An article in the Los Angeles Times last week frets that Los Angeles transit buses are “hemorrhaging riders,” which is supposedly “worsening traffic and hurting climate goals.” In fact, the decline of bus transit is actually helping California achieve its climate goals.
In 2017, Los Angeles Metro buses used 4,223 BTUs and emitted 349 grams of greenhouse gases per passenger mile. By comparison, the average light truck used only 3,900 BTUs and the average car just 2,900, with light trucks emitting 253 grams and cars 209 grams per passenger mile. By raising bus fares and reducing bus service, L.A. Metro is getting people out of dirty buses and into clean cars.
Of course, L.A. Metro officials probably don’t realize they are doing that. They are so bone-headed that they want to convert a dedicated bus route into a light-rail line in order to “increase its capacity.” At present, they run a maximum of 15 buses an hour on the dedicated bus lanes, which is less than 6 percent of its capacity.
Dedicated bus lines in other parts of the world move as many as 30,000 people per hour in each direction. By comparison, no light-rail line can move more than about 12,000 people per hour. As one study concluded, “there are currently no cases in the US where LRT [light rail transit] should be favored over BRT [bus-rapid transit].”
Los Angeles Metro’s CEO is currently paid well over $300,000 a year, which is almost twice as much as the governor of California and far more than the director of the state Department of Transportation, whose agency moves far more people and ton-miles of freight per day than Metro moves in a month. Yet Metro’s CEO is not being paid to move people, but to separate people from their tax dollars, and so far he is doing that very well.
For more information about the future of public transit, see my recent article about LA Metro’s climate strategy.