Metro buses and trains have increased their on-timeness by 0.7 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to their own data, as analyzed by KPCC. That probably sounds like nothing, but considering how big Metro's system is, that could translate into "more than a hundred thousand doors opening on time." Unfortunately, one of the doors that's not likely to open on schedule is one of Metro's most popular.
The 720, Metro's most-boarded line, was behind schedule about 30 percent of the time, putting it among the agency's worst in terms of punctuality. It wasn't the worst, though. Line 205, which runs between San Pedro and Willowbrook, is late about 30 percent of the time—the latest among buses with a "healthy number" of stops.
Things aren't all that bad on the bus front, though. In fact, most of the buses—80.6 percent—arrive on time or early to their stops, though it should be noted that Metro considers anything under five minutes late to be "on time." A five-minute grace period is reasonable, though, considering that buses drive through the same traffic that the rest of us do, with the exception of the Orange Line, which runs on a dedicated lane, and the Silver Lane, which runs on freeway express lanes. Not coincidentally, the Orange Line is the Metro bus with the most punctual performance: it's on time 94 percent of the time.
Bus tardiness spikes in October and September, when schools are going back in session. So when your bus is late, blame the children. "When the schools start up in September, October, more parents are actually driving their kids to schools. So our buses are having a harder time getting though," a Metro rep says. Despite all the traffic, about five percent of buses get to their stops early; when this happens, they're supposed to
blast by the stop and pretend not to see you wait at the stop until their scheduled departure time.
Because they're largely outside of the gridlock equation, Metro trains have a much better record with arriving on schedule. Since December 2009, more than 99 percent of trains have left their stops on time. Not all lines are created equal, though. Red and Purple Line trains (which share tracks and are both fully underground) are only late once every 200 stops. The Blue Line was the most likely to be tardy—one in 50 was late over the five-year period surveyed—but it also has the most at-grade street crossings, meaning it's often got to wait like cars do to cross traffic.
Metro's bus data comes from equipment installed on the buses themselves; information's downloaded nightly and matched to schedules to see how timely they are. Buses are ignored when they're more than 20 minutes early or more than an hour late. The first and last stops are also ignored in data collection. Trains, when they're more than five minutes late or get cancelled, are recorded by hand by an employee at Metro's Rail Operations Control Center.
· How late are Los Angeles buses and trains? Depends which line you're riding [SCPR]
· Watch LA's Transportation System From Above at 60x Speed [Curbed LA]