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DLANC: Transportation Meeting #2

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2004, at 01:16PM

Last night I braved the rain to make my way from USC up to 1st and Figueroa for my second DLANC Transportation & Public Works (hereafter T&PW) Committee meeting. Getting to the meeting was more than half the battle.

Tuesdays nights are my latest school nights. I have class until 6:45. Yet somehow all the DLANC meetings I attend (board, AACE, and T&PW) are all Tuesday nights. T&PW is at 6:30pm, so I left class at 5:50 or so to go catch the DASH F and head downtown. I made it to the stop by Jefferson and Hoover around 6pm and waited. And waited. Around 6:10 a guy in a suit showed up and started waiting with me. We made small-talk about how the F always seems to take a little longer than the 12 minute headways (the time between buses or trains) they post on the signs. He waited 10 minutes or so, then gave up to go take the USC shuttle to Union Station.

At 6:30 I decided that I didn't know for sure that the bus was even going to be coming. Sure it rainy and that slows down LA traffic, but I had been waiting about a half-hour for a bus that claims to come every 12 minutes. So I got on my skateboard and started riding, periodically looking behind me to see if a bus was going to catch up to me. Finally, looking back from Figueroa and Washington, I saw an F. The time? 6:42.

So I paid my $0.25 and got on. Downtown traffic was horrid. The bus inched along, and took about 10 minutes to make it 8 blocks to Fig and 11th. Looking at the sea of cars ahead I asked the driver to just let me out. He said it was probably going to take him 20 minutes to make it the remaining 5 or 6 blocks on his route. I figured I could do better, and I did. I left the DASH behind me and rolled uphill on my wet wheels. I finally made it to the meeting at 7:07, 37 minutes late and a sweaty mess.

The meeting itself was a bit of a plannnig session. We didn't have a quorum, meaning we couldn't conduct official business, so we took the time to lay out some priority projects for the upcoming year and to assign oversight for these projects to members of the committee. Now, obviously this "oversight" isn't in the sense of actually getting the project done -- we leave that part of things to the MTA, LADOT, etc. Instead it's more of a reporting role; the committee member "in charge" of a project is tasked with keeping on top of all developments and making sure the committee stays informed on status and issues that need support or disapproval. I came away in charge of keeping track of two projects.

One of the big picture things Metro (or the MTA, if you prefer) is working on right now is a redevelopment of the entire bus system. They believe they can reduce bus traffic while keeping or increasing service by moving from a destination-based system to more of a hub-and-spoke structure. I think the simplest way to picture this is to look at the airlines: I can't fly from Los Angeles to Muskegon, MI, but what I can do is take a flight from LAX to Detroit. From there I can catch a smaller plane to Muskegon. When I walk outside my apartment I see a street that's overloaded with buses. The stop at my corner must get serviced by 8 - 10 different routes. What Metro would like to see is those routes get replaced by one or two that would then feed these other routes at logical tranfer hubs.

The common complaint about a system like this is that people don't want to transfer -- they want a one seat ride. I say that's just not true. Speaking as a frequent transit rider I don't care about a one-seat ride. I care about moving. If you can give me two shorter lines that'll get me where I want to go with a transfer and 5-minute headways I'd gladly take that over a single route with a 20-minute headway.

To a large extent this same complaint carries over to my second project, DASH service on the Figueroa Corridor. Currently Figueroa is served by two routes: the F and the A. If you look at the Downtown DASH system map you'll see that the two follow an identical path between 4th and 11th. Then, however, the A makes a long run off to the Arts District and the F makes a run down to Expo Park/USC. That seems redundant to me.

The initial issue, though, that I want to get addressed is those 12-minute headways. I just don't believe them. I would like to see data showing true measured headway times, and if those headways are different from the 12-minutes I'd like to see that difference shown in their advertising. I think it's a shame that a busy route like the F is only serviced every 12 minutes while the rest of the Downtown DASH system get buses every 5, but I think it would be even more of a shame if the real-life headway was greater than that already sluggish 12 minutes. This is a route that's only going to get more important in the next few years as more USC students move downtown, and I think it's something that can be addressed effectively without massive reworking. Sure, Expo light rail will carry a lot of this traffic in the future, but that's still 6-8 years down the road.

After the meeting got out Don and I got soaked walking back toward our places of residence. We ended up holing up under the overhang of the building on the southeast corner of Broadway and 1st. After deciding it wasn't going to let up I called Magilla and he drove my car over to pick us up.

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