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35 CTTRANSIT offers several lessons learned through its 7:00 p.m. Weekday headways vary between 5 and 10 min implementation and operation of the Star Shuttle: during peak periods and between 5 and 20 min in midday, depending on the route. Figure 8 shows weekday Downtown · Define the target market, in this case tourists and visi- DASH Routes A through F. tors to downtown. · Try to connect as many "dots" as possible that would DASH Routes E and F operate on weekends, along with a serve as destinations for the customers, but in a short Downtown Discovery route (shown as Route DD in Figure 9). route that allows for good frequency. The three weekend routes operate every 20 min between the · Provide service every 10 to 15 min, or 20 min at the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. with the exception of DASH longest. Route E on Saturday, which begins service at 6:30 a.m. and · Branding of the service and the buses to stand out from operates every 6 min. the regular transit fleet is a must, especially if the target market is nontransit users. The regular fare was originally 25 cents, but was recently · Obtain buy-in from the transit union to allow for a spe- increased to 35 cents (its first increase ever) and is scheduled cial selection of drivers who can be trained as community to increase again to 50 cents in July 2011. Downtown DASH ambassadors/visitor guides. This is important for the monthly passes are available for $9. tourist and visitor market. · No fare is ideal, or at most a nominal fare. LADOT worked with the Los Angeles County Metropol- · It helps to have supportive partners who are willing to itan Transportation Authority (Metro), the regional transit lobby for the service. agency, when designing the original DASH routes and con- tinues to do so when making changes. Many Metro routes CTTRANSIT's advice to another agency trying to replicate either terminate or travel through downtown; however, the its program is to keep it simple; a short route that connects agency recognized that its route structure and fare did not the dots, operates frequently and consistently, and is well- attract many riders traveling within downtown. branded. Success is measured partly but not entirely on rider- ship, and the definition of success goes back to the reason Employees are the primary market for Downtown DASH; for starting the service. The downtown circulator is an impor- however, shoppers, downtown residents, and tourists are also tant sales tool for the CVB and provides it with an advantage served, and each route has a slightly different purpose. Route F in competing for convention business. travels south of downtown, serving the University of South- ern California and surrounding residential areas. Route E con- nects a residential area west of downtown with the Fashion CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF District (known colloquially as the Garment District) and is TRANSPORTATION--LOS ANGELES, CA the most productive of the Downtown DASH routes. Route D The city of Los Angeles DOT connects downtown with Union Station and Gateway Plaza, (LADOT)operates the Down- where many regional rail and bus lines terminate. The week- town DASH network in Los end Downtown Discovery route is designed for tourists, but is Angeles, along with neighborhood DASH services and com- facing possible discontinuation as a result of tight budgets and muter express routes throughout the city. LADOT's service low ridership. area population is 8.6 million. The agency operates 259 buses under contract. Annual ridership on all LADOT services is The primary funding source for Downtown DASH is 30.9 million. Metro, the regional transit agency in Los Ange- Prop A, a local sales tax for transit. The three oldest DASH les, operates an additional 2,085 peak buses directly and routes also receive federal formula funds through Metro; another 149 under contract, in addition to 70 heavy rail vehi- newer routes are funded entirely through Prop A funds. cles and 102 light rail vehicles. Annual ridership on all Metro LADOT operates 58 Downtown DASH buses in peak ser- services is 476 million. Downtown employment exceeds vice. Annual ridership is approximately 7.5 million per year 200,000. (25,000 each weekday, 8,000 each Saturday, and 2,700 each Sunday). Circulator Origins and Operation Figure 10 shows a DASH bus, which is branded to stand LADOT began operation of the Downtown DASH in 1985. out from buses of the many other transit agencies serv- Since that time, the downtown circulator system has grown to ing downtown Los Angeles. LADOT uses 30-ft buses, six weekday and three weekend routes throughout downtown although it has received funding to purchase larger buses Los Angeles and neighboring areas, and the DASH concept for Route E to address capacity problems. Each DASH bus has expanded to include neighborhood circulators throughout stop is signed with the DASH logo. LADOT has worked the city. The six weekday routes operate from 5:50 a.m. to with the same marketing firm since the inception of the
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36 FIGURE 8 Downtown DASH weekday routes.
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37 FIGURE 9 Downtown DASH weekend routes.
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38 allowing these commuters and others a means to get around downtown during the day; and providing downtown residents with an alternative to driving their cars for downtown trips. The primary drawbacks of the Downtown DASH are ris- ing operating costs in times of budget cutbacks and reliable, on-time operation on congested downtown streets with regu- lar service interruptions resulting from building construction, public works projects, filming, and street closures. The con- gestion causes bunching, especially on the very frequent routes. LADOT recently purchased a system with next-bus capabilities, so that riders can access next-bus information at the stop level through personal digital assistants, computers, or telephones. Dispatchers also see and use this information to track the buses and take corrective action as needed. The downtown has evolved since the Downtown DASH began, and downtown's residential component has grown sig- nificantly. Service entertainment venues (Live LA near the Staples Center is one example) have also flourished. Route A in the Financial District and Route B in Chinatown experience a spike in ridership during lunch hour. LADOT has not been able to respond to all these changes as it would have preferred owing to budget issues, but it has added service to DASH routes in residential and entertainment areas. Ridership soared during a Metro strike, and the regional transit agency has been concentrating more resources on regional service, leaving DASH to serve downtown. A benefit of being part of city government is the ability to work closely with traffic engineers. There is now signal prior- ity for buses at a key downtown intersection, a bus-only lane along Figueroa Street in the morning peak, and an upcoming signal coordination project will also assist in improving bus travel in downtown. FIGURE 10 Downtown DASH branding. Changes and Lessons Learned If LADOT could change one aspect of the Downtown DASH Downtown DASH to establish a clear identity for its buses implementation and operation it would have worked in closer and stops. collaboration with Metro to ensure that LADOT's role and responsibility as the primary provider of downtown mobility A private contractor operates the Downtown DASH under dovetailed with the larger regional perspective. This collabo- contract to LADOT. A primary goal for this service is to be "a ration is taking place now, but the dialogue and close collab- step above" other transit services in downtown and LADOT oration would have been useful at the very start. emphasizes the Downtown DASH operator's role as an ambassador. LADOT has received letters of commendation LADOT offers several lessons learned through its opera- for its drivers from visitors as far away as the East Coast and tion of the Downtown DASH: Canada. · Take sufficient time to coordinate with other agencies Benefits and Drawbacks and municipalities and clarify the role of the downtown circulator system. LADOT rates its Downtown DASH as very successful. The · Get feedback from large employers, visitors' bureaus, chief benefits of Downtown DASH service include encourag- convention centers, and hotels so that you clearly under- ing commuters to use regional bus and rail service by provid- stand their needs. This allows you to plan effectively for ing a means to reach their employment sites in downtown; service span, route alignment, and regional connections,