This is not a bash Metro post. I believe in Metro's mission, want Metro to succeed, and for Los Angeles County to have a world class transit system on the level of New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo.
But let's be honest. Metro's rollout of its Service Changes on June 27, 2021, and its NextGen Service plan, was poorly executed. Metro's new CEO Stephanie Wiggins admitted as much in a note on fares, enforcement, and service changes. It is welcome to see Metro publicly acknowledge there was a problem.
Kenny Uong, who is quickly making a name for himself in Southern California for his transit advocacy and enthusiasm blogged on Twitter his experience seeing confused riders all over the system, who had no idea that the service changes were happening or what they were, and bus stops still having old signage.
As of writing this post, Metro still had old bus service maps from 2017-18 on its website, which is certainly not helpful for anyone trying to figure out how to navigate the current system today. Not everyone riding Metro has a smart phone or can easily use an app like Transit or Google Maps.
Metro had also issued a confusing "TAP where you can" statement, with bus operators quoting fares that riders were unprepared for paying.
Fortunately, Metro provided clarity today.
What we should have been doing this week is celebrating Metro's more frequent service on certain lines and the rollout of the new bus lanes on Alvarado. Unfortunately, this was all overshadowed for many riders, especially for those who depend on transit as their primary source of mobility.
However, this can be a learning opportunity. Here is how Metro can do better when rolling out service and fare changes in the future:
- New systemwide maps should have been designed and publicly released prior to enacting service changes. People need to see how the system works as a whole. More frequent service should be colored differently than less frequent service. Create an "owl service" map too. San Francisco MUNI posts current service maps at all of its bus shelters. Why can't Metro do this as well? (This is also free publicity as pedestrians walk past the maps and can see all of the places that the bus system goes.)
- Bus stop signage should be changed prior to enacting service changes, with flyers warning about the start date at all affected bus stops. As Alissa Walker tweeted, "If this was a freeway the signage would have been replaced overnight."
- Metro needs clarity on fares and to issue advance notice of fare changes. Either we have them or we don't. Metro can opt not to enforce fare collection, but be clear about the policy. As Metro buses can broadcast messages like, "Service changes begin ______", or "Masks are required", or "Go Dodgers!", buses could also broadcast messages like "Fares to resume on ______".
Also, for convenience, TAP readers should be posted on the left of the front entrance of every bus to speed the boarding process for everyone.
In short, have everything in place for the ridership BEFORE enacting service changes or fare increases.
It is truly wonderful that Metro is expanding rail service throughout the County which has my full support. Now let's also give its bus system the upgrade its ridership deserves, like transit lanes on all major corridors.