Wed, Jun

Why Create A Transit Transfer When It Can Be Avoided?


LA TRANSPO - In the abstract, adding a transfer in a new transit line may be an easy equation. For those living in real life, however, such as transit riders and those who work in and with transit, it is common knowledge that a transfer will add time to the ride.  

There are times when transfers between transit lines cannot be avoided, adding more travel time, but if a transfer can be avoided, why purposely add one? 

The Sepulveda Transit Corridor project is for Metro to build a rail system through the Sepulveda Pass. This much needed transit line will be either a monorail; or a two rail, heavy rail subway. 

Both concepts have three alternatives. For the monorail two alternatives will be aerial, above ground, and require a transfer from the monorail to an electric bus or an automated people mover to get into UCLA. The heavy rail subway will go directly into UCLA without a transfer. 

UCLA is one of major employment centers in Los Angeles through its medical center and university schools. This transit corridor has the potential to be one of the most heavily used transit lines in the Metro network. 

Transit riders and experts know transfers add complexity to the transit rider. When planning a transit trip, the rider must consider how long it will take to get from first entry into a bus or train to the destination, and if that line goes in close proximity to the destination, it is a one seat ride. If it does not, then a transfer to another transit line must be used. There are times when more than one transfer is needed. 

Transfers add time to the transit trip. So again, why add time to a transit rider’s trip for a unneeded transfer, which is the situation with monorail alternatives? 

No matter how much planning goes into a transit trip, the realities of life can create havoc. The first ride of bus or train might be late, so when I arrive at the transfer point my needed transfer may have already departed. 

I then need to wait for the next bus or train. I always give myself more time to start a trip, but a missed transfer creates frustration and anxiety that my final arrival may be late. 

Transit, like life, is messy, and for whatever reason(s) the schedules are thrown off, and my transit time will increase from my planned time. This increase in transit time is exponential if more transfers are needed. More transfers mean more time in the transit trip. 

For example, someone leaving UCLA with the monorail would need to take either an electric bus at the mercy of UCLA gridlocked traffic, or the automated people mover to transfer to the monorail. More than likely the monorail stops will not be the final destination, so another transfer after the monorail will be needed. Any delays in time between transfers will add more time to the back end of the transit trip. 

Why add this wasted travel time to transit riders with the monorail when the Sepulveda Pass heavy rail subway avoids transfer to UCLA but goes directly into the campus? Going directly into the campus is a critical time saver. 

Perhaps for the theoretical exercises of adding a transfer with the monorail this is just and exercise of numbers. But for the transit rider, missed transfers are real life problems with the consequences of being late, and of wasted time, and that is time no one can repay. 


Those who know the transit systems in Metro and Los Angeles are aware of the transfer which will be needed from either the C/Green or K/Crenshaw Line or bus to the automated people mover to get into LAX. 

Those who know transit in Los Angeles know why. The history is that in the early planning stages it was considered to connect to LAX directly with a light rail train going into the airport. 

After studies, those with transit experience and knowledge discovered that the footprint of the expanding LAX is too small for a light rail train to serve the terminals. Going underground was not considered because of the complex infrastructure underneath LAX. 

So, there will be transfers from one of light rail trains and buses which will go close to LAX to the nearly completed automated people mover. This transfer was a necessity of the situation around LAX, not a desire to add a transfer as an alternative to a transit project. 


Those with more current knowledge of Metro know they recently constructed one of most efficient and time saving connections in the network, the downtown Regional Connector. 

Before this project, if I wanted to get to parts of downtown Los Angeles, such as Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Colburn School, the theaters in the Music Center, the Broad Museum, and elsewhere, I had to take the Expo Line to the 7th Street Station and then transfer to either the Red or Purple Line. 

This required taking stairs or an escalator, or far away elevator, from the Expo Line station platform to the subway platform below. This transfer many times was a blind rush downstairs to try to catch one of those subway lines, especially when a train could be heard pulling into the station. 

There were times when I was on the stairs and as my feet hit the platform the subway pulled away. I was then at the mercy of the next train’s arrival. 

Missed transfers going home in the evening could be more anxious and frustrating because buses and trains do not run as frequently in the evening and night. 

The Regional Connector is a project which eliminated a transfer. That is a gift to transit riders. 

Some transfers cannot be avoided, but when planning and then building a transit line as critical as the one for the Sepulveda Pass Corridor, why would anyone create a frustrating and anxiety filled transfer when it could be avoided?

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native, a composer whose works have been performed nationally, and some can be found here.  He is the past President of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra and Marina del Rey Symphony. His dedication to transit issues is to help improve the transit riding experience for all, and to convince drivers to ride buses and trains to fight air pollution and global warming. He is an instructor at Emeritus/Santa Monica College and a regular contributor to CityWatchLA.)

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