Letter to the editor, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1995

I take exception to the conclusions drawn by Charles J. Thomas in his letter of December 18.

He is laboring under the misconception that transit centers (the "hub" in "hub-and-spoke") are places where riders will have to wait for interminable lengths of time to make connections. An examination of the full transit restructuring study indicates that service is to be reconfigured in such a way that all lines serving a transit center will arrive and depart on timed schedules so that riders can connect without long delays.

Transit centers are connection points, not final destinations. Thus the lack of "urban amenities" is not a factor in their placement.

His "dismal and desolate" picture of these transit centers is also far from accurate. The proposed locations for these hubs are in such places as Cal State Northridge, Sherman Oaks and Universal City, because these are locations where large numbers of bus lines already either intersect or come near by enough that they can be brought in with only minor route modifications.

Mr. Thomas also makes the argument that the Valley is laid out in a grid and that if bus routes were "routed correctly" none of the problems noted in The Times' original editorial would exist. Routing presently takes advantage of that same grid, with buses moving in straight lines wherever possible. It is the dependence on the grid that causes connection problems, because it is impossible, with a purely grid-based system, to create operating schedules that allow every line to connect perfectly with every other line. Thus the proposed creation of key transfer points (transit centers) with timed connections.

I cannot help but think of the regional bus system in my hometown of Ventura, South Coast Area Transit, which has used a hub-and-spoke system for over 20 years without difficulty. Similar systems have worked for many years for agencies such as Thousand Oaks Transit, Antelope Valley Transit Authority, Golden Empire Transit in Bakersfield and Tri-Met in Portland, Ore.

Mr. Thomas further laments that the proposal for restructuring service destroys the existing grid system and cuts service to low-income and minority areas dependent on bus service. Better than 90% of the existing grid routing has been incorporated into the new proposed routes. Where route segments are abandoned, ridership figures were taken into account. Thus it is highly unlikely that areas where "the bulk of the bus-riding public" reside will see a deterioration of service.

The study was straightforward in its goal: to improve transit service without increasing costs or requiring additional and costly equipment. The resulting proposal does just that, and I believe it will be successful if two things happen:
1. The MTA, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and other transit providers implement the plan as a single overhaul rather than piecemeal, as the MTA is proposing.
2. Naysayers like Mr. Thomas give the plan a chance instead of condemning it before the fact.

My support comes from the perspective of a regional bus rider, as I have spent nearly three years using municipal systems to go not only everywhere in the Valley but also Downtown, the Westside, South Bay and Long Beach. So I, too, qualify as an "all-purpose user".

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