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Long delays, dirty stops and lack of shade greet many Los Angeles bus riders, survey finds

Long delays, dirty stops and lack of shade greet many Los Angeles bus riders, survey finds

Almost half of the L.A. County Metro buses did not arrive when scheduled, while half of bus stops in the city of Los Angeles were dirty with trash or litter, and more than one-fourth had no shade, according to results of a survey released on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

The survey by Investing in Place, a nonprofit transit infrastructure advocacy group based in L.A., confirms what bus-rider groups say has been the reality for low-income, transit-dependent bus riders for years. “Their experience is defined by delays, dirty conditions, lack of shade, and unreliable service,” said the group in a prepared statement.

  • People get on and off a westbound Metro bus at...

    People get on and off a westbound Metro bus at 8th and Alvarado streets in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 where a homeless man sleeps on the bus bench. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • People get on an eastbound Metro bus on 6th Street...

    People get on an eastbound Metro bus on 6th Street at Burlington Avenue in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • People wait for a westbound Metro bus while a homeless...

    People wait for a westbound Metro bus while a homeless man sleeps on the bus bench on 8th and Alvarado streets in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A man reads at a Metro bus stop shelter on...

    A man reads at a Metro bus stop shelter on Broadway in Lincoln Heights as a woman passes on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • A homeless man sleeps on a Metro bus bench at...

    A homeless man sleeps on a Metro bus bench at 8th and Alvarado streets in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Women and a child avoid a bus bench because they...

    Women and a child avoid a bus bench because they say it’s dirty while they wait for a southbound Metro bus at Alvarado and 8th streets in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 20, 2022. A community group found bus riders concerned about delays, dirty bus stops, lack of shade and unreliable service. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Investing in Place Executive Director Jessica Meaney reported that her group and others that helped conduct the survey remember  how LA Metro cut bus service during the early months of the pandemic, and today the transit agency has not increased service to pre-pandemic levels.

“Metro themselves say they want reliability,” Meaney said in an interview. “This is not rocket science. The puzzling question is why haven’t we done anything meaningful about it?”

Metro in June 2021 launched an update of its bus service, known as the NextGen Bus Plan, with the intention of expanding bus service and targeting the most-used routes. Its goal was a bus arriving at those stops at least every 10 minutes. But Metro conceded that the rollout “suffered from inadequate public communication” that confused riders.

Phase 2 of the NextGen Bus Plan was launched this summer on June 27, and offered more frequent bus service on dozens of routes, Metro reported.

Meaney acknowledged that Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of LA Metro, who took over after CEO Phillip Washington resigned, is working to increase bus service and hire more bus operators, but Metro cannot fix the problem without sufficient bus operators.

Part of the group’s plan is to require Metro and the Los Angeles City Council, which appoints a third of the Metro board, to listen to bus riders, she said.

“We rarely hear from actual bus riders when decisions are made. In this report, they do the talking,” Meaney said.

The group recruited 58 volunteers who ride buses regularly and provided 126 observations about bus service, and 244 comments about bus stops on six busy Metro bus routes serving South L.A., Central L.A., East L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. The surveys were conducted November through December 2021.

Some findings from the 58 volunteers, who are cited without their full names, included the following:

• 44% of the volunteers said their bus did not arrive on time. Some said it left early, leaving them waiting at the stop for the next bus. In the survey, rider Aziz reported four buses in a row did not show up. He waited 57 minutes for the eastbound Line 18 bus on a bright sunny day with 50 others, who sought shade from nearby buildings. Many riders in South L.A. on Line 108 nicknamed it “The Late 108.”

• The report concluded that the average trip is about five minutes, but most riders wait longer than the ride itself. About 50% of the riders waited for more than 20 minutes for transit and many transferred twice during a single trip, increasing waiting times.

• 117 of them, or about half, said the bus stops were dirty. Sabrina, who filled out a survey, reported finding a sewer leak at a bus stop that “smells horrible.” She later got off at a different stop to avoid the stench. The report shows how different the experience can be for riders from one stop to the next.

• 65 of the bus stops lacked shade, and 29 were reported as having no bench to sit on. Observers reported 57 stops had shade, while the remainder of participants did not mention shade.

On Tuesday the group presented their report to the L.A. City Council, which approved a contract to build 3,000 more transit stop shelters and 450 additional shade structures across the city.

Of the 8,000 bus stops in the city of L.A., only about a quarter have shelters with shade, Meaney said. She said the group will be watching how the city’s contract will be spent, and on which routes. “There has been a lack of investment and listening to bus riders,” she said.

Many reported that buses travel slowly in traffic and called for a dedicated bus lane on certain routes.

Line 152 in the San Fernando Valley has the second-highest bus ridership and service is offered at 15-minute intervals during peak hours, according to the report. The line travels from the North Hollywood Station on Lankershim Boulevard before turning onto Roscoe Boulevard for the majority of the trip.

This line has the least-crowded buses. Eight of 18 respondents mentioned a lack of shade.

Meaney said the survey was not scientific but was aimed at giving decision-makers an idea of what bus riders experience. “This is not a ‘gotcha’ type of thing,” she said. Instead, she’s invited all Metro board members and L.A. City Council members to “meet the riders where they are at” — on the bus.

She’s encouraging them to ride a Metro bus to a doctor’s appointment or a meeting, to experience the feel of riding a Metro bus before they draft policies.

 









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