Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 27

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 Transportation Headlines online newspaper, which you can also access via email subscription (visit the newspaper site) or RSS feed.

As Grand Park thrives, county buildings are in the crosshairs (Downtown News) 

Real estate developer Dan Rosenfeld and former deputy to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas writes about the two large and old county buildings on either side of the top of Grand Park: The Hahn Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Both have deficiencies and there has been some buzz about what to do: renovate, replace or demolish them and move elsewhere?

Excerpt:

The County’s options will then fall into three groups:

1)Replace the buildings on site: This is not an attractive option because of the need for a “double move,” forcing thousands of County employees to leave for several years while work takes place, and then to head back to a modernized building. Such a tactic was necessary for the renovation of City Hall because of its iconic value, but it added considerably to the cost.

2)Replace the buildings at another site: This option creates several intriguing possibilities for reuse of the existing site. For example, tearing down the aged structures means one could expand Grand Park or bring high-density housing into the Civic Center. This would activate the park and the surrounding cultural amenities.

If the buildings are relocated, there are available sites in the Civic Center, although none seems to offer the stature and quality the County deserves. Relocating to the vicinity of Union Station, on the other hand, would squarely endorse the County’s commitment to public transit. It is worth noting that Metro is currently looking at what to do with the station and its many acres of surrounding property.

3) Repair and remodel: The County should carefully study the true costs of bringing the existing buildings up to contemporary codes, modernizing them where necessary and preparing them for another 50 years of public life.

Read the entire article because there is a lot of interesting info in here — for example, the Hall of Administration offers far more space per employee than comparable new buildings.

Because of the cost involved with any of these, I doubt any decision is imminent. I actually like the buildings where they are — but both buildings’ exteriors could use a re-imagining for starters. The problem with the Civic Center is that for every interesting building (City Hall, LAPD Headquarters) there are two or three buildings or public spaces that look awful (City Hall East, the Criminal Courts building) and there has been a tendency to build big blocky structure walled off from the street (Caltrans building and even the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels) or allow parking lots or empty lots to languish for years or decades.

Portland becomes first U.S. city allowing riders to buy transit tickets with a smartphone (GeekWire) 

The new app for Android and iPhones is set to debut next week and replaces the need to purchase paper tickets to ride buses and trains in the Portland metro area. TriMet, the transit agency that serves the area, had earlier decided to forgo smart cards similar to TAP cards, calling them first generation technology.

To put it in plain English, TriMet is pursuing an electronic fare system that’s not dependent on a single device — i.e. a plastic card — but rather could allow fares to be stored and purchased on different devices.

I bet one of our readers will comment about this. That’s fine, but please read the stories first so you’re better informed.

The geometric shapes of transit’s success (Human Transit)

Using Vancouver as an example, transit planner and blogger Jarrett Walker demonstrates that when it comes to bus lines, “All other things being equal, long, straight routes perform better than short, squiggly and looping ones.”

Check out an awesome infographic by TransLink in Vancouver on bus performance that is posted after the jump….

Credit: TransLink. Click above to see entire graphic at their website.

Credit: TransLink. Click above to see entire graphic at their website.

20 replies

  1. In 1981 the RTD debuted new lines and numbering system. It worked out well until the merger when planners from the LACTC got their hands on the system. Lines have been shortened and new lines created that do not fit in with the numbering system and can be identified as not straight but short, squiggley and loops. On top of this some employees in schduling have no on hands transit experience and at a meeting one of these department heads stated;”there is no service delays if a assignment is held in the yard due to no equipment or manpower.”

  2. Since Portland’s TriMet is going to be the first transit agency to include passes on apps through Android and i-Phone devices, will tap cards (through app) be available on Android and i-phone devices in the future?

    • Hi Mike;

      As part of a motion by Mayor Garcetti, Metro staff is studying it. Will theree come a day when you can ‘tap’ a smartphone? I don’t know. I do hope there will be a day in which there is a super easy to use smartphone app that makes it super easy to add fares to tap cards — I think that would be very convenient for Metro bus riders who may not encounter ticket machines often on their transit trips.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. “Both have deficiencies and there has been some buzz about what to do: renovate, replace or demolish them and move elsewhere?”

    How about just leave it as it is to save taxpayers the money which is needed elsewhere like fixing our dilapidated roads?

  4. Buying tickets using a smartphone makes sense. Of course TriMet is not metro – so there are certainly differences in offering this type of system. Trimet has no locked gates (latched) so the honor system they have is easier to implement this type of system. With NFC embedded in smartphones, Metro will be able to take advantage of this system in the future, but NFC has not taken off quite yet. The takeaway is Metro can learn how to make a decent website or APP to supplement their TAP system. Did you see how easy it is to add a fare etc. Hopefully Metro looks at TAP website/app improvement as a stepping stone to this new technology.

  5. Oh please.

    For years people have been asking Metro to look at moving toward open payment systems using smartphones and contactless credit and debit cards like how they are in use in major cities all over the world.

    Metro’s lame excuses so far have been “well we don’t know if they work here in the US,” “what if they people run out of battery,” “there are security issues” or whatever lame excuse they can think up out of their rear-end in hopes that people are too stupid to buy into that.

    And now all of a sudden Metro reverses its stance 180 degrees by praising Portland?! All your excuses that you’ve been saying up until now suddenly flies out the window because Portland became the first US city to do so?! Well, if you haven’t made up excuses and actually did your job that we taxpayers pay you guys to do, WE would’ve been the first US city to adopt it!!

    Typical Metro. We don’t want to take responsibility if it fails so let’s not do it. We’ll keep reinventing the wheel thinking we’re somehow smarter than running mass transit than New York, San Francisco, London, and Tokyo. No, we don’t care if it’s a proven success the rest of the world. We’ll just make up lame excuses like “no one does it in the US” to hope people are stupid enough to buy that. But we’ll suddenly change course when some other US city does it and it’s a proven success, and only then do we follow their example. Until then, the peons can stick with this half-assed thing called TAP which we know we messed up badly, but refuse to acknowledge that it was implemented poorly.

    • Hi Josh;

      I think you’re reading a little too much into this. We included the article in our daily news roundup because we thought our readers would find it of interest (and apparently you did). We’re not taking any sides on fare cards versus other fare media and I don’t believe the blog has in the past — although we certainly have passed along info from Metro officials.

      FWIW, the Metro Board approved a motion in July by L.A. Mayor Garcetti to study, among other things, how smarthone fare technology may be used at Metro. Here’s a post that includes the motion.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. And our bus system (RTD/MTA) was a squiggly mess until it was straightened circa 1980 as a grid system. And it has worked very well with great efficiency, no longer having routes detour to meet the demands of an LA City Councilman. Now, ironically, MTA is exploring the notion of returning to those bad old days of squiggly detours to directly serve supposed points of retail, etc. My word, we have come so far, and as memories fade and transplants arrive, we seem doomed to repeat earlier mistakes. Let’s keep the our MTA bus system the grid it is. Thank you.

  7. I still can believe people have a hard time operating a TAP card. This is the age of technology, pressing a few buttons and following directions is easy, trust me.

  8. Transit Watch LA,

    I have to disagree. I think it’s opening a pandora’s box for TriMet if they implement this system under the honor system.

    Looking at the picture of the smartphone pass, it doesn’t take much for someone to just Photoshop a fake pass as a JPEG file and use that as a smartphone wallpaper and pull that image up whenever (if any) a fare inspector comes along to see if they have a pass or not. Capturing a screenshot of the pass on any Android or iPhone device isn’t that hard to do either so one can easily share that picture file with others.

    In order for this to actually work, you need a contactless reader to read the NFC chip in the smartphone to validate that the pass is legit instead of some fake Photoshopped pass.

  9. “I still can believe people have a hard time operating a TAP card. This is the age of technology, pressing a few buttons and following directions is easy, trust me.”

    That goes both ways. Tell that to the bus drivers who have no idea how to load a day pass out of cash value from the TAP card. All it is pressing a few buttons and following directions. It’s easy, trust me. Yet, no matter how many training they get, they do not get it.

    It was an article a while ago:
    http://transitwatchla.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/metros-tap-problems-bus-driver-training/

  10. I agree the Portland Tri-Met pass could be faked out (can’t anything), but there are a couple of security features:
    1) The graphic is animated
    2) The lights inside the bus are turned on and off by touch
    3) And, of course, the QR code.

    I think the idea is that Tri-met wants to save money by having this app replace (or at least reduce) ticket machines at the stations. Of course, if you don’t have a smartphone, I guess you are SoL

  11. Turn styles were locked today, and are locked for good supposedly, yet deputy tight shirt still managed to seize everyone on the red line today for TAP. I wonder why?

  12. Big Ed,

    All those security features are nice, but whose to say one can’t easily fake out animated GIFs, touchscreen gimmicks and generate a QR code off the internet? Unless there is some real time instantaneous server-side authentication going on to all transit riders to check each pass is legit or not, it’s going to be really easy to fake out something like this especially when visual human fare inspections are spotty at best. And we know a thing or two about the naiveness on relying on the honor system.

    As for reducing ticket machines, we can easily do that today too. Metro can sell those USB contactless card readers to the public so people can add cash value or load passes with their own home computer instead of making a trip to those shady liquor stores and check cashing places. Another way to do it (why not both?) is that increasing number of our smartphones already have a NFC contactless reader/writer capability. Just make the NFC enabled smartphones do the same thing as our TAP cards and we get the same result. Only ours will be better and still fits into the gated system. It’s not like these things are new. Places in Asia and Europe have been using similar systems for over a decade now, and as with everything these days, it takes forever to get those ideas implemented here in the US.

  13. I submitted a reply the last time you posted this, citing the technical reason why your USB suggestion isn’t viable, but it appears to have been censored by the moderators (even though the full explanation is publicly available elsewhere).

    BTW, Google’s highly-touted 2nd generation Nexus 7 contains a hobbled NFC chip that can’t be used for financial transactions. That’s a bad omen right there.

  14. Eric P. Scott,

    Whatever “technical reasons” (I assume it’s some lame excuse like “security concerns”) there are doesn’t mean it’s fixable (add a a Barracuda Networks Firewall, use SSL encryption, etc.)

    Personal USB contactless card readers are used wide across Japan and are used by their masses to load their Suica and PASMO cards online, at the comfort of their home, using their home computer. If they can do it, so can we.

    Or is the underlying reason yet another one of those “well no one in the US is doing it, therefore we won’t do it until someone else in the US does it first, and only then do we even do finally get moving to waste taxpayers money on doing a stupid government study on it while the rest of the world zooms us by” type of things?

  15. Even simpler, can’t Metro just go ask their Korean-American employees on how Seoul is capable of doing what they call “Internet T-Money” which is shown on the English language page of T-Money card?

    http://eng.t-money.co.kr/

    The Koreans figured out long ago since 2004 that all you need is a USB dongle type device, insert it to your computer’s USB slot, load up your T-Money card at the comfort of your own home, and use that USB dongle for mass transit.

    I mean c’mon. We live in the 21st century. We have so many solutions to whatever “problems” and “concerns” Metro may have. You can call it “technical reasons,” to me it’s just a bunch of excuses. And these concerns sound ridiculous when solutions exist with real results and use throughout the world.

    Reloading a Starbucks card online is easier to do than TAP. Why should TAP be any different? Make life simpler for everyone. If there are “technical reasons,” from a taxpayer perspective, it’s Metro’s job to figure out solutions to those problems. There’s a solution to everything and it’s fixable.

    At least Garcetti is helping move us toward such ideas. It just astounds me that it has taken this long to do the most obvious thing and it had to require a direct order from the new mayor to get things moving in the right direction.

    • Hi LAX Frequent Flyer;

      I’m not approving any more of your comments on this thread — you’ve commented plenty on this post and others and the comment board was not created to be dominated by one reader.

      If you don’t like this, two suggestions:

      1. Create your own transit blog where you will have unlimited space to discuss the things that interest you.

      2. On this comment board, be more concise in your original comment and accept that you cannot respond to every single comment by others, who deserve to have their say.

      Thanks!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source