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|February 9th, 2005, 02:32 AM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Los Angeles
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Article about the DASH bus system
LA Downtown News
The Little DASH That Could
by Kathryn Maese
In the late 1960s, former Downtown Councilman Gilbert Lindsey caught
a glimpse of the Central City's public transit future while standing
in the Disneyland parking lot.
Lindsey envisioned a conveyance, styled after the theme park's long,
open-air tram, that would renew interest in public transportation
Downtown, particularly at a time when the ageing RTD (now Metro) bus
system held little appeal for tourists and office workers. In 1971,
the councilman's fanciful vision was retooled into a more practical
urban bus system, now called the Downtown DASH.
The now-ubiquitous blue-and-white buses have become a surprising, if
quiet, success with more than 8 million riders and six lines
traversing every Downtown district. According to the Los Angeles
Department of Transportation (LADOT), which operates the bus system,
Downtown DASH ridership has grown nearly 35% in the last five years,
outpacing the national transit growth average by 20%.
"I think it reflects a reality in Downtown," said Phil Aker, an
LADOT transit planner who helped devise the system. "The one-way
street system is confusing, there's often no parking, or else
workers have no in-and-out privileges in parking garages. A lot of
people use DASH even though they have cars."
The fleet's 66 propane buses, which are 30 feet long and seat 24
people, have become a Downtown staple over the years, ferrying
passengers from Chinatown on the north to USC on the south, and from
the 110 Harbor Freeway on the west to the Arts District on the east.
Weekday routes tagged with letters "A" through "F" zig-zag into
smaller streets and areas where the larger Metro buses do not. The
DASH picks up passengers every five to 10 minutes, making a complete
circle in about an hour so few riders get lost. The easy-to-navigate
system has found particular success with tourists, who use the
weekend Downtown Discovery route to visit attractions such as Grand
Central Market, Chinatown, Disney Hall, Little Tokyo and the Fashion
"Some people have this idea that public transit is simply buses
stopping every other block and driving on arterial streets," said
Genevieve Giuliano, a USC urban planning professor and director of
the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research. "But
there are all types of demand for public transit services. In a
downtown like Los Angeles, where the regular buses take up a lot of
street space and routes don't necessarily serve travel patterns,
DASH is a more cost-effective option."
The 25-cent, one-way fare is one of the system's biggest selling
points, Aker said, particularly for riders who only travel a few
blocks to restaurants, shopping malls, meetings and connecting Metro
services such as the Red and Gold lines.
"The fare for a short ride on a Metro bus is very high at $1.25 one
way," Aker said. "If your average trip is four miles, then it's a
good value. If it's four blocks forget it."
Barrett Reiff, who lives at Fourth and Spring streets and attends
USC, said he catches the "D" DASH daily in front of his apartment
building and then transfers to the "E" and finally the "F," which
travels up and down Figueroa and Flower streets. The MBA student
said he arrives in less than 30 minutes.
"By the time I drive there and find campus parking and then walk to
my building, it takes me longer than it does on the DASH," Reiff
said. "I don't have to worry about the freeway."
The Downtown DASH's busiest segment is the "E" route, which starts
in the City West community near the 110 Freeway and travels along
Seventh Street past Macy's Plaza and into the Fashion District.
According to figures from the LADOT, 283,796 people rode the "E"
line in October, more than any other segment in the Downtown system.
Most of the riders are transit-dependent garment workers who take
the bus to factories and wholesale shops along Maple Street and Pico
Boulevard, said Michael Griffin, Downtown DASH project manager.
As Downtown's residential base grows, and new cultural, retail and
entertainment venues have cropped up, Griffin said department
officials plan to review and revamp the system next year to fit
changing patterns. The last study was completed in 1996, when a
number of underused routes were eliminated and the Downtown
Discovery route was added.
In the upcoming revamp, the LADOT will focus on eliminating
duplicate service routes, such as one near the Convention Center, as
well beefing up the busy USC route and examining new stops near loft
and apartment buildings.
Aker said the department plans to move cautiously on the residential
front, since he and other urban planners believe a population boom
won't immediately translate to a boost in DASH ridership. Planners
made that mistake in the early 1990s when they "got burned" on
running an extensive service in City West based on a residential
explosion that never materialized.
"It will take a while before someone who lives at the Orsini or the
Medici is interested in riding the DASH to go to a restaurant," Aker
said. "I don't want to get out in from of the curve just because 200
housing units are planned for a certain parcel. I want to see butts
in seats and people standing on the buses clamoring to use it before
we commit to expanded service."
While most cities have larger municipal systems that provide local
service, the Downtown DASH is a relative luxury, since it only
serves riders in the Central City (though DASH operates separate
lines outside Downtown). The DOT has received calls from transit
planners across the state and country, including San Jose and lower
Manhattan, about setting up a similar system. "It gives us a
competitive advantage, and Downtown does better as employment and
visitor center," Aker said.
Over the decades, dozens of plans for branding Downtown with unique
public transit have come and gone, including a proposal to construct
a futuristic people mover. The current push is to resurrect the Red
Car street trolley system that ran on tracks and allowed passengers
to jump on and off along the street. A $100,000 feasibility study
headed by the Community Redevelopment Agency is examining the cost
of a five-mile loop around Downtown.
Though the DASH lacks the flair of the Red Cars and the now-defunct
Angels Flight railway, its steady success and popularity has
surprised many urban planners.
"While the Red Cars are a great example of nostalgia, the idea that
their image alone will make the service successful simply isn't
true," Giuliano said. "People will use services that are reasonably
priced, convenient, safe and reliable. Beyond that, whether it has
metal wheels or rubber tires, it's really not that important."
|February 9th, 2005, 03:47 AM||#2|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Carson, CA
Likes (Received): 0
yo nice article. I remember one time we were going to a skate demo in Watts and when I got off I was looking for the Dash. I was expecting to pay 1.25, but the lady said "It's only 25 cents." And it took us RIGHT there.
|February 11th, 2005, 10:19 AM||#3|
Universe of Los Angeles
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Los Angeles
Likes (Received): 0
283,000 rode the E line in one month alone!? thats more per mile than the Gold line!
DASH really is a wonderful service though. It bridges the gap between our Subway/LRT and the major downtown destinations. What DT LA lacks in cabs, we far more than make up for through DASH.
|February 13th, 2005, 07:59 PM||#4|
Join Date: Oct 2002
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^ DASH bus service is not reflected on the L.A. transit ridership numbers, thus showing once again along with the municipal bus lines that L.A. has better transit service and ridership than most people would expect.
BTW, a similar system is Long Beach's own downtown bus system, though that is primarily geared for tourists and comes every 5 to 10 minutes (and is free!)