The number 203 bus, which ran along Vermont Avenue from Beverly Boulevard to the Greek Theatre and Griffith Observatory, meant freedom and a chance for cultural enrichment, its riders said. But as of Sunday, the so-called Observatory Shuttle along Griffith Park's steep roads is no more.
The mini-bus route was canceled by the Southern California Rapid Transit District, which also cut back or discontinued 12 other bus lines in Los Angeles County on Sunday to prepare for a $12-million reduction in federal operating subsidies. More changes are pending in September.
"I think it's a pity," said Helga Andersen, who often rode the shuttle for relaxation. "It takes away from us that don't have cars. You can feel the world when you are up higher. It gives you a feeling of freedom. When the bus is not running here, the freedom is taken away."
With the cancellation of Line 203, RTD passengers who want to go to the observatory can take Lines 180 or 181, both of which run between Hollywood Boulevard and the Pasadena area, but stop at Vermont Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard. They would then have to walk about a half mile uphill to the Greek Theatre and about a mile up rugged terrain to the observatory.
Service on Vermont Avenue will be maintained only as far north as Hollywood Boulevard by Line 204, which begins at 120th Street.
Average of 3.3 Boardings Per Hour
RTD spokesman Ray Garcia said other lines provide transportation to the Los Angeles Zoo and other areas of the park. "They just don't go to the observatory," he said.
According to the RTD, the 203 line had an average of 3.3 boardings per hour in 1984 and 1985, compared to 69 boardings per hour on an average bus districtwide.
Charles E. Jones, Line 203 bus driver, said the shuttle bus's small size may have confused potential riders. He said it was sometimes mistaken for "mini-ride" shuttles serving downtown Los Angeles.
"Even people who are just block-hopping pass this bus up and wait for another one because they didn't know that this bus will take them where they needed to go," Jones said.
Jones said the cancellation will be an inconvenience for some people, particularly some blind students at the Braille Institute, located at Vermont and Melrose Avenues.
Dr. Edwin Krupp, the observatory director, said the decision may deprive some people of learning what the observatory has to offer and present a problem for tourists. "There is no alternative for a person with no automobile. It seems strange to me that a facility like the observatory would not be served by the RTD.
More Than a Mile Walk
"Those with no automobile will simply have to walk up the hill," Krupp said. "That's better than a mile."
"It seems to me that a city that prides itself on technology and science and since it has such a solid investment in science, I would expect it would want to provide access to such an important technological facility as this," he added.
Harold Shaver, a teacher from Canada doing graduate work at UCLA, agreed. "Since I am not from here and I don't have a car, the only way I could get here is by bus. If it had been after Sunday, I couldn't have come to this place," Shaver said in an interview on the bus last week.
The Greek Theatre's general manager, Susan Rosenbluth, said she does not believe the cutback will diminish concert attendance much.
In the meantime, the RTD held a public hearing last week to discuss proposed cuts and adjustments to 11 other bus lines and the establishment of two new lines. The RTD board will make a decision at its meeting July 17 or July 24. If approved, changes would begin Sept. 28.
Among those proposed changes are rerouting of two lines in the Echo Park area. Line 200, which now runs mainly along Alvarado Street, will be extended from its present terminus at Glendale Boulevard and Montana Street to Echo Park Avenue and Donaldson Street via Montana Street and Echo Park Avenue.
Line 33, which runs along Venice Boulevard and through downtown, will now end with a northern terminus at Spring and Macy streets, eliminating service on Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue.
To compensate for RTD transportation reductions, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission expects to receive a federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration grant this fall with which it intends to fund bus service by private contractors.
Commission spokeswoman Ann Reeves said the commission has applied for a $2 million to $3 million grant that will allow 46 to 72 buses to operate throughout Los Angeles County.