Here’s our third update on ridership on some of the main bus routes in the San Fernando Valley. As a reminder, for north-south corridors, we have San Fernando, Van Nuys, Sepulveda, and Reseda; for east-west, Ventura, Sherman, Roscoe, and Nordhoff.
For more detail on the sausage-making involved in converting routes that cover multiple corridors to a number for a single arterial road, see the first post.
Here’s the raw data. As always, highlighted cells represent top 10 ridership months since January 2009. All routes put up their best months in the 2009-2010 period; this may be due to the recession reducing car ownership.
Here are the 12-month rolling averages for weekdays.
Saturday and Sunday 12-month rolling averages largely reflect weekday trends, as shown below. The only interesting countertrend is an uptick in Reseda over weekends.
The configuration of rapid routes on Van Nuys was changed in late 2014. Route 761, a rapid that went from Van Nuys in the Valley through Sepulveda Pass to UCLA in Westwood, was eliminated. At the same time, Route 734, the Sepulveda rapid, was extended from its previous terminus in Sherman Oaks through Sepulveda Pass to Westwood. Rapid service on Van Nuys was replaced with Route 744, a U-shaped route on Van Nuys, Ventura, and Reseda. An express rapid service, Route 788, serving the northern part of Van Nuys and connecting to the Orange Line, then running express on the 405 to Westwood, was also created.
In our last post, we speculated that the change may have had a negative impact on ridership on the Van Nuys corridor. A closer look shows that this is probably not the case for weekday ridership. Here is the breakdown of ridership on Van Nuys and Sepulveda by local and rapid on each corridor, and total local and total rapid on the two corridors combined.
Note that we are using monthly data here, not the rolling 12-month averages, because we want to see the impact of a change to bus service at a discreet point in time, and the rolling averages will obscure that effect.
The reconfiguration of rapid routes at the end of 2014 resulted in a sudden one-time adjustment in the distribution of rapid ridership. We can’t know which riders switched to which routes for sure, but it appears that 761 riders that had been boarding on the Sepulveda portion of the route quickly switched to 734, with total rapid ridership on Sepulveda remaining relatively constant. Riders that had been boarding 761 on Van Nuys seem to have quickly switched to 788, with total rapid ridership on Van Nuys also relatively constant. The large drop in ridership has mostly come from local routes. This is consistent with what we saw on the Westside bus routes.
In stark contrast, the large drop in ridership on the Van Nuys corridor appears to be directly related to the reconfiguration of rapid routes.
While Route 761 ran on weekends, Route 734 never has, and this was not changed when 761 was eliminated. Route 744 runs on weekends, but Route 788 does not; thus on weekends there is now no rapid service from the Valley to the Westside.
Again, we are speculating, but it appears that with the elimination of 761, riders who couldn’t cancel their trips and had no other option to get from the Valley to the Westside shifted to the Sepulveda local route, 234, producing a sudden jump in ridership. However, 744 appears to be less useful to riders than 761 was, because the increase in local ridership was less than the drop in rapid ridership that occurred with the cancelation of 761. The net result is that while total local ridership on Van Nuys and Sepulveda on Saturdays has remained relatively constant, total rapid ridership was reduced by over 50% almost instantly.
This strongly suggests that weekend rapid service between the Valley and the Westside was useful to many riders, and Metro should consider restoring it.
Operating Metro Rapid 788 full time like the new 501 bus would be the best approach. Some will complain about service duplication, but until Metro Rail goes through the Sepulveda Pass, we’ll need as many bus service possible, especially for the weekend. The extension to Expo phase 2 may spur additional demand.
I wouldn’t want them to take away service from Ventura but if ridership is comparable or better on Roscoe (full disclosure: I live along Roscoe), shouldn’t that mean comparable service levels? It’s a simplistic assessment, but I’d like to know.
I don’t know too much about how they plan service, but I could believe that Roscoe doesn’t get as much service as it should… it seems like one of those LA boulevards that sneakily generates more demand than many people would expect!