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Metro, Don’t Waste My Time

TRANSIT WATCH-Why is there not one bus route for all of Sepulveda Boulevard? Why must I waste my time transferring buses to travel Sepulveda?

Is the lowering number of Metro and other transit agencies around the country passengers due in part to unnecessary long travel times? 

Northbound Sepulveda Boulevard 

Sepulveda Boulevard at 28 miles is the longest street in the City of Los Angeles running from the northern San Fernando Valley to LAX. It is named after Francisco Xavier Sepúlveda (1742-1788), the patriarch of the Sepúlveda family, early settlers Los Angeles. 

At its northern reaches Sepulveda Boulevards begins in Sylmar, passes through the floor of the San Fernando Valley, climbs the Santa Monica Mountains through the Sepulveda Pass, goes through West Los Angeles, Culver City, Westchester and passes LAX. 

As it continues south of LAX it changes name to State Highway 1 and passes through the South Bay Beach Cities of El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. As Highway 1 it passes through Torrance, San Pedro, Signal Hill and Long Beach, and then crosses the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. 

For the sake of transit in the Los Angeles County territory of Metro this discussion ends at the county border, about fifty-five miles from northern San Fernando Valley beginning. 

Sepulveda Boulevard is one of the major north-south transportation arteries of western Los Angeles County, a critical and heavily travelled boulevard in it own right, and is the primary alternative to a gridlocked or closed 405. 

I depend on Sepulveda Boulevard for the start of any bus ride, either directly to a destination, or to transfer to another bus or to a Metrorail. 

In the City of Los Angeles on the Westside only two bus agencies serve the boulevard, Culver City Bus and Metro, both agencies have either regular or rapid service. The Culver City Bus runs from the Green Line Aviation/Imperial Station north to Westwood Village and to the medical center area of UCLA. The Metro Bus begins at the Expo Train Sepulveda/Pico Station, travels through Westwood Village, skirts the southern and eastern borders of UCLA, goes west on Sunset Boulevard, reconnects with Sepulveda Boulevard, and then continues north through the San Fernando Valley to Sylmar where one can connect to the Metrorail.  

When I want to travel north of UCLA, say to the Getty Center, the option I have is to take the Culver City Bus north and transfer to the Metro Rapid. I like to make this transfer in Westwood Village. It is around a forty-minute bus ride from Westchester to Westwood Village. 

This Metro bus to which I transfer runs with twenty-minute headways (every twenty minutes), so depending on how close to that Metro Bus I am while on a Culver City Bus to make a transfer, the wait be can soon, or up to twenty minutes. 

Then the Metro Rapid Bus at Westwood Village to the Getty Center in the best of circumstances is around twenty-five minutes.  

If I luckily have a short time between transfers between the Culver City and Metro Buses, it will take me around a little over an hour to arrive at the Getty Center from Westchester with the transfer in Westwood Village. This timing depends on exact times of the buses, and perfect transfers, rare situations. It is very common to exceed one hour for this trip.  

Should the wait between transfers becomes twenty minutes, then I am looking at one hour-twenty minutes from Westchester/LAX to the Getty Center.  

If this takes place during the morning or evening commute hours, which I’ve done, the time of Metro Bus trip from Westwood Village to the Getty center is extended and can easily approach forty-five minutes and longer. Tack on to that a longer time from Westchester to Westwood Village of over an hour, a possible twenty-minute wait to transfer buses, and the trip time from Westchester to the Getty Center is over two hours. 

When I am on the Culver City Bus northbound at Wilshire Boulevard, just before it turns on Wilshire, I have a clear view of Sepulveda Boulevard passing Los Angeles Cemetery up to the intersection with Sunset Boulevard. It is a straight line, open and clear. If I was driving, it would take five to fifteen minutes depending on traffic.  

But no bus travels that short stretch of Sepulveda. Instead, I must ride to Westwood Village, transfer to the Metro Bus which takes a circuitous and time wasting route around UCLA. I am looking at thirty to over sixty minutes added time to get to Sepulveda and Sunset Boulevards when it could be done in ten to fifteen. 

Why?  

I understand that Westwood Village is a transit hubtransfers, but in my repeated travels of this current route around UCLA very few passengers board or disembark from the Metro Bus as it passes UCLA. If I have no business in Westwood Village or UCLA, why must I take this route instead of having a bus continue north on Sepulveda Boulevard past Wilshire Boulevard? 

Going south is no better.  

Should I want to go to a Beach City I need to take the Culver City Bus to the LAX Transit Center, and then transfer to another bus. To Torrance the Metro Trip Planner shows the need for three buses and nearly seventy minutes. To get to San Pedro I would take the Culver City Bus to the Aviation/Imperial Green C Line to a Metro Bus, with the Metro Trip Planner shows the time needed at one hour and thirty-four minutes. To get to Long Beach the Trip Planner shows the Culver City Bus to the Green Line to the Blue Line-a trip I’ve done.  

But why could there not be one bus route for all of Sepulveda Boulevard, a type of Super Rapid from Sylmar to Long Beach? There would be no diversions into Westwood Village, or the LAX Transit Center, just a straight run.  

A great deal of time would be saved by bypassing Westwood Village and UCLA. Riders on a Sepulveda Boulevard straight line route could take transfers to those designations.  

LAX can easily be accessed at Sepulveda and Century Boulevards. There is a ground level pedestrian walkway into the airport, used now by passengers and airline personnel.  

The dreaded “last mile” millstone around the necks of transit planners become the reality with transit riders. There are many instances where I walk up to one mile from bus stop or train station to destination. We become acquainted with it, and if offers a tremendous health benefit from walking. The walk from Sepulveda Boulevard in to LAX would not be hindrance to attracting bus riders. If it is a worry, then LAWA/LAX could direct the bus riders to the shuttles which circle the airport to get to terminals.  

The sprawl of Los Angeles is not being addressed for long haul transit riders. This is not to discontinue the routes now used to serve major hubs along Sepulveda Boulevard such as UCLA/Westwood Village, LAX, the Beach Cities, San Pedro and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the City of Long Beach.  

These are very important places which buses must continue to serve. But why must riders who have no business at UCLA or Westwood Village have to be dragged though the time-wasting trip which the current bus agencies offer when a fast straight line is there for the offering? 

How much more attractive would bus riding be if someone from the Valley to get to LAX with just one bus travelling Sepulveda Boulevard? This same attraction would be for those south of LAX who with one bus could be dropped off walking distance of the terminals? 

This would not replace the proposed Sepulveda Pass project, which should be heavy rail, but until that is built, why can this not happen? This would not replace existing rail lines or bus routes but is needed to serve long distance travel.  

LAX and surrounding areas are employee centers, including essential workers. To serve these bus riders, why can there not be just one bus route for all of Sepulveda Boulevard (Highway 1) for those who need to travel long distances which is the way of life for travelling the Los Angeles sprawl? 

Why is there a Department of Extraordinary Innovation at Metro which seems incapable of knowing true-life transit riding experiences, like wasting time to go through Westwood Village and around UCLA when an open stretch of Sepulveda Boulevard is prime for a bus. Why are the buses wasting my most precious commodity, Time? 

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” – Theophrastus. And the most valuable thing a man, and transit agency, can waste.

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and former president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra and frequent contributor to CityWatch.)