By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
GARDENA — The Gardena City Council on May 24 unanimously approved a revised service change proposal for the Gardena Municipal Bus Lines that would maintain service to downtown Los Angeles but on a reduced schedule.
The revised proposal from Director of Transportation Jack Gabig was a result of earlier public meetings in which bus riders strongly opposed the original proposal, which eliminated downtown service on Line 1 and dropped Line 4 altogether.
While there was general agreement that the new plan was an improvement, most of the 16 people who spoke during the public comment period were still unhappy with the changes.
The new bus schedules are expected to be announced in August, with implementation set for Sept. 4. The council promised to monitor bus operations and to tweak the new plan as needed.
Gabig said that Lines 1 and 4 have the “highest cost per passenger” and that Line 1 was also changed because of “poor ridership on the downtown segment … and the abundance of other competing services into downtown, primarily on the Harbor Transitway.”
Line 1’s local service, Gabig said, “would operate on Marine, Western, Redondo Beach and Normandie past Peary Middle School, on to 182nd Street and into the Artesia Transit Center, which we currently do not serve. That is a major regional transportation hub.
“The downtown service, however, would operate on its existing alignment until it reaches Rosecrans … (The revised proposal) moves the service back to the existing alignment on Western and 166th Street and across Gardena (Boulevard), north on Vermont but only as far as Rosecrans, then onto the Harbor Transitway at Rosecrans. This eliminates a circuitous routing that we currently operate on Vermont north to El Segundo, then we come south on the 110 Freeway, and turn around and go back north on it at Rosecrans so that we’re able to enter the HOV (carpool) lane.
“The service span for Line 1 is proposed from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., no longer operating until after 1 a.m., and the downtown service … is now proposed for six morning peak trips, roughly between 5 and 8 a.m., and six evening peak trips, roughly between 4 and 6:30 p.m., as well as hourly service on the weekends (from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
“The reason for discontinuing later evening service to downtown is due to its very low rider productivity, averaging less than four passengers per trip either to or from downtown. We also need the downtown service both midday and evening to reallocate to other lines, primarily Lines 2 and 3, which have growing demand and on-time performance problems.”
He stressed that the downtown route, which goes to First and Second streets at San Pedro Street, will remain unchanged.
Gabig said this proposal “reflects input from the community” and represents “status quo in overall service levels, not a reduction, but a shift from lower productivity to higher demand corridors.”
Kenneth Kyle, a long-time Gardena resident and bus rider, commented, “It works fine as it is right now. The wholesale changes that the director proposed, it’s a little tough to digest. It’s going to create undue hardship on a lot of people … I want to go downtown. I don’t want to go to the Artesia Transit Center. That’s more delay … To me it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Maria Martinez, who lives on 164th Street, pleaded with the council: “Please don’t cut the No. 1 because I need to use it to go to work … I cannot drive a car.” She contradicted the report of low ridership at night, saying that she sees “a lot of people waiting for the bus” at 10 p.m.
Barbara Truss, who lives in the Hollypark area, said that her handicapped son uses the No. 4 bus to go to college and the doctor’s office. “He needs this bus. It makes him feel like a person … If you take this away from my son, he’s stuck in the house waiting for someone to come pick him up to go somewhere.”
Yasmin McDonald, who works for the Los Angeles Unified School District, told the council, “Service to downtown is very, very important … My schedule often changes. That means the people that get on the bus with me … if they need to get to work at the last minute, they cannot. And I don’t think that’s really fair and right at all.”
Charles Conyers, who took the No. 1 bus for eight years while working for the City of Los Angeles, spoke on behalf of his fellow riders, many of whom are poor and do not own cars: “The No. 1 bus is their only link to a job. Without it they won’t be able to work the long, crushing hours six days and nights a week that it takes for them just to make ends meet. What they asked me to do was to request that you consider taking away … an hour of service from 5 to 6 p.m. during the weekdays on the No. 1 bus so that the people who get off really late uptown and in the casinos might have a ride at 10 p.m.”
Vickie Ann Harris-Trigg, who works at the Federal Courthouse and gets off the No. 1 at First and San Pedro, complained that placards on the bus announcing the service change “were without a date, they were without a time, and they were without a location. They simply said revised proposals are being in place, and that’s all that it said. I’ve heard a lot of confusion, a lot of questions. Some people think that it’s already been implemented.”
Ikuo Nakano, a 60-year Gardena resident and 50-year rider on Line 1, suggested more outreach. “I’m asking that if they do implement this program, there be some meetings with the bus riders about where the buses are going to be at these peak hours … In this process that’s taken nine or 10 months, the bus riders didn’t get into the process until about a month ago … A lot of people on the bus have no idea that this change is going to take place … As gas goes up and up and up, there has been more ridership, and the survey that was taken in August may not reflect the (additional) people …
“I’m affected by the fact that it’s going to end early … I’d prefer at least one bus coming back from downtown Los Angeles between 9 and 10 o’clock. That would give hope to some people about being able to get home without having to worry about going to the MTA and walking a mile to their homes.”
L.P. Knight, who rides on the No. 1, commented on peak-hour service: “I generally work about eight hours, 6 to 2. That kind of leaves me out of the loop. I either have to stay later or adjust my hours.”
Chris Norfleet, a senior citizen who uses a wheelchair, was also critical of the peak-hour plan: “Everybody don’t go home at 5 o’clock. Sometimes my doctor’s appointment is not until 6:30, or I have more than one doctor’s appointment … We do rely on the bus, and staying out at night in unsafe areas … I don’t recommend that. It’s very scary.”
Another speaker pointed out that Line 1 is useful for tourists who want to visit Disney Concert Hall or the Japanese American National Museum, or those who are staying at the Miyako Hotel or Kyoto Grand Hotel and want to visit Gardena.
Councilmember Dan Medina commented, “I think it would be nice if we had some of the notices in Spanish and English as well and if we can add some other languages, that would be great … Maybe as a flyer inside, as you walk into the bus you get a flyer, and it’ll specify in Spanish or English or Korean or Japanese that these are the proposed changes so the ridership can understand that as well.”
He told Gabig, “I’m glad you’re not eliminating No. 1, which is very essential for a lot of people sitting out here, especially going to work. Let’s see if we can modify the hours so they can be a little later than just 6:30 p.m. And if that cannot be made, my suggestion would be to notify the passengers
Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Johnson told the riders, “I just want to emphasize that the key word … is ‘proposed’ … Trust me, we heard all of your concerns, we heard every single one of your ideas, we’ve taken note of everything that you said, and our Transportation Department will go back and think about those ideas and try to implement as many as we can. We don’t want to inconvenience anyone, but of course we won’t be able to please everyone …
“Our job also is to make sure that we address the quality of life for everyone in addition to being fiscally responsible for the tax dollars and the economic viability of the city, which includes the bus lines. So we have to safeguard those dollars too and sometimes these decisions are very hard … (But) we will continue to go back and rework them and tweak them.”
Councilmember Tasha Cerda, upon learning that the bus schedules have not been adjusted in about 15 years, asked Gabig to monitor bus service on an ongoing basis.
Councilmember Ron Ikejiri, noting that buses have difficulty entering and exiting Gardena Boulevard at Normandie or Vermont, said, “What I would like to see is the circulator that we discussed. I’m not sure how economically feasible that is. The circulator would … run a certain loop to all the major businesses on Redondo Beach Boulevard and coming down Vermont over to Gardena Boulevard and circle around. In that way, what we miss on Line 1 and what we miss on any proposed line it can pick it up, and I think that would be very helpful.”
Mayor Paul Tanaka said, “For a number of reasons, not the least of which is dwindling public and local funds … we as a body have a responsibility to review our lines … It is a responsibility that we cannot walk away from. Our bus lines have thousands of riders, and these proposed changes take into consideration the masses of riders as well as the many individuals who have special needs …
“A lot of thought and a lot of hours have been put into these proposed changes, and tonight we’ll be taking a vote on the changes as proposed with the mandate that if this agenda item passes, these changes … be monitored very closely with a responsibility of revisitation of routes on a regular basis. That’s something that must occur much more frequently than has occurred in the past.”
The mayor told Gabig, “I would ask that in addition to the notes that you will be sharing with Transportation Management and Design Inc., that you also ask them to watch a copy of this meeting, so that they can hear the individuals speak and maybe pick up on something that may not have made its way into your notes.”