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Council terminates Downtown Loop

Funds saved could be diverted to city’s other four bus lines, which cost less to run and draw more riders.

June 27, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — After a yearlong effort to promote public transportation in the downtown district, the City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to give up on the BurbankBus Downtown Loop, citing depressed ridership and increased costs to operate the line.

Despite the addition of a second bus and targeted marketing campaign, the route — which shoots across South Glenoaks Boulevard, loops at Alameda Avenue, down South San Fernando Boulevard to the downtown transit station and across Magnolia Boulevard — remains the city’s least efficient, said senior planner David Kriske.

The city plans to discontinue the line Aug. 3 and shift a portion of the $312,000 in annual savings to the popular Metrolink-Media District line.

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Among the five BurbankBus routes, the Downtown Loop costs the city $13 more per hour to operate, but drew some 46,000 fewer passengers than the second-least-popular NoHo-Media District line, according to data compiled over the second quarter.

While it costs the city between $2 and $4.50 per rider to operate service on the NoHo-Media District, Metrolink-Media District, NoHo-Empire and Empire-Downtown lines, the Downtown Loop regularly tops $12.

“When you start thinking about $12.24 [per person, per ride], I think we can be spending our money better, obviously,” said Mayor Gary Bric. “It’s just a matter of fiscal responsibility looking at something like this. It’s just not feasible anymore.”

A number of factors have contributed to low ridership along the route, including the spatial arrangement between the downtown station and business districts, as well as the dense, compact nature of the neighborhood, which often makes walking faster than taking the bus, Kriske said.

Riders made only 30,000 trips, or six per hour, on the Downtown Loop this year, compared with the Metrolink-Media District line, which saw 200,000 riders, or 31 per hour.

“I am just thrilled to death to hear that there is an overused circuit there,” Councilman David Gordon said. “And if we’re making some money on it, that’s great. If it’s efficient, that’s all great. But we also need to keep in perspective that this is funded by overall city tax dollars, and I think we need to look at this closely and see what is the policy, what is the objective?”

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