Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Silver Linings of Foothill Transit Line 690’s Route Reduction

For many in L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley and the western Inland Empire, the March opening of Metro’s Gold Line eastern extension from Pasadena to Azusa was heralded as another positive alternative to sitting alone in traffic, wondering why the other lanes seem to go faster.  For commuters travelling Interstate 210 ("I-210") in rush hour, the Gold Line’s extension meant being able to park further east, riding the train into Pasadena, East Los Angeles, and other surrounding communities.  However, with the extension opening, many riders of Foothill Transit’s express line 690–Montclair to Pasadena, via I-210–were curious if any change to the route would take effect, or possibly a complete route elimination.

Now we know.

On 15 September, Foothill Transit announced the portion of line 690 from Azusa to Downtown Pasadena would be eliminated, with service converting from express to a local route.  Taking effect 30 October, local service would mean 690’s single-ride fare would reduce from $2.75 now, to $1.25.  While the announcement mentions line 690 will continue to serve the same stops from Montclair to the Azusa Intermodal Transit Center, the announcement does not state if the schedule will remain as weekday peak-service, or expand to possibly full-day service.

As a former commuter of line 690 (Lone Hill Park & Ride to Los Robles Avenue), I can understand why many would be frustrated by the route reduction, given the current 690 route means guaranteed access to I-210’s carpool lane from Azusa to Pasadena.  On Foothill Transit’s newer padded buses, it also means the opportunity to relax and sleep a little on the way home from work.  (Hopefully, only the passengers took advantage of this.)

The new route will mean some riders may give-up this commuting option altogether; others disappointed, but still planning to ride the new line 690; and, some even excited by the change, as this would mean not having to worry about congested freeway conditions, even with use of the carpool lane.

TransportiCA would like to offer some perspectives that we see as 'silver linings' for line 690’s new configuration.  First, there is a time savings with transferring to a mode having “dedicated” lanes, and second, a SIGNIFICANT savings in monthly bus expenses, even with potentially purchasing a pass for multiple systems.

First, we acknowledge that come Monday, 31 October, having to transfer to another transit system to travel to Pasadena will not be preferred, nor tolerated by some riders.  However, even with this new transfer, please keep in mind you will be boarding the Gold Line at only it’s second station in the direction of morning travel, and will not be having to worry about the crowds that amass at, and after the Monrovia station.  For both directions on the Gold Line, you are also looking at trains running every 7-12 minutes.

As well, examining the Azusa Avenue to Lake Avenue Gold Line station segment results in travel time saved.  As seen in the figure above, this portion of the morning / westbound commute averages 25 minutes, with the afternoon / eastbound commute averaging 35 minutes–based upon the current line 690 schedule.  (Other factors not listed can also create schedule variation.)  On the Gold Line, however, whether headed west- or eastbound, the average scheduled commute time is 23 minutes, and riders for much of the route are traveling on dedicated rails, occasionally meeting at-grade traffic, with no worries of freeway congestion needed.

Second, and this is a major one, the amount of money spent on this same commute–even with having to transfer to a new system–will, for some, drastically reduce monthly transit expenses, and for others, a modest price increase will add incredible value and enhance transportation options.

Present Fares / EZ Pass Costs
Currently, Foothill Transit line 690 riders pay $105.00 for a monthly pass–also entitling riders to every service at Foothill Transit.  Assuming riders are reasonable, we are not including daily single-ride fares, as using this fare option for the “work month”–assuming 20-22 days a month–is significantly more than a monthly pass–$110.00 to 121.00.  EZ pass riders currently pay $176.00 a month to ride line 690.  Come 30 October, and with line 690 now being a local route, your EZ Pass cost drops significantly to $110.00 a month–an annual saving of $792.00.  Further, even with the basic EZ Pass, you can transfer to the Metro Gold Line at no additional cost.  You also can ride nearly all of Metro’s transit services, and services of 22 other L.A. County systems with only your EZ Pass.

Line 690 Monthly Pass Costs
For current line 690 riders purchasing the respective monthly pass of $105.00, a $5.00 a month increase would be ideal for transferring to the Gold Line, as well as, greatly increasing the value of your monthly pass.  This option means purchasing the standard $110.00 a month EZ Pass, good for monthly travel on Foothill Transit, Metro, and as stated, 22 other providers.  In absolute terms, the monthly costs increases; however, in relative terms, your value is exponential–24 transit systems accessed with one pass.

Other Fare / Monthly Pass Options
Again, assuming your work month is between 20 and 22 days, paying the new local fare for 690 ($1.25), buying a transfer on board ($0.50), then for your return trip, paying the local fare for the Metro Gold Line ($1.75) and a Metro-to-Muni transfer ($0.50) would be between $80.00-88.00 a month.  While this is the least expensive option, this would not benefit transit riders travelling in addition to their daily Pasadena-bound trip.

Buying a standard monthly pass for both Foothill Transit ($70.00) and Metro ($100.00) would also not be ideal.  The standard monthly EZ Pass ($110.00) provides the best value, and, as stated, increases your transit options to 22 more L.A. County systems–including if you need to transfer to Pasadena Transit or L.A. DOT’s DASH system; both systems included with the EZ Pass.

Please keep in these calculations previously mentioned are based solely on standard monthly “adult” passes, and do not reflect discounted passes for seniors, the disabled, students, or government and employer programs.

As mentioned before, the change in Foothill Transit line 690’s geographic route and service classification will not be popular for some riders.  However, TransportiCA believes there are many benefits–financial and otherwise–to 690’s new local and Pasadena-bound, multi-modal trip.  Regardless of your service provider, you are still helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking transit, and in the end, for TransportiCA at least, leaving a healthy planet for you and others is what matters most.

For more information about line 690 and other transit options, please contact Foothill Transit at 1.800.743.3463, or via email at <>.

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