LA Metro could eliminate its bus service through Point Dume as early as December of this year. The Los Angeles County public transportation service announced wide ranging cuts in an effort to streamline its bus and rail service through a plan called NextGen.
Removal of the six Point Dume stops would mean a passenger who normally catches the bus at Grayfox Street and Dume Drive would have to walk an additional three or more miles round-trip to and from the Heathercliff/PCH stop, adding an hour or more onto a worker’s daily commute.
A virtual Metro Board of Directors meeting was held Wednesday, Aug. 26, to outline the plan and take public comments. The Westside/Central Service Council presented its multi-faceted plan to restructure what it termed “underutilized services” in an attempt to make them more reliable. Metro claims the NextGen restructure will speed the system for better service.
Currently, the 534 Route—used by many essential workers—has alternating service that makes a loop from Heathercliff Road through Grayfox Street, Fernhill Drive, Cliffside Drive and Dume Drive. This Point Dume loop would be eliminated under NextGen. The line would be renamed 134 and continue its route from the downtown Santa Monica Station on Olympic Boulevard with a jog around the downtown Santa Monica business district and then continue to its terminus at Pacific Coast Highway at Trancas Canyon.
The 134 stops would remain including at the Getty Villa, Malibu Country Mart, Malibu Library and Pepperdine University. Frequency on the line will be every 45 minutes.
“This is probably something that should have been done when the Expo Line extension to downtown Santa Monica opened in May of 2016,” according to Metro Engineer Carl Torres, who spoke at the virtual meeting. “It was overlooked.” Torres called the Point Dume loop “underutilized.”
During the 90-minute meeting, there were no public comments from bus riders concerning the Point Dume eliminations; however, there were plenty of comments unfavorable to NextGen.
One caller, identified as Steve Meyer, complained that the plan does not address the realities of life during and after coronavirus.
“The premise that NextGen must proceed now to properly be positioned after the pandemic makes no sense,” Meyer said. “NextGen does not address the most important issues of masking and social distancing. Until those two issues can be properly addressed, along with restoring full schedules, this plan should not be going forward.”
An unidentied caller echoed her opposition.
“We need to be focused on making all transit more accessible by increasing times,” she said. “No one should have to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus.” The caller further complained that advertised wait times are always longer. “We need to focus on increasing bus service, especially now during COVID. Rather than prioritizing funding for rail projects that might not happen for another 20 years, we need to support essential workers whose bus ridership has not gone down because they rely on the bus and don’t have cars. There is no excuse to cuts of service. Public transit should not have to operate at a profit.”
The public comment period ended on Aug. 27, one day after the hearing. Another public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. where more announcements are expected. Shawna Edwards of Metro customer relations said any approved changes to the new 134 bus could be implemented as early as December 2020.
One day after the hearing, Metro made a surprise announcement: It will study and consider eliminating bus and rail fares. This game-changing idea is already in use in the country Luxembourg and under consideration in Germany. A few U.S. cities already have some form of fareless transit. Metro claims it would not be funded by raising sales taxes, which are currently a major revenue source. The agency said it plans to study whether fareless transit could be paid for with grants from the state or federal government, existing revenues such as advertising or other sources.