Lately, with the resumption of ridership, Metro is struggling to provide sufficient bus service. Passengers report overcrowded buses, late buses, no-show buses, unreliable timetables and other issues. The metro is struggling, but the agency is experiencing a shortage of bus operators which has made it impossible to provide the currently scheduled service.
While there is quantitative information on the latest Metro bus problems, many stories are anecdotal. Streetsblog inquired from several nonprofit transit advocacy groups including Alliance for Community Transit, Investing in Place, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, and Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Services. This article presents testimonies collected by these groups.
Aziz wrote that “[recently] some lines such as bus 2 westbound were so full, especially in the morning, that the buses passed bus stops – sometimes stops where 30 people were waiting (Sunset / Western). ” “One day, three full buses passed before a fourth bus – which was gathering behind the third bus – stopped for me. I waited almost 40 minutes to catch the 2 as a result. Some students chose to walk to school instead of waiting for the bus after the bus passed them. “
Isabel said she suffered long wait times on line 117 on Century Boulevard and Imperial Highway. The bus runs every 40 minutes. Isabel uses Google Maps to plan her trips and check wait times, but for line 117, the wait times drop from 15 minutes to 35 minutes. “It’s the new standard for a lot of buses. They say they come at a certain time but don’t come.
Last September, Metro cited the pandemic as the justification for cutting public transit service by about 20%. After an extended push by Metro’s board of directors to restore transit operations to pre-COVID levels, Metro restored service with a deadline to complete the full restoration last month. Since at least May, COO James Gallagher has hinted that Metro will not be able to fully restore service by September.
In an email this week, Metro spokesman Rick Jager tried to put an optimistic twist on it, saying, “We have restored service to pre-pandemic levels,” but due to of a shortage of bus operators “we find ourselves canceling about ten percent of that. service allocated on an average day. Jager noted that” before the pandemic, we were canceling about 1 to 2% of missions on average per day “.
So in terms of what users experience, Metro only accounts for about 90% of the pre-COVID service and operates in an unpredictable and unreliable manner. Schedules released by Metro show pre-COVID levels, but Metro is not respecting its schedules.
Mireya said she has experienced delays and long waits on line 48 over the past two weeks. Mireya uses the Transit app to check bus wait times, and on several occasions the bus wait times would drop from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. Mireya said people constantly complain about long wait times. When I ask people at the bus stop they usually say they have been waiting for 30 or 40 minutes and usually when the bus arrives late it is also crowded. I don’t know why Metro allows this.
In parallel with the resumption of the service, Metro implemented the changes made to the study on NextGen buses. While this reorganization is designed to make the system more efficient to serve more passengers, the changes were poorly implemented. Although Metro reported modest gains, including lines reworked to recover runners faster than other lines – NextGen ended up adding an extra layer of confusion, as passengers experience a service outage alongside new unknown routing.
Ofelia said Metro did not sufficiently inform users of the June NextGen changes: [on 6th Street]. I rely heavily on this line traveling from Westlake near Wilshire around MacArthur Park to East Los Angeles. The Soto and Whittier decision has changed. It was moved and I couldn’t see the 720 stop. In San Pedro and 6th, by Skid Row, you have to go from 720 to 18. ”Ofelia said that“ Last Friday I was on line 18 eastbound and the bus was really overcrowded because apparently the bus was broke down and people had to wait and get on the next bus. It was really overcrowded and it was late, 9:30 p.m.
Martha mentioned that “other passengers said they had missed bus trips, delays, long waits, etc. and lamented NextGen’s cancellation of the 704 Rapid bus on Santa Monica Boulevard. She said that “it took me 4 hours to get home [Lincoln Heights] from Bundy and Franklin to Santa Monica. I left around 2pm and returned after 6pm… I felt suffocated, stressed and anxious. The bus was packed and people were standing and I felt like I was going crazy. I got off in Vermont and Santa Monica and took a train to transfer to line 45 back home.
At last week’s board meeting, CEO Stephanie Wiggins explained
To align with restoring seven million hours of service this month, we launched a campaign to hire 800 new bus operators. With 510 hired to date, we have not reached our goal. Thus, a shortfall means that the bus service may experience delays. This challenge is not unique to LA Metro. There is a shortage of bus operators nationwide… We continue to see improvements with the hiring incentives we launched this summer… Many thanks to the bus operators and our passengers then that we are working to restore reliable service.
Jager clarified: “We do not have enough operators to provide a regular bus service (7 million hours of paid service) due to the large number of operators on short and long term leave due to COVID-19. “
“We are aggressively trying to hire additional bus operators,” he said, “but we are not able to hire quickly enough to cover attrition and operators due to COVID.”
When the SBLA asked what is happening with the approved but currently unspent operating funds, Jager noted that “there is little to no savings” because Metro is paying higher costs for current operations. . According to Jager, Metro pays staff on leave and pays overtime to “callbacks” that cover unmanned trips. “Until we are complete, we rely on our frontline employees to complete as many open assignments as possible. “
Some advocates have questioned whether Metro is paying operators enough. Subway operators currently start at $ 17.71 per hour.
Readers – how was your recent experience on the Metro buses? Are they late? Cluttered? Are things getting better or worse?