Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 31

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Shouldn’t Metro know how many people are riding for free? (L.A. Times) 

The editorial follows the LAT news story earlier this week about fare evasion — rail ridership estimates had 115 million boardings last year while the number of ‘taps’ recorded was 70 million. The difference is made up of people who didn’t pay fares or who had passes on TAP cards but didn’t tap them as required. Excerpt that sums up the issue well:

The amount of money Metro loses to fare evasion is most likely small compared with its operating budget — fares cover only about 26% of the cost of the rides. Officials want to raise ticket prices in the coming years to bring that number up to about 33% of the cost. But the widespread perception of fare evasion undermines public confidence in the agency and makes it harder for Metro to convince riders and taxpayers that it needs more money.

Sharrows: a primer (Orange20Bikes) 

As the headlines suggests, this is a good primer on those lane markings that show cyclists where to ride and inform motorists that bikes are to be expected in a lane. Long-time readers know that I’m not really fond of them as I think they’re mostly a good way to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing. This blog post sort of agrees, pointing out that cities like them for that very reason (and they’re cheap) while also pointing out some research shows that sharrows tend to prompt motorists to give cyclists a bit more room and they attract a few more cyclists on roads where they’re present. That hasn’t been my experience when cycling on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, although the sharrows are pretty faded — last time I bothered to notice them.

Speaking of bikes…

LAPD: No public record found that bike lanes delay emergency response times (Streetsblog L.A.)

In response to a public records request, the LAPD found no documents or studies showing that bike lanes slow down police or emergency vehicles. The request stemmed from an ongoing dispute in Northeast L.A. about a city plan to put bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. As it turns out, response times in that part of the city are already slower than elsewhere — but there’s no actual proof that the bike lanes would slow things down any further.

New LADOT G.M. enthusiastically accepts management challenge (The Planning Report) 

Good interview with Seleta Reynolds, the new chief of the city of Los Angeles’ transportation department, which oversees DASH buses, bike lane construction and traffic signals. She worked previously in San Francisco. I thought what she had to say about walking was interesting. Excerpt:

One of the most telling things that I’ve taken away from projects I’ve done was during a study in Spokane Washington. We asked people why they wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. “Well, I like walking.” You ask them, “Why is that? What is it about walking that’s important?” They would give you answers like, “I might run into my neighbor along the way”; “You don’t know what you’ll see”; “Something unexpected or interesting might happen”; “I don’t experience the city in the same way when I’m in my car”; “It also offers an opportunity to unplug and interact with people in my household.”

Social interactions that strengthen neighborhoods and even can strengthen the resiliency of a community to recover after a disaster are improved if you offer people the opportunity to walk or bike to get around. Making those modes a real option for trips that are less than a mile for walking or one-to-three miles for biking is important for a huge variety of reasons. That’s what I’m interested in from an active transportation perspective. That’s where the opportunities are.

Well put. Everyone I know loves to talk about some city they visited where you could walk everywhere or there were lovely places to walk. Yet, there isn’t as much clamoring for that on the home front. It will be interesting to see what Reynolds can do, especially given that zoning is controlled by the city’s planning department and the City Council has last say on everything — and often exercises that right.

Is Reynolds the antidote to L.A.’s defeatist attitude on transportation? (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Speaking of the new LADOT chief, Damien Newton writes that hiring someone from outside L.A. to run the city’s transportation department was probably a wise move. Damien also says arguments otherwise — that L.A. is too unique and thus needs one of its own — amount to big pile of bunk. Excerpt:

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

Concur. The only thing unique about L.A. is that we have better Mexican food and an arguably better climate that some of other sprawling metropolises around the planet.

Motorized roller skates: from fiction to reality (BBC)

Speeds up to 12 miles per hour! They run on electricity and look easy to step in and out of. Tilt foot forward, they go. Tilt foot back, they stop. So says the manufacturer.

7 replies

  1. I have another one that I hear often: “distance based fares won’t work in Los Angeles because there’s too many people in LA and it’s too spread out.”

    Yet, when you analyze major metropolises like London, Seoul, and Tokyo where they do use zonal or distance based fares, they’re just as big and spread out and have larger population than LA and yet manages to move millions of transit riders per day under a variable zonal or distance based fare system.

    Los Angeles County (remember folks, LACMTA is a LA County agency)
    10 million+ and rising population
    4,751 square miles

    London Metropolitan Area
    15 million+ population
    3,236 square miles

    Greater Seoul Area
    25 million+ population
    4,518 square miles

    Greater Tokyo Area
    32 million+ population
    6,516 square miles

    Any BS response will be met with a rebuttal in less than five seconds of Google search and Wikipedia data.

  2. I like to tell people a little story about transit in Los Angeles County.

    Back in the late 1980s, there were people who found the whole idea of a trolley* line going from Long Beach to Downtown L.A. via Watts and Compton utterly ludicrous, and claimed that for the tiny number of people who would actually want to ride such a thing, it would cost less to pay people to drive the freeways, than it would to run the trolleys. Yes, people said that. Including one of the right-wing commentators from a public access public affairs debate show run by a local newspaper publisher, that I used to run camera on. They also said that it would be overrun by gang violence. At any rate, huge numbers of people were convinced that the Blue Line was a mistake.

    And what happened? Turned out that the biggest mistake was that they only built the station platforms long enough to accommodate 2-car trains. Turned out that the people of Los Angeles County, as well as a lot of people going into Los Angeles County to work, visit museums, or attend concerts or theatre, were so eager to ditch their cars that 2-car-length platforms weren’t long enough, and they had to go back through the system, extending every platform except LB Transit Mall and 7th/Metro. And gang violence? During the L.A. Riots, Metro was just about the safest place to be in the whole county.

    —-
    *Let’s be honest: the Blue, Gold, Green, and Expo Lines are TROLLEY lines: they run on tracks, get their power from overhead, and (excepting only the Green Line) have segments of street-running. They are trolleys, no matter what you call them, in the same way that tourist buses built to look like horsecars and cable cars are NOT TROLLEYS, no matter what you call them.

    • Good point, James.

      I’m sure if you were hanging around L.A. circa 1910 you could plenty of people saying private car ownership will never take off here because we have this great streetcar system!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  3. Probably as late as circa 1930, maybe even 1940.

    You may recall that a major subplot from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (one that becomes critical at the end, when we find out who and what Judge Doom is) was based on the urban legend (which may have some factual basis) that the Pacific Electric was deliberately run into the ground by those who stood to profit from automobiles and freeways. And that subplot yielded up these delightful quotes, both from Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins):
    “Who needs a car in L.A.? We have the best public transportation system in the world.”
    near the beginning of the picture, and
    “Nobody’s gonna drive this lousy freeway when they can take the Red Car for a nickel.” just before Judge Doom drops the proverbial other shoe.

  4. Steve,

    Posts like that of Josh Young above is proof positive that a single person who calls B/S on everyone who disagrees with him is naive, ignorant and wished to provoke a fight to begin with.

    What I can’t decide is why you allow this type of inflammatory commentary. Do you agree with him? Do the members of the Metro Board believe you are doing the community at large a service by allowing a post that calls B/S on everyone who disagrees with him. Everyone reading this knows what B/S means would you allow him or anyone else just spell it out? I notice that he often posts more than once and you allow it despite your earlier admonitions that you would typically allow only one post.

    • Unfortunately I missed that reference and had already approved the comment, which I’ll let stand — I almost never delete comments once published. In the future, I’ll be more vigilant.

      Am I approving because I agree with him? No, I approve most comments that follow (or in this case almost follow) the rules.

      As for the bigger issue, this blog has several people who comment frequently or comment on almost every post, often repeating the same thing over and over. I try to police it as best I can and I am well aware it’s a major turnoff for those who read the comments section. However, because this is a government blog, I try to err on the side of free speech and approve the vast majority of comments submitted as long as they are within our guidelines.

      I do try to ensure that the same person isn’t commenting on the same post over and over, but I do lose track. I will try to continue to be vigilant about language and tone used, however. I take your complaint seriously.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. I respectfully disagree.

    Steve, you mention that “I am well aware it’s a major turnoff for those who read the comments section.”

    Actually, I consider it to be rather interesting because it brings in more different views that I haven’t considered. It’s actually opening my eyes a bit to look and research this matter myself rather than listening to and accepting the norm for the sake of “it’s always been that way.”

    If you really hold off your biases for a moment and think about it for a second, you really wonder what the rationale is that we have a fare system where it costs the same price to go a mile versus 20 miles. It doesn’t make any sense at all. But we do it “just because it’s always been that way.” But does it have to be? No one ever questions that. Why? Because it’s accepted fact, or that people don’t know that there’s another way? But we have the internet today where we can look at how other transit systems are run. If we have a Metro website, we surely can look at London Transport’s website and other cities transit website to learn how they operate.

    When you look at the statements, Josh Young is stating factual data and analysis as in this case where he compares LA’s population and size relates to other world class cities with similar characteristics yet with awesome transit systems and what each of those cities do to run their own transit systems. They use a different fare structure, one that we haven’t tried out yet. If you think about it, it makes sense. LA’s transit problems are faced with an increasing population over an area that is spread out. We have a large population spread out over a large area, so the rational thought is that we need to start looking at other cities that fit the characteristics of LA and see what we can learn from them in terms of transit planning.

    In contrast, the person complaining seems to only want to silence out Josh Young because that person cannot come back with a good argument, one that is solid and irrefutable. It seems to me rather that the poster named “Josh Young is full of B/S” is angry because this person was most likely the person(s) Josh Young was referring to who previously made the argument that a different fare system will not work in LA due to the size of this city. This person seems to be angry because what the person believed to be a solid argument in his view, was overturned by irrefutable data and analysis, and therefore is now resorting to other tactics to silence him out. Otherwise, all this person has to do is showcase an argument that overturns Josh Young’s statement. Isn’t that how debates are done in a democracy?

    For example,

    “What I can’t decide is why you allow this type of inflammatory commentary. Do you agree with him? Do the members of the Metro Board believe you are doing the community at large a service”

    The statement shows that this person does not care about rational discussions based upon factual data and analysis, but rather, based upon radical thoughts which supports silencing dissent, restricting freedom of speech, and increased government censorship. If I have to pick a side, it seems to me that this person is more dangerous to the core of democracy.

    First and foremost, we are a democracy. The government is not above the people, the people are the ones that are above government. In a democracy, the people discuss matters freely. And sometimes, you need someone like Josh Young who brings in new ideas that go against the accepted norm, one that creates new ideas and questions everything.