County officials plan increased bus service

(Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County transportation officials have unveiled plans for more frequent bus service on more corridors -- a change they said could help reverse a steep decline in bus ridership, it was reported Tuesday.

If approved, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's plan would be the first overhaul of the region's bus network in more than 25 years, the Los Angeles Times reported. Riders would see changes on the street by the end of next year, officials said.

The plan calls for buses that arrive every 10 minutes or less, and in some cases, as frequently as every five minutes -- on 29 major routes. About 83 percent of Metro riders could walk to a bus stop with that level of service, compared with 48% now, officials said.

The proposal also calls for a $1 billion, five-year capital program to improve bus reliability, speed and comfort. The proposal includes $750 million for bus-only lanes, synchronized traffic signals and other improvements, and about $150 million for shelters and other changes at busy stops.

"What we're trying to do is create a situation where people can choose to ride transit more often," said Conan Cheung, a senior executive officer of service planning and development.

The changes could boost Metro's ridership by 15% to 20%, officials said. Trips on Metro buses have fallen nearly 25% over a decade as riders have fled for more convenient options -- mostly, cars, which Southern Californians are buying in record numbers.

Metro's directors are scheduled to discuss the draft plan at their Jan. 23 meeting. A final vote is scheduled for September.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is vice chair of the Metro board, said the plan would steer the region "in the right direction, toward dedicated bus lanes, higher ridership, and faster, more reliable service."

The proposal follows more than two years of study at Metro on how to address its bus ridership woes. Officials concluded that Metro buses need to be faster and more efficient to stanch the ridership decline and attract new customers.

As traffic has grown worse in Los Angeles, bus speeds have dropped, hurting Metro's image and operational costs, The Times reported.

When traffic slows, Metro puts more buses on the street to stay on schedule. Each year, Metro spends $10 million more than in the previous year to provide the same level of service, officials said.