By Josh Cohen.
Bus ridership in Los Angeles is steadily declining, with a system that saw 14 percent fewer riders in April 2017 than April 2016. Annual bus ridership dropped 18 percent from 2009 to 2016. Public transportation agency LA Metro has been laser focused on its rail system, investing billions in new lines and extensions, leading to a 4.2 percent bump in subway and light rail ridership last year (and a whopping 20 percent increase from 2009 to 2016). Now, the agency recognizes it’s been neglecting its buses and is making plans for a big overhaul.
“It’s been 25 years since we’ve taken a real hard look and restructured our bus system,” says Rick Jager, Metro spokesman. “We’re going to take a look at the entire system in terms of the service level, where we’re providing it, what we’re providing, how travel patterns might’ve changed over the years.”
Given that, it’s little surprise ridership has dropped.
“You can’t offer poor service over a huge area like metro L.A. and expect ridership to stay constant or grow,” says Jon Orcutt, director of advocacy and communications at TransitCenter, a national foundation focused on urban mobility. “The only places ridership is not going down in the U.S. are those where policymakers are paying serious attention to bus systems as integral parts of the transit system.”
Metro is ready to do just that. They are launching a two- to three-year system study that will culminate in a massive overhaul of bus routes and service levels. At the same time, Metro is participating in a joint study with 16 other transit agencies in L.A. County to try to improve intersystem connectivity. As is the case with all but a few bus systems in the U.S., the agencies around the region have also suffered from drops in bus ridership in recent years.