Transportation headlines, Friday, June 26

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From one of our agency’s long-time friends…

After contentious discussion, Metro Board approves bikeshare contract (Streetsblog LA)

I’d be tempted to replace ‘contentious’ with ‘confusing’ as the Board openly tinkered away with an amending motion. That said, it came down to this: a few Board Members were more worried than others about the issue of whether Metro’s bikeshare would be interoperable with bikeshare in Santa Monica and Long Beach. Those two cities are using a different vendor than the one Metro chose.

My three cents: sure, interoperability is an issue that demands some attention. And Metro is thinking about it. But the interoperability debate just diverts attention from the bigger issue here — really, the issue here — which is making sure cities in our region have enough bike lanes to support bikeshare. In other words, that people who rent bikes will have somewhere safe to ride them.

In related post, Streetsblog’s Joe Linton writes in favor of Metro, Santa Monica and Long Beach moving forward with their bikeshare plans rather than letting the interoperability debate get in the way.

In an unrelated article in the LAT, a hit-and-run motorist going 80 miles per hour on Figueroa through Highland Park struck and killed a cyclist using a crosswalk at 3 a.m. Friday. Police are searching for a suspect and the suspect’s car. Horrible and a reminder of perhaps the biggest challenge to the cycling community: the enforcement (or lack thereof) of motor vehicle laws in our region.

Urban residents aren’t abandoning buses; buses are abandoning them (City Observatory)

Daniel Hurtz argues that no one should be surprised that bus ridership in many parts of the U.S. has dropped slightly in recent years — because service cuts made during the Great Recession have, for the most part, not been restored. And level of service is still the best predictor of ridership.

The post also argues that rail service hasn’t been cut but that rail lines are too often inaccessible to many riders in cities and metro areas defined by sprawl. The article’s conclusion:

In light of all this, we have to stop talking about America’s bus woes as a ridership problem. All the evidence suggests that when service is strong, and buses are a reliable way to get to work, school, or the grocery store, people will take them. Instead, the problem is that fewer and fewer people have access to that kind of strong bus line. If we care about ridership, we need to restore and enhance the kind of transit services that people can rely on.

Which leads to another question: is bus service so spread out in many regions that it can’t supply the kind of service that would attract riders? We’ve discussed this issue before in light of several cities redesigning bus service to offer more frequent and predictable service on some corridors instead of offering buses that go everywhere but at infrequent intervals.

Frequent buses that perhaps cover a more limited number of roads versus infrequent buses that go everywhere. That’s a tension in most American cities, which tend to be sprawling. As for Metro’s estimated bus and rail ridership, both have dipped in the past year and bus ridership has been flat for some time.

I took the kids to Chinatown for dumplings (Zocalo Public Square) 

Reina Hawkins. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Reina Hawkins. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in the ongoing series of Metro rider profiles by Zocalo.

It’s time to close the 710 gap but not with light rail (EGPNews.com)

In this editorial by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, she argues that the light rail alternative in the SR-710 North Study is not a viable option and won’t do anything to help with traffic caused by the gap in the 710 freeway between Alhambra and Pasadena. Roybal-Allard represents unincorporated East L.A.; the light rail alternative’s route would be between East L.A. and Pasadena. The other four alternatives in the study (the public comment period remains open, btw) are the legally-required no-build option, a freeway tunnel, bus rapid transit and traffic signal and intersection improvements.

Making L.A.: Traffic (Press Play)

KCRW’s Madeline Brand has a good 16-minute segment that covers the basics of traffic in our region, including the relationship with transit. UCLA’s Brian Taylor and the L.A. Economic Development Forum’s Michael Boehm are guests and cover a lot of ground. Spoiler: transit, biking, walking, rideshare almost certainly won’t fix traffic but can provide a good alternative to it.

Why positive storytelling matters to public transportation (Greater Greater Washington) 

A glimpse at the kind of things transit agencies fret about — and I’ve certainly heard these kind of ideas discussed often in meetings. The blog post is actually pretty short but there are some interesting ideas and thoughts shared/floated in the comments.

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As always, thanks for checking out the headlines! I’ll be away from the blog until mid-July and headlines posts will be sporadic, although you can get always get a daily dose of T-news on the Metro Library’s Twitter stream. Have a good and safe beginning of summer and we’ll catch up down the road a bit. 

Oh, and some of the things you see while riding transit….

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4 replies

  1. “Urban residents aren’t abandoning buses; buses are abandoning them”
    Can’t argue with that much. Still, our crazy quilt of county transit systems doesn’t make anything easier.
    It will be interesting to see if the Wilshire corridor ridership will drop when Expo goes all the way to Santa Monica.
    Meanwhile, here in Hawthorne and Lawndale with no other option Metro keeps reducing #40 service. Dah-dum-dum.

    In other non-reported news, the TAP website update is no longer ‘end of June’. Any word from Metro why?
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… [cricket noise] ……………

    • Hey Mike —

      Will be interesting to see what happens when Expo opens. My hunch is that you’re correct and some Wilshire bus riders on the far west end of the line may switch to rail to travel downtown. I think the big shift will be when the Purple Line Extension’s sections begin to open. Even then, bus ridership may hold up with people using the bus to travel to places between stations or beyond the terminus of Section 3, which ends at VA Hospital.

      Haven’t heard anything on the TAP website. I’m going to be away from Metro until mid-July but will check up when return. The basic issue is that the website was moved from a contractor to in house and a lot of work was involved in doing so.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Did you expect government to do their job no matter how much tax dollars you throw at them?

  2. “All the evidence suggests that when service is strong, and buses are a reliable way to get to work, school, or the grocery store, people will take them.”

    Wishful thinking. Even if services did exist, it still doesn’t make sense to pay the same $1.75 one-way fare just to get to school or the grocery store which are relatively short distance away all the while it costs the same $1.75 to go from Sylmar to San Pedro. Why should majority of poor riders who have a need to do frequent short trips as stated above pay the same price to subsidize the fares of a very small minority of folks who might do Sylmar to San Pedro? Unless something has changed, Art Leahy himself mentioned that 80-85% of Metro riders are below the poverty line and the average Metro bus trip taken is only 3-4 miles.

    Sorry, but I fail to people taking the bus to go to Ralphs and there’s plenty of bus service from where I live and to the grocery store where I live.

    If someone had no car, but had a choice between ponying up $1.75 ($3.50 roundtrip) just to go buy milk at Ralphs only few miles away versus walking or biking, they’ll do the latter. Very few people will be willing to spend an extra $3.50 just to go buy milk to the neighborhood grocery store by riding the bus.

    If fares were a range between $0.50-$5.00 depending on how far one travels, then perhaps people might start taking the bus for shorter trips if it only costs them $0.50 to get to the nearest grocery store (more common use of transit) and $5.00 to go from Sylmar to San Pedro (which hardly anyone does).

    You either lose out against competition between walking and biking and earn nothing as it stands today with a flat $1.75 fare system, or you might gain more riders by only charging them $0.50 for shorter trips and having those who have longer trips rated by the mile up to $5.00. It can be done today with the TAP technology in place, TAP-in/TAP-out on buses is not unusual and is being used throughout the world, there’s no excuse to say that it can’t be done.