How We Roll, Oct. 9: the sun versus bus stops, basebally things to read while on transit

It starts tonight! || photo 📷 @onezerohero #GoMetro #DodgerStadiumExpress #weloveLA #gododgers

A photo posted by Metro (@metrolosangeles) on

Click here for more on how to take the Dodger Stadium Express from Harbor Gateway and Union Station to the ballpark. Incentive: if you have a game ticket, the bus is free!

Things to read/watch while sitting/standing/stuck on transit: 

Five bold predictions for the 2015 Dodgers in the Sporting News. Well, they got some right and they got some wrong. I’m sure Dodger fans will hope they missed badly on No. 5. Cardinals fans will find themselves nodding in agreement.

Los Angeles Dodgers payroll and team salaries. The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball. See what the players earn and decide for yourself if they were worth it from a baseball point of view. Interestingness: eight of the top 10 teams in terms of salary did not make the playoffs, including the Tigers, Red Sox, Giants, Nationals, Angels, Padres and Mariners. Hmm.

Finally, it’s fun to watch the following it in the context of the entire half-inning and Kirk Gibson’s entire and prolonged at-bat. Even a non-Dodger fan who watched this live while living in the Ohio hinterlands can appreciate this excellent display of baseball. Take it away, Vin Scully (and get better soon!):

Opinion: L.A.’s bus shelters are nice, but how about some shade (LAT)

Temperatures across Los Angeles County at noon today. Source: National Weather Service. Click to see larger.

Temperatures across parts of Los Angeles County at noon today. Source: National Weather Service. Click to see larger.

Frequent Metro rider Carren Jao like some things about the new high-tech bus shelters that the city of Los Angeles is building at a few locations as part of its Great Streets program:

The streets of Los Angeles are often hot, unfriendly, concrete places. As a frequent bus rider, I’ve often had to linger uncomfortably under the blistering sun, wishing I put on more sunblock. [snip]

L.A.’s bus system handles around 1 million boardings on a given weekday. Instead of 15 tech-friendly stops peppered around the city, L.A. needs adequate shade solutions installed on all of the city’s stops. Making sure riders are shaded is crucial, especially when you take into account research by UCLA scientists that predicts that parts of Los Angeles County could quadruple their days of extreme heat by 2050.

As it happens, one of our regular readers commented about this issue on the blog today. Excerpt from Chewie’s comment:

It seems to me that even with the most ambitious rail-building plans, most people will still have to rely at least in part on our bus systems if they want to use transit. Currently, buses are still the workhorses of Metro’s transit system. Baking in the sun is a big deterrent to using transit and a social injustice, considering the preponderance of low-income and non-white riders on transit. I really hope Metro looks at this in a serious way as a part of any new ballot measure. I think this could go a long way towards combating anti-bus stigma as well.

Chewie also wanted to know if Metro has any kind of program to upgrade its stops.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell. Metro buses stop at nearly 16,000 locations around Los Angeles County. Metro is responsible for bus stops at off-street facilities (i.e. the Patsouras Transit Plaza, rail stations) and shelters must conform to the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to ensure they are equitably distributed without regard to race, color or national origin. Specifically, at light rail stations Metro must have at least 80 linear feet of shelter per bay and at bus stations there must be at least six linear feet of shelter per bus bay.

As for bus stops along streets: the cities where stops are located are responsible for maintaining them or building any structure or shelter. Example: in the city of Los Angeles — the largest city in our county — the Bureau of Street Services has contracted with an outdoor advertiser to build shelters at a few locations.

This is a typical arrangement in other cities in our county and also a way for those cities to raise revenues.

But let’s face it: the vast majority of stops in our county are simply signs by the side of the road. That probably will not change until cities decide it’s worth the investment. To return to Chewie’s question: there is no ongoing program to build shelters at these type of bus stops. The best we can tell you — and I know I’ll be on the wrong end of a Bronx cheer for writing this — is to contact the transportation department and/or elected representative in cities where you want bus shelters.

Related: Here are a couple of posts about this very subject from 2013:

Los Angeles and the dignity of bus stop shelters at the Chicago Carless blog.

People get ready: winter is upon us and bus stop shelters won’t shelter you at Streetsblog LA.

Dorothea Lange photos of L.A. poverty in 1936 (LAObserved)

Photos by the famous Depression-era photographer of Mexican and Chinese communities in downtown L.A. on the site of the future Union Station.

A closer look at Metro station area grades (Ethan Elkind) 

One of the authors of the study released earlier this week elaborates on why some stations received certain grades. I took umbrage with some of the grades, including the C- given to the South Pasadena station — a station that I think is a good one. Ethan responds:

The issue is not, as Steve suggests, about a lack of jobs or commercial development nearby. Instead, in looking at the data, the station area scored low because it was at the bottom for the percentage of people (workers and residents) within 1/2 mile who actually use transit. It also scored low for affordability in the area and for the percentage of people who don’t own a car. Otherwise, it scored well on transit quality, safety and walkability, among a few others.

A couple of key statistics that may be helpful to those pondering this: According to the latest Census numbers, 5.4 percent of commuters in South Pas take transit compared to 7.1 percent of commuters who take transit countywide (those numbers only reflect those commuting to work). In terms of Gold Line boardings, the South Pas station is in the middle of the pack.

As far as the overall study goes, I think the main takeaway is the study is yet another reminder that development continues to elude some transit stations across the state. I’m interested in why exactly that is and what can be done about it at particular locations. Perhaps a future study could address that.

Self-driving cars: should we love them or hate them (Grist) 

An early prototype of a self-driving Google car.

An early prototype of a self-driving Google car.

The always fun Ask Umbra column tackles a thorny question for some people. Umbra points out that for every pro there seems to be a con. And yet, the pros are promising — potential savings on gas, safety and a solution perhaps for transit’s first-mile/last-mile problem.

L.A. vs San Francisco (KCRW Press Play) 

If you have 13 minutes, here’s a good listen. Once upon a time, L.A. had high salaries and an emerging tech sector. Then things changed with San Francisco getting the leg up on the tech boom while L.A. hung on to its film and television industries and manufacturing.

This dovetails nicely with yesterday’s HWR item on the tech boom and its impact on West Coast cities, most notably San Francisco and Seattle. Sure, these are not transportation items per se. But local economies and transportation are not isolated issues.

Recent How We Rolls:

Oct. 8: more buzz on a potential ballot measure and potential transit projects, why guys lie about carburetors, a transit Armgeddon below the Hudson and Lex Luthor’s plans for the West Coast.

Oct. 7: ideas for Metro’s new Chief Innovation Officer, Paris sucker punches smog, Uber vs Lyft vs transit, an airplane seat arrangement scheme spawned by the Devil herself/himself.

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.

Metro is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I’m on Twitter and my photo blog.

 

16 replies

  1. LA Weekly yesterday had this interesting article:

    The MTA is sitting on $1.3 million from expired TAP cards
    http://www.laweekly.com/news/the-mta-is-sitting-on-13-million-from-expired-tap-cards-6142537

    Excerpt:

    “If you’ve ridden a train lately, you know that you need a TAP card to pay your fare. But did you know that your card will expire?

    Yes. At some point, each card is set to expire. And when it does, you will have to buy a brand new card and load money onto it. But what about the money on the expired card?

    You might think you could just transfer it onto the new card. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not make this easy.

    As a result, the MTA estimates that only about half of the expired TAP balances have been transferred to new cards. The other half — about $1.3 million — is stranded.

    The MTA first introduced “stored value” TAP cards four years ago. Since then, it has taken off, especially after the MTA phased out paper tickets in 2012. In June 2011, MTA patrons had a total of just $149,000 stored on their cards. That figure has grown exponentially, and reached $15.2 million in June 2015.”

    Please explain from Metro’s POV. So far I’ve also yet to hear a peep on regarding balance transfers being doable online, despite promised per your video explaining the new features of the updated TAP website.

    Also, just to let you know, I ended up calling TAP customer service to do this because I can’t do it online yet.

    WORST EXPERIENCE EVER.

    Since the hours are limited to only weekdays from 8-4, I had to waste my lunch time, was on hold for 30 minutes just to speak to someone to do something, only to be transferred again, more waiting to the same repeating annoying recorded message, and when I finally got to talk to someone, it took her less than 2 minutes to do it. If it only takes two minutes by a customer service agent and the wait time is longer, I’d rather do this myself online!

    Oh, but guess what? She told me it would take 4-5 business days to transfer the remaining funds to my new card and yet two weeks have gone by and I still haven’t seen it post to my new card. Arrrrg!!!

    • “If it only takes two minutes by a customer service agent and the wait time is longer, I’d rather do this myself online!”

      Metro’s best interest is to create more government jobs as then they would join public employee unions to further strengthen the unions and have them vote solidly Democrat. By doing so, they will be assured a solid Democrat victory in municipal and statewide elections, lobby hard for their own interests and continue to pass legislation that will continuously drain the taxpayers’ money.

      They are not interested in things such as investing in new technologies or moving some key things over to the internet as that will only reduce the number of government jobs and will only maximize the efficiency of the work that can be done with less cost, which Metro has no interest in. Because if it’s too efficient, Metro will then be questioned that they will be able to do the same, if not more jobs for less, more budget cutbacks and will be told to reduce government waste, which is not in their best interest.

    • Very interesting article!

      If Metro has $1.3 million just stranded there somewhere from unused TAP cards and approx $15.2 million in assets in TAP stored value, Metro really could just use that capital to start up their own credit union. Metro can then create a basic financial service for the unbanked which are one of their largest demographic of transit riders who use those predatory check cashing and payday loan services and tie that in with their TAP card services. TAP then, can easily become a regional debit card system for Southern California and wouldn’t have to be restricted to use as transit cash and opens doors of the possibility of TAP cards being used to pay for good and services, while collecting merchant transaction fees as another revenue source, which is what many Asian transit operators do already with their contactless transit cards.

      For anyone working at Metro who may want to consider this idea, they may want to read the application guide to the Federal Credit Union charter application process:

      http://www.ncua.gov/Resources/Documents/CUDev/Federal-Credit-Union-Charter-Application-Guide.pdf

      “How much start-up and capital funding is needed?

      Funding, usually in the form of donations and grants, is necessary to cover the start-up costs of the PFCU, to absorb its net operating losses until it achieves positive net earnings, and to maintain an adequate capital position. The amount of funding varies,
      and is contingent upon the PFCU’s desired initial services, business model, and overall proposed operating structure. More services and related costs often equates to more funding. The actual amount necessary will not be able to be fully determined until completion of the pro-forma financial statements and plans for operating independently. However, if you wish to estimate the amount of funding required, we suggest using, at a minimum, the lesser of $300,000 or $100,000 per $1 million in projected assets during
      the first five years of PFCU’s operation. For example, if you expect the PFCU to grow to $5 million in assets by the end of year five, the organizers should obtain, pre-charter, at least $500,000 in commitments for start-up donated capital. These amounts are only
      estimates and additional funding may be needed.”

      Rather than just let $1.3 million just sit there not doing anything, not even earning interest, Metro can use those funds to become a credit union for Metro transit riders.

  2. Shout out to the 232 driver that pulled up on and 85 degree day and didnt open the door because he had “two minutes.” Aye, I could sit in the Air Conditioning for two minutes like the rest of the paying customers, and not on Sepulveda. Manhattan Beach does such a good job helping Metro riders (Maids and office workers like myself) stay comfy; not.

    Id be inclined to not wait around and just buy a hat before Id expect comfy stops.

  3. Another hurdle to LA adding more bus shelters is that many sidewalks in LA are just too narrow to accommodate any type of bus shelter.

    Here’s an example of a random LA sidewalk picked off of Google images. You can see one of those “nothing but a pole” bus stop here. But look at how narrow the sidewalk is. There’s not enough room to build a bus shelter with a pedestrian unfriendly sidewalk like this.

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

    But how do you then, expand a sidewalk like this? Do you tell the businesses to move back a little to create more sidewalk space? Do you take away a car lane and expand the sidewalk? What about the costs to move those traffic lights, utility grids, fire hydrants?

  4. If you’re writing about self-driving technology in a mass transit news site, this would’ve been a better article:

    Self-Driving Buses Arriving In California In 2016
    http://cleantechnica.com/2015/10/08/self-driving-buses-arriving-california-2016/

    “Self-driving buses will be arriving in California in 2016. Well, in a very limited fashion anyways — a suburban office park in San Ramon, California, will be playing host to a pilot project that aims to further the deployment of the technology.

    The pilot project will see the French company EasyMile — a joint venture between Robosoft and the Ligier Group — provide autonomous buses to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. These will be put to use at the 585-acre Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon, California. The project will also involve work done at the GoMentum road test site at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, reportedly.”

    Soon, your buses that pulls up might be driving themselves too! Will be a major labor cost savings for all transit agencies and with labor expenses, benefits or union mandated rest times to pay to human bus drivers, we may all benefit from cheaper, lower fares, and no more rude bus drivers

      • “they just don’t like any of the passengers that board their buses.”

        Another way of looking at this is that the passengers are the bosses of the bus drivers because it’s the passengers that pay the salary of those bus drivers out of their taxes.

        You don’t like the boss, quit, simple as that.

        And if the boss is going to see that there is new technology up on the horizon that allows buses to drive themselves, then in the best interest of the bosses that pay taxes to keep Metro running, is to reduce costs and overhead. Labor being the most expensive overhead, it’s really going to be a matter of time that self driving buses take over the jobs of bus drivers and that the job of the bus driver becomes extinct as the milkman or the telephone switchboard operator.

        Metro’s first and foremost job function is to provide transit to the masses, hence the name “mass transit operator,” not an unionized job protector. If it can operate mass transit with less people, therefore less labor cost, therefore less taxpayer dollars, all the better.

        • It was a joke! Didn’t you see the smily face? Most MTA Bus Operators love their jobs and the passengers. But can you really expect a Bus Operator to be friendly when the first words out of a boarding passengers mouth is some rude remark? Being a former RTD Bus Operator I usually didn’t let passengers get me down. Some remark like ;’your late’ received a reply like ;’it’s fashionable to be late,’ Then I would laugh. I laughed a lot while operating a bus. So bad I would have my head laying on the steering wheel, tears running down my face. But then there were rude Bus Operators like the one that trained me for about a month. He was nasty to the passengers and nasty to me. But guess what? I became a Supervisor and wrote the SOB up more than once. Pay back is a bitch!!

          Concerning buses with no operator. The Green Line was supposed to be operator free but as I recall it didn’t work. I find it a little scary to even think about a bus with no one at the controls. Computers are great until they fail and if the computer fails on a bus whose going to take control before it crashes? Yes, it’s being tested. But not in heavy traffic and at normal speeds. And then you have to find a major bus manufacturer who will build such a bus. Currently in the United States there are only two, New Flyer and Gillig. G.M is gone, Flexible is gone and now Nabi is gone.

  5. Possibly, funding may be found for self-advertising bus shelters utilizing some form of large-pixel displays (perhaps by closely spaced LED lights, similar to a running LED board, that would be visible to traffic as well as riders), that are shaded by solar panels that would generate power during the day and light the area at night. I know I’m asking for a lot. 😉

  6. “And then you have to find a major bus manufacturer who will build such a bus. Currently in the United States there are only two, New Flyer and Gillig. G.M is gone, Flexible is gone and now Nabi is gone.”

    Who says big IT companies like Apple, Google, Uber or anyone else interested in autonomous vehicles can’t build buses on their own? They certainly have bunch of smart people working there that it’s not very difficult for them to start making vehicles on their own. If need be, they can just headhunt engineers working at New Flyer and Gillig to help create a bus manufacturing division at Apple or Google if they wish to do so.

    Take for example, Google. They first started off with Toyota Priuses
    https://youtu.be/bDOnn0-4Nq8

    Then they just said, “we’ll just make our own” and came up with this:
    https://youtu.be/uCezICQNgJU

    Wouldn’t surprise me the least bit if Google just went around Toyota, asked around Toyota engineers how much they get paid at Toyota, and Google anted up their salary by saying “we’ll give you double what you make at Toyota if you come work for us instead.”

    Or if not, I’m sure Apple, Google or any IT tech company or VCs has billions of capital that they can use to just buy out New Flyer and Gillig or work together with any number of bus manufacturers all over the world to build buses for them to their own specifications. Certainly there’s nothing preventing Apple and Google in outsourcing the manufacturing of smartphones and tablets to places like Foxconn, HTC, or ASUS.

    • You really don’t understand the bus manufacturing business nor the procurement process where agencies buy their buses. Let’s take Flexible as an example. They were acquired by Grumman, the company that built airplanes. Grumman-Flexible came up with a new type bus design to compete with G.M.’s RTD model. The design was a failure. Cracked frames on every bus they produced within a year. The RTD demanded they replace all the frames, New York City tried to junk them but the federal government stepped in and would not allow it because the feds pay for a portion of the order. Flexible which has been around for close to 100 years ultimately claimed bankruptcy. The MTA got rid of the buses they owned ASAP. Private companies that usually buy used transit buses will not touch them. The MTA acquired five Hybrids from a smaller company. They are sitting at Division 12 up for sale. The latest purchase of some battery powered buses again from a smaller company with expertise in battery powered vehicles have had all their buses returned to their factory in Palmdale after only about one month of operation. High tech, innovative companies able to produce buses on their own? Pasted and current history prove otherwise.

  7. Hi fine7760;

    You have now posted four comments on a single post. That’s enough for you to sufficiently make your point(s). If you submit more comments to this post, I will not publish them.

    Steve Hymon
    Editor, The Source

  8. fine7760,

    This may come to a shock to you, but there are other many more countries outside of the US, those countries have their own public transit system, and there are bus manufacturers outside the US too you know?

    What’s stopping IT companies from working together with Hyundai to build their buses for them? Hyundai already manufactures buses and Korea already operates Hyundai buses for their public transportation. Spain, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, and many number of countries already run Hyundai built buses for their own public transit systems.

    What’s stopping IT companies from working together with Isuzu to build their buses for them? Isuzu already manufactures buses and Japan already operates Isuzu buses for their public transportation. Italy, New Zealand, Egypt, Colombia, and many number of countries already run Isuzu built buses for their own public transit systems.

    Much like Metro can import trains from Siemens or Kinkisharyo to their specifications, IT companies can easily import buses from Hyundai, Isuzu, or any number of manufacturers from around the world to their specifications.