Transportation headlines, Friday, February 7

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Trial by fire for Metro’s new top cop (ZevWeb)

Interesting profile of Michael Claus, the new commander of the Sheriff’s Department unit that patrols Metro buses, trains and facilities under an annual contract. Both Claus and Metro officials say the system is safe despite the recent murder on the Red Line, but perhaps the most intriguing part of the article concerns fare evasion:

Both Claus and Metro’s Martin are seeking to improve fare enforcement, a major priority for the agency. Currently, deputies are responsible for making sure that people pay their fares and for issuing citations to violators. But Claus believes that sworn deputies’ skills are better used elsewhere.

“From what I’ve seen so far, I think it’s a waste of a resource for a deputy sheriff to check TAP cards,” Claus said. “Deputy sheriffs should be performing law enforcement functions, not revenue functions.” He added that it’s tough to recruit good people because trained police don’t want to spend their days checking cards.

Claus envisions using Metro employees and security assistants to check fares instead, while deputies patrol for safety—a quick call away if a conflict arises. Martin agrees. “When they are on a train and they have both hands checking tickets, they aren’t looking for quality of life issues,” Martin said. With each sworn deputy costing the agency about $210,000 per year and civilian employees costing about a quarter of that amount, “you want to get the best bang for your buck.”

First time I’ve heard this discussion publicly. I’m not really sure personally I care who does fare enforcement — like many others I just want to see it done well and thoroughly. If you subscribe to the broken windows theory of law enforcement, you probably also believe that cracking down on fare evasion also would help prevent other types of crime.

Trolley-train hybrid tackles city streets then speeds to suburbs (Wired) 

The train in Sheffield in the United Kingdom can run on both commuter rail tracks and then switch to light rail tracks to take people into and out of the city core. The big benefit: it eliminates the need to transfer between light rail and commuter rail.

Sochi by rail seemed like a good idea (Toronto Star)

A first person account of the 26-hour journey by ‘express’ train between Moscow and Sochi. The express train cut four hours off the previous 30-hour trip! One fun tidbit: it cost $32 U.S. to have a porter carry a couple of suitcases from the station to the train platform but not actually on the train.

If you haven’t seen the @SochiProblems Twitter feed yet, it’s worth checking out with the usual caveat it’s heavy on bathroom humor and some adult language. And if you haven’t yet read the New York Times’ story on the poisoning of stray dogs in Sochi by local authorities and a billionaires’ attempt to save them, here’s the link.

I love the Olympics, but I’m not sure I understand the craziness of having cities around the world spend billions to host them and then later find they can’t really afford them. I tend to think it would be better to rotate the Games between cities that already have infrastructure in place and perhaps occasionally add a new city. This is one reason I’d love to see Los Angeles host a future Olympics; a lot of the facilities are already here.

8 replies

  1. What Claus and Martin is saying is something that many people in LA have been saying for years and has been in place in major transit cities all over the world!

    It’s called common sense. Something that was supposed to the groundwork foundation of this country and something that is extremely lacking today.

  2. What do other cities do to prevent crime occurring within the system? Do they have police officers roaming around the trains checking everyone’s tickets? No. It’s virtually impossible to do, very inefficient, and very costly when you have so many people using the system.

    So they have installed gates. They let machines do the remedial job of fare checks. You check into the system and you check out of the system. And it works. No one gets into the system without checking in as you enter the station, and no one gets out of the system without checking out as you exit the station. Contactless cards make this easy to do and transit agencies can collect massive amounts of invaluable data to see where people are getting on where people are getting off to help coordinate transit planning.

    So where are the police? The police are instead, stationed literally at each station or every other station and their job is to provide security only. When crime occurs within the Metro system, the transit operators radio the officers at the nearest station for help.

    This is how it’s done in major transit oriented cities all over the world. It’s all easy. There really is no need to rewrite a playbook. Just copy exactly what they do in major transit cities like New York, London, and Tokyo. They’ve been running transit for over a century so they practically wrote the playbooks on security for transit. So why can’t Metro just learn from the experts’ playbooks instead of writing their own? If you want to learn the game, you learn from the masters who’ve been playing the game for over a century.

  3. I agree that it is a waste of resources to have trained and skilled county sheriff performing fare enforcement. Having their presence on the trains itself and circulating among more stations creates a better psychological sense of safety.

    I also think your comment about rotating Olympic host cities amongst cities that already have existing infrasture is an excellent idea. Every other Olympics a new city could be evaluated perhaps.

    On another note about the newly installed fare gates, are there future plans to add additional gates on other Metro light rail lines? From my understanding, some stations were not built to accomodate fare gates. The Gold Line Atlantic Station looks like physical space exists for three or four fare gates that could be added at each side of the station where the current tap validators are located. Numerous times I see new riders not know what to do with the TAP card because it’s not really obvious, especially if a station is crowded and people don’t necessarily see the tap validators.

  4. “With each sworn deputy costing the agency about $210,000 per year and civilian employees costing about a quarter of that amount, “you want to get the best bang for your buck.” ”

    A quarter of $210,000 a year is $52,500. That’s still awfully too high to pay a person to check fares.

    Checking fares do not require any special skills. If you’re going to check who paid to get in, you might as well just hire the teenagers who break off the tickets as you enter Disneyland. They’ll do it for minimum wage.

  5. I have been reading this thread for years ever since the talk of ending the honor system, installing gates, and the talk about fare reform. I stand by with rest of my peers who advocate for ending the honor system, installing gates throughout the system, and moving to a more fairer distance based fare structure.

    Unfortunately, people like Erik Griswold and Dana Gabbard, the duo who hate the gates and rather see them torn out and move us to a police state, thinks that we should be spending $210,000 per officer times the numbers of officers needed to do all out fare enforcement, and dedicate all of their jobs to do a remedial task like checking fates, that in which machines can do instead.

    They keep repeating that “machines don’t pencil out financially” or whatever. Yet, they think that hiring more cops to do fare checks do pencil out financially. How many officers do we need at $210,000 a year to do this what machine can do?

    These people think we still live in the 1950s and all the technological advancements we made since then hasn’t happened. Please, Baby Boomers. Shut up. We don’t need you guys making decisions for us anymore. Let us go. You don’t need to be helicopter parenting us way past into our 20s and 30s. Let public transit planning go to the next generation. Face it: You’re aging, you’re becoming senile, you’re dying out as a generation and you’re backwards minded. The best thing you have is reliving the Beatles nostalgia coming to America in the 1960s. We’re smarter, we’re more technologically adept, we’re well traveled, and we’re going to be outranking you in population numbers as voters soon. And when we do, we’re going to take back what your generation screwed us with all these stupid laws and regulations that we’re passed when we had no right to vote as kids.

    So please, Dana Gabbard, Erik Griswold, and other Baby Boomers on this thread: hurry up a retire. We don’t want a 1950s Metro system, we want a 21st century Metro system. Leave transit planning to us. We’ll change the world in ways just as you’ve had, only better.

  6. You’re all using LOGIC! Metro does not work on LOGIC! They run on sucking off taxpayer dollars to fund their own greed and pensions! They don’t care about finances, profitability, efficiency, common sense or logic, they care about being paid the biggest bang for the money for doing the least amount of job!! That’s how Metro works! That’s how public employee unions work!

    Why do you think Metro’s CEO gets paid over $325,000 a year when he runs this agency that loses millions per year from fare evasion!? Why do you think we have Metro executives who as a total, get paid millions each year for running a transit system that barely recovers less than 1/3rd of its costs from the farebox?

    Metro is just like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers: get paid handsomely for running the system to failure. Man, it must be great to have a job at Metro! Have no care about finances, suck at marketing, if things go wrong, ask the taxpayers for more money and waste them on stupid things like art, jack up the fares to make up for 20 years of running under the honor system, and still get paid a six figure salary and way too generous pension benefits. Can I have your guys’ job!? I’ll do a great job of bankrupting LA with stupid illogical ideas and I expect to get paid millions of dollars for that job!!! (sarcasm)

  7. Millennial,
    Sorry to burst your bubble but I’m not a Baby Boomer. And as for staffing, if a $50k a year job (what it will cost the employer, not what the employee takes home) means both keeping locally raised taxes in the community and adds deference-through-presence via “eyes on the street” it makes far more sense economically. Also, no fare-checker will let you ride for free if you wave your hand over them like the Metro aggregates will.

    Notice that both murders on the Red Line took place after turnstiles were installed and after fare enforcement was moved off of those trains and up to the turnstile banks. I used to see LASD on the Subway trains and platforms all the time pre-2009. Now? Yeah, not so much save for the few days after each murder.

  8. I do not want overpaid cops all over the Metro system demanding me papers to get around. This isn’t North Korea or Nazi Germany. Leave fare checking up to the machines. Machines don’t ask for leave or go for lunch breaks. They are far more efficient in their task than what any number of cops can do.

    Cops should only be used to provide security, nothing more, nothing less. Fare checks should be handled by machines.