What’s happening at other transit agencies?

A Portland MAX light rail train pulls into the station. Photo by Flickr user camknows.

This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.

Under pressure from riders, TriMet promises to consider longer transfer times (Portland, Ore.)

A coalition of transit riders in Portland has won a small victory in its effort to extend transfer times to three hours from the current one-and-a-half hour window. The group successfully convinced the transit agency’s board of governors to study the feasibility of a three-hour transfer on TriMet’s bus and light rail lines. Advocates view extended transfers as a way of assuaging the effects of recession-induced service cuts, which have led to longer waits. While the board endorsed the study, it doesn’t look like they’re actively supportive of the transfer extension. Joseph Rose of Oregon Live reports that “TriMet considers the idea an epic policy shift that could cost more than it’s worth.”

Line of the Week: MAX Green Line (Portland, Ore.)

With Portland on the brain, here’s a quick review of the MAX Green Line from local blogger Jung Gatoona. Be sure to check out the time lapse video of the route and admire all the bus and transit only lanes.

Metro Atlanta voters warm to mass transit, poll shows

In sprawling Atlanta, voters are warming up to the idea of expanding the city’s mass transit system and improving alternatives to driving. That’s a good sign for the transportation sales tax referendum that will be on the ballot next year. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that “voters in 10 counties will be asked to approve a 10-year, 1-cent sales tax…expected to raise $7.2 billion.” Here are some more interesting poll numbers from the AJC:

Overwhelmingly, 91 percent of voters said it was important to address the region’s transportation problems to improve its quality of life and economic future. Additionally, 67 percent said the region’s traffic congestion is deteriorating their quality of life. And 82 percent said it was important to do more to encourage everyone to commute to work by bus or train.

RTD seeks private-sector boost (Denver, Colo.)

Denver has a big transit expansion plan called FasTracks and even a dedicated sales tax to fund it. However, like Measure R in L.A. County, the revenues trickle in over time. Denver transit officials are looking for ways to get more revenue up front and thus accelerate a number projects, according to the Denver Business Journal. While America Fast Forward could help Denver in that regard — as I wrote back in March — FasTracks backers are reaching out to the private sector to see if there are opportunities for the vaunted Public-Private Partnership.

More money, more problems: MUNI spends more, but customer satisfaction falls (San Francisco)

Here’s a quagmire for you: Transportation Nation reports that San Fran’s transit operator MUNI has increased overall spending and on time performance, but riders are less satisfied than they were in 2004. Check out the story to read some hypothesizing from MUNI and what they’re doing to improve the transit experience.

New strategy for transit to North Meck (North Carolina)

The Naked City blog writes that transportation planners in the Charlotte, N.C. metro area are looking to innovative financing schemes to plug a budget hole in a proposed commuter rail line. I’ll admit, this approach is new to me: “Use the rail line as an economic development strategy for both passenger rail and freight rail.  And form a formal partnership among [the cities of] Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson so they can share tax revenues from new development, via a Joint Powers Authority.”

Passengers taking the strain of transport costs (London, U.K.)

Transport for London boasts a farebox recovery ration of over 50 percent, meaning that over half of its revenues come from fares. Most transit agencies in the U.S. would envy that figure, but the BBC reports that high fares are taking a toll on commuters. The issue is turning into a battleground in the London mayor’s race. Incumbent Boris Johnson wants to raise fares by the rate of inflation plus two percent, while challenger Ken Livingstone announced that he would cut fares by five percent if elected. Johnson maintains that the extra revenue is needed for infrastructure improvements.

14 replies

  1. Another great feature of the source. Sometimes it is good to look at what others are doing juxtaposed with Metro’s efforts.

    Good Work.

    I had no idea London’s recovery rate was so high. Que the distance based fare militia in 3….2….1…

  2. Metro can look to increased public-private partnership revenues now if they didn’t hog up all the valuable real estate that they own which earns nothing and just cost taxpayers’ money for the maintenance and upkeep of said real estates.

    A good example are those free park-and-ride lots. Metro could be earning revenue from them by charging a low rate of $1/day for cars or $0.50 for motorcycles, scooters, and bicycles. But since they charge $0/day, it adds no revenue and they keep wasting taxes for the upkeep of those parking lots.

    Or how about selling off or renting some of the real estate on Metro owned property? Look at the Green Line Aviation/LAX station. Totally empty, dull, and boring devoid of all business activity, except for a sole hot dog vendor. Half of that parking lot is gated off with no cars and just lies there doing nothing but collecting dust. Sell off that property and build a Aviation/LAX transit mall or something.

    Why waste real estate on the upkeep of the garden there, which I may add, is just collecting garbage and plants withering away due to maintenance costs cuts when you can build a Famima or even a mini-Taco Bell or SOMETHING? ANYTHING is better than NOTHING. Metro offers NOTHING.

    Lots of people use the Aviation/LAX station everyday so there’s lots of potential customers to be gained there who’s otherwise just sitting there waiting for the train or the bus. It’d be nice to have something like mini-CVS Pharmacy or a mini-Walgreen right underneath the station.

    Or maybe Metro can create their own Metro kiosk arm to sell stuff? Make sure the vendors at the train stations accept TAP as payment like they do with the Suica/PASMO cards in Japan.

    Public-private partnership can happen right now if Metro would lay all these bureaucratic red-tape aside that HINDERS businesses to cooperate with Metro.

    The “train station can only be used as train station” mindset has to be put to a stop. Metro needs to be willing to show that they are in full support of the idea by warming up to the rules and regulations that prevent business activity to occur on Metro owned real estate.

    Business deals are never one-sided. Metro can’t just say “we want businesses to grow near our stations” but then say “but we won’t let you operate a store inside our property.” And you think businesses will cooperate with Metro?

  3. And UK’s fare model is [drum roll please] Zone based pricing! Within the same zone pay lower, different zone pays higher depending on distance. And they’re able to operate it with 50-50 tax:farebox ratio. But boo, down with the capitalist approach! London Underground needs to put to shame for seeking revenue to lower taxpayer burden!

    In contrast, Metro uses a stupid low flat rate fare scheme where it’s a 91-9 tax:farebox ratio. But at least everyone pays the same price whether they ride it for 1 block or 10 miles, right?

    LA Metro does it right by making transit fares low but continuously asking people more from their paycheck as it expands!

    Gee once we get the Gold Line all the way to Ontario Airport, Gold Line riders can go 40 miles from there to LA Union Station for $1.50! But oops, forgot to mention it’s going to need a sales tax rate of 20% to keep all those stations and lines running! Whoop-de-doo, hooray for socialism! Let’s push businesses away from LA even further and make Pyongyang, DPRK as our newest sister city! Let’s ask them for advice how they can run public transit anywhere in the city for less than $0.03!!

  4. Hey Angry Middle Class: don’t get too carried away by London travel zones (I live there, by the way). Although there are quite a few fare options if you have an Oyster Card (Period tickets are available for zones 1-2, 1-4 and 1-6 if you start in Central London, for example, and there are similar separate zonal fares for those who have a Pay as you go Card) the turn up and go fares are much closer to LA’s current model.

    On the bus there is a flat fare (about $3 a ride whether you go one block or 10 miles) and on the subway you have a choice between a zone 1 to 4 fare (about $6 – the minimum fare – whether you go one stop or to the end of four zones) and a zone 1 to 6 fare (about $8).

    Prepay brings these fares down quite a bit, but you’s still have to pay $2 to get on a bus for one block and between $3.50 (for a short off-peak one zone journey) and $7.50 (for a six-zone peak fare) on the subway.

    So we are pretty close to the model you denounce. Unless you prepay, you pay the minimum $6 subway to go one stop.

    Longer distance commutes (on the equivalent of Metrolink) have fares strictly according to distance, once you get beyond the six London zones. There is an article in this evening’s London paper about a guy – one of many thousands like him – who commutes by train for 90 minutes each way (it’s around 100 miles) and pays around $15,000 dollars for his 365-day ticket.

    I guess that’s why fares cover half the costs. Can you imagine the price if they were raised to cover the total? And driving is not a real option: you have to pay a $12 congestion charge per day to drive into Central London during the day Monday through Friday and parking there is around $7.50 an hour. Oh, and gas is about $8 a gallon.

    Would you really prefer that to change your model for ours?

  5. All things considered, I’d want to have the distance-based fares, the congestion charges, gas taxes AND more retail at the stations.

    Distance or zone-based fares may not be a panacea, but I think combined with other measures designed to help bring rail transit up to Tokyo or London levels, it certainly could help.

    And I do think that Metro isn’t against retail at stations, as the Rush snack bar at 7th/ Metro and Famima!! at Union Station show. There are other obstacles other than bureaucratic to consider.

  6. If it means lowering my taxes and more money into my hard earned paycheck, I’m all for distance fares. I should not be paying for someone else’s commute just because they choose to live farther away in the suburbs.

    If they don’t like the higher fares they have to pay for longer distances, they can move closer to the city just like the rest of the folks living in the urban core.

  7. @Mospeada

    “The lousy economy has slowed most of the planned projects and Private sector does not like to invest money in South LA as evident by the lack of projects by the Blue and Green Lines.”

    I doubt the economy has anything to do with these said matters. CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Taco Bell, McDonald’s etc. all exist in South LA just as any other upscale suburban neighborhood.

    If they exist there, then what’s keeping them from opening up a mini-pharmacy or a mini-fast food take out stand directly at the stations?

    If there weren’t all these confusing rules, regulations, and codes wrapped around with bureaucratic red tape, retail stores would spring up quite easily.

    With that in mind, let’s turn the question around: “What’s keeping you at bay from say, buying a bulk case of soda at Costco and selling cans of soda for 50 cents a pop to commuters?” The market is there, I can’t recall how many times I wished there was a vending machine or some sort at the station. Heck, even Metro could be easily be making money by selling cans of soda for 75 cents or so and using that revenue to fund some of its operations.

    But why not? Rules, regulations, codes, and a stringent mess of bureaucratic red tape.

    Heck, kids these days can’t even open up a lemonade stand without the risk of an officer coming up to them to write them a citation for not having a proper business license.

  8. @ Frank M

    Metro is not in the process of adding a cheap drive thru on its lands or drive up pharmacy. Metro is attempting to make good money of its lands with the multi use developments just look at all the completed projects on the fact sheet i posted. To me this sounds like a good business investments something many on this site decry metro for not doing.

    Also metro is not doing anything to deter people from selling soda or hot dogs on their stations. Look at the Rush Snack Bar, the Union Station vendors, THE FREAKING HOT DOG CART on top of the North Hollywood Station.

    The lack of retail is a product of a bad economy and a private sector that still does not see many opportunities on the Metro Rail system as a whole.

  9. @Mospeada

    “Metro is not in the process of adding a cheap drive thru on its lands or drive up pharmacy.”

    Why not? I don’t see anything wrong with it. There’s places like that all over the world.

    I can be waiting for the subway in the Brussels Metro and there’s a kiosk at the platform where I can buy a sandwich while waiting for the train to come.

    I’d waiting for my train at any JR station in Tokyo and there’s a vending machine where I can buy a cold bottle of green tea while waiting for the train.

    I’d be waiting for the Underground in London and I can buy the latest copy of the London Times while waiting for the Tube.

    Not only are they convenient, but I feel much more safer with stations that have businesses right there than any dull, dark, bland train station in the US.

    It makes me feel assured that there’s an extra set of eyes, the people who work there, keeping me safe without relying on over-reacting police officers patrolling around making people feeling uneasy.

    Compared to that, look at what we have. The Imperial/Wilmington Station is a dump. Nothing nearby or nothing at the station. Illegal vendors touting me to buy over-priced candy or whatever they are laced with it. No police presence, not even anyone manning the station. The station is littered with garbage due to poor maintenance and the place reeks of urine.

    With the place devoid of any business activity and poor maintenance, I don’t feel any safer there and would rather want to get the heck out of there as fast as I can.

    And that’s supposed to be a key transit center where the Blue and Green Lines connect? It’s a shame we have this.

    Imperial/Wilmington would change a lot even with a mini Taco Bell stand or a mini CVS Pharmacy or something there.

  10. @ Frank M

    Metro is already in the works of fixing the Imperial Wilmington Transit Center

    http://thesource.metro.net/2011/02/24/renderings-of-potential-development-at-rosa-parkswillowbrook-station/

    You keep arguing how much good retail at stations will provide yet never specifically state which regulations metro is using that’s keeping them away. It certainly not the not no eating or drinking on trains and/or platforms rule. There is already evidence to suggest that’s not deterring retail from stations.

    And the lack of mini cvs and starbucks on the surface stations is most likely due to fact that these business can’t afford to pay Metro the market rate for its land. That’s why metro is waiting out for big developments like those on Hollywood/Highland and Hollywood/Vine. Or the soon to be Mariachi Plaza development, NoHo Artwave, NBC Universal on the Universal City Station, and the New Imperial/Wilmington as show above.

  11. @Mospeada

    “business can’t afford to pay Metro the market rate for its land”

    Anything the government owns and wants to charge is ridiculously overpriced. Just look at Metro’s “facts and figures” on how much it costs taxpayers to replace a sign at each station; $100,000 to $300,000? What kind of screwed up formula they used to get that figure pretty much questions Metro’s reliability. What are they using, space grade titanium alloy signs made by NASA? $500 per screw? $800 per hammer? $50 per inch of paint? It’s ridiculous.

    I honestly don’t know what Metro would want to charge for a monthly rent for a small kiosk space on a platform but if Metro expect retailers to pay $3000 per month for a 50 square feet of space, Metro really has no business skills whatsoever.

  12. @Frank M

    Clearly a government agency that is expected to generated $182.5 Million dollars from lease revenues, advertising, legal settlements, vending revenues,
    local contribtutions, CNG tax credits, film site revenues and other miscellaneous revenues has no business skills whatsoever