Transportation headlines, Wednesday, January 21

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Zocalo Public Square’s daily Metro rider profile: 7th Street to Wardlow Road

A garden variety automobile at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. (via @metrolosangeles Instagram)

A garden variety automobile at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. (via @metrolosangeles Instagram)

Cheap gas may not lead to drop in transit ridership, experts say (L.A. Times)

An interesting article from Laura Nelson of the L.A. Times that highlights the difficulty of figuring out why people are and are not riding transit. After talking with planning experts, Laura concludes that while ridership may be affected by high gas prices, the reverse may not be true, particularly in Los Angeles, and that the biggest factor affecting ridership is the economy.

The biggest influence on transit ridership is the health of the economy, experts say. During the Great Recession, as income levels dropped and household budgets tightened, transit ridership hit record highs across the United States. Some of the strongest ridership months in 2008 and 2009 corresponded with low fuel prices.

A graph released by the FTA a few years ago seems to indicate that ridership correlates with employment with a possible correlation with gas prices:

GasEmploymentRidershipGraph

All things considered, I think it’s safe to say that there are many variables that may influencing ridership  — including gas prices, the economy, rider demographics, traffic congestion (perceived or actual) and more. For Metro specifically, as Laura points out, other factors such as newly locked turnstiles and a fare increase in September have likely impacted recent ridership.

S.F. approves free public transit for low-income seniors, disabled (S.F. Examiner)

Beginning March 1, low-income and middle-income seniors and the disabled will be able to ride San Francisco Muni buses and light rail for free. According to the Muni report, the estimated cost of the pilot program is $6 million. Interestingly, the transit agency is looking for help from the private industry to help fund the new program after their free rides for youth program received a funding boost in the form of a $6.8-million donation from Google:

Hoping for a repeat performance, Lee announced Tuesday what some are calling the “tech sector Bat-signal.”

“Today, I call upon the private sector to partner with us, once again, and help fund this vital service that supports our City’s most vulnerable,” Lee wrote in a statement.

City Hall insiders expected billionaire tech investor and Lee ally Ron Conway to show up in a cape and tights, but no sightings have yet been verified.

To qualify for free rides, seniors must be over 65 and make no more than $67,950 annually (single), $77,700 (couple) or $97,100 (family of four). Until now, only Philadelphia’s SEPTA offered free rides for seniors. All offer seniors and disabled some sort of reduced fare. More info on Metro’s reduced fare senior program can be found here.

Cuomo wants elevated train link built to to ill-served La Guardia Airport (N.Y. Times)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a $450-million elevated line to connect public transit to the traffic-bogged La Guardia Airport in Queens. The other major airports in the region JFK and Newark already offer transit links while La Guardia — which mostly serves domestic flights — has usually required a taxi, car service or bus ride. The new elevated line would connect the airport and the New York Subway’s 7 Line that runs between Queens and Midtown Manhattan.

The La Guardia proposal at this time appears to raise a lot more questions than answers, especially regarding funding, trip time and project length.

The estimated cost of $450 million for the project is much lower than other rail projects of similar length as well as previous ideas for a La Guardia connection. The possible reason for this is explained in the article. Excerpt:

By comparison, Mr. Cuomo’s proposal is cheaper and less intrusive to residents, according to Elliot G. Sander, chairman of the Regional Plan Association, a group that advises on infrastructure planning in the New York area.

“It is relatively simple, relatively inexpensive and has minimal impact on the surrounding community,” said Mr. Sander, a lifelong resident of Queens. “You’re not doing underground tunneling. It’s a simple, short connection.”

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Metro Board last year approved the addition of the 96th/Aviation Station along the Crenshaw/LAX line as the best option for connecting riders to a future people mover to be built by Los Angeles International Airport. Airport officials last month approved a $4-billion dollar plan that included an automated people mover connection to the station; the people mover will include three stations to serve airport terminals as well as stations at a new Intermodal Transportation Facility and new Consolidated Rental Car Center.

How Americans get to work (Flowing Data)

A fun and informative interactive map that shows commuting habits across the United States using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. The map makes it easy to visually see where various commuting methods are more popular by allowing you to select color layers for each mode. By default the map shows the “drive alone” layer in aqua green, which unsurprisingly blankets the country as the most common commuting form in places other than New York City and remote areas of Alaska.

The image below shows the “drive alone” layer turned off, indicating that carpooling (purple) is the next most popular way of commuting, with a few other other areas where more people work from home (green). You can also scroll over a county for the specific breakdown between modes, making it easy to compare counties.

USCommuteModes

Unfortunately, the article that goes along with the map mischaracterizes Los Angeles as a place where you can only “drive or take horribly inefficient public transit.” Having lived in L.A. car-free for the past three years, this is not true in my experience and seems to be a statement based on L.A.’s car-culture stigma. It’s hard to imagine the same being said of Denver or Minneapolis, even though both have the same percentage of public transit commuters as L.A. County, and a slightly higher percentage of commuters driving alone.

Mayor won’t block Boston 2024 Olympics referendum effort (Boston Globe)

Earlier this month, the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Boston as the U.S. candidate for hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. However, there is an outspoken contingent in Boston that opposes hosting the Games that may seek a ballot initiative to put the issue to voters.

The city’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh, said yesterday he would not block a ballot referendum should anti-Games organizers get the nearly 65,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot. If — and it’s a big if — a referendum is passed, the U.S. Olympic Committee will presumably reconsider the three other cities that were vying for selection: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. It’s a long shot, but worth keeping an eye on. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to pick a host for the 2024 Summer Olympics in 2017.

Remarkable pictures of old subway cars being thrown into the ocean (Buzzfeed)

Some photos of retired New York City subway cars meeting their fate: the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

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Go Metro to see this year’s Oscar nominated films: the Oscar nominees were announced last week and it’s now become my mission to see as many nominated movies as I can. Of those that I’ve seen so far, my guess for best film is The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m no expert, but I did randomly guess predict last year’s winner so I feel pretty confident. Your thoughts?

As a reminder, there are a handful of movie theaters near Metro Rail, including Arclight Hollywood (Hollywood/Vine – Red Line), Arclight Pasadena (Memorial Park – Gold Line), Laemmle NoHo 7 (North Hollywood – Red Line) and Regal L.A. Live (Pico – Expo/Blue Line). Any others I might be missing, feel free to leave in the comments.

15 replies

  1. The other annoying thing about La Guardia is having to pay the bridge or tunnel toll as part of your cab/car service fare. And not a cheap toll either.

    Best 2014 movies I’ve seen so far (haven’t seen Boyhood or Selma yet and need to) in no particular order: American Sniper (a masterpiece), Grand Hotel Budapest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Chef and St. Vincent. Birdman didn’t do it for me.

    Note on seeing movies in Pasadena: the Pasadena Arclight is usually less crowded than the Hollywood Arclight and is a short 10-minute walk from Gold Line Del Mar station, where you can discuss the movie while enjoying a beverage at the Stone tasting room, adjacent to the southbound platform. There are plenty of eats in the area; one of my faves and a cheap alternative is Dog Haus, just east of the intersection of Green and Raymond.

    One other thought: if you go to the Laemmle’s in Pasadena (10- to 15-minute walk from Lake Ave Station), allow time for Vromans bookstore, which is next to the theater. One of the few great independent bookstores in the region.

    2015 movie I most dread watching: Avengers 2. The trailer is awful (hey actors — look up at the camera and scream ‘no!’) and the movie looks like it has managed to be even worse than the first one. I also thought it weird that the trailer for Mad Max barely included Mad Max. Hard to imagine Tom Hardy topping Bane.

    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

  2. Hmm. Already up on the MUNI web site. Doesn’t say, though, whether the MUNI free fare for low-income senior citizens includes Cable Cars (on which the off-peak senior discount cash fare is higher than the regular cash fare on everything else the MUNI runs). Although all monthly, 7-day, 3-day, and 1-day passes do include them.

    One interesting thing: MUNI 3-day passes are currently ONLY available in scratch-off form; 7-day passes are ONLY available in scratch-off form and as part of a San Francisco CityPass; 1-day passes are ONLY available in scratch-off form and as a printed, dated slip from a Cable Car conductor; monthly passes are ONLY available on Clipper (which can, for the MUNI, ONLY hold cash or monthly passes).

    Incidentally, Clipper cards are $3 (unless you set up “autoload”), vs. $1 for a TAP card.

  3. “drive or take horribly inefficient public transit.”

    LA is a place where you can only drive or take inefficient transit. Stop pretending that it isn’t. You’re not fooling anyone with your propaganda.

    • what would you know? with a username like yours, i doubt youve taken public transit since the school bus. but I have, and I know it takes 20 minutes to get from downtown to the valley on the red line, during rush hour. can you do better in your precious car? There are countless other examples of transit outperforming the freeway. the real propoganda comes from people like you.

      • Agreed….Mr. “Fed Up With Taxes” is probably your typical stuck-in-the-past you know what. Has no clue what reality is/isn’t just looking to blow off steam and vent about his personal issues.

      • “I know it takes 20 minutes to get from downtown to the valley on the red line, during rush hour”

        Newsflash: Guess what, that’s not how I live, and by far, the vast majority of LA County residents in the 10 million population county do not live in the Valley and do not work in DTLA. You’re making a strawman argument based on a small sample size of Valley-to-DTLA commuters. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a small amount of LA County commuters.

        Care to explain why I would want to take the bus to go from my apartment in the westside to my job in South Bay? The only option is the driving. I’m not wasting 3 hours of my life just to get to/from work taking the bus, my car is faster. If not the car, I can always learn how to ride a motorcycle to snake through the traffic jams too.

        You cannot force others to take transit; not everyone leads the same life as you do.

    • So because it is inefficient for your commute, that means it is inefficient for everyone’s commute?
      But if someone gives an example of how it isn’t, that is merely a strawman argument?

      Interesting.

      I have a car and a bike, but I take a rapid bus about 30 times a week and metro rail about 25 times a week. Saves money on parking, gas, wear and tear (both on my vehicle and this city’s infrastructure), and I don’t have to stress about angry old drivers who hate taxes and derive pleasure from trolling the internet.

      • Unless you’re ducking your head in the sand, it’s plain as night and day that the vast majority of getting around town here is by car compared public transportation. And I highly doubt everyone switching to public transit is going to happen overnight either. You are idealistic, I am a realist.

      • When did anyone say that everyone would be switching to public transportation? Obviously public transportation doesn’t work for everyone, and even if it did, there are old people like yourself who are afraid of minorities and poor people and wouldn’t take it.

        What I was stating is that public transportation is far from inefficient in this city. I live at the intersection of 2 local bus lines and 2 rapid bus lines, and I am a mile away from two subway lines/1.5 miles from a light rail line. 60% of the places I would like to go are accessible more quickly by transit than by car, and that isn’t even including time spent parking. In 30 years when your generation is gone public transportation will have a far greater mode share.

      • “there are old people like yourself who are afraid of minorities and poor people and wouldn’t take it.”

        Way to make assumptions, the typical intolerant liberal that you are. Guess what, I’m a Millennial and I am Asian-American. Does it surprise you that there could be a Millennial minority who doesn’t agree with your idealism of thinking that continuously taxing everything is the answer to all of society’s problems?

  4. In New York they are proposing a elevated line to connect a subway line to La guardia airport for 450 million dollars while Los Angeles’ People Mover which is at most a mile long will cost four billion dollars. I’m guessing we will be treated to Gold Plated Seats.

    • No, read it closely. The $4B covers a lot more than just the rail line such as the Consolidated Rental Car Facility and the Intermodal Transportation Facility

      • Do you really believe the airport is going to build Hertz, Avis, etc. new reatal car facilities as opposed to requiring them to move to a central location and build them themselves? And the 96th street terminal is being built by the MTA not LAX. 450milliom as opposed to four billion, what a joke.

  5. The NY MTA already proposed an elevated rail link to LGA at the turn of the millennium and neighborhood residents killed it over noise and visual-intrusion concerns. At the time, they didn’t think an elevated was a positive thing just because there wouldn’t be tunneling. Then again, having JFK Airtrain in the ground for a decade since then probably helps. Locals in SE Queens opposed that link on the same grounds, yet it didn’t turn out to be as bas as they feared. That might be a lesson for the NW Queens locals.

  6. I agree word-for-word with what Michael Benami Doyle wrote concerning the LaGuardia Airport rail plan. LGA needs a rail connection in the worst way. It’s the closest airport to Midtown Manhattan and if the proposed AirTrain does connect with the 7 Train at Mets/Willets Point Station, then a trip from LGA to Times Square may take as little as 45-50 minutes, much shorter than the connections from JFK Airport to the A Train (Howard Beach) and E & J/Z Trains (Sutphin Blvd.-Archer Ave.).