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LA turns its attentions to buses, looks to expand DASH

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More night and weekend service—and 10 new routes

Observatory DASH buses boarding passengers in Griffith Park.
Matt Tinoco

Los Angeles’ network of DASH buses might be next in line for improvements and an expansion.

The transportation department is recommending that the city run more evening and weekend DASH service and more frequent daytime service—every 15 minutes—on most routes.

Plus, it’s proposing 10 new routes for DASH buses, mostly in the San Fernando Valley and Northeast LA. If the City Council signs off, service would come to North Hollywood, Boyle Heights, Pacoima, Sylmar, Canoga Park, Elysian Valley/Cypress Park, Glassell Park/Highland Park, Mission Hills, Van Nuys/North Hills, and Sun Valley.

DASH buses are small, shuttle-style buses that run on loops in Downtown LA and 27 other neighborhoods in the city of Los Angeles. For the most part, they ferry riders around neighborhoods for local trips, like errands and appointments, rather than carrying people across large sections of the city.

Most transportation talk in Los Angeles focuses on Metro’s growing rail network. The proposed DASH upgrades are one of the first examples of a push to make bus service in LA better. DASH buses are operated by the city of Los Angeles, but Metro, the regional transportation agency, is also in the early stages of a study that could rework significant parts of its bus network.

Under the city transportation department’s proposal, several existing DASH routes would be modified based on recommendations made by the public in 2015 and 2016. For example, the Hollywood DASH would be shifted to large streets like Hollywood and Santa Monica boulevards from smaller roads like Franklin and Fountain avenues. The Downtown F DASH route would extend to all the way Union Station via the Arts District. Details for each route are posted on the transportation department’s website.

Better DASH service would benefit the region’s seniors, says James Don, assistant general manager of the city’s department of aging.

“Changing the headway to 15 minutes addresses the fear that seniors have of missing their appointments and having to reschedule,” says Don. “The extended hours allows them to have afternoon medical appointments and still go to the pharmacy and get their medication without getting stranded.”

The changes would be rolled out over the next couple years.

Extending DASH evening and weekend service could largely happen on the department’s existing budget, pending approval by the Los Angeles City Council. Route changes and more frequent service would be added this year and next.

New routes could start popping up in 2019 and 2020.

For now, the biggest constraint is acquiring more buses. Aside from costs, procuring electric buses could take 12 to 18 months, transit chief Corinne Ralph told the city’s transportation committee on Wednesday.

“Twelve to 18 months!” City Councilmember Mike Bonin said. “Call Amazon prime. Overnight. 12 to 18 months. Wow. We need to get moving then.”

The transportation department’s proposals will need full City Council approval.