Starting Sunday, Los Angeles County Metro will enact widespread changes in bus service. Some of them will reroute more than a dozen bus lines to improve passenger transfers onto the Expo light rail line.
But other changes have riders feeling as if the transit agency’s thrown them under the bus. We caught up with a few of them aboard Metro bus line 305, which is being discontinued. The 305 line snakes passengers through a stair-step route between the southeast part of L.A. County to the northwest side of town.
Passenger Taisha Wright has a red, puffy eye. She digs in her purse for a patch to cover it up as she sits at the front of a bus headed from UCLA — where she just saw her physician — to the intersection of Florence and Vermont avenues in South L.A. where she lives.
Like other passengers, she didn’t know about the coming schedule changes, even though Metro had posted handwritten signs at bus stops and digital alerts across the top of buses.
Wright travels this 90-minute route at least three times a week for treatment on her eye problems.
“Glaucoma, retina detachment," Wright said. "They put silicone oil, now they just put a tube in Tuesday.”
Now Wright will have to find another way between South L.A. and Westwood. So will her caretaker, Monica Stephens of L.A., who’s sitting on the other side of the bus.
“I don’t know. I’m [at a] loss for words," said Stephens. "I don’t know what to expect now... Schedule and find another way. Other than that I don’t know what to do.”
Conan Cheung leads the service planning and scheduling division at Metro. He said discontinuing the bus route will save money for the agency, and for taxpayers.
“The 305 line doesn’t perform up to what our average standards are,” said Cheung. "That subsidy per passenger on the 305 is $4.05. And that’s compared to our systemwide average of $1.76... the 305 line carries 28 boardings per hour compared to the system average of 53.”
At midday, this southbound 305 bus carries fewer than the 28 passengers Cheung mentioned.
But UCLA education student Sarah Jacobs considers that a plus.
“There’s always a seat, and even if there isn’t," Jacobs said, "it’s a really safe and reliable and predictable bus route.”
Jacobs takes the 305 seven days a week. It drops her late night at the door of a house where she rents a room on San Vicente Boulevard in Mid-City L.A.
Jacobs said she’d support a petition to save the 305. Until then, she’ll have to substitute the east-west 720 bus line on Wilshire Boulevard.
“I mean, I’m grateful for any buses, don’t get me wrong. [It's better than] having no alternative," Jacobs said. "But the 720 I feel like is just getting more and more crammed, and I have to wait for two buses to go by."
Henry Hill, who overhears Jacobs, hands over a pamphlet about the new bus schedules that Metro’s distributed to passengers.
For him, the demise of 305 is no big deal.
“I get on at San Vicente and Redondo and I go to Melrose and San Vicente, so it doesn’t affect me,” Hill said with a chuckle.
Metro spokesman Cheung said service change notices are on the internet.
“You can access information pretty easily," said Cheung. "We have our customer information center. People can call in and get routing information.”
Metro also plans to discontinue service on the 439 between downtown L.A. and the Culver City Transit Center. Some stops will go away; the 762 bus between Pasadena and Artesia Station will bypass previous boarding places north of Colorado and Fair Oaks boulevards.
Denise Dukes, who works as a health technician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said changes like that will only make the commute harder for people like her. On her normal ride to and from work she takes three buses, including the 305, each way.
“Jobs are hard to keep now and you’re trying to get there on the bus, and the bus is still not on time," Dukes emphasized. "So you make me late, I’m missing my connection. So what can I do? Get me a car, that’s what I’m working on. Right now. Getting me a car.”
The activist Bus Riders Union says passengers like Dukes — low-income black and brown people — will feel the worst effects from these changes. The group says the 305 route is essential for many domestic workers and students who travel between Willowbrook in South L.A. County to West L.A.
Metro officials say the route changes could save the county more than $20 million a year.
Cheung said that discontinuing the bus route will also create more options for commuters.
“Within an urban grid street system, the best way to provide service to people is to provide high frequency services going north-south and east-west," Cheung said, "because people are able to navigate anywhere within the grid to anywhere within the grid using one transfer.”