Tuesday March 20, 2001
Located at the corner of Ventura and Sepulveda Boulevards, the Sepulveda station is one of nine stations which provide lighting, a map, canopy and a digital sign that displays the estimated arrival time of the next Metro Rapid Bus.
This real-time information is provided by a sophisticated system designed by LADOT that tracks the location of each bus, predicts the arrival time and then transmits the information to the bus stations through the use of wireless communications technology. The MTA’s employment of the passenger friendly digital signs marks the first use of such a real-time feature by any bus operation in the Los Angeles area.
“Metro Rapid is a huge success because it delivers on the promise to significantly reduce travel time,” said Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan. “The new stations on Ventura Boulevard are the perfect complement to this system.”
The MTA launched the Metro Rapid Bus Demonstration Program in June, 2000, with two lines. Line 750 operates 22 buses on a 16-mile route along Ventura Boulevard between Warner Center and the Universal City station, one of three new Metro Red Line stations along the subway’s 6.3 mile North Hollywood extension which also opened in June, 2000.
Nearly 70 buses operate on Line 720, which provides service on a 26-mile route along the Wilshire/Whittier corridor from Santa Monica to Montebello.
Line 720 includes stops at the Metro Red Line stations located at Wilshire/Western, Wilshire/Normandie, Wilshire/Vermont and Westlake/MacArthur Park. Stations along the Wilshire/Whittier corridor are currently under construction and will be completed later this year.
Average Metro Bus speeds have declined by 12 percent since the mid-1980s, and a study by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) found that approximately 50 percent of the time a bus is in service it is stopped either at a red light or at a bus stop. Functioning like a “rubber tire railway,” the Metro Rapid System was designed to make up much of that lost time.
In fact, Metro Rapid is cutting bus travel time across the San Fernando Valley and the L.A. Basin by as much as 25 percent.
Several system features contribute to the shorter trip times. They include bus priority at traffic signals, fewer stops, “interval-based” operation, and level boarding on new low-floor buses, all of which operate on compressed natural gas (CNG).
Each red and white Metro Rapid bus is equipped with a transponder which can turn a red signal green up to 10 seconds earlier and extend green signals up to 10 seconds longer to allow a Metro Rapid bus to continue through many intersections without stopping.
Metro Rapid buses board passengers at stations spaced approximately 0.8 miles apart. Local service buses, on the other hand, stop approximately every 0.2 miles.
Metro Rapid buses operate on an “interval-based” schedule, unlike buses in regular service which arrive at and depart from stops according to a “time-point-based” schedule.
Under a “time-point-based” schedule, buses are expected to arrive at bus stops at specific times printed in customer timetables, even when traffic conditions might allow them to arrive sooner and save the commuter precious travel time.
One of the goals of Metro Rapid, however, is to take advantage of the time savings that traffic conditions sometime afford while keeping buses evenly spaced to avoid bunching and prevent long passenger wait times.
“The purpose of the interval-based schedule is to move buses from one end of the route to the other as quickly as possible and yet maintain the distance between buses to prevent bunching,” said Rex Gephart, Metro Rapid project manager.
Metro Rapid not only delivers shorter commute times, it also complements service on the nearly 60-mile integrated Metro Rail System, which includes the Metro Red Line subway (17.4 miles) and two light rail lines, the Metro Blue and Green Lines (22 miles and 20 miles, respectively).
The Metro Rapid Bus Demonstration Program is the result of a partnership between the MTA and LADOT. LADOT designed and installed the bus signal priority system and real-time passenger information system.
LADOT also provides a link from its Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) center based at Los Angeles City Hall to the MTA’s Bus Operations Control Center. Some 130 ATSAC television cameras, located at strategic intersections, monitor the flow of traffic throughout the city. With access to the ATSAC system, MTA personnel are able to track and direct Metro Rapid buses to keep service moving.
The prime contractor for the Metro Rapid project is Transportation Management & Design, Inc. (TMD) of Solana Beach, California. Architectural and graphic design services were performed by Suisman Urban Design of Santa Monica, California.
As a result of the success of the Metro Rapid Bus Demonstration Program, the MTA’s Draft 2001 Long Range Transportation Plan for Los Angeles County calls for the addition of 22 other routes to the Metro Rapid System.