For those who don’t follow me on twitter (or know me IRL), last year I left Washington, DC for the Los Angeles area. My new job is in Redondo Beach, not too far south of LAX, but this left an interesting dilemma as to where to live, given the paltry transit options in LA and the way the housing stock is dispersed throughout the county.
Long story short, we ended up in Gardena – a fairly suburban city but one where we managed to find a rental townhouse in walking distance of no less than three grocery stores (all closer than our closest one had been in DC – and that was living downtown!). But while the immediate environs are nice enough – and home to excellent Japanese food – the transit leaves much to be desired. The closest LA Metro line is the Silver Line – BRT – and it’s more than a mile away, requiring a roundabout route if I were to take it to work. But just a half-mile north is a stop for the 1X line of “Gardena Municipal Bus Lines” (or “GTrans”), the transit agency that rather bizarrely operates independently from LACMTA. The line terminates practically across the street from my office, so that’s great. What’s not great? Yes, of course – it’s the headways.
The 1X only runs half-hourly at peak hours, and, for some reason, duplicates Silver Line service and runs all the way downtown then, too, leading to terrible traffic-driven delays when trying to head in the opposite direction. Offpeak frequencies are hourly at best. Needless to say, this is not optimal for me, “Low Headways.”
But today hit a new low. The last time I tried taking the bus, I arrived on time only to watch it depart about a minute early. Fine, that’s on me. Today I arrived five minutes early and waited for another 25 minutes for it to arrive 20 minutes late. Unacceptable by any standards, but especially for such an infrequent bus. So, long story short, I wrote an email to our elected officials in Gardena asking them to, you know, make it suck less. Here it is.
Mayor Tasha CerdaMayor Pro Tem Art KaskanianCouncilmember Mark HendersonCouncilmember Dan MedinaCouncilmember Rodney TanakaYour honors;I moved to Gardena last year from Washington, DC, where I was a transit advocate (having founded MetroTAG and the WMATA Riders’ Union) and rider, and never owned a car for the near-decade I lived there. As a Gardena constituent, I have to express my utter disappointment with the Municipal Bus Lines, and particularly the 1X. I can count on one hand the number of times that the bus has been within 3 minutes of its scheduled departure times, and more often than not, I have to wait for delays upwards of 15 or even 20 minutes. For any bus, but especially one scheduled only every half-hour, this is unacceptable. There are so many inadequacies with this service it is hard to know where to begin, but first and foremost, this level of frequency is an insult to ridership. “Frequency is freedom,” as transit planner Jarrett Walker has written, and the only way to provide the same mobility option as a car is to allow one to catch a bus without having to first consult a timetable or schedule. The 1X (and all other Gardena lines) should be boosted to 15 minute or better frequency, including on weekends and off-peak hours, to better serve potential riders along, for instance, the Western Avenue corridor.As a matter of both principal and practicality, it would be my strongest desire to see GTrans absorbed into LACMTA. This would eliminate redundant dispatching, garaging, and other duplicated physical plant (and/or allow for better distribution with the wider LA system), and most importantly, allow for much better coordination and integration with exist Los Angeles bus lines. The South Bay is isolated from most of the rest of of the city, leaving a car as the primary means of getting around the area, but the choice to drive or ride should be a much more meaningful one. Shorter trips, nonwork trips, and non-peak hour rides need to be encouraged, and the best way to achieve that is through the greater frequency that LACMTA has promised.However, if GTrans is to persist independently, I would strongly urge the adoption of similar service levels as Metro’s new NextGen bus plan, which seeks to provide buses on 5 or 10 minute headways for the most part (with some 15 minute exceptions). Some of the shifts that would result from consolidation could be implemented regardless: for instance, truncating the existing 1X to no longer run all the way to downtown Los Angeles, but instead drop riders at the Harbor Gateway Silver Line station, would allow for a significant increase in frequency at no additional cost, and would still provide riders with easy(-ish) access to downtown.Given the urgency of climate change and the tremendous need to provide non-auto mobility options to the city and country, improvements to bus service should be made swiftly and dramatically: we no longer have the luxury of incrementalism. Providing a frequent, comprehensive bus network – ideally as a part of LACMTA, but even without – is a critical step towards serving the residents of LA and the South Bay, and I look forward to helping bring about change. I am at your service and would be happy to discuss this further.