Fund Hike for Smart Buses Considered

The City Council agreed Friday to consider providing additional funding to avoid having to shut down or scale back the Smart Shuttle bus service in the San Fernando Valley and South Central Los Angeles.

Councilman Hal Bernson asked the Department of Transportation to report back on possible funding plans in the next three weeks after hearing that funding shortfalls are threatening the service.

Faced with other priorities, the department has recommended that next year’s city budget include only $1.5 million of the $3.5 million needed to fund the four Smart Shuttle programs through next year. Unless other funding is found, service would have to be cut by two-thirds beginning June 30, said James Okazaki, a manager for the city department.

Affected are eight bus lines in the San Fernando Valley--where buses connect shopping malls, job centers and other activity centers but also are able to drive off their regular route to pick up people who call for service.

In the West Valley, four lines are serving an average of 24,000 riders a month, while 43,000 people are riding the four lines in the northeast Valley each month, Okazaki said.


Councilman Nate Holden called the Smart Shuttle a “dumb program,” arguing it is not as efficient as other bus services, and in many cases is duplicating service provided by regular MTA lines. He noted it was begun three years ago as a two-year test program that has already been extended once and has not fulfilled promises that it would become financially self-sufficient.

But Bernson said the program is an “important link” for communities that otherwise would not have easy access to mass transit.

“This hasn’t been given a long enough time to show that it’s going to be successful,” Bernson said before the matter was sent to committee for consideration.