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MTA gets low marks for bus service in survey

The Bus Riders Union says riders gave the agency a D in overall service, a finding that conflicts with the results of the MTA's survey in June.

August 29, 2009|Dan Weikel

Citing poor on-time performance, overcrowding and a shortage of service, several thousand transit riders gave low marks to the bus system run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to a survey released Friday.

"The MTA got a D for the overall quality of its bus service," said Esperanza Martinez, an organizer for the Bus Riders Union, an advocacy group that conducted the survey. "People are paying way too much and waiting way too long for a bus that will likely pass them by."

Martinez said that the survey was not a scientific poll, and that it relied on representative and random samples of bus riders.

The MTA has a fleet of 2,635 buses that handle more than a 1 million boardings each day and operate on 191 routes. If transit passes are not used, the typical one-way cash fare is $1.25.

Art Leahy, MTA's chief executive officer, declined to comment specifically on the bus union's survey, saying that he has not seen the conclusions or the questions. He said that MTA has increased its on-time performance from 65% in July 2008 to 72% in July 2009.

In contrast to the findings of the Bus Riders Union, an MTA survey of 15,800 riders in June showed that 85% were either satisfied or strongly satisfied with the bus service. Almost 76% thought their buses were generally on time, while 79% said the service was better than last year.

"I am very interested in the bus system and improving things, such as on-time performance, courtesy and cleanliness," Leahy said. "Even though we disagree on where we are, our fares are among the lowest in the nation and we have less overcrowding than other big cities."

During the last three months, members of the Bus Riders Union interviewed 2,600 bus riders from different parts of L.A. The union also sought the opinions of riders on some of the MTA's busiest bus routes, such as the 720 bus route on Wilshire Boulevard.

Almost 30% of riders gave the MTA a C grade for on-time service, while slightly more than 18% gave it a D in that category and almost 26% gave it an F. More than 75% of the riders gave the MTA a C or below for overcrowding.

Large majorities handed the MTA letter grades of D and F for affordable fares, frequency of service, weekend and night service and the convenience of taking a bus. The MTA received its lowest grades for nighttime bus service. About 70% of riders gave the agency a D or an F in that category.

"The service can be spotty and the buses can get really packed at rush hour," said Robert Sherbow, 57, of Los Angeles, as he waited late Friday for a bus on Wilshire Boulevard. "I would say that out of 50 bus rides you wouldn't get to work on time at least twice."

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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