Transportation headlines, Thursday, April 30

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Marlee Flanigan. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

Marlee Flanigan. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

Today’s profile of a Metro rider by Zocalo Public Square: I get to watch the sun come up over the freeway, Victoria Street to Third Street

Highway tunnels or elevated rail lines? Supervisor Solis weights the 710 alternatives (The Eastsider) 

At a recent current affairs forum, Supervisor Hilda Solis — who is also a member of the Metro Board of Directors — declines to say which of the five alternatives she supports for the SR-710 North Study. But she does indicate that she would like more community meetings to discuss the project and its implications in East L.A. and does say that she believes there are many ways to relieve traffic. Solis’ views matter: her district includes Alhambra, where the present 710 terminates at Valley Boulevard.

Video: The Fast and the Furious; can FasTrak lanes ease L.A.’s freeways? (KCET)

Metro officials, customers and academics talk about the ExpressLanes. Good video — sorry, couldn’t figure out how to embed.

How the microtransit movement is changing mobility (CityLab)

The interior of a LEAP bus in San Francisco. Photo: LEAP.

The tragically hip interior of a LEAP bus in San Francisco. Photo: LEAP.

A good look at the potential good and the potential bad concerning the private buses in service in some cities.

The upside: the buses may have the ability to pull some cars off the road and make car-free or car-light living a lot easier.

The downside: they may also prove to rob public transit of riders and/or be priced or set up in such a way to discourage certain types of riders (i.e. those who use wheelchairs, for example, or low-income riders).

It’s a good topic and there’s a lot of hand-wringing about this in public transit circles these days. My hands aren’t wringing. I think they may prove to serve a market on some routes and at some price points. I also think they’ll have a hard time making money over the long haul. Perhaps I’m naive. Then again, maybe I’m not.

 You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram for my mostly non-transit blatherings and pics. 

 

4 replies

  1. “The downside: they may also prove to rob public transit of riders…”

    The other word for that is called competition. If private companies can do it without taxpayer subsidies and offer something better, there’s nothing wrong with that. If government agencies can’t do a better job despite billions of taxpayer dollars being thrown at them, then it’s up to you guys to do a better job with our tax dollars.

    Just please don’t do “let’s bring out some obscure law or government regulation no one knows about that they maybe in violation of and try to shut them down to maintain our transit monopoly” tactics. That usually ends up backfiring today and only makes big government look like a bully toward start-up entrepreneurs.

    “…or be priced or set up in such a way to discourage certain types of riders (i.e. those who use wheelchairs, for example, or low-income riders).”

    OTOH, there’s also nothing stopping private companies to purchase a fleet of old retired buses that are wheelchair accessible either. Certainly anyone can buy a bus if they have the money.

    It’s not like government transit agencies are the only ones that can buy used but still ADA compliant buses. I think Leap and other private bus companies will like it a lot that Metro is purchasing new buses and retiring old ones; that pretty much means they will be able to purchase older model buses that are ADA compliant, change the interiors to a more hipster look, and incorporate them into their own private bus fleet. Don’t say they can’t do it or won’t.

    The only edge that public transit agencies will then have is cheaper fares. So you don’t need to worry about that…yet. Anything could change. And it’ll be competition between private and public to figure out how to best address that issue. Being said that, I think the entity who has venture capital funding and financial advisers who have their bets on them know what they are doing.

    Let the competition begin.

  2. “The downside: they may also prove to rob public transit of riders”

    The woes that every other company out there faces in the real world. You can’t force people to take one certain form of transit, much as you can’t force people to eat the same cereal for breakfast. You may like Raisin Bran (Kellogg’s), others may like Cheerios (General Mills), while others may rather get an Egg McMuffin (McDonald’s).

    Besides, who’s to say public transit ridership today isn’t being “robbed” to other alternative means to get around like Uber, Lyft, the moped, the motorcycle, the skateboard, the roller blades, the kick scooter, the Segway, the bicycle or just plain walking?

    Besides, Metro already competes against other municipal transit agencies as well in certain routes. If I’m going from Wilshire/Western to Santa Monica, I can take Metro 720 for $1.75, or I can also take the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus 7 for $1.00.

  3. Possible lack of bus drivers should also be up on the radar screen for public transit agencies like Metro. Both Lyft and Uber are actively looking to hire bus drivers quite aggressively:

    Lyft is actively looking for bus drivers and they are offering $70,000 / year.
    http://get.lyft.com/bus-drivers/

    Uber is also actively looking for bus drivers and they market that going with Uber will make you $19.04/hr over a bus driver’s avg. wage of $14.21 per hour
    http://blog.uber.com/bus-driver-jobs

    If Lyft and Uber takes away bus drivers away from public transit to their company, who’s left to drive the public buses?

    Can public transit match the salary of these private companies? No, they can’t and taxpayers won’t be for a tax hike to let bus drivers make more money when private companies are able to give them better wages without tax payer subsidies.

    Once they start hiring more people with bus driver credentials, what’s next? Lyft and Uber Buses? Nothing stopping them to purchase fleet of buses, nothing stopping them to start running their own local bus services just like Leap is doing in San Francisco. And as noted above, yes, taxpayers will be against government trying to impose blocks toward the success of these companies.

    Increasing number of people are loving Uber and Lyft and the core users of these share-ride economy transportation tend to be the demographic of liberal, urban Millennial hipsters. That’s a huge electoral demographic that Democrats heavily rely on to keep them in power. OTOH, Uber and Lyft drivers are non-unionized which goes against another demographic that Democrats rely on to keep them in power: union members.

    So if Lyft, Uber and Leap as well as other companies all start getting into the game of privatized transportation, which increasingly is popular with the Millennial crowd, and non-unionized, that the current Democrat controlled government in CA has no way to curb without risking their own political career, they begin to compete fiercely against each other and prices will continue to fall for the better of the consumer. LA is a prime market for that; competition is fierce as it is between Lyft and Uber here. Nothing stopping Leap to start business in LA as well. As competition heats up, it won’t be long before private mass transit companies start offering lower fares than public transit.

  4. I’m so happy that Lyft and Uber have come to the NYC metro area. In addition Gett and Via have joined in though Via still has a limited service area. Before these companies existed here, getting cabs was often a hassle and usually not a pleasant (hold your nose) experience. Also each company often gives away free rides to entice new users to try their service. This combined with CitiBike has made getting around the city a more pleasant experience! I used http://borntocoupon.com/shop/lyft/ to find a link for free Lyft rides – they also have codes for the other services if you prefer.