How We Roll, Oct. 7: TransportationCamp, Lyft talks transit, Paris cuts smog

Art of Transit:


From the Department of That’s So L.A.:

Lessons from UCLA’s TransportationCamp (Streetsblog LA)

Transit advocates, enthusiasts and scholars convened at L.A.’s first TransportationCamp event on Saturday to discuss and ideate on solutions for urban transportation at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.

In attendance was Metro’s new Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank, who held a listening session to hear suggestions from attendees for future innovations at Metro. Those suggestions can be read here.

Other topics of interest at the event included a look into bike-share’s future in L.A., a potential 2016 sales tax measure and better land-use policies to complement a growing transit network. Check out the article for Joe Linton’s takeaways and more audience suggestions.

Lyft: we’re complementing public transport, Uber is substituting it (Pando)

Pando talked to Lyft’s Director of Transportation Policy, Emily Castor, after the Code for America Summit in Oakland last week. The rideshare company has publicly positioned itself as a supplement to public transportation, instead of competition. Excerpt:

Now, you can take these statements with as much salt as you like, but there is no denying that Lyft is pressing a competitive advantage by presenting itself to governments as partner and resource-deposit, in terms only government types understand (that’s not a bus ticket, it’s “fare media” or “physical collateral,” for example). By highlighting the contrast with Uber’s intransigence and heavy-handed lobbying, Lyft has set out to make itself the clear favorite of municipal governments.

Castor says that her current position — she had two others at Lyft prior — arose from governments actively seeking out help from Lyft to achieve their goals. She lists three of the most common goals: reaching climate objectives, serving under-funded areas and filling gaps in transit coverage, and data sharing.

Another interesting, but overlooked part of the article was an exchange between Castor and the city of Boston’s Chief Information Officer Jascha Franklin-Hodge at the Code for America Summit:

While it didn’t rise to the level of “debate,” there were authentic moments of discord and difference, an all-too-rare spectacle on tech conference stages.

Most notably, Franklin-Hodge took exception to Castor’s litany of Lyft’s public-private initiatives.

“There is a fundamental difference between public transportation and the services these companies offer,” he said.

Franklin-Hodge’s response perhaps hints at the fact not everyone has bought into the “rideshare as transit supplement” idea.

Paris’s ‘Day Without Cars’: the radical experiment to cut smog appears to have worked (CityLab)

Paris made 30 percent of its streets car-free on September 27 with the aim of reducing the city’s rising smog levels. The results are in, and — surprise! — it worked.

On that Sunday, levels of nitrogen dioxide — the chemical compound that produces smog — were down 40 percent in some parts of the city. Levels dropped 30 percent at the usually traffic-choked Avenue des Champs-ÉlysĂ©es. Noise level in the city center also measured half the normal volume.

The car-free day was so successful the mayor of Paris hopes to expand the car-free zone and hold one every month. Je veux une baguette, une bicyclette et d’air pur! (if that makes no sense, blame Google Translate and my childhood sloth that prevented me from taking French).

As San Francisco rents soar, tenants still willing to pay for earthquake safety (L.A. Times)

As the Los Angeles housing committee today looks at legislation for mandatory retrofitting in L.A, the Times takes a look at the earthquake retrofit efforts already underway in other cities in California.

The law being considered by the L.A. City Council committee today will be most significant seismic safety law in California, resulting in the mandatory retrofitting of 13,500 vulnerable wood-frame apartments and 1,500 brittle concrete structures.

An area of contention, of course, is how to pay for the retrofits. The proposed bill in front of the Council’s Housing Committee will split costs 50-50 between tenants and landlords, with a ceiling of a $38 monthly increase for renters. Other ideas on the table to help with the costs are financial assistance programs and tax incentives.

The Times article looks at the seismic retrofit efforts underway in cities in the Bay Area. From the experience there so far, it appears most tenants are willing to pay the additional cost for their safety. In San Francisco:

Neither owners nor tenants were thrilled initially at the prospect of retrofits. After opposition, city officials made it easier for low-income residents to request an exemption from the retrofit rent hike.

Seismic retrofits are now seen as a regular cost of business. ‘As a landlord … you have a responsibility to make sure you’re housing people in a safe place,’ Otellini said.

Retrofitting a building was considered optional and too costly in the past, but now, ‘it’s almost becoming politically incorrect to talk about earthquake safety in that way,’ Otellini said.

It’s something we’re watching here as development, housing and affordable housing are often issues tied to transit.

What is with this hellish airplane seat arrangement from AirBus? (The Verge)

Airbus, the French aircraft manufacturer, recently filed a patent for the seating arrangement in the figure below. Looks fun, doesn’t it?


The potential benefit for this layout appears to be that passengers can lie down, but it also means they will be sitting on top of each other. Based on the figure above, there would probably need to be passenger height restrictions to make it viable.

The Verge suggests that the satirical news website The Onion might not have been that far off when it joked airlines were looking to load passengers onto planes like cordwood. High speed rail, where are you?

LAPD and NYPD chiefs make pastrami sandwich bet over Dodgers-Mets Series (LAist) 

The two police forces for the nation’s two biggest cities are getting in on the fun leading up to the L.A. Dodgers-N.Y. Mets National League Divisional Series match-up.

If the Dodgers win, NYPD Chief Bill Bratton will have to buy LAPD Chief Charlie Beck lunch at Katz’s Deli in New York. If the Mets win Beck will have to get lunch for Bratton at Langer’s, which is located across the street from the Westlake / MacArthur Park Red Line Station. The friendly wagering between the two started during the L.A. Kings-N.Y. Rangers Stanley Cup in 2014.

Game 1 of the series is at Dodgers Stadium on Friday night. Metro’s Dodgers Stadium Express is free to those with game tickets and provides rides from Los Angeles Union Station and Harbor Gateway Transit Center to the ballpark.

Recent How We Rolls:

Oct. 6: Gov. Brown signs bill allowing double-articulated buses, the ivory tower gives letter grades to Metro stations, thoughts on the non-war on driving, the cost of L.A.’s Olympic ambitions.

Oct. 5: reading about mobility while on transit, Long Beach gets a Flyaway bus, coal vs electric buses, traffic vs delivery trucks.

Oct. 1: all about cities — gentrification, TODs vs parking, the changing DTLA skyline, Show Me a Hero, cities and transit and diversity.

Sept. 30: Can Uber and Lyft solve our first-mile-last-mile problems?, trains and cleanliness, the blessing of the infrastructure.

Sept. 29: Richard Katz weighs in on the San Fernando Valley’s transit needs, bill signed for hit-and-run alerts on electronic freeway signs, Shell exits the arctic, the N.Y. Islanders new goal horn brought to you by the NYMTA

Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Joe is also on Twitter. 

9 replies

  1. L.A. ‘s First Transportation Camp is a perfect example of non professionals making recommendations that hopefully will never be implemented. It consisted of Transit Advocates, Enthusiasts, and Scholars. Where were those who had experience operating a transit agency? And this is why the MTA is such a poorly run agency. No one with any experience operating a bus and rail agency are in the decision making ranks. It’s all by the book. A book that was written for the perfect local with perfect circumstances.

    There was only one question about the ease of traveling using multiple carriers and the difficulty involved. When the RTD ran the transit agency there were no difficulties. Transfer from one bus to another rather it be a RTD bus or another municipal carrier. That has all changed with TAP CARDS and no transfers. Those little pieces of paper that proved to be very efficient are gone. Instead we have a complex TAP CARD system that may or may not deduct the correct fare. And if one needs to use more than one bus to get to their destination they get charged another fare with each additional bus they ride. This has all been brought to us by those on the upper floors who just may be suffering from the thinner air in their offices or is it just a lack of knowledge for which the MTA management is famous for.

    • “Where were those who had experience operating a transit agency?”

      Sitting at home somewhere in West Hollywood in front of a computer ranting against technology while hypocritically using a computer himself, perhaps? 😀

      In all seriousness though, if this is so much of an issue, why didn’t you show up? Unlike the rest of us, you’re retired and have all the free time during the day to go these meetings to inject some “real life” perspectives to these scholars and “non” professionals.

      In my view, I don’t see any problem with this. What Metro needs today are more scholars, professors, researchers, academics, engineers, IT professionals, business professionals, realtors, MBAs, and investors from all over the world who can see these things from an academic and business perspective as well as provide input from a world wide scale.

      LA and much of America’s transit systems are baby novices compared to the rest of the world, and for the decade we’ve let people who had no clue run things with stupid ideas like the honor system, flat rate fare systems, building rail at-grade or without venturing into real estate as additional sources of income. I’m sure a lot of people would say LA could learn a lot from places like New York, Boston, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore all of which has had decades of experience in running transit that these operators practically wrote the books on how to run a successful transit agency.

      And, for all I care, the TAP card fiasco was caused by the older generations of Angelenos, namely the liberal Baby Boomer generation, who had no clue about how all of this stuff works and tried to reinvent the wheel when all they had to do was just copy everything that places successfully using transit cards do. It’s already established how these older generation of Angelenos think “oh we can do better and we can become a leader on this new way of thinking” and then fail miserably at it. And it’s up to the next generation to fix all that, thank you very much.

      • Another baseless comment from someone who’s only transit experience is using a TAP Card and riding a bus or MTA rail. Why wasn’t I there? Perhaps because I didn’t know it was happening and if it was last week-end I was on vacation. So sorry I have a life and only monitor these sites to see what stupidity is going on. The TAP program was brought to us by someone with NO transit experience. The Honor system was brought to us by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, a predecessor agency to the MTA, that had no transit experience. Since the creation of the MTA those with no practical experience have made decisions that have affected the operation of the agency which have not been positive but instead negative to the riding public and the overall efficient operation of the agency. Make no mistake, the LACTC was anti efficient pro bus rider operation. They did everything possible to curtail any improvements the RTD attempted to make using the threat of with holding funds if the RTD did not comply. With the merger this philosophy has been carried over and became the normal operating procedure . All these professionals you advocate may seem reasonable to you but when operating a transit agency, which many at the MTA detest, transit professionals are what is dearly needed today. Some of their ideas may not be considered the most innovating but they will not be be canceling lines, buses on a line and extending the walk between bus stops so as they can plant a new garden somewhere or some other non transit idea that fails to get you to your destination quickly and safely.

        While bus terminals don’t directly effect the bus patrons their location and costs do. At Pico and Rimpau a bus terminal existed going back to the streetcar days. Both the MTA and Santa Monica Lines used the terminal as a major transfer point. It could hold 15 to 20 buses easily. There were ample restrooms and the boarding/discharge island was covered so patrons did not need to stand in the rain or under the hot sun. The replacement terminal built just west of the old one holds less buses, ten at the most, has only two restrooms and there is nothing to shelter the passengers from the elements. In addition if a bus breaks down and a service unit arrives, the terminal is virtually closed down and blocked stopping buses within the terminal from departing. Another new terminal was built adjacent to the Hollywood and Vine Red Line Station. It held about 10 buses of any size. The new terminal has three usable bays, the fourth is to narrow for a bus. The problem is there are five bus line scheduled to layover there. Since they are all busy lines more than one bus from a line like the 210 are scheduled there at the same time. What has happened is Lines 207 and 212 must layover on the street adjacent to the terminal and Line 210 several blocks from the terminal? And with Line 210 a restroom facility must be rented in a local business. In addition it was discovered that 45 foot buses could not operate thru the terminal. It should have been built so as 60 foot articulated could operate thru it in case the need arrises. I for one complained about what was being built only to be ignored. These terminals were designed and built with no input from transportation. It will be interesting to see how many problems will become apparent when the new Division 13 is opened across the street from the Gateway Building. I have seen plans for a new Division that was proposed by a developer and almost approved by the MTA. It had inadequate office space and a bus yard layout that clearly would not work. Unless one fully understands how a bus yard or terminal operates it will be a failure

        There are complaints about the different transit agencies not working together. That’s because there is competition that has existed for years. While I have never heard of the RTD or MTA complain about other agencies operating buses on the same streets as they are other agencies have historically complained about the RTD and MTA operating on the same streets as they are although the MTA have operated there since transit first came to the L.A. area. In addition while the MTA carries approx. 80% of the those riding public transit in Los Angeles County they only receive 60% of the tax subsidies. This is because those smaller agencies could not exist if they only received their far share.

        What works somewhere else may not work here. And with all the praise one gets about how great transit is in Asia I don’t believe anyone in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the United States would approve of transit workers jamming them into rail cars. While you love the TAP Card system because it employs high technology the bottom line is it takes longer now to board passengers and is more labor intensive. You may disagree but I operated a bus, you didn’t. I find it very irritating to watch someone attempting to deposit a dollar bill in the fare-box as well as coins into a small receptacle. And those with TAP Cards must swipe them correctly. The fare-boxes we used when I operated a bus had a large mouth, coins rarely fell on the floor, dollar bills just had to be rolled up and those with passes could pass by those paying cash fares flashing their bus passes in my direction. It was simple and efficient. And there were never Bad Order Fare Boxes that are common now. You can’t break a fare-box that has only one moving part that is moved with pressure of one finger. Lastly, the current fare-boxes created a very dangerous condition. They blocked the clear view of pedestrians in the right front corner of the bus which resulted in accidents. But of course those fare-boxes were purchased although opposed by some in operations knowing there may be a problem by non operating personnel.

      • fine7760

        While you’ve outlined and listed many examples of why TAP was a bad idea, here’s another perspective:

        While it may look like it’s more “longer to board a bus” or more “labor intensive” and noted how you speak from a bus driver experience, it also shows that you are seeing it only from a bus drivers’ perspective and not the overall picture.

        1. TAP cards aren’t just used to collect fares. It’s also an cheap, efficient, and automated way for Metro to collect massive amounts of ridership data. For a agency like Metro with growing number of riders, this data is very important to run their daily operations as it shows where the key routes are, what the busiest times are, major transfer points, analyze ridership growth or decrease, where people get on and which way they are heading. And if there was TAP out, Metro would also have the data to show where people are getting off too as well which would be more helpful to coordinate transfer timing and even analyze how people are using the system (do they do more shorter trips or longer trips? Which short trips are the most popular? etc).

        2. Fare collections does not end at the driver. When paying in cash, at the end of the day, someone at Metro has to count all the money, from wrinkly old bills to pennies. That too is labor intensive. And someone has to handle that cash, put it in a safe deposit box, take it to the bank, all of which adds to more cost. Handling cash, especially when all of them being in small denominations, is very expensive in the long run and it is this that one of the reasons why many transit operators around the world are moving away from cash fares and towards contactless payments. With automated fare deduction from transit cards, you negate this entire issue because all the cash exists within the server and everything is handled electronically. Many agencies around the world also actually provide incentives such as lower fares for contactless card holders so as to encourage the move away from cash fare handling and to increase the promotion of the use of contactless cards. LA could learn a thing or two from these places to encourage the use of TAP cards as well too.

        3. No matter the training of the bus driver, there will be pitfalls to relying on just the bus drivers’ eyeballs to count the money in a flash of a second. Today, we have scanners and printers readily available for cheap at any office supply or electronics store that are available in eveyone’s homes which people can have the ability to easily print fake dollar bills or fake paper passes which will be difficult to catch without some form of electronic check.

        4. Los Angeles is also home to a large number of immigrants and foreign tourists, who may also have lots of foreign coins that maybe similar in size, shape, color, and value to US coins in their wallets. How do you recognize the difference, in a flash, between an American penny to an Euro cent? A US nickel to a Korean 50 won coin? An American dime to a 10 Mexican centavo? US quarter from a 100 yen Japanese coin? An US Sacagawea dollar coin to a Canadian loonie? And if Metro gets stuck with them, there’s no way to exchange them as banks generally do not accept foreign coins to exchange them with US currencies. Again, it’s quite impossible to catch these without some form of electronic check.

  2. On the Transportation Camp part, one of the section notes this:

    “Private side is benefiting from the land value increases, etc that come from transit projects and improvements…what about the public sector capitalizing on real estate values? (might be illegal statewide?)”

    How is it any more “illegal” from say, an international airport such as LAX or SFO (both owned by their respective county governments) operating airport terminals with gift shops and restaurants in them and renting them out and collecting money? How is it any more “illegal” from LA Union Station developments?

    Then again, if there is some restriction about this (wouldn’t surprise me, this is California after all with stupid laws), there’s nothing wrong in privatizing Metro so they’re not tied to such stupid laws and restrictions that only applies to the public sector either. You want to make more money and go after value capture methods that’s the norm elsewhere then privatize. Either that or change the law.

    • Not sure what your concerns are. Many of the Red Line Stations have mixed developements built above them. The MTA still owns the land and the developer has a long term lease.

  3. If rideshare services like Lyft are to complement mass transit services and help with first mile/last mile problems, then do we really still need to keep building free parking lots at Metro stations? What’s the point in building and maintaining parking lots if no one is going to be using them?

  4. The TAP card is a joke indeed. The way they botched this is just unbelievable. They couldn’t even get the website done right and even with the new website made after so many years of complaints, you can tell that it’s done by some amateur and not a pro web designer.

    Metro is run by clueless people. When they introduced TAP, they really had just one simple thing to do: go to Korea, learn the ropes of how they implemented the T-Money Card system and do exactly everything they do and just bring it over there. It really juggles my mind how they can botch this up so badly.

    When Korea went from paper tickets to contactless cards, they didn’t have such problems like Metro did. Everyone already agreed beforehand to unify their fare system under a distance based fare system regardless of operator or mode of transit so everything is simply tap-in/tap-out from the start so there’s no confusing things like trying to program in all the transfer rules and all the ifs and buts. You work out the complications first and everything that follows next becomes easier. It’s common sense! What does Metro do? They do it the other way around and it takes them years to get everyone onto the system. And it still doesn’t work.

    And Korea was smart enough to think years ahead that they needed nationwide compatibility so that you don’t have things like one city in Korea using one transit card and another city using another and they’re totally incompatible with each other. Whether you’re in Seoul or in Busan, the T-Money Card works in both cities. Over here, Clipper Card used in San Francisco is totally incompatible with TAP used in LA and it’s totally incompatible with Compass Card in San Diego. No compatibility even within California.

    Seriously, doesn’t Metro have any Koreans working there? All you need to do is ask any Korean-American living here and they’d tell you all about it. Any person working at Metro could just fly out to Seoul-Incheon out of LAX today and just go see how Korea is so much better at running transit than LA. Their trains and stations are much more cleaner and they’re always on time. Look at what we have in comparison: dirty stations and trains, trains that are poorly maintained and constant service issues causing delays. Complete joke.

    Oh well, who am I kidding, there’s not even a single Asian person at the head of Metro or on the Metro Board. Of course they’re completely clueless about this.

  5. “I don’t believe anyone in Los Angeles or anywhere else in the United States would approve of transit workers jamming them into rail cars”

    Is this one of those “I think this is so, but I offer no proof or data to back up my statement” arguments that may have worked decades ago but won’t past muster thanks to Google?

    Anywhere else in the US you say? Hmm, in less than five seconds of Google search, it leads me to many examples that I can use to shoot down your argument with videos on Youtube of the massive crowding of trains in San Francisco, New York, and Boston which are the norm today.

    When you have a population increase, you can’t escape crowding and there is a limit to what can be done.

    You can remove the seats to making it standing space only during rush hour, move to distance based fares as form of crowd control to try and discourage longer distance riders, adding more rail cars to the set, or increase frequencies, but if all options are used and it still is crowded, there is nothing much that can be done about it.

    Whether you like it or not, LA will become like this, and is already starting to look that way too.