Los Angeles Times
June 5, 2007
Transit officials plan to launch eight new Metro Rapid bus lines running throughout Los Angeles County, touted as the centerpiece of the Metropolitan Transit Authority's $3.1-billion budget proposal released Monday.
With five lines starting later this month and the eight proposed, the Metro Rapid system will grow from 15 lines today to 28 by June 2008.
"Metro Rapid has become the hallmark of our service expansion," said Marc Littman, an MTA spokesman. "People from around the world have come to study it. We didn't invent it though, but introduced it in the U.S. after seeing it successfully work in Brazil."
Service on the Metro Rapid Program, implemented in June 2000, is 25% faster than regular service because the buses make fewer stops and run every three to 10 minutes during peak travel times, the MTA says. Also, the Rapid buses have equipment that extends green lights or changes red lights 10 seconds faster.
By June 2008, 500 Metro Rapid buses, up from 359, will serve 28 transit corridors covering 420 route miles and 35 cities throughout the county. Metro Rapid's most popular route, Line 720 on Wilshire Boulevard, had 46,000 riders in the month of April, and Line 754 on Vermont Avenue had 25,000 riders, the MTA reported.
Three municipal operators, based in Santa Monica, Torrance and Culver City, will also provide the new Metro Rapid services.
The new lines will be on West Olympic Boulevard, Garvey and Cesar Chavez avenues, Manchester Boulevard, Atlantic Boulevard, San Fernando Road South, Sepulveda South and Central Avenue and in Torrance/Long Beach.
MTA Chief Executive Roger Snoble called the proposed budget a "no-frills" plan. It would allot $1.39 billion, about 45% of the total spending, to cover all bus operations in the 2008 fiscal year.
Within the next year, the MTA will place a 65-foot prototype bus on the popular Metro Orange Line, which connects the North Hollywood Metro Rail stop with Warner Center in the San Fernando Valley.
The Orange Line, launched in October 2005, recently reached 23,800 passengers in one month, a number that MTA didn't expect until 2020.
On June 24, about 30 lines will be altered, a dozen discontinued and seven added to the overall bus system. Littman said the changes were made as a way of eliminating lines that are underused or duplicated by other MTA services.
Overall in the budget proposal, the MTA would increase bus service by 21,213 operating hours next year for a total of 7.8 million revenue service hours, Littman said.
The budget proposal comes weeks after the MTA Board of Directors voted to gradually increase bus and rail fares as one tactic in alleviating the agency's debt burden.
The MTA's debt service next year will be $308.5 million, about 10% of its budget, up $3 million from this year.
The proposed budget factors in the additional $32 million expected from the upcoming fare hikes, stating that the money will go to funding bus and rail operating expenses.
MTA funding comes from local sales taxes, fares, state gasoline taxes, the federal government and other sources, such as lease rentals, investment income and advertising revenue.
The MTA will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 2:30 p.m. June 20 in the third-floor board room at Metro Headquarters in One Gateway Plaza, next to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.