LA Metro Tinkering with 534 Bus Schedule

LA Metro 534 Bus 

Malibu’s Metro Bus riders were in for a pleasant surprise this weekend after the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority announced increased service for the 534 bus in Malibu — about one month after a schedule change severely cut back on the number of buses serving Pacific Coast Highway.

The 534 bus originates at the Downtown Santa Monica Station on the Expo Line, with most buses running all the way to Trancas Canyon and back (though some turn around at the Civic Center). As most Malibu residents know, it is the only public transit that serves Malibu.

For the past year, the 534 used to leave Santa Monica 32 times per day on Saturdays to pick up and drop off passengers along Pacific Coast Highway, many heading out to the beach in the summer. That was cut to 23 trips with the biannual schedule change effective June 25. Weekday trips, convenient for commuters, went from 38 daily trips to 30 from Santa Monica to Trancas. Riders noticed right away.

Complaints shared with The Malibu Times called the new timetables a “nightmare.” Regular bus riders described “standing room only” buses with longer waits between each one. 

According to timetables, the average wait between buses went from 28.03 minutes to 31.37 minutes on weekdays.

Most complaints also included the question — why cut back service during the busy summer months when beach traffic is up?

LA Metro provided ridership information, with trends showing the popularity of the 534 bus decreasing steadily since summer 2015, when around 3,000 passengers rode the bus on weekdays.

Estimated average weekday ridership over the past 12 months was highest in the summer months and dipped in the winter. Ridership peaked in June 2016, topping out at about 2,217 per day. Lowest ridership was in February 2017, when just 1,480 rode the 534 bus each weekday.

Saturday ridership was lower, at about 1,584 in June 2016, down to 1,046 in February 2017.

“As a rule, schedules are changed every six months, either in June or December, to take into consideration demand … or lack of,” LA Metro spokesperson Kim Upton wrote in an email to The Malibu Times. “It looks like two new trips have been added to the Malibu line that will take effect July 24.”

Upton also pointed out no schedule changes were made in December 2016. 

In response to questions about the process for determining schedule changes, Upton said it comes from a constant monitoring of ridership and demand.

“An example of this monitoring is the recent addition of two new trips after the June 2017 schedule change went into effect,” Upton wrote. “Schedule Makers were out at the Santa Monica Expo Station last week and noticed that additional service was needed on Line 534. A Service Change Notice … has been prepared and placed on buses to inform patrons of new additional trips that better meet the Expo trains and reduce wait times. These trips will begin service on Monday, July 24.”