Why You Ride (or Don’t) Thursday roundup

How do you feel about bus and rail? Infographic.

In our Why You Don’t Ride (unscientific) survey we asked readers who don’t regularly ride public transit, “How do you feel about bus and rail?”

Here’s how the answers panned out;

  • 69% responded: I’d ride a bus if there was a route that served my needs.
  • 97% responded: I’d ride rail if it there was a route that served my needs.
  • 12% responded: I’d ride a bus, but only if it has a dedicated lane.
  • 18%: I probably wouldn’t ride a bus.
  • 3%: I probably wouldn’t ride rail.

It turns out that Source readers who drive aren’t neccessarily married to the mode – in fact we only had two respondents who claimed they probably wouldn’t ride bus or rail at all.

What’s also interesting is that a majority of drivers would ride a bus if there was one that served their needs. Of course, one’s needs is a really broad variable – and if speed is one of those needs (and our survey data shows that speed is a big reason why drivers choose their cars over transit), it’s often hard for a bus in mixed traffic to compete with a car.

This is probably why we see that almost 100% of respondents indicate that they would ride rail if there was a route that served them.

Here are our selections this week – both TZ and Lawrence have some interesting commentary on the bus/rail split:

Read the surveys, after the jump.

Name: TZ
Occupation: Clerk
Location: San Gabriel Valley

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

I take public transit on every weekday to go to work.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

I’m traveling from Alhambra to Vernon in the mornings and vice versa in the afternoons.

What lines/routes do you take?

Line 76 and Line 251 or 751.

How long does it typically take?

From one hour (if I’m lucky enough) to one hour and twenty minutes.  I have searched on Google Maps – the same route, if I drive, would take me 25 minutes; and if I ride a bicycle, it would take me 57 minutes.

Briefly, how would you describe your typical transit 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

Why do you take transit?

I don’t drive.  Taking bus is the only way I can get around.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

Walking.

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

Yes.  I’m using a California ID, I don’t even have a driver’s license.

Your Perspective:

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

If only one change, then I will choose more frequent service.

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

The main issue is that the transit network in L.A. County is not designed in a way that may operate efficiently.

First of all, there are too many transit agencies in the region, and they have different fare structures.  Thus, it is impossible to have a universal fare system.  The EZ pass is way too expensive.  There will be more unnecessary transfers (like line 30 or 31 riders have to transfer to Big Blue Bus line 7 at Rimpau) and it’s not easy for the riders to make transfer.  Also there will be overlapping services that waste resources.

As for the LACMTA, it should focus more on how to improve local services rather than adding new rapid services.  In some long routes the rapid service is useful, but in the shorter routes the rapid service is just a disaster for the riders.  For example, on the Soto/Daly corridor, most riders ride the bus for less than 30 minutes, due to the traffic jam, the rapid service (Line 751) usually will only save 5-6 minutes on the route, but it makes the riders wait more than 10 minutes at the bus stops.  Thus, overall the riders have to spend 4-5 more minutes.  These 4-5 minutes may be very critical if they have to make a transfer: one minute delay at transfer point may result in a 15-minute delay at the destination.  If you have a fixed schedule at work and you have a picky boss, then this will lead you into big trouble.  The LACMTA has to understand that two trips in every twenty minutes DOES NOT equal to one trip for every ten minutes; it is even worse than one trip for every twelve minutes.  I suggest that the LACMTA cancel all Metro Rapid lines that operate every twenty minutes and put the resources back to the overlapping local service lines.  For example, if both of the local and the rapid lines operate every twenty minutes, then the rapid line should be canceled and the frequency of the local service should be improved to 12 minutes.  In this way, the overall service level is decreased from 6 trips per hour to 5 trips per hour, which will save the LACMTA some money, yet the headway is shortened from 20 minutes to 12 minutes.

The local services should be improved in a way so that they can operate at a faster speed.  I have taken the LACMTA buses for 9 years and to my experience, there are three main reasons that causes bus delays:

First, people spend too much time at the farebox.  This is mainly due to LACMTA’s fare policy that favors cash over passes.   With the current fare structure, if you only take two trips a day, even if you have to ride the bus on every weekday, you still don’t need the pass.  I think what the LACMTA should do is something like this: if the rider pays cash on board, then the fare will be 2.00 per trip.  No transfers, no day passes.  If the rider pay by TAP, then it’s 1.25 or 1.50 per trip.  There should also be more locations where people can load their TAP, and the TAP should not be loaded on board.  The minimum amount per load is $15.

The second factor that causes delays is because the LACMTA loves to locate the bus stop before the traffic signals.  I believe that LACMTA knows that this is really a bad practice since most of the stops for Metro Rapid lines are located after the traffic signals.  Bus stops before traffic signals are very likely to cause delay, especially on some narrow streets with high traffic volume like Soto Street.  Sometimes the bus has to wait quite a few minutes in order to get to the bus stop because there is a line of cars in front of the bus, and they are waiting to make the right-turn.

The third factor that causes the delay for the buses is that there are way too many stops.  The ideal distance between two stops should be around 1/4 miles, but some of the LACMTA’s bus stops are located less than 1/10 miles.  The average walking speed is about 3 miles per hour, so an average person should finish 1/4 miles in 5-6 minutes by walk.  What I’m trying to say is that this change will not make people walk more than 5 minutes but will save 5%-10% of traveling time for the bus.

I know these are all small things, but when they add up, the result is huge.

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

It’s gotten worse. The fare has increased, yet the service frequency has been decreased, while the on-time performance remains poor.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

No way.  Los Angeles is not only the capital of car, but also the car culture.  Moreover, the LACMTA is providing the service as if it is running a social welfare system for the people who don’t or can’t drive rather than running a public utility system.  The funny thing is that according to the propaganda provided by the LACMTA, the Metro rail system experienced a huge increase in ridership, but the total ridership (bus and rail) is decreasing every year.  If I remember correctly, this has been happening since 2006.  If the increase in rail ridership is huge, than the drop in bus ridership must be more than huge, otherwise the total ridership would not decrease.  In addition, the population of L.A. is also increasing, with the ridership declined over years, it should be fair to say that the percentage of people who take public transit is probably declining over the years.  I do not oppose urban rail projects, but development in urban rail should not be the excuse for the decline of the bus system.
I don’t know how other people feel, but I feel that the decision makers of LACMTA are really far from the average public transit riders.  They are not really aware what the riders really need.  With the current system, I don’t think it is possible to encourage people who are addicted to their cars to take public transit.

***

Name: Lawrence Aldava
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Location: Pasadena

Your Transit Routine:

How often do you take transit and for what purpose?

I take transit daily to and from work in Downtown L.A. and sometimes on weekends for recreational activities around the city.

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

I’m typically traveling from home in Pasadena to work in Downtown L.A, but sometimes use transit for weekend activities such as trips to Hollywood or Koreatown for Korean BBQ.

What lines/routes do you take?

I typically take the Gold Line from Pasadena and transfer to the Red or Purple line at Union Station.

How long does it typically take?

About 25-30 minutes.

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?

We’re a 1-car household and since my job is in downtown L.A, we made it a point to live near a rail station in Pasadena so that I could use transit for my daily commute while my partner uses the car. It’s a huge stress reliever. I get to read on the train, listen to music and not worry about parking. Also, it does save a ton of money. My monthly TAP card usually gets me to where I need to go.

Other Transportation:

Do you use any other forms of alternative transportation?

I’m looking to get a bike soon. In addition to being pedestrian friendly, Pasadena seems pleasant to bike around. I think it would come in handy for running local errands. Car sharing seems like it could be good as well for longer hops that aren’t easily accessible by transit or bike yet. I’m glad to see LAXCarShare expanding at such a rapid pace. Come to Pasadena please!

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

I would consider myself car-light. During the week I’m pretty much car free, but me and my partner often use the car on the weekends to run errands or go to events in less accessible areas of the city such as the Westside.

Your Perspective:

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

I echo the need for free bus to rail transfers and free transfers in general. You should not have to pay for each rail transfer made. More rail to more places is sorely needed, especially the Subway to the Westside, the Expo Line and the Downtown Connector. Real time arrival information would be helpful as well, particularly for the buses, which often run either behind schedule or show up in packs of 3 at at time (720 Rapid).

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

More rail lines. The capacity is higher and with grade separation it can transport people to their destination quickly. Building density around transit would also be smart in that it promotes walkable communities and alternatives to driving which helps make the city more accessible in the long term. A comprehensive bike plan with separated bike lanes would also complement a solid rail network nicely.

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

It’s gotten better. Since I started riding, the Gold Line Eastside extension has opened which comes in handy for visiting Little Tokyo or family in Monterey Park. I’m hopeful that the 30/10 plan will go through and that we’ll be able to speed up construction on the many critical rail projects currently planned.

How would you encourage Angelenos to use transit?

Transit provides a great opportunity to really understand the city we live in and can be a great money saver. You really don’t appreciate what we have here if you’re stuck behind the wheel in traffic all day. With transit you can interact with fellow Angelenos, explore neighborhoods you may not see normally and more. Contrary to popular belief – transit is freedom- from sitting in traffic, auto maintenance, parking etc. More places in L.A will be accessible as our network continues to expand.

***

Name: Robert
Occupation: Engineer
Location: Pasadena

Your Transportation Routine:

How often do you drive and for what purpose?

Everyday at least 2.5 hours, mostly for work

Where are you typically traveling from and going to?

Pasadena to Santa Monica.

How many vehicles do you or your family have?

5

How long does your commute typically take?

1 hour

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 $300 – $500 [Editors note: the wrong numbers were originally quoted. Revised 02/03/11 11:30pm]

Do you use any forms of alternative transportation?

I hate it. There has to be a better way.

Why do you drive?

Public transportation will take at least twice as long to arrive to any destination.

Your Perspective:

Why can’t/don’t you take transit?

I need to drive to station and after I get to my destination. I have no other means of transportation to get to my final destination.

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

Horrible!! From LAX to Pasadena, the total commute time was 2.5 hours, one way.

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

Please build more subways. At least 20 more lines.

How do you feel about buses?

I probably wouldn’t ride a bus.

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?

Cut back on these wasteful freeway re-building projects. And build more subway lines!!

Please.: no more buses, no more freeway lanes!

4 replies

  1. Robert (the Pasadena engineer):
    1) You need to get a reality check. If you are driving between Pasadena and Santa Monica, you are NOT spending $50-$100 in real transportation costs. You’re driving about 50 miles round trip each day, and by any reasonable standard of total car cost, you’re spending somewhere between $15 and $26 PER DAY on your commute. If you average 20 work days per month, that means your true cost is $300-$500 per month. I can understand the issue of the commute time — taking public transit would certainly take longer. But your driving costs are MUCH more than you believe.
    2) Riding the Gold Line from Sierra Madre Villa to Union Station and transferring to the LAX flyaway should take you no more than 1:20 and probably less than that. The cost is $8.50 each way, which is much cheaper than driving (especially when you count parking). I also find this to be faster, especially when you count the time it takes to get to a parking lot and then catch a shuttle into the airport.

    • I have to apologize to Robert and our readers: I misquoted Robert’s answer to the question On average, what do you spend each month on transportation?

      His answer was $300-$500, not $50-$100 as originally quoted. I’ve revised the text and made a note.

      Fred Camino
      Contributor, The Source

  2. Like TZ, I am the the holder of CA ID. I know how painful it is living in LA without cars. Even though MTA kept advertising how great the system is and zealot rail only (either drive or bike to rail stations) keep saying the system is good.
    MTA has to focus on the basic. If people who depend on the system are not happy about the system, how could MTA persuade the drivers to switch the mode.
    Of course, MTA only listens to rail (actually rail and car supporters).
    One thing I disagree with TZ is bus stop. The distance between each bus stop should depend on the neighborhood. In the busy area such as downtown LA and WLA, the distance between 2 bus stops should be smaller. However, in less busy area (can’t really give example since I am CA ID holder) the distance could be bigger
    MTA has to know one thing
    Rail is good. I love rail. If MTA could build rail system like New York in next 30 years, fine. If not, MTA should diversify the money.
    REMEMBER IF RAIL ONLY SUPPORTERS COULD NOT REACH THE DESTINATIONS BY RAIL, THEY WOULD DRIVE.

    MTA should listen to the people who are willing to use both mode of transportation (rail and bus)
    However, MTA is hijacked by rail only supporters