Transportation headlines, Wednesday, July 15

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

The art at Metro's former Customer Service Center (it will be saved). Photo via Instagram @shreebscoffee

The art at Metro’s former Customer Service Center (it will be saved). Photo via Instagram @shreebscoffee

Why Southern California gas prices jumped up this week (KPCC) 

Southern Californian drivers are getting a painful reminder of the unpredictability of the price of fossil fuels. The state experienced its largest weekly gas price spike on record, and KPCC explains some of the factors behind it. The cause appears to be simply a case of less supply than demand. Excerpt:

California is considered a distinct market from the rest of the U.S. because of state requirements to produce a less-polluting blend of gas known as CAROB. The state’s supply has been further constricted this year because an Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, which normally supplies 15 to 20 percent of the region’s gas, has been partially shutdown since an explosion in February.

Because this is a public transportation agency blog, it’s my solemn duty to remind you that the cost of taking public transit does not suddenly and without warning change overnight and will save you cash money!

Here’s how mass transit made a comeback in the land of the car (Business Insider)

Some brief coverage for the rest of the world on Metro Rail’s 25th Anniversary celebrated on Monday, including a few photos both modern and historic.

Let’s put those tired, anti-bike arguments to rest (streets.mn)

Blogger Lindsey Wallace is fed up with the angry commentators that inundate the comments sections in most online stories involving bicycling, and wants them to get their facts straight.

Wallace takes on six frequently made arguments made by the anti-bicycle crowd and disproves them. My favorite response in the article is to the oft-repeated argument that bicyclists are a bunch of scofflaws and are therefore undeserving of their place on the road. To this, Wallace says:

One group breaking laws doesn’t make it okay for any other group, but no one says that motorists don’t deserve to be on the road because they break laws. Just because you notice bikes breaking laws, doesn’t mean they are doing it any more than other modes. Rule-breaking is a human trait, not reserved for cyclists alone.

The clearest explanation yet for why millennials are driving less (CityLab)

What could be the explanation this time? Technology? Laziness? In the latest attempt to understand some members of my generation’s behavior it turns out it could be a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Excerpt:

The truth might be a little of this, a little of that, and even some of the other. That’s the takeaway from a new analysis of Millennial driving habits from transport scholar Noreen McDonald of the University of North Carolina. Writing in the Journal of the American Planning Association, McDonald attributes 10 to 25 percent of the driving decline to changing demographics, 35 to 50 percent to attitudes, and another 40 percent to the general downward shift in U.S. driving habits.

The two reigning theories in the discussion of why millennials are driving less than previous generations are lifestyle changes like delaying marriage, postponing having children and an attitude change toward vehicles (I’d make the case this could fall under the “lifestyle changes” umbrella as well). The University of North Carolina researchers cited in this article, while leaving open debate about the cause, conclude that millennials are simply making less trips or “going nowhere.”

A disclaimer: I’m skeptical of the broad generalizations about millennials, especially some of these demographics shifts are put in perspective, as this recent Urban Land Institute blog post debunking ten “myths” about millennials did. Number four is especially relevant for this article.

Self-driving cars may end the fines that fill city coffers (Wired)

As it becomes more apparent that self-driving cars will likely become a reality in the not too distant future, Wired looks at one possible repercussion of the new technology: the loss of revenue from vehicle and driving-related fines and registrations. Excerpt:

There are no national numbers indicating how much American drivers shell out in traffic violation fines, but the report puts the total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Los Angeles, for example, collected $161 million from parking tickets in 2014. Twenty cities in California take in $40 million every year from towing cars, splitting that money with the tow companies. On top of that, if the theory that self-driving cars will lead people to own fewer cars holds up, revenue from registration fees will drop as well.

The upside for governments is presumably less traffic collisions, which also cost taxpayers money. This minor setback to government revenue is of course countered by the other benefits from a efficient self-driving vehicle system including reduced congestion, better air quality, etc., potentially saving the nation billions in productivity and efficiency.

The article concludes by saying a future with self-driving will require governments to be smarter. One proposed solution: a per-mile driving charge. Hm, sounds familiar.

To be a nurse, you really have to be passionate (Zocalo Public Square)

Michael Sanchez. Photo: Zocalo Public Square

Michael Sanchez. Photo: Zocalo Public Square

The latest in Zocalo’s Metro rider series.

You can find Joe on Twitter @joseph_lem.

14 replies

  1. “it’s my solemn duty to remind you that the cost of taking public transit does not suddenly and without warning change overnight and will save you cash money!”

    And it is my duty to tell others that this is an even more cash money saver over public transit in the long run for certain short distance trips:

    http://i.imgur.com/d8yJXaa.jpg

    Why pay $1.75 one-way/$3.50 roundtrip everytime just to go to the neighborhood supermarket 1 mile away using public transit, when this puppy will get you fifty trips to the grocery store for less than five bucks?

    • Why polute the air with another motor vehicle? The rail and bus lines are MORE energy efficient than that poluter.

      • Scooters like this get upwards of 100 MPG or more. I doubt even buses get that fuel efficiency; the most fuel efficient vehicle out there on the market gets little over 50 MPG. My scooter has double the fuel efficiency.

      • A different perspective is that walking, or any number of cheaper alternatives to public transit in the short range market, is a competitor to public transit itself. If one decides to take a cheaper alternative to public transit, then that means overall, Metro is losing market share in capturing the short range trip market sector.

        Is Metro cheap? Depends. If one is travelling all the way from the suburbs to DTLA over 20 miles, yes Metro’s $1.75 fare is cheap. But that’s not all how people travel about here in LA. If anything, commuting from the suburbs to DTLA is just a small fraction of the daily commutes of the 10 million residents living here in LA. Far more people, and I mean a vast majority of people in LA also live in apartment complexes, in high density areas like East LA, and they also go to the supermarket, go to the nearest shopping mall, the dentist, the family doctor, catch a book fair, go watch a movie, go meet up with friends, go to school, and perhaps commute, very short distances from where they reside.

        If one decides paying $1.75 each way, or $3.50 roundtrip, for short trips like to the grocery store isn’t worth it to take the bus when walking, bicycling, roller blading, or even a motorized scooter is cheaper, then that’s called competition.

        If said competition exists, then it means it’s:

        A. Driving away ridership numbers and,
        B. Not contributing to Metro’s farebox recovery ratio

        Both factors which are needed for Metro to continue to receive federal funding.

        And what does one need to do when competition exists? Metro needs to come up with a more lucrative plan to capture the short distance market. How can that be achieved? If people say that $1.75 each way / $3.50 roundtrip is too expensive just to do short range activities, then what can Metro do to absolve that issue?

        Certainly if people already feel that $1.75 one way for short trips is already too expensive, jacking up fares to $2.00 or $3.00 isn’t going to cut it. Those fares may still be reasonable for longer trips, for a small minority of folks who live out in the suburbs and commute into DTLA, but now it’s even less appealing for vast majority of Angelenos lives who depend on Metro to get around. They will continue to seek cheaper options, perhaps more people may look into riding bicycles or even buying a motorized scooter.

        One can argue that they can just buy an unlimited ride pass, but most folks who are dependent on Metro cannot even afford unlimited ride passes at $100 / month. That is the reality today. Besides, even if one could afford $100 a month, considering that a bicycle or motorized scooter can be bought for about a year or two worth of monthly passes, ultimately, the cheaper route is still buying a bicycle or a motorized scooter. And there really is no guarantee that monthly passes will remain at $100 a month either. It can go up to $120 a month, $200 a month, much like regular ride fares.

        Can they look at another option where prices change depending on the distance? Perhaps fares that start off at around $0.50 for shorter trips, but can be as much as $3.00 for longer trips? If bus fares were lowered to $0.50 for short trips, would then the price point of going to the neighborhood grocery store be a more competitive match to walking to the grocery store?

      • A different perspective… You do realize that Metro puts a lot of planning, effort, and resources into what you call “competition”?

        They are a regional transportation planning agency, not a bus/rail operator. They are heavily involved in bike/pedestrian infrastructure throughout the county in an attempt to solve the very first/last mile and short trip problems you are talking about.

      • “You do realize that Metro puts a lot of planning, effort, and resources into what you call “competition”?”

        OTOH, it is also true that Metro cannot operate those planning, effort, and resources without funding. Nothing is free in this world. Funding for those have to come from taxpayers whatever they maybe called (federal or state grants, congressional bills, lobbying efforts, etc.).

        The criteria for Metro to continue to get those fundings are the two areas I noted above:

        A. Ridership numbers
        B. Farebox recovery ratio

        Said funds being dispersed to Metro are also in competition with other US transit agencies.

        Ridership numbers is important for dispersal of such funds because funds get dispersed to transit agencies all over the US where the ridership is the largest. Metro competes funding with NYCMTA, MBTA, CTA, MUNI, and all other cities across the US. If Metro loses ridership (which by most recent statistics, Metro is losing ridership), the less funds go to Metro and more get dispersed to New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, where ridership is high.

        Farebox recovery ratio is important for dispersal of such funds because in the eyes of taxpayers who elect politicians to Washington and Sacramento, the more the agency is to make money on their own, the less taxpayers will be on the hook for. It is used as a quantifier to see which cities are succeeding in this regard and which ones are failing. Be as it might, LA has one of the lowest farebox recovery ratios in the US. Metro has tried raising fares to $1.75, but by most accounts, since ridership has fallen because it’s now more expensive to do short distance travels on Metro, I doubt farebox recovery ratio isn’t improving either.

        Metro cannot disregard these two issues because without them, Metro gets less funding. Less funding means Metro cannot use money toward “competitive” resources like sidewalks, bicycle lanes, etc.

        From a different angle, it would be that why is Metro choking itself to its own death by doing things that go at odds from Metro to receive more federal funding, by spending taxpayer money on competitive resources like bicycles lanes without tackling the more priority issues at hand: increasing ridership numbers and increasing farebox recovery ratio.

  2. Wow, the politically correctness of the eco-wackos continues on this blog.

    – Walking is not a viable option for carrying multiple bags of groceries long distances.
    – Likewise, bus and rail transit often do not run near your store(s) of choice.
    – Public transit rarely runs on a schedule that does not waste a lot of your limited time.

    I vote for the scooter and other ‘short distance’ oriented vehicles, especially if they have an all electric option.

    M.T.F.C., Mike

    • That, and if people did really want to walk, people would’ve never invented things like bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, and even Segways to get around. People invent things to make life more easier. And if the price is right, they’ll buy one that makes their life just a little more easier for them.

      Let’s face the reality here. No one buys something just because it helps save the environment. For the vast majority of consumers, “help save the environment” aspect is very, very, low on their priority list of purchase decisions.

      The reality is, and has always has been:

      1. Does it make my life any easier?
      2. Is the price reasonable?
      3. Will it help save me money than today?
      4. Does it help save the environment? (optional)

      That’s the way it is, you can’t deny that’s the priority order for purchase decision for the vast majority of the people.

      I’d imagine that’s exactly what people consider when it comes to public transit.

      1. Does the bus make my life any easier?
      Not really. I still have to wait for it to come and sometimes it takes them forever.

      2. Is the price reasonable?
      Not really when going over shorter distances. I’m not paying $3.50 roundtrip just to go buy groceries.

      3. Will it help save me money than today?
      Not really when going over shorter distances. My bicycle is cheaper.

      4. Does it help save the environment? (optional)
      I really don’t care.

      For the “short distance” sector, the bus really isn’t that attractive. If it’s a choice between taking the bus to the grocery store, versus walking, I’d rather use the bicycle. In the end, Metro is not making money off of me because I refuse to pay $1.75 for a short trip to the grocery store.

      Now if Metro were to consider changing their fares to $0.50 for a short trip, I might consider paying fifty cents to the grocery store because then it would be cover the “price is reasonable” part and “does it make my life easier” part. Fifty cents for a short trip over pedaling and sweating? Now that’s a fair price for a short distance trip I can agree with. And Metro could be making fifty cents from me and every other person that feels the same way I do.

  3. “…in an attempt to solve the very first/last mile and short trip problems you are talking about.”

    Ha!

    Metro can easily solve that today by demolishing existing free parking lots next to the stations and erecting a high rise condo there. Then it won’t be a first mile/last mile problem, because then people will just be few feet away from a train station that takes them wherever they want to go.

    Metro’s solutions are reactionary not proactive. They are bringing up solutions to a metropolis that was built with suburban sprawl under an automobile mindset. What Metro should be doing is be proactive: what can Metro do to change the urban landscape going forward.

    Whether you like it or not, high density living is our future. We already have 10 million people living here and its only going to get a lot more crowded. The American dream of owning a big home is out of reach for most Angelenos today with so much demand but very few supply of housing to go around. No one wants to live all the way over in Hemet to find an affordable home and commute 50+ miles just to get to work.

    LA needs to change. And Metro can lead that change. All the have to do is make better use of their own Metro owned property that is otherwise today, being wasted in things like free parking lots.