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Metro Unveils Draft Plan to Improve Bus Service

Pasadena-Area routes among those that would change

Published on Friday, February 21, 2020 | 6:29 am
 
Metro transit representative Nancy Verduzco, at the Pasadena Senior Center on Thursday during a public workshop, explains some of the changes proposed under the agency’s vast and complicated “NextGen” plan to improve bus service. Photo by Kevin Kenney

Metro transit’s traveling info show – which has been barnstorming the region since the start of the month, providing details of a vast and complicated proposal to improve the area’s bus service – stopped in Pasadena on Thursday.

In one of 12 regional public workshops scheduled for February (another 11 are set for March), representatives from Metro set up shop at the Pasadena Senior Center, drawing several hundred visitors for informational video presentations, casual Q-and-A sessions with staff, and feedback opportunities regarding “NextGen” – a plan, still in its draft stage, that’s aimed at implementing a wide range of service improvements beginning in December.

“Virtually every line in the city has some impact from the plan,’’ Joseph Forgiarini, Metro’s senior director of service performance and analysis, told Pasadena Now during Thursday’s event.

The plan, Metro said in its workshop flier, is designed to “improve service to current customers, attract new customers and win back past customers.”

It is a lot to absorb.

Among the proposed changes to riders from Pasadena and adjacent cities, the 180, 181 and 780 lines – the area’s primary east-west bus routes, which extend to Glendale and into Hollywood and beyond – would be affected. Also affected would be the 260 and 762 routes – key north-south lines that stretch from Altadena to almost as far south as Long Beach.

Got Used Oil
Some of the several hundred area residents who visited the Senior Center on Thursday to get the lowdown on proposed bus improvements around the region. Photo by Kevin Kenney

Pasadena-area riders who use the 177, 256 and 260 lines would also see changes under the proposal, which is still not finalized.

The public will have the chance to comment as late as June, and the Metro Board’s Service Council won’t consider the final changes until September.

“NextGen” is basically a redesign of existing lines and schedules that would increase frequency on highly used routes and eliminate overlap, freeing the buses from those eliminated routes for more frequent service on the lines that remain.

There would also be some adjustments of stop locations, coordination with other area bus agencies, “smart street” improvements such as signal synchronization, and improvements to bus stops to address issues such as shelters to shade riders from the sun as they wait, and more security and bus-stop monitoring.

Among numerous details in a several-hundred-page document, Metro officials said the proposed improvements would:

  • Provide 83 percent of current bus riders with 10-minute or better frequency.
  • Double the number of frequent Metro bus lines.
  • Improve and expand midday, evening and weekend service.
  • Ensure a quarter-mile or less walk to a bus stop for 99 percent of current riders.

“NextGen” is entirely separate from the still-pending and controversial “Bus Rapid Transit Route” (BRT) proposal between Pasadena and North Hollywood. That plan originally envisioned bus service all the way to Burbank Airport, but that element is no longer in play. (BRT had also originally called for dedicating two traffic lanes on Colorado Boulevard as bus-only, but that aspect died amid widespread local opposition.)

“This is the first release publicly of the draft plan, the first opportunity for people to see at the detail level of information,’’ Forgiarini said of the “NextGen” information that was unveiled Thursday in Pasadena.

Some specific highlights affecting Pasadena-area riders would be:

  • The east-west 180, 181 and 780 routes would be merged into one line, tentatively called the 180, Forgiarini said. The 180 and 181 are local routes, while the 780 now offers limited-stop service. The 181 and 780 would be eliminated – but frequency along the newly combined route would improve from once every 16 minutes to once every 7.5 minutes in peak hours. Riders used to limited stops would experience more stops, however.
  • The part of route 180 that now heads north-south along Lake Avenue would be eliminated and replaced by a new Pasadena Transit route. In addition, Foothill Transit Line 187 would replace a discontinued segment of Metro 181 on Colorado Boulevard east of Pasadena City College.

“All the resources would be pooled into one service, with a much higher frequency but all the stops would be served,’’ Forgiarini said.

  • The north-south 260 (local) and 762 (limited-stop) routes would be merged in a similar fashion.
  • Pasadena Transit, not Metro, would operate weekday peak-period service to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the 177 route, with a minor reroute proposed in Pasadena to use Mountain Street instead of Walnut Street.
  • The 256 route between Commerce and Altadena via El Sereno, Highland Park and Pasadena would be subdivided into three separate bus lines, locally run, with more frequent service.

Pasadena Transit would operate a simpler route between Highland Park and Pasadena via Colorado Boulevard, Gold Line Memorial Park Station, Lincoln Avenue, Washington Boulevard, Altadena Drive and Foothill Boulevard to Sierra Villa Station.

  • A new line, the 662, would serve Lake Avenue between Pasadena and Altadena, with Metro 180 and 686 and Foothill Transit 187 serving Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. Readers and riders are encouraged to visit metro.net/nextgen for additional details.

All these proposed changes are two years in the making, and they are based on what Metro officials said were 260 different citizen workshops, more than 14,500 customer comments and about 12,000 online survey responses.

 

In addition, Forgiarini said, Metro purchased “on the order or 10 million cell-phone records” that analyzed the comings and goings of area travelers, both public-transit riders and drivers.

“When you’re not talking on the phone, it’s still pinging to towers as you move around,’’ Forgiarini said. “We don’t know anybody’s personal identification or anything, but it allows us to see likely pairings of a stop for the beginning of a trip and the end of a trip, and we were able to consolidate a lot of that data to look at travel patterns across the region, and double-check that what we’re running makes sense.’’

Thursday’s workshop drew generally positive responses from those interviewed by Pasadena Now – though each acknowledged there is a lot of new information to absorb.

“I think it’s a move in the right direction,” said Gene Wester, a Pasadena resident and retired engineer. “I’m happy with the more frequent times, but I also want to see improvements in the light-rail stations to secure bicycles.”

“I wish I could tell you – they’re still working on it, but it looks promising, it looks like I’ll get more frequency,” said Pat Pipkin, a retiree who frequently travels by bus from her home in Altadena to Pasadena.

But Pasadena resident Bob Huddy was not happy with the proposed changes to the 180 route.

He lives north of Colorado Boulevard, and one segment of his bus service would switch from Metro to a proposed short, new Pasadena Transit route. He’ll also experience more transfers than he’s used to.

As for the frequency of his buses, “It’ll go from three buses every half hour to one bus every half hour, on an overcrowded, late and slow Pasadena bus line,” Huddy said.

Metro officials encouraged riders to go metro.net/nextgen for more details on the plan, including the informational video used in Thursday’s forum. There’s also a chance to offer comments on the Metro website.

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