash U students. But now they’ve been incorporated into the greater Metro St. Louis system and are available for use to all Metrobus riders. Since Wash U students get a Metro pass included with tuition, they have not lost out on service, and the surrounding community now benefits from increased convenience and availability. In Chicago, one Regional Transit Authority oversees three agencies. Compare that to the 45 agencies in LA County and it’s easy to see why Chicago is constantly seen as a leader in public and commuter transit.

This example is just a very small move that Los Angeles’ Metro could take into consideration in a much bigger way. Many of the 45 municipal bus operators could be folded into Metro with ease. The same routes could be kept with Metro branding, the local tax code could be simplified, riders wouldn’t have to worry about fumbling with a handful of Metro-to-Muni transfers, trip planning would become considerably easier, and the TAP card would see wider use. This would also make getting around much simpler for visitors and tourists, an important source of revenue for LA County.  Obviously, some of the larger providers like Long Beach Transit and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus might be opposed to this idea, but whittling down the enormous list of 45 different agencies to just a few would be a major improvement for the cost and convenience to riders.

In a recent interview on the Patt Morrison show, MTA CEO Art Leahy seemed to express agreement with the use of “one system” in LA. However, he also noted some major problems with the system, such as an 80% on-time rate, and the poor security.

I have been the holder of St. Louis’s Student Semester Pass, Chicago’s 7- and 5-Day passes, London’s Oyster Card, and now LA’s TAP Card. I have seen multiple agencies forced to make cuts as they search for a long-term solution to fixing transit needs. LA actually enjoys relatively cheap fares compared to other big cities, yet lags behind most others in convenience and efficiency. In a recent message to the public, Leahy expressed his commitment to a quality transit system. I’m interested to see what happens next after the upcoming service changes.


LA Times Article
Art Leahy on the Patt Morrison Show
Upcoming Metro Service Changes
Art Leahy’s Message to Customers & Taxpayers

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