Transportation headlines, Monday, April 28

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Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline's Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Art of Transit: Downtown Chicago, freeways and transit lines as seen from United Airline’s Yoda-sized seats on Saturday morning as I made my way back to L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Metro adds monthly fee for toll road drivers (L.A. Times)

As part of an approval to continue the ExpressLanes beyond next January — pending approval of the state Legislature — the Metro Board also approved a new $1 monthly for everyone with ExpressLanes accounts. The fee is intended to help cover the cost of maintenance, as Metro must pay its contractor $3 for every transponder put into service; it is estimated the new fee will raise $700,000 annually. As both the Times and coverage in the Los Angeles Newspaper Group notes, the Metro Board vote and passage of the state bill could potentially pave the way toward other freeways getting the ExpressLanes treatment in the future.

For whom the lane tolls (Santa Clarita Valley Signal) 

This op-ed piece argues it’s wrong to keep the ExpressLanes on the 10 and 110 freeways because taxpayers have already paid taxes to build the roads — and that the tolls only exist as a new government revenue stream. Interestingly, the writer never bothers to mention the HOV-toll lanes proposed for the 5 freeway in the Santa Clarita Valley. Nor does the writer mention that taxpayers have to pay fares or entrance fees for many things built with taxpayer dollars, ranging from mass transit to national parks to publicly-financed sports venues.

York Boulevard bike lane extended (LADOT Bike Blog)

The city of Los Angeles is extending the bike lanes on York Boulevard in Northeast L.A. toward South Pasadena, including lanes on the bridge over the 110 freeway. York is a key corridor and can be used to help reach two Gold Line stations — Highland Park and South Pasadena.

The first look at how Google’s self-driving car handles city streets (The Atlantic Cities)

Eric Jaffe goes for a ride in a self-driving car and gets a look at the computer software guiding the car’s decision making while in traffic. Very interesting post with some good visuals and video.

Sky-high cost of BART Oakland airport link (San Francisco Chronicle) 

A wee bit of hype in the headline in this article about BART trying to figure out the fares for the new 3.2-mile automated rail line (you can call it a people mover) that will run to the airport terminals. Fares could run from $3 to $6 one way with a $2 discounted fare for airport workers. The fares aren’t expected to cover the entire cost of running the service; then again, fares in the U.S. almost never cover the cost of operations.

9 replies

  1. BART doesn’t recover the full cost of operations, but their farebox recovery ratio is way better than Metro. Bay area taxpayers only have subsidize 35.5% of BART’s operation costs because BART fares recover 64.5% of their operations. We on the other hand, have to subsidize Metro 72% with taxpayer dollars, since Metro only recovers 28% from the farebox.

    Oh yeah, and BART uses a distance based fare system. How shocking that distance based fares pans out more financially than a flat rate system.

    Oh yes, and up there, they managed to figure out how to run both a distance based fare system, both under a gated (BART) and ungated (Caltrain) system, alongside a flat rate system (SF MUNI), all on a single contactless card system (Clipper Card) that’s built by the exact same company (Cubic) that Metro uses (TAP).

  2. Regarding the Oakland Airport Connector, you state that “fares in the U.S. almost never cover the cost of operations”, however the existing bus line (AIRBart) connecting OAK to BART is one of the exceptions. It charges an adult fare of $3 for the short trip and carries approximately 1.0-1.3 million annual passengers. The operating cost for the current five vehicle fleet should be approximately $3.65 million (assuming an average operating cost of $100 per vehicle hour and 100 vehicle hours of service per day), which should be offset by the farebox revenue for this line ($3-4 million per year).

  3. “fares in the U.S. almost never cover the cost of operations.”

    Perhaps Metro needs to learn how cities around the world are capable of doing exactly that then. Some are even profitable just on farebox revenues alone (not including real estate ventures), while at the same time keeping fares low and equitable for everybody.

    Perhaps you should look at the operations of the Hong Kong MTR where they make an astounding 185% farebox recovery ratio, not inclusive of real estate revenues.

    Here is HKMTR’s 2013 annual corporate financial review:
    http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/investrelation/2013frpt.htm
    http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/investrelation/2013frpt_e/E117.pdf

  4. Comparing Bart to Metro is like comparing Lexus lanes to a taxpayer supported Sports Arena, wait, both of those already happened in this blog post. What a bunch of non-sequiturs.

  5. Certainly, unless I have a time crunch I’ll be taking AC Transit from the airport to BART, like I do today. I avoid these rip-off airport fees as much as possible. Air travel is expensive enough as it is but nickel and diming customers isn’t worth it.

  6. im from perth western Australia and united states have the cheapest travel fare here in perth our transport cost anywhere from 60cents to $11.00 and its goin up in july so be thankfull us have cheap travel

  7. Good point, Calwatch.
    The AirBART bus is priced to break even by catering to the airport customers who are more comfortable on the door to door service. My point is that the new Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) is so much more expensive to operate than the AirBART buses that it replaces, that it will require a much higher fare to break even (more than $10 per trip based on the numbers in the news article). Otherwise BART will have to shift operating funds from their other services to subsidize the AirBART service that currently pays for itself.
    Personally, I will use the new OAC because it will be faster than the bus and it looks really cool (and because most of my trips through Oakland are for business, so I can expense them).
    Go Bears!

  8. Spin it however you want, Steve. Metro has lossed all my support for any future tax-transit proposals. Way back in the mid-1980’s, Metro promised carpool lanes and a rebuilt Harbor Freeway that would benefit all drivers. Metro has since broken the contract. Therefore, I can’t trust future contract proposals and won’t be supporting Metro, regardless of the promised benefits.