Transit Service During Rail Maintenance

80 minutes from Vermont/Santa Monica to Culver City. That’s what it took me recently, due to the Red Line running 20 minute (nominal) headways for track maintenance. 80 minutes to go 11 miles… yea, file that under “begging your riders to drive”. Maintenance is necessary. But dude, get out your Jarrett Walker and read the seven elements of transportation services:

  • #3. It’s a good use of my time.

Maintenance is no excuse to provide poor service to your passengers. Next time I need to make that trip, I’m gonna check and see if the Red Line construction is still ongoing, and if it is, I’m gonna drive. I can afford it and I’m pretty sure that my marginal greenhouse gas emissions are irrelevant. And guess what? Most people think the same thing. So, the challenge is, when we do necessary work on a rail line, how do we maintain a high level of service for passengers?

Now, one option would be to just close the line and run buses instead. Sometimes, the road infrastructure isn’t set up to replace a rail service. In the case of the Red Line, things aren’t that bad. You could run a route Lankershim-the 101-Highland-Hollywood-Vermont-Wilshire and work your way to Union Station. Problem there might be that traffic lights make the trip take longer. If you run the buses on something like a 5 minute headway, but it takes longer, is that better than a 20 minute headway with a  shorter trip?

However, if we remember to view the transit system as a whole, there are things we could do on the bus side of things that would complement the 20 minute headways on the rail system. The most logical things would be bumping up the frequency on the Rapid 780 and the Rapid 754, which are running on… well, they’re not even running at that time of night (after about 8:30 pm). The local equivalents, the 204 and the 217, are running on 30+ minute headways. These routes parallel part of the Red Line, but they also provide transfers to the Expo Line. The challenge, of course, is getting passengers to think about taking these routes instead of the rail lines.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any routes that would supplement the Red Line and connect to the Blue Line. I believe the Blue Line was running on 30 minute headways to Long Beach (with more service to Willow), also due to construction. An untimed transfer between a 20 minute headway service and a 30 minute headway service is particularly brutal. When there is work on multiple rail lines, Metro should make efforts to provide timed transfers at 7th/Metro.

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