Why You Ride (or Don’t) Thursday roundup

Why You Drive - Most common responses.

The infographic above is a visualization of the most common responses to the question, “Why do you drive?” in our Why You Don’t Ride survey.

It really came down to two things for survey respondents: convenience and speed.

Despite the recent report that L.A. has the worst traffic in the U.S., those who choose to drive do it for the speed. Long commutes are often made longer by buses that have to make many stops or when a rider must transfer, and the convenience of being able to set their own schedule rather than adhering to a transit schedule is attractive to many drivers.

Here’s what one respondent, John from Monrovia, had to say about the issue:

“Why would I sacrifice speed and flexibility just to use Metro?  It should be one or the other.  Driving should be more flexible, and rail should be faster.  Since buses compete on the same grid as cars, they’re doomed to fail on both counts.”

Other common responses included: ease of use, reliability, safety and the fact that some just had no other choice. Safety is an interesting answer considering that over 30,000 Americans are killed each year in car accidents – but most of the answers in the survey were referring to the perception of safety in and around transit stops, especially late at night.

Why should Metro care about why people choose to drive? If increasing ridership is a goal, it’s important to know what the competition has to offer. How can Metro compete with the car – especially in terms of convenience and speed? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Here are our selections this week:

Read the surveys, after the jump.

Name: Stephen
Occupation: Computer Consultant
Location: East L.A.

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

Twice a week. More as needed.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

Various locations around LA County.

What lines/routes do you take?

266, 489, 78,  All light rail lines.

How long does it typically take?

1-3 hours depending on where I’m going.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit experience? Love it, deal with it, or hate it?

I love it!

On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

$100 – $300

Why do you take transit?

Save money, help the environment, reduce stress, enjoy meeting fellow riders.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

Car.

Are you car-free? If so, why? If not, why not?

No because sometimes we need to get  to places in minutes not an hour.

Your Perspective:

If you could make one change to improve your transit experience, what would it be?

More frequent service, real time arrival info..

Given limited funds, how would you address L.A.’s transportation issues?

More rail, more bus lanes, more transit oriented development, more freeway lanes, etc.

Do you think L.A. transit is better or worse since you started riding? What’s changed?

It’s gotten better. More frequent buses.  Buses are in better shape.  The installation of the light rail.  More area coverage.  There is a bus that gets me from the east side of LA County to downtown L.A. in about 20-30 minutes.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

Reuse the old RTD slogan “Leave the driving to us.”  TV ads that stress how one can arrive refreshed at work from not having to drive themselves, one can save money and help the environment and require less dependency on foreign oil.

***

Name: James H. Lampert
Occupation: Programmer
Location: Orange County

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

Ever since the Blue Line began running late enough to get me back to Long Beach after even a late concert, I’ve been leaving my car in Long Beach on Hollywood Bowl and Disney Hall concert nights, and taking the Blue and Red lines into Los Angeles. In addition, I frequently take Metro into Los Angeles for any other business that doesn’t require me to have my car. This works out to anywhere from one to three nights a week during the summer (averaging just under two), and as many per month during the rest of the year.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

From my car, parked at the Wardlow Station, to such diverse destinations as concert venues, museums, special events, and occasionally even to work, when my best friend (a videographer) calls me in to work a video crew at an ice rink that’s convenient to Metro Rail, such as Pasadena or El Segundo.

What lines/routes do you take?

Mainly the Blue and Red Lines, along with occasional use of the Green and Gold lines, and various bus lines. I’m looking forward to the completion of the Expo Line, and the extension of the Purple Line.

How long does it typically take?

As little as an hour to get to Disney Hall, and as long as two hours to get back to my car from some locations. Yesterday, in particular, I noticed that it took me a full hour to get from my office in Costa Mesa to the Wardlow Blue Line Station, and not much more than that to travel the significantly greater distance from there to the Bowl.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit experience? Love it, deal with it, or hate it?

I love it!

On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

$50 – $100

Why do you take transit?

It beats driving. I can read, rest, and look at the scenery on the way.

Spending $6 on a Metro day pass is cheaper (and greener) than the gasoline needed for a round trip all the way into Los Angeles, and if I were to drive all the way, I’d have to pay for parking. I estimate that taking Metro to concerts saves me between $10 and $15 per concert, which amounts to over $200 over the Bowl season alone, and at least another $100 over the Disney Hall season.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

[No answer given.]

Are you car-free? If so, why? If not, why not?

[No answer given.]

Your Perspective:

If you could make one change to improve your transit experience, what would it be?

Offer a weekly pass, for weeks in which I attend multiple concerts.

Given limited funds, how would you address L.A.’s transportation issues?

[No answer given.]

Do you think L.A. transit is better or worse since you started riding? What’s changed?

It’s gotten better. More rail routes, and more trains.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

[No answer given.]

***

Name: Steve L
Occupation: Engineer
Location: Santa Monica

Your Transportation Routine:

How often do you drive and for what purpose?

Five days a week to work.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

North Arcadia to La Canada (Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

How many vehicles do you or your family have?

2

How long does your commute typically take?

40 minutes.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical driving experience? Love it, deal with it, or hate it?

I deal with it.

On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

$50 – $100

Do you use any forms of alternative transportation?

This is not practical given my irregular work schedule:leave in the morning anywhere from 6:15 to 7:30 AM, then head home between 4:15 and 6:00 PM.

Why do you drive?

Convenient, fast (I can totally avoid freeways and busy streets). Unfortunately, if you get in after 8:30 AM, you have to park in a very remote parking lot, where it can take an additional 10-30 minutes (I’m not kidding) just to reach your office (walking or shuttle bus).

Your Perspective:

Why can’t/don’t you take transit?

Much too slow taking the bus – with missed connections the trip can take up to 90 minutes to go just 11 miles – Ugh! The bus driver always seems to take a coffee break at McDonalds in Pasadena on the way home.

Have you tried to use transit before? What was your experience?

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago (end of the ‘El” line in Wilmette). The trains in L.A., especially the subway, are vastly more pleasant to ride: very clean and quiet. Although the Gold Line is excruciatingly slow in the Marmion Way area (I wanted to get out and push!), I have clocked it at over 60 mph on the 210 Freeway  – awesome! When the train comes to Arcadia in four years (5 years behind schedule, thanks Metro!), I would definitely consider a bus (Santa Anita), Gold Line to Old Town Pasadena – bus to Jet Propulsion Laboratory commute 5 days a week.

What could local transit agencies do to encourage you to take transit more often?

A good rule of thumb in a city with “real public transit” is that no one should have to ride a bus more than a few miles – just to make connections. Consider smaller and more frequent buses for “short hops” like Old Town Pasadena to JPL.

Consider making better use of the east end of the Green Line by bending it northward to cut across both the lower and upper branches of the Gold Line (we need more north-south access).

While Ontario Airport is very nice, it is “unreachable” by car or transit during rush hour from the San Gabriel Valley. Flights out of Ontario are also significantly more expensive than out of LAX. A Gold Line-Green Line link from the San Gabriel Valley would be very useful for business travelers (not so much for tourist with tons of luggage).

Also, is there anyway to get a direct Gold Line branch out to Burbank Airport… please…?

How do you feel about buses?

I’d ride a bus if there was a route that served my needs.

How do you feel about rail?

I’d ride rail if it there was a route that served my needs.

Given limited funds, how would you address L.A.’s transportation issues?

I think the plans for the Regional Connector to allow uninterrupted travel betweenPasadena-Long Beach and Culver City-East LA (avoiding Union Station) are excellent. Please make that your top priority, so people in the San Gabriel Valley could get to LAX with only one transfer (at the current Blue Line/Green Line junction). If the Gold Line makes it out to Claremont/Ontario in about 10 years you would finally have the LAX-Union Station-Ontario Airport dream come true (even it does mean hauling luggage on a 1-1/2 hour train ride. )

Then finish the Red Line to just past UCLA and Expo Line to Santa Monica. I think extending the Red Line to the beach is an expensive luxury – consider just bending it south to meet the Expo Line.

5 replies

  1. I think the ideal commuter system for L.A. County would be something like BART: much faster than our light rail trains, with two-mile spacing typical (rather than one mile). And of course, more routes.

    That said, I think we have a pretty good system. The Blue Line is incredibly popular, but it could have twice the ridership if more of it were grade-separated. A couple of minutes saved at the end of each trip makes a huge difference.

  2. What I find so infuriating is how much _more_ time is added to my commute waiting for a bus.

    The schedules posted are very unreliable. When the buses are running fast you could show up at your stop on time only to have missed it and then wait longer for the next bus since that bus could be running behind having to stop more often to pick up ALL the other commuters who missed the fast running bus.

    Too often during rush hour, missing the scheduled stops means the buses fill up past capacity and the ride becomes a smelly unpleasant and unsafe experience.

    Can’t MTA do something about this? Is MTA even aware that this is happening? It should not take me 1 hour to go 4 miles along Santa Monica Blvd on a local line. On a main street like SMB, a rider shouldn’t have to wait longer than 15 minutes for a bus. But too frequently a “Not in Service” comes running by. A wasted opportunity to serve more riders more frequently. Have your buses returning to the garage in West Hollywood pick up the slack.

    SO… Why would I choose to drive? Everyone gets a seat and a seat belt. I can go when I want to leave.

    And.. Why would I choose to ride? I don’t have to worry about parking. And as a passenger, fighting traffic is no longer my concern.

  3. This is why NextBus is SO important. It was supposed to be deployed any day now. We can skip the at-stop displays and just have information on cell phones and text messaging.

    • JustinC, these responses aren’t cherry picked. I’m posting every single response we received, in the order we received them. If you’ve been following Why I Ride/Don’t you’d know that some responses are positive, some are negative, but all are straight up what we received from our readers. I hope you took the time to fill out a survey to share your thoughts (the survey is closed now, but feel free to shoot us an email with your responses if you like, we’ll put it in the queue.)

      Fred Camino
      Contributor, The Source