Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 24

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.

The above document was created by city of Boston planners when discussing the effectiveness of different kind of bus lanes. Metro, of course, has several potential bus lane projects in the works — the Wilshire peak lanes and the possibility of bus lanes on several north-south streets in the San Fernando Valley. The Wilshire lanes, by the way, are against the curb.

There’s hope for the planet (New York Times)

Thirteen of the warmest years on record for the planet have occurred since 1998. The “hope” in this opinion piece stems from the fact that many economies have responded with massive investments in clean energy. However, the support of the federal government for clean technologies in the form of tax breaks and subsidies is falling — from $44 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion in 2014. Hmm. As I’ve said before, one way to combat climate change is take mass transit.

With transit investments, a surge of dividends across America (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reviews some of the State of Good Repair grants the Federal Transit Administration made last week. The gist of it: a lot of old buses are coming off the road to be replaced by newer, cleaner ones. Metro received $10 million to purchase new 40-foot buses powered by compressed natural gas; the agency no longer has diesel buses in its fleet.

New York MTA to sell ad space on fare cards (New York Times)

Everything but the black magnetic stripe on the cards is fare game in a move to raise revenue for the (always) financially-challenged agency. In this article, an artist muses about some of the firms that might be interested in selling their wares to transit patrons. Check it out — it’s a good for a laugh.

16 replies

  1. “As I’ve said before, one way to combat climate change is take mass transit”

    You want to encourage the majority to take mass transit to combat climate change, figure out a way to make it cheap.

    In the end, that’s the most important thing. People don’t switch from incandescent bulbs to greener CFLs and LEDs if there’s nothing in it for them. What’s our benefit? Lower monthly electricity costs. Is there anything out there in the market that can lower electricity costs than CFLs and LEDs? No. Therefore the CFL and LED alternatives are the best there is with great financial benefit.

    People don’t change from gas guzzling SUVs to hybrid cars unless there’s something in it for them: lower annual fuel costs and driving on carpool lanes. Is there anything out there that has a lower annual fuel cost? Yes, there’s the all-electric vehicle but the market is new so it’s still expensive. Yes, there’s also the motorcycle and scooter, but you’re going to need a M1/M2 license for that. Hmm, ok, the hybrid vehicle is a good alternative then for now.

    The same for adding solar panel rooftops: there are government incentives to install them and utility companies actually pays you back for the electricity generated by them. Is there anything better than solar panels? You can also equip your home with your own diesel generator or your own wind turbine, but not really the most appeasing way to bring up the value of your home. Hmm, ok, solar panel rooftop it is.

    Even corporations use incentives for people to change to “greener” methods like paperless statements and online payments; reduce stamp costs, reduce check issuing costs, reduce printing costs. Is there anything that can help me reduce stamp costs, check costs, and cost of buying envelopes? Not at this moment. Ok, online bill pay and statements it is.

    For everything “green,” there has to be a solid financial incentive that is the best or among the best of the rest of the competition. That’s how you encourage people to change.

    Mass transit on the other hand, what’s the financial benefit to the consumer? It’s a massive tax sucker, it’s slow, it’s inefficient, and you’re bound to transit schedules.

    And is there anything better and cheaper than mass transit? Yes, there are many transportation methods that are still way cheaper: walking, the bicycle, the moped, the scooter, the motorcycle, the all-electric vehicle. The cost per mile of driving these is way cheaper than the car or mass transit. The freedom to go when you want when you want is also still there with these forms of transit.

    People don’t change just with the prospect of being “green.” Being “green” is only a small part of the equation of change. There also has to be “what’s in it for me?” factor. And no, the reality is people don’t do it “just because it feels good” or “because I really care about the planet.”

    The reality for most people is “you want me to be green, convince me with a nice offer,” “give me a deal that is to my interest and you have me sold.”

    To encourage more people to take mass transit and become “green,” there actually has to be a financial incentive attached to it. And frankly, Metro isn’t doing a good job in marketing or convincing people that what they offer is the best alternative out there. In stark contrast, Harley Davidson and Yamaha are doing way better marketing skills in making people change from cars to motorcycles.

    • Sorry, but I don’t see the mass conversion of people from cars to motorcycles that you are talking about. Motorcycle use may be up but I’d be curious to see data that in recent years compares motorcycle use to transit use. On another note, you often talk about more people using motorcycles to get around but you don’t discuss the safety aspect.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Taking Metro is absolutely cheaper than driving my car every day… so there’s a definite benefit in it for me. I often say I’m an “accidental environmentalist” because I don’t do things for environmental reasons, yet I’ve realized there are many other benefits, from time on the train being used for something other than just getting around to cheaper monthly transportation costs of taking Metro.

    It could be said that a motorcycle is cheaper and faster, but it’s still wasted time and by using my time on the train I am doubling up on that time in the day. Definitely increased productivity (and less stress) is a reward for me.

    Plus there’s a safety (or at least a feeling of safety) factor. Many people won’t ride a motorcycle because they feed it’s dangerous on our roads and freeways surrounded by many much larger cars with drivers who aren’t paying attention. If it were seen as safe by most, why don’t we already have freeways full of motorcycles?

  3. Motorcycles and scooters as a third alternative to cars and public transit is often dismissed in America. Safety wise, yes motorcycles and scooters are more dangerous. But then again, it’s also true that they are very popular as a third alternative all over the world.

    It doesn’t take too much to see that elsewhere in the world, be it in small narrow streets of Italy, the UK, France, the next generation countries highly dense countries like Taiwan and Singapore, or developing countries like Brazil, Southeast Asia and India, that they are a popular transportation mode.

    As gas prices rise, will the majority of Americans go over to public transit because safety is more important than saving money or freedom to go anytime, anywhere?

    Or will Americans choose that freedom to go anywhere they when they want for cheaper cost per mile is more important than safety?

    In that aspect, the real test is yet to be seen.

    My best guess is that for now, most transit agencies in the US view the motorcycle not as a threat to their competition, therefore they expect most car drivers to switch to public transit.

    But judging by the trend of how motorcycle and scooter sales have been going up lately, there’s also the chance that things don’t go the way transit agencies had hoped for too.

    Therefore, brushing off that the motorcycle and scooter will never be a competition to public transit, IMO is a short-sighted view.

    This is America; we don’t stick guns to people’s heads that they have to take public transit. We have the freedom to choose. And so long as choice is within our basic rights, there’s no telling how Americans will perceive as the best way to get around.

    Ten years from now, when gas prices reach $5.00 or $6.00 levels, what will the streets of LA look like? There will be less cars on the road. But will it look more like Taipei with streets packed with scooters and motorcycles? Or will it be full with jammed packed buses and trains? Or will there be something else that some genius like Steve Jobs starting his way up from his/her garage will come up with that’ll change everything?

  4. “Or will Americans choose that freedom to go anywhere they when they want for cheaper cost per mile is more important than safety?”

    If people choose this and that makes more motorcycles on our streets, I highly encourage people to enroll in a motorcycle safety course first!

    A motorcyclist who has taken a safety course has a higher chance of avoiding and surviving a deadly accident than those that don’t.

    I think it’s only common sense. But then again there are lot idiots out there who lack that.

  5. Steve,

    We’ll just have to wait and see how the big technological improvements in scooters and motorcycles will have an effect in LA in the next coming years.

    Brammo, an electric motorcycle maker based in Oregon just received financing from GE Capital to ramp up production. They have partnered up with Sheffield Financial for financing offers. Key target markets are dense metropolitan areas with primary focus on the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets.

    http://www.brammo.com/
    http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/23854

    US, Japanese and European motorcycle makers are also preparing to launch gas-electric hybrid motorcycles and scooters which further reduces carbon gases to levels comparable, if not more, than hybrid cars. These sit in the go between between cheaper (but less environmentally friendly) gas powered motorcycle and scooters and the more expensive (but zero emmision) all-electric motorcycle and scooters.

    http://news.wyotech.edu/post/2012/05/going-green-with-hybrid-motorcycles

    An all-electric or hybrid motorcycle/scooter that releases little or no greenhouse gases and has no noisy exhaust pipes heading our way in a couple of years, that takes care of “how to further improve the motorcycle to be greener” from the checklist.

    Within a few years, the only thing remaining disadvantage of a two wheeled vehicle is as you mention, safety.

    Then again, if safety is a major reason, people can also compoundly trade in their older vehicles for a hybrid or an all-electric vehicles as well. Use a Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt or a Nissan Leaf for longer trips or when going to Costco, use a Brammo e-bike or Yamaha hybrid bike for intra-city trips.

    When such a paradigm shift occurs, it’ll take a lot of convincing for Angelinos to keep paying taxes to fund the operations of public transit or convince them to keep pay a flat fee of $900/yr in transit passes (with no guarantee of a fare increase).

    The way how Americans values freedom to go anywhere when they want and do that for cheap, and by the next few years with even motorcycles and scooters starting to become green with the introduction of all-electric or hybrid vehicles into the market, public transit indeed will be in a for a huge wakeup call.

  6. @ Frank M. “Whats the benefit.”:
    1) A greener environment for the future.
    2) More options than driving that might save you time and gas.
    3) Initial savings (My girlfriend saved 300 bucks her first month using metro)

    With all do respect, you can go promote motorcycles elsewhere. That seems to be your answer for almost everything.

  7. Not everyone ends up saving much time and money using public transit. A system that runs on a flat rate system of $1.50 whether you ride it for a block or twenty miles only help the long distance rider. Shorter distances, you’re still better off driving.

  8. Steven P.

    Even on a distance based system, you are going to be better off driving a few blocks if you already own a car and don’t have to pay for parking. The distanced-based crowd thinks people will suddenly flock to the system by walking 3 blocks to a bus station to wait for a bus and then get on and go to their destination a few blocks away or say a mile or two just because the fare they pay is now 60 or 70 cents instead of $1.50. It is laughable.

    The idea that a material amount people are suddenly going to switch to motorcycles and scotters is similarly pure fantasy. Most Americans won’t even drive a smaller car now suddenly they are going to go on scooters? LOL. Didn’t happen when oil reached $150 a barrel, didn’t happen during the gas lines of the 70s, and certainly won’t happen now.

  9. “you are going to be better off driving a few blocks if you already own a car and don’t have to pay for parking.”

    So you admit that public transit has competition in the short distance market that they are not capturing. And what do majority of Angelinos use their cars for? Short distance driving. And you wonder why people don’t use Metro.

    Don’t you think that’s the cause why Metro’s farebox recovery ratio sucks whereas every other city in the world that runs on distance fares is able to run at a profit because it captures both the short and long distance rider market?

    Case in point, look at Taipei. It’s streets has a traffic jam with scooters, yet at the same time their Taipei Metro also achieves a 100%+ farebox recovery ratio running on distance fares.

    Our streets has traffic jam with cars, and LA Metro has a poor farebox recovery ratio running on flat rate fares.

    And no, I don’t buy the fallacy that “but Taipei has denser population.” NYC has a dense population, it also is a city that discourage car use, and yet NYMTA running on flat rate fares still fails to be self-sustaining on its own.

  10. Short distances ARE walkable, and depending on where you live, parking can take more time than the actual trip, and also cost more. Some people may not save initially, it really depends on where you work and live. I can not expect someone from Norwalk to feel the same way as someone in KoreaTown. Another problem I feel metro faces, is the fact that people in municipalities feel they can expect the same amount of service and denser area in L.A. The demand for Metro in Westchester is different than the demand for South Park. It really depends on how you live, where you work, and far you are willing to walk to get to your destinations. Unfortunately, many in L.A. will not walk further than a 1/4 mile to their destination.

  11. Please stop arguing with Frank M, Steve P, etc…

    These discussion usually end up in same place all the time, where the same talking points are repeated over and over again. In my opinion the fare debate has become more of a nuisance than something that should have been productive conversation.

  12. Transit Rider,

    You mentioned Westchester. Majority of people that live in the Westchester area have jobs in the immediate surrounding area; notably LAX that is about 5-10 mile radius. Employees have parking paid for by their employers so parking costs is not an issue.

    With that in mind, is it financially economical for the Westchester resident to pay $900/yr in transit passes when the majority of the commuting transit needs for them are confined within a 5-10 mile radius? Or will Westchester residents just continue to drive or seek alternative methods to get to work other than public transit?

    When I pass by LAX early in the morning, there are lot of motorcycles heading toward LAX. That’s a hint that people working near or at LAX aren’t ditching their cars for Metro, and instead, they are moving to motorcycles for commuting.

  13. I can kinda see that Frank M. but I would still not use that as an indicator to more people wanting bikes. That would require much more market research to get accurate numbers, not just observation. Westchester has embraced the Crenshaw line for a reason. 1) It will connect to LAX. 2) It will connect with Downtown Los Angles. @Mospeada by no means am I “arguing”, but discussing issues and learning how others feel on the said issues. I speak from experience (29 years riding metro and never having a license). L.A. Metro is very doable, you just need to know how, where, and when it works best. Would you believe I make it from K-Town to LAX in about an hour, using two buses? Sometimes it can take longer, but mostly, its a short trip given the distance. So if I seem confident in what I say, it is because I know what I am talking about. Otherwise, I do not comment on subjects I do not fully understand.

  14. I disagree Mospaeda.

    There are a lot of The Source readers who are beginning to agree with what people like Frank M have been saying.

    Before Frank M came along, we thought that no transit system in the world made any money. Turns out that’s not the case as there are profitable ones that can run on their own without any tax money support. And they showed us with valid proof that all these cities have the same thing in common: they run on a different fare structure than most transit agencies in the US.

    And as even Steven P said, New York City, the best transit city in America and a metropolis with a dense population and anti-car friendly comparable to those success transit oriented cities around the world, also can’t figure out a way to make themselves free from taxpayer burden.

    And it is very true that transit agencies in the US, Metro included, have no answers other than the usual higher taxes, higher fares, or service cuts answers. None of them are good ideas and no one wants to see any of them. If that’s the case, then clearly we need to start looking at better ideas and follow examples of what other cities around the world do instead of resorting to such measures.

    It doesn’t take too much to put the two and two together to see what transit agencies like Metro are doing wrong. If there is a way to run mass transit without taxes, that’s a good thing and one less thing that we can burden ourselves with taxes with. If Metro can figure out a way to become 100% profitable on its own without tax support, that creates more room to put tax dollars to something more important like education, affordable health care and helping the homeless.

    Just because you cannot give a good rebuttal doesn’t mean you can run away and say “don’t listen to them.” For all it’s worth, what you are doing is no better than Bill O’Reilly or those teabaggers who yell at townhall meetings silencing out their dissidents. Honestly, it’s beginning to look like that when you start saying things like what you just said because you can’t come up with a good and valid rebuttal.

    Not all liberals follow the “just tax everything” mindset like you do. A lot of liberals are moderate and they follow what makes the most sense.

  15. I see often in discussions that people favor the “magic bullet” theory of transit (or power generation, or green construction, or ….). There is no single thing that will fit or fix everything. For the locations that I commute from and to at the times that I travel, public transit is not an option nor is electric motorbike. For my work life, I must use vehicle that totes a carbon based fuel, there are -no- alternatives (public transit while I work is not an option). Just as lighting Dodger Stadium is not practical with LED’s (yet), nor are metal halide flashlights practical. Batteries, solar, wind, and other power sources all have their place, both now and in the future.

    Rail, buses, powered 2 wheel, private 4 wheel (and more for freight), human propelled 2 wheel, and bipedal transport all have their place. It is not an either/or solution.