Whenever “public transit” is mentioned here in Los Angeles, most people immediately think of Metro and the transportation services it offers. This is only logical considering that Metro directly operates bus and rail services, and provides funding and directs planning for commuter rail and freeway/expressway projects within Los Angeles County. While Metro’s projects and accomplishments are well-documented and regularly covered in the news, I would instead like to draw attention to another public agency that is doing a lot to meet the local transportation needs of residents in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County: the County’s Department of Public Works (DPW). Specifically, this article discusses the shuttle services offered by DPW as an example of how critical it is to connect the dots, i.e. linking residents to popular community destinations such as parks, libraries, government offices, schools, and shopping centers.
I first learned about DPW’s shuttle services when I was doing some background research as part of my department’s process of preparing Community Parks and Recreation Plans for six unincorporated communities (which I shared about in Parks and Recreation: Not Just Fun and Games, and Unincorporated Areas Need for Parks Too). While I already knew about Metro’s bus and rail lines in these communities, I was pleasantly surprised to find out about DPW’s shuttle services in East Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone/Walnut, Park, Lennox, Willowbrook, and Athens. These communities have low median household incomes (less than $47,000 annually), high levels of childhood obesity (over 25%), and insufficient parkland (less than one acre of local parkland per 1,000 residents). An analysis of Census data also reveals that residents in these communities are more likely to commute with public transit and less likely to have access to their own vehicles. For example, about 15% of households in Willowbrook do not have access to vehicles comparing to 10% of all households in L.A. County. Seniors, children, and persons with disabilities are typically more dependent on public transit, and are likely to find local shuttle services particularly convenient. The shuttle services are also important because safety is a major concern in these communities. Specifically, as part of the community outreach process for the Community Parks and Recreation Plans, some residents expressed that they did not feel safe walking or bicycling to community destinations due to high volumes of traffic on major thoroughfares, the poor condition of sidewalks, the absence of bike lanes, and/or their awareness of certain gang territories/boundaries. In addition, DPW’s shuttle services are very affordable, with the general fare being 25 cents per trip; rides are free for seniors, persons with disabilities, children under 5 years old, and Metro pass riders. This is noteworthy given that the median household incomes of residents are relatively low.
DPW operates shuttles in the following unincorporated communities: Acton/Agua Dulce area, Athens, Avocado Heights/Bassett/West Valinda areas, East Los Angeles, East Valinda, Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park, Lennox, Los Nietos, South Whittier, and Willowbrook. DPW also works with other public agencies to provide transportation services to County residents. To demonstrate how DPW’s shuttle services meet local transportation needs, the El Sol and The Link shuttles are discussed below.
With the support of the First Supervisoral District, DPW operates the El Sol Shuttle service in East Los Angeles. The service has a timed transfer point at the East Los Angeles Civic Center where patrons can transfer among three shuttle lines: City Terrace/East Los Angeles College (ELAC), Whittier Boulevard/Saybrook Park, and Union Pacific/Salazar Park. These uniquely designed lines allow residents to take advantage of existing public services within the community and conveniently connect to various regional bus and rail services. Destinations served by the shuttles include County parks, shopping areas on Cesar Chavez Avenue and Whittier Boulevard, and the Commerce Shopping Center. The initial service began in June 2000, providing three one-way circular lines. The ridership of the program steadily increased as the service became better known within the community. In November 2000, the service expanded by including two-way service on each of the lines. El Sol shuttles connect with other transit providers in the area including: Alhambra Community Transit, City of Commerce Municipal Bus, Los Angeles’ DASH, Metrolink, Monterey Park Spirit, and Montebello Transit.
In 2011, DPW, in coordination with the Second Supervisorial District, unveiled “The Link”. The Link provides an affordable and efficient shuttle service to help residents to reach key destinations in Willowbrook, Florence-Firestone, Lennox and Athens. The shuttles connect Metro’s light rail systems, specifically the Green and Blue Lines, to County parks, libraries, schools, constituent service centers and other popular destinations, thereby creating an economic, efficient and environmentally-friendly transportation alternative. The Willowbrook shuttles, for example, connect the Green Line and Blue Line stations at Willowbrook Avenue and Avalon Boulevard with other key destinations like the King Medical Center, Kenneth Hahn Plaza, Willowbrook Senior Center, County offices, public schools, libraries, parks, and shopping centers. The Link was expanded in 2013 to the Baldwin Hills area to allow people to hike and enjoy the urban parks in the area, without having to worry about finding or paying for a parking space. Specifically, the Link’s latest route runs on a 20-minute loop from the La Cienega Exposition Line light rail station to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area on the weekends.
The public transportation needs of urban unincorporated communities are not and cannot be met entirely by Metro bus and rail lines. Local shuttles operated by DPW help to address the gaps in services and connect residents to key neighborhood destinations. The most vulnerable members of the population, including the elderly, children, persons with disabilities, and those without access to their own vehicles, are particularly in need of the services provided by shuttles like El Sol and The Link.
The Link shuttle from http://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov/index.php/link-is-coming-to-culver-city/
El Sol shuttle – East Los Angeles route map from http://ladpw.org/pdd/elasw/en/index.cfm
The Link shuttle – Willowbrook route map from http://ladpw.org/pdd/transit/theLinkKingWillowbrook.cfm
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect the official views or positions of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.