Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 31

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Beverly Hills Unified School District files state lawsuit against Metro (P.R. Newswire)

As I posted earlier, it’s Metro’s policy to decline comment on litigation filed against the agency. The above news release is from the School District.

Metrolink raises fares by average of seven percent (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

The increase is the largest in the agency’s history and the 11th in the past 14 years, according to agency records. The fare increase, triggered largely by soaring fuel costs, will help cover about a third of a $13-million budget deficit, with the rest of the money coming from the five counties that fund Metrolink (which includes Metro on behalf of L.A. County). One transit advocate backed the increases, as long as there were no service cuts.

Wi-Fi and Amtrak: missed connections (New York Times)

The heavily-promoted wi-fi service in the Northeast Corridor has led to a lot of jokes and angry passengers who say it’s slow and frequently non-existent. Amtrak officials say they’ve heard the complaints and are updating equipment in order to improve service by year’s end.

Expo Line landscaping lunacy (Huffington Post)

Columnist Lisa Novick opines that only California native plants should be used along phase 2 of the Expo Line in order to save water and fit in better with the local environment (or, what’s left of it).

11 replies

  1. Raising fares will mean less ridership and put off more people back to the car again.

    What Metrolink should be doing is to reduce the fares to increase ridership and revenues. Look how much more people started using Metro when they reduced the day pass for $6 to $5. With more people buying day passes at $5, it actually increased revenues for Metro!

  2. I can attest to the poor Wi-Fi on Amtrak. I’ve tried using it on the Acela on the East Coast and the Pacific Surfliner in LOSSAN corridor. As with anything that government does, it’s a total failure.

    To any business person out there that considers taking Amtrak: get a personal portable WiFi device or get a data plan that you can tether your phone to your laptop to.

  3. Even if Metrolink trains were full, farebox recovery would not be at 100%. Lowering the fares would only increase the deficit. Transportation elasticities, especially at rush hour, tend to be less than 1 in absolute value. With a given level of service, if you raise the fares, you would only lose a marginal amount of ridership. If you lower the fares, you would only gain a marginal amount of riders (which will not cover the budget gap) because everybody who can use Metrolink is probably already taking it due to proximity to station, individual preferences, etc. Even if you lower the price 50%, it’s still unworkable for a lot of people because they are too far from the station, the schedule doesn’t fit their needs, or they simply hate the service.

    Something else about the operation has to change, like schedules, speed, etc. Or Metrolink could raise revenues by being allowed to become real estate and retail moguls, as has been discussed in the comments here recently.

    Also, I’m not sure the day pass increased revenues for Metro. Farebox recovery remained at 28%. Or did they use the increase in revenue on something else?

  4. My experience with Amtrak’s wifi on the Pacific Surfliner was actually great! There were two images I tried to download that were over 10MB and it stopped me from doing that, but everything else was speedy and worked really well!

  5. One of the thing that appalls me in raising Metrolink fares is this part:

    •$2.5 million for post-employment benefits, which weren’t previously budgeted for. (This is not a new cost or an increase in benefits. It’s being included in the budget for the first time this year.)

    How can post-employment benefits not be foreseen in previous budgets and how come this was never disclosed in the first place?

    How fair is it for taxpayers to fund $2.5 million in payments to retirees for doing a poor job in running Metrolink? Would be nice to go retire in a villa in the Cayman Islands at taxpayers expense ain’t it?

    These guys are no better than those Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs guys, except these guys get all the bailouts at directly at taxpayers expense. Ha! Government!

  6. Geoff B, when some people point out inefficiency in government, well, there’s one really good example.

  7. The problem is that Metrolink has no revenue if its own. It is totally dependent on what member transit agencies feel they want to pay for subsidizing service (from the various local transit tax, mostly). It isn’t funded like a single commuter railroad agency, so if LACMTA doen’t want to pay for the Venture Line trains operation in LA County, Ventura aint getting any more service. In fact, Ventura county’s lack of it own transit tax stalled increased service to that county.

    Let’s all quit whining and admit that for Metrolink to really fix its problems (insufficient headway, not operating at times more convenient to more riders, ability to add capacity to the rails for more trains to attract more people that would require adding to many and lengthy single track areas, etc., Metrolink needs it own source of revenue. A 1/5 cent tax applied throughout all the counties served by Metrolink would be an extremley small burden that most people/rider could afford to pay “over time” rather than a fare hike of about $20 per month for monthly passes and provide immediate cash and ability to borrow against the revenue for all the improvements needed to make Metrolink far more popular.

    The LACMTA would not have any where NEAR the rail lines and buses and the means to pay for them if it were not for the THREE different half-cent sales tax collected. Everything in this life is all about the MONEY!

  8. @Bobby McGee

    “Everything in this life is all about the MONEY!”

    Not the same if it’s taxpayer money from our ever diminishing paychecks.

    Transit in Asia can operate their trains without taxes and run for profit solely on collection of fares, revenues from other diversified investments, and without raising fares to boot. If they can do it without taxes, higher fares, and service cuts, and Metrolink can’t then there’s clearly something wrong with how Metrolink is run.

    There needs to be real change on how public transit is run in America. It can’t forever be higher taxes, higher fares, and service cuts. There are other ways to run transit and those answers are right across the Pacific. If the current Metrolink Board can’t figure it out, it’s time to kick them out and replace them by head hunting transit officials from Asia.

    I bet once we install transit experts in Asia, things would go a lot more smoother and much more efficient in five years than putting politicians at the head of these boards who know nothing about running transit except to kiss babies for their own political gains.

  9. @ Frank M

    The private success transit in Asia was based on a LARGE part from goverment spending, i.e. tax payer money. In fact most of the systems in Asia become private after their goverments have had already paid several BILLIONS of dollars setting up the core infastructure for them to operate on. The Taipei Metro cost them 18 billion dollars to build, all of it taxpayer money. Sadly the same thing can’t be said here.

  10. @Mospaeda

    So then when is the right time for privatization then? When is the right to end government subsidization of OPERATIONS? When do we say, there’s enough “groundwork” built, let’s start making money off the parts that we have built already?

    If Asian transit “agencies” built it at one point and they’re doing it right today in operations as Asian transit “corporations,” when exactly is the right moment for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority to become the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Corporation?

    We already have a whole bunch of Metro Buses lines, we have two major BRTs Orange and Silver, we have five rail lines Red, Blue, Green, Expo, Gold, and we also have Metrolink. Do we need more “groundwork” AND operational costs be footed by LA County taxpayers? How long do we keep subsidizing the cost of operations of these lines with taxes? Why can’t the Southern California Regional Rail Authority which governs Metrolink, at least become Metrolink Corporation then? When is the “right time” to switch to privatization, or at least start actually making money off of the parts that are already built with gradual privatization? Or do we wait a hundred years from now still being funded with “no expiration date Measure R” funds?

    Or better yet, why do we not let private enterprise compete with public transit? Why is it illegal today in LA? Why do we let Metro and other politically backed municipal transit agencies which are headed by those who have no degrees or diplomas in running mass transit, hold a tight monopoly on mass transit?

    Why can’t we let private transportation, mainly those from Asia which runs much better and more efficient, come to LA and allowing them to start competing services against Metro and others? Is it because Metro know that Asian private transit companies can operate better than them so it’s better to shut out competition?

    Furthermore, expansions and upgrades in Asia have also been down post-privatization as well. Taiwan’s high speed rail was built by a private consortium, the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation. Many cities in Asia, expanded their urban networks after privatization as well, purely from profits with minimal or no tax dollars spent and no fare increases.

    Doesn’t take a rocket scientist which direction we should be heading instead of forever being reliant on taxes, fare increases, or big service cuts to help pay for building and operating mass transit.

  11. Public transit should be privatized when the Government is serious about supporting transit. You are somewhat mistaken when you assume that operating profits are used to fund transit expansions in the private model of transit. The Goverment still buys property for transit developers in Asia, and for less expansive systems like in Singapore the government foots 50% of the bill for construction with the rest coming from property value speculation at future transit stations, profits make up a very small portion of the capital cost.

    And as for the success of Asian transit agencies can be pinned down to multiple reasons beside just being that they are private and that somehow has made a world of difference. By doing that one is ignoring the geographic conditions, politics, urban design, and transit history that has led to their current success.

    Back to Metrolink which is what this discussion is about, the system desperately needs some capital infusion. Alot of the right of way in which Metrolink operates is single tracked and owned by private freight railroads who really don’t like sharing their tracks with passengers trains and have no interest in adding double tracks to add capacity for them.