A study from the Brookings Institute (PDF here) reveals that Angelenos without a car have the best access to public transportation in the nation – even beating out the New York City metropolitan area. We mentioned the report last week in Thursday’s Transportation Headlines post, since then stories have popped up in the major media outlets, here’s some choice headlines and quotes:
The car-loving L.A region -– whose public transit system is often treated like Rodney Dangerfield — ranked second to Honolulu as offering transit-dependent residents the best access to buses and trains, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Adie Tomer, the author of the report, said he wasn’t surprised by the findings, despite “that classic archetype L.A. residents have to deal with all the time — that L.A. is the capital of car culture.”
“The reality is, it’s also really good transit culture too when it comes to the ability to get on a bus,” Tomer said.
Mapping The Urban Places Where No Transit Goes (Fast Company):
Some regions are worse than others. In the Atlanta area, for example, there are 37,634 people without access to a car or nearby public transportation, and only 68.5% of the population is covered by public transportation services. But in the Los Angeles area, 99.1% of residents have access to public transportation (though judging by the city’s clogged highways, it seems that not enough people take advantage of it).
Of course, the report is not without its critics. The Huffington Post notes that the Bus Riders Union (BRU) disagree with the findings, claiming that car-free Angelenos may have access to buses but that service changes have created lines that don’t meet their needs. The BRU also cites recent fare increases as a reason to doubt L.A.’s transit accessibility.
We’d like note a few things:
Metro allocates bus service where it’s needed the most. There are 53 routes on our 15-minute map that provide that provide frequent service in addition to accessibility. It’s important to remember that service levels are not arbitrarily determined but based on ridership data and community input that Metro’s planners take into consideration when developing service.
Additionally, Metro has only raised fares three times in the last 16 years and our fares remain some of the lowest in the country despite the reach of the system. Check out these fare comparison charts from a post we made last year (at the time of the last fare increase). At $1.50 Metro’s base fare is the lowest among seven of the top transit agencies that use a flat rate. Last year, a Metro day pass cost $6 and was more affordable than day passes in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Atlanta. This summer’s day pass price drop to $5 makes Metro cheaper than Chicago ($5.75) and ties us with Portland (whose day pass rises to $5 in September).
The Brookings study brought up another interesting data point: despite L.A.’s transit accessibility, only 36% of non-vehicle households get to work in 90 minutes or less. Sounds pretty bad, right?
Well, consider this: in Los Angeles only 24% of households with vehicles get to work in 90 minutes or less. That number goes up to 29% nationwide. So it turns out transit dependent commuters in L.A. actually have better commutes than drivers.
What do you think? Does the Brookings report show that transit in L.A. isn’t as bad as it’s conventionally assumed to be, or do you feel there’s something missing from the study?