Transportation headlines, Wednesday, Oct. 15

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The many reasons millennials are shunning driving (Washington Post)

New research from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group dives deeper into a phenomenon that has been well-documented to date: the generation known as millennials are driving much less than any generation since World War II. Among some of the reasons why:

•Millennials are marrying later and starting families later, meaning they’re also waiting longer before moving to homes and the ‘burbs (if they do).

•Gas prices are high and millennials don’t know the concept of cheap gas.

•Technology has made car sharing, bike sharing and ride sharing far easier — and the advent of the internet and smart phones and tablets makes taking transit more appealing.

•Millennials don’t see cars as valuable as previous generations — they would rather spend money on technology or experiences.

Interesting stuff. None earth-shaking news perhaps. However, the Post doesn’t get into another reason that I think is worth mentioning: a lot of metro areas across the U.S., including our area, have made considerable investments in new transit in the past 25 years. While the new transit may have come along too late to get 40somethings and later out of their cars, millennials are a generation that is growing up with transit.

What remains to be seen is whether millennials flex their political muscles when it comes time for ballot measures and other elections around the country that determine how transportation gets spent. Thoughts, readers?

The Molina Station naming mess (Downtown News)

The DN’s editorial board takes the Metro Board of Directors to task for their vote earlier this month to name the East Los Angeles Civic Center Station after Board Member Gloria Molina and the NoHo Red Line Station after Zev Yaroslavsky. Their main issue: Supervisor Molina has announced her intent to run for the Los Angeles City Council and a station with new signage is not appropriate during an election, the Downtown News argues.

Why Minneapolis’ bike freeways are totally the best (Grist) 

Great post on the new network of bike and pedestrian paths around the Twin Cities. Explanation:

How did this happen? Minneapolis is unusual, as cities go, because it has a funny-shaped park system called the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway that encircles most of the city like a ring road. The Grand Rounds had a network of entirely separate paths for cars and pedestrians that dated back to the WPA era, but in the mid ’90s, Minneapolis began to lay down new paths for cyclists, too. These paths were mostly recreational until, in the last decade, Minneapolis began to draw lines between different points on that circle by converting old railroad infrastructure, like the Midtown Greenway, for pedestrians and cyclists, and connecting them to the city itself.

Cities like New York and San Francisco have added bike routes to the grid of regular street traffic, but if you look at the map of what Minneapolis is doing, it becomes clear that something entirely different is happening: Minneapolis is building a freeway system for bikes. But a nice one — a freeway where you can bike past flocks of geese rising off the lake in the morning and never have to breathe truck exhaust.

 

Of course, there is that little thing called “the weather” that Twin Cities denizens must contend with. Then again, when not icicling, they can listen to one of our favorite radio stations, The Current, whose great music is available online. WNKU in Northern Kentucky is also great if you’re out and about on transit and want to try a new station. Of course, our own KCRW’s music programming gets major hugs, too 🙂

How not to measure traffic congestion (Planetizen)

Todd Littman performs a well-reasoned takedown of data and conclusions from a new report by the firm Inrix that predicts a significant rise in congestion and related costs in the next 20 years. Excerpt from Todd’s blog post:

Such very large numbers are virtually meaningless. For economic analysis it is usually best to convert impacts into annual costs per capita – let’s see what that means for these congestion impacts. According to the graph on study’s page 40,average annual hours of delay for an average automobile commuter are projected to increase from a current 22.0 up to 23.4 in 2030, a gain of 1.4 hours per year or 42 seconds per day for 200 commute days. Since adults devote about 90 daily minutes to travel, current 22 annual hours of congestion delays add about 4% to total travel time, and the projected increases this to 4.5%. These impacts are tiny overall.

The INRIX report makes several other basic errors. It describes traffic congestion as “gridlock,” a greatly abused term. Gridlock refers to a specific situation in which vehicles in a network are totally stuck due to clogged intersections. It almost never occurs. In fact, congestion tends to maintain equilibrium: it increases to the point that some potential peak-period automobile trips shift to other times, modes or routes, so threats of “gridlock” based on extrapolating past trends are almost always exaggerations.

 

Smart piece. I’m not wild about apocalyptic predictions of future traffic, although I do think trying to understand its impacts has some merit (smog, cultural, etc.). I tend to think the whole subject can be easily summed up in one sentence: “If we don’t do anything, traffic may get worse and there won’t be enough alternatives to sitting in it.”

And today’s closing photo…looks like I transferred to the wrong bus….

Rail is a thing of the past in Cincinnati, where transit means "Go Metro." Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Rail is a thing of the past in Cincinnati, where transit means “Go Metro” on the bus. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

 

 

13 replies

  1. Hmm. Rail was a thing of the past in Los Angeles County, until it became a thing of the future.

    Thankfully, in cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City, it never ceased to be a thing of the present.

  2. I am gonna express a contrary opinion on your assertion that Millennials are driving less because “a lot of metro areas across the U.S., including our area, have made considerable investments in new transit in the past 25 years.” For the Los Angeles region, the investment in car infrastructure this year and for the past 50+ years continues to dwarf investments in all other modes. Yes, Metro is building rail, but even Metro also continues to bet against its rail investment by making billion-dollar bets on cars, cars, cars – including increasing freeway capacity, building parking structures, widening roads, freeway patrols, etc. Millenials are choosing greener modes in spite of (not because of) public agency (including Metro, reinforced by Feds, Caltrans, DOTs, etc.) dollars continuing to overwhelmingly support car capacity at great expense.

  3. Born and raised in L.A. First rode RTD at the age of five or six with the local kids. We rode since it was efficient for our parents to get to work, while we went to school which were in opposite directions. Later, the rails came, and it got easier for parents (depending on your socioeconomic background) to get us directions to school. It later became easier and more affordable around the right off passage age (16) where you get a car, to take metro instead. The system was greater than RTD in my opinion since the blue and green lines were running. Later, I realised that personally, I could go to movies, visit friends, go to the beach, or my first job, if I just picked up a phone and figures the route. I think many of us realized that gas, mandatory insurance, and the pre-recession mentality may not have been worth a whole paycheck. 6.75 was minimum wage when I joined the work force. Not to mention the honor system was a free ride as a youth. Eventually, after many citations, I realized that I knew my way around the entire city. By then the Red Line was nearly complete, and metro me to the places I learned to go. Did I have a Nokia cell phone? Yes. And could I call a friend with a car to rendez vous? Yes. Eventually I realized that I was also making friends on Metro that had similar experiences as I did, and began to navigate the system proper. It became “cool” to know the city outside of the suburban bubble (for me it was south bay). I had everything a teenager wanted minus a car; a cell phone, nice shoes, nice clothes, and most importantly, a little extra money for forties and a skateboard. I can imagine there were and are thousands of kids that shared that experience that are now adults. I didn’t have to announce I took metro places, I just had to be one time. If anyone asked, I was always honest about how I arrived, and was willing to walk about a mile, or skate three, and was rewarded with some of the greatest social interactions a teen could ask for. Later, I returned to old habits, taking metro to El Camino College, all the while getting a heck of a lot of studying (and sleep) while riding metro, and transferring to buses to get to classes. It was a combination too, I’d some semesters interface with friends who drove to get to class as well. What was once shunned upon, became “cool” once again, because I always made it, and metro was relatively reliable and on time, unlike pre-recession traffic. Not to say many many journeys were not frustrating and inconvenient, but that came with the territory. I remember times not making my rendez vows due to impatient motorist (ex) friends who later became unreliable because they felt metro was still unreliable. It forced me to become more independent, and carve a niche that didn’t involve meeting motorist friends anymore. I made new ones, close to metro. As an adult, I never decided to buys a car, even when I had the chance because I’d be missing away a lot of dough, and already knew I could be anywhere in southern California in about two or three hours if I planned it right, now using metro, big blue, culver city, metrolink, etc. although there are places that it didn’t reach, I thought to myself “well, I don’t belong there anyway.” Fast forward to the gentrification of downtown and a few other areas, it just made sense to take metro, and even move into the city, which I did. So, metro became a necessity. A part of my survival, and many others I’m sure. Now that people realize they can get from point a to b, without the old dirty stigma of RTD, which many don’t remember, metro seems a bit more sensible. It really depends on how you chart LA, minutes vs miles. I’m sure now, many see it as the way to go, and with destinations having more utilitarian and recreational environments, a little critical thinkning and patience will help save you some money, get you to work, and to places and people you want to see. The downside is I feel it has divided me from old friends who never got out of there cars. With social networking, I’ve seen many old friends who will ride a few times a year. They see other people do it and see that it IS possible to make it to a few nice places to play. I’m an 83 baby, so I’m sure the younger socialization is expounded. Some kids did not live in a LA without a green line, it’s all they know, and they think sitting in traffic is a bit foolish and expensive since gas at some points has been five bucks a gallon; that was a day pass.

    • “at some points has been five bucks a gallon; that was a day pass.”

      Five bucks a gallon when cars are reaching 40 mpg (the 2014 Toyota Corolla Eco model, a low entry car has a combined MPG of 35 MPG) means you can go 40 miles for $5.00 worth of gas. Use a moped that gets 100 mpg, that means you can go 100 miles for five bucks.

      And gas prices today are falling again, Los Angeles average is now at $3.60 and other states are now seeing sub-$3 gas prices. So with today’s $3.00 range prices, on a car that gets 40 MPG, the cost of gas (and the reason why oil companies make huge $$$) is a distance rate of about 7.5 cents per mile in gas. On a moped that gets 100 MPG with a gas price of $3.00, it goes down to 3 cents per mile in gas. Far cheaper than going Metro depending on distance traveled.

      At $3.60/gal gas on a 40 MPG vehicle, with a distance rate of 7.5 cents a mile in gas, one would need to travel over 24 miles on Metro ($1.75 flat rate) to make up for it. With a $7 day pass, it won’t make sense to go Metro unless you travel over 94 miles per day on it.

      At $3.60/gal gas on a 100 MPG moped, with a distance rate of 3 cents a mile in gas, one would need to travel over 59 miles on Metro ($1.75 flat rate) to make up for it. With a $7 day pass, it won’t make sense to go Metro unless you travel over 234 miles per day on it.

      Pretty much if you’re buying a day pass (now $7 BTW) most people are not really getting a better deal. Buying a $7 day pass for example, just to go to the neighborhood supermarket (which many have to do anyway) and back is actually spending more money than driving a car or a gas-powered two wheeler.

      You can add insurance costs and maintenance costs as an argument, but such costs are dirt cheap on a moped as well, as low as $100 a year. And many insurance companies are nowadays pushing the “if you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, you get a lower insurance rate” as a market. By far, many Angelenos fall into that sub-10,000 mi per year category because everything is closeby here in LA. Common maintenance such as oil filters, batteries, brakes, etc. can also be done yourself just by watching Youtube videos.

      Besides, if a Metro monthly pass costs $100 a month, you’re ending up spending $1200 a year on it. You can buy a nice new 100 MPG moped for the same amount.

      • In my 37-mpg Corolla I can fit myself, my spouse, and our 3 kids. I’ve seen families of 4, maybe even 5, piled on a scooter in Marrakech, but I don’t think it’s legal in L.A.

        • Hey Ron;

          Not sure if it’s legal or not and I like scooters but…definitely don’t try to put five people on one!!! Not safe!!

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  4. I ride MetroRail to the Bowl, and to Disney Hall, BECAUSE I CAN (as in the off-color joke about dogs.) I started doing so as soon as they ran late enough at night to get me back to my car after even John Williams Night, even with four encores.

    My best friend is a videographer, specializing in figure skating, and I occasionally still give him a hand on various competition and show shoots. As soon as I COULD ride the Green Line to the El Segundo rink, I DID so, so long as I wasn’t transporting equipment myself. Ditto for the Gold Line to the Pasadena rink.

    Only a few years ago, I visited the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum for the first time since I was a child (and the former was still the California Museum of Science and Industry). Over the years between that first visit and the opening of the Expo Line, I made it to Exposition Park maybe 3-4 times, total, including one occasion when I walked the Expo right-of-way (at least as closely as I legally could), rather than taking a bus. With the Expo Line running, I make it there probably at least 3-4 times PER YEAR.

    When the Endeavour arrived in Los Angeles, I took the Green Line to Mariposa, then walked from there to a viewing area near the Flight Path Museum, for the landing, and then, a few weeks later, for the Long Crawl, I took the Green Line and a bus to the Forum, then after it left the Forum, I took the Green, Blue, and Expo lines to Crenshaw, walking the rest of the way to Crenshaw & King, and standing around (and watching Debbie Allen’s students perform without the shuttle) while it struggled around obstacles that were worse than anticipated, staying until it triumphantly arrived at the corner, hours after it had been scheduled to arrive at its temporary barn at the Science Center. I did all that by Metro, and almost all by MetroRail, because I COULD.

    And when I went back to actually visit the Flight Path Museum, I retraced the route I’d used to walk back to Mariposa after the landing.

    I have a very dear friend, an Episcopalian priest who, not all that long ago, transferred to All Saints’ Beverly Hills. I’ve been there twice: once for a concert, not long before my friend was transferred there, and once, after she was transferred there, to hear her preach. Both times via the Purple Line and a bus. If the Purple Line didn’t stop at Wilshire & Western, I’d probably be visiting that church far more regularly. And she tells me that when the Expo Line finally opens up revenue service to Santa Monica, I’ll be able to visit the church where her Methodist husband is an associate pastor without having to drive all the way.

    My last few visits to LACMA and the Page Museum were also by a combination of the Purple Line and a bus. As was my visit to the Museum of Tolerance. And the Getty would probably be much more appealing if Metro had a rail line that connected directly with their parking tram.

    I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’d much rather ride a trolley, subway, or el, than a bus, and that even a bus, if it goes from where I am to where I’m headed when I need it to go, beats having to drive.

  5. Re: The many reasons millennials are shunning cars

    “Whatever millennials do right now, it’s highly likely that they’ll drive more as they age into their 30s and 40s. The question is whether they’ll continue to drive less than their parents did at each stage of life — and whether future generations will replicate their patterns.”

    Now that the price of gasoline is dropping from its historic highs, lets see if the VMT resumes its’ never ending upward climb after several years of going flatline at or below 2007 levels with gen-y making up for lost time like the writer seems to think they will.

    Something not mentioned is that regardless of gen-y’s transportation and consumer preferences, it’s still baby boomers that are making the transportation policy decisions When the U.S. Transportation Secretary equates VMT increases with economic growth and prosperity in press releases, its obvious where his thinking on the subject is..

    Transportation policy has been made by people of an era that viewed car ownership as much a status symbol as a personal transportation necessity. Future generations are going to have to live with decisions made in the past and perpetuated in the present.

    What are the boomers going to do when they are too old to drive and should get off the road or at least out of the driver’s seat? To paraphrase Charleton Heston in a certain documentary, the only way some boomers are going to be forced out of the driver’s seat of their car is to pry their dead fingers off of the steering wheel.

    Better hope those “driverless” cars come to the rescue of the baby boom generation.

    • Hey there —

      I totally agree the car companies must have their eyes on serving the boomer generation with driver-less cars. The question is really how autonomous are we going to allow cars to be?

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  6. The 84 MPG car called Elio Motors will sell for $6,800 at Pep Boys.

    http://www.eliomotors.com/

    So less than 6 years worth of monthly bus passes, and who knows how much they’re going to go up to next, you can buy a 84 MPG car. A car that gets you 84 miles on a gallon of gas. And according to latest LA averages, a gallon of gas has gone down to $3.50 today. So you can travel 84 miles on a gallon of gas in the same amount it costs for a two one way trips on Metro.

    Metro can never compete with cars with their current pricing model. They keep raising their fares, cars get cheaper to buy, lower cost to own, and they’re getting better gas mileage.