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Southern California Transit Advocates is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion, development and improvement of public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

San Pedro Study Tour

-- J.K. Drummond & Dana Gabbard

Saturday August 1st Southern California Transit Advocates sponsored a study tour of San Pedro. Our intention was to evaluate site conditions to better understand the feasibility of various recommendations contained in the draft South Bay transit restructuring. Our tour guide, member J.K. Drummond, providing insights on transit issues in San Pedro plus fascinating historical facts about the many areas traveled through.

A key issue is where to place a transit center. Besides inspecting the three present and one abandoned park-ride lots, we examined ten possible sites for a transit center, all closer to the San Pedro business district than the consultant's draft recommendations. It was readily apparent that the recommendations were inconvenient and could actually undermine transit use. We visited one of the key transit nodes (a location to transfer between buses) to reach a location that had a token/pass sales outlet (a member of our party needed to buy tokens). One idea that was considered is whether a on-street transit center (such as found in downtown Long Beach and San Bernardino) at a node is preferable to an out of the way off-street location.

During our tour we experienced one bus that either was ahead of schedule or a no-show. We also had a bus that was a half hour late. While waiting for it J.K. Drummond and Armando Avalos tried to call MTA dispatch to find out whether the bus was coming soon. The dispatcher was totally unaware the bus was running late. When the bus finally arrived its driver arbitrarily decided to cut her run short and gave us a thrill ride off route down and up two of San Pedro's best "roller coaster" hills. This was a once-an-hour route 446 bus and any passengers waiting at its many, many stops were out of luck.

By our observation LADOT's contract busses were air conditioned and clean. MTA's contract busses were dirty. One had a whole seat missing.

Our attempt to publicize this event, and have members of the public join us, resulted in one participant who had formerly worked for the New York MTA Inspector General. For lunch we stopped at Weymouth Corners (a shopping district similar to Larchmont) and were drawn to a good smelling Italian deli. Across the street was the Assistance League where the robber/rapist bus hijacker crashed the vehicle after joyriding recently.

As we rode the out-of-town participants were impressed at San Pedro's complex topography that includes canyons, numerous hills (some quite steep) and a network of roads that have their own unique character. In such an area bus routing can be more complicated than a map may make it appear.

We rode every route running on Saturday except the LADOT-operated "San Pedro Trolley", which we saw, the 225 whose layover we inspected, and the 646 which runs in the "wee" hours only.

One puzzle was the park-ride-lot near downtown San Pedro that isn't noted anywhere except on the MAX schedules. Also puzzling is why many MAX stops are unmarked. Its success despite such anonymity is amazing. It is a further mystery that while MAX service includes some standing loads, the consultant calls it "underutilized".

Members who participated were Armando Avalos, Hank Fung, Dana Gabbard and Woody Rosner. We'll use what we learned to prepare a response to the consultant's recommendations.