Art of Transit:
Is L.A. still a city of big dreams? (Zocalo Public Square)
A good package of stories from Zocalo that hit on one of my favorite themes: cities in our region can be whatever they want to be in the future — there’s nothing saying they have to things as they have in the past (like drive absolutely everywhere). In the introductory column, Joe Mathews asks whether L.A. has downsized its dreams, writing:
We no longer want to attend big school systems (reformers are busy creating charter schools), work in big industries (we’d prefer one of those downtown or Playa Vista start-ups), or drive on big roads (we’re narrowing them to fit in bike lanes and new rail lines). We don’t even want a sprawling regional Olympics; our bid for the 2024 Games envisions a sporting festival divided up into five tight clusters in different parts of town.
In another piece, Manual Pastor sees progress in the mobility department:
Too many of us—particularly people who are from Los Angeles—are stuck in the old vision of who we are. Do you know the hardest people to get onto mass transit in Los Angeles? The people who grew up here. The easiest people to get on transit are the newest arrivals, who learn quickly that the growing Metro serves their needs (and leaves them more time to be on their smartphones).
In this new L.A., we must also rethink our past polarities. We can promote entrepreneurship and raise the minimum wage. We can allow for higher density and raise the quality of everyday life. We can take away lanes for cars and improve our ability to move across this city. We can revitalize distressed areasand work against the displacement that redevelopment often induces.
It’s a big package of stories with a lot to read. If you’re sitting/standing/waiting/stuck on transit, check it out. Disclosure: I shot some of the photos that accompany the articles.
LA Metro is ready for a fairer, more convenient fare structure (Better Institutions)
An interesting post from Shane Phillips. His idea — using Christchurch, New Zealand as an exmple:
Instead of purchasing daily or weekly passes, you simply use your fare card as an e-wallet and pay for each trip directly. When you reach the spending cap for the day, any additional trips you take that day are free, exactly as if you’d purchased a day pass—but without the requirement that you pay for all your rides up front. The weekly caps work in exactly the same way.
What this means in Christchurch is that if you take transit to work and back throughout the week, you hit the cap by Friday evening and transit is effectively free for the weekend—not very different from buying a weekly pass on Monday and using it throughout the week. But if you fall ill on Thursday and miss work for a couple days, you end up paying just $15 for the week, saving yourself $10 on bus or train rides you aren’t able to take that week.
Shane argues that this approach is better than the current set-up, which requires riders to purchase their passes before using them. That can be tough for many people who are price sensitive as they may not be able to afford buying something that they may not use.
I’m unaware of any major transit systems in the U.S. that do what Shane is proposing or if the current technology would support it. But it’s an interesting idea and I thought readers here may like to give it a chew.
A look back at USC’s decision this summer to cut a transit subsidy program that allowed employees to purchase $100 monthly Metro passes for $70. Instead, USC now offers employees three free parking passes each month. Nearly 3,100 of USC’s 17,000 employees took advantage of the program, reports the Times’ Laura Nelson. Excerpt:
Transit subsidies “somewhat mitigated USC’s image as the Death Star, just a corporate, soulless place,” said Lisa Schweitzer, who studies transportation and environmental issues as an associate professor at the college’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.
Death Star? Her words, not mine! As the story also reports, this was done as a money-saving move and it’s not certain how many USC employees will stop buying passes without the discount.
Putting aside all that, here’s my PSA: For those interested in taking transit to or from USC, there are three Expo Line stations adjacent to to the campus — and USC showed some real Fight On in getting that Expo Park/USC Station during the project’s planning phase. There are also numerous Metro bus stops near campus, including the 81, 102, 200, 204, 442, 550 and 754 Rapid (maps and timetables here). The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — where the famous USC football squad plies its trade — is an easy stroll from the above stations.
If you’re an employer and would like more info about Metro’s transit subsidy program, click here.
Metro will be seeking to meet the agency goal of 35 percent affordable units at joint developments the agency is pursuing at seven locations. This is part of a program to take a more holistic approach to development on properties the agency owns — and extending some of those strategies into surrounding neighborhoods.
All the details are in this staff report below and the pilot sites are on page 10.
We touched on the ridership issue earlier this week as noted by USC’s Lisa Schweitzer in her class’ study of which rail riders were most price sensitive to last year’s fare increase. Gene Maddaus gets straight to the debunking in his lede:
You’ve probably heard that L.A.’s transit system is growing. Young people are embracing urban life, renting lofts in the Arts District and selling their cars so they can take public transportation. And L.A. leaders are adapting to give them what they want, providing WiFi at bus stops and building new rail lines faster than any other city.
There’s one problem with this story, and that’s that ridership is actually dropping. Yes, at a time when employment is up, and the rail network is growing, fewer people are taking buses and trains.
Gene talks to a couple of Metro staffers to get their take. One says that allowing undocumented immigrants to get California driver’s licenses likely ate into ridership. Another notes generally flat or lower bus ridership in other parts of the state (and in the country, in fact) and some service disruptions due to maintenance on the rail system.
I’ve mentioned before several other factors that may be at play: an increased crackdown on fare evasion in the past year, the latching of turnstiles at some Metro Rail stations, last year’s fare increases, a stronger economy and see-sawing gas prices. I’m sure the service interruptions for maintenance work and breakdowns is a turnoff for some riders.
Another thought. As part of its long-range plan update and potential ballot measure work, Metro’s messaging will likely be along the lines of we’ve come a long way but still have a ways to go in terms of building a 21st century transportation network in L.A. County. I think that’s accurate messaging. I suspect the current transit network may not be as fully ripened as some would like it before using it more frequently. Hopefully some of the projects underway — the Crenshaw/LAX Line, Expo Line 2, Foothill Gold Line, Purple Line Extension and Regional Connector — will remedy that.
Recent How We Rolls:
Oct. 14: update on new platform for Silver Line at Union Station, where does the money go that is left on TAP cards that expire?, post mortem on the techie luxury bus in San Francisco that went belly up.
Oct. 12: transit stations and gentrification, the residential rise in DTLA, cool map showing where the jobs are in our region, the impact of Metro fare increases on ridership on the different rail lines.
Oct. 9: shade versus bus shelters in our region, pics of the community replaced by L.A. Union Station, a greenie looks at the issue of whether should we love or hate self-driving cars.
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.
Programming note: I’ll be away until Wednesday, meaning the keys to HWR will be in my colleague Joe Lemon’s possession.
Categories: Transportation Headlines