HWR: the hills are alive with more talk about ridership

The art of transit: 

Nice views yesterday from the Expo Line's La Cienega/Jefferson Station. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Nice views yesterday from the Expo Line’s La Cienega/Jefferson Station. However, it would be nice if someone could move those high-tension wires. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

There’s still a lot of internet buzz about the LAT’s ridership story last week. Some folks have taken umbrage with the particular stats and quotes used by the LAT, while others thought the story or parts of it hit the nail on the head. Metro CEO Phil Washington talked briefly about the article at last week’s Board meeting, pointing to the ups-and-downs of ridership over the years and Metro’s attempt to build a system for the next century.

What factors are causing Metro’s declining ridership? What next? (Streetsblog LA)

SBLA extensively covers Metro so I’m pleased to see they weighed in last Friday with their take on both the ridership article and ridership issue. Joe Linton makes several interesting points — namely that he believes that it’s too soon to judge Measure R investments and that it remains difficult moving people from cars to transit given the amount of funding still spent on car-related infrastructure.

Most of all, Joe writes that the “elephant in the room” is bus service:

If Metro’s goal is solely to expand ridership (and it isn’t) then Metro needs to go back to basics and pay as much attention to its core bus service as it does to its “shiny new” rail service. It is not possible to lower fares and greatly increase service, but if the agency is prudent fiscally, it can and should incrementally grow its bus service, keep fares as low as possible, and reap increased ridership.

As geography buffs know, Los Angeles County is huge. That means that a lot of people live and work closer to Metro and muni bus lines than they do rail lines. While rail is certainly important, this is a good time again to point out that in Metro’s latest estimates of ridership, Metro buses account for about 74 percent of all boardings.

Related: As Joe also writes, Metro is moving to a frequent bus network — in one sentence, shifting hours of service from low-ridership lines in order to run higher-ridership lines more often, the idea being that will better serve more riders. Here are the proposed changes for June 2016. And here are the public hearing dates, which begin on Feb. 3. For more about the frequent service network, please see this earlier Source post.

Perils of transit journalism II: judge transit by its goals, not yours (Human Transit)

Perils of transit journalism I: don’t let short-term trendlines confuse you (Human Transit)

Transit planner Jarrett Walker’s two-part response to last week’s LAT ridership story.

In the first one, he takes a look at transit ridership in recent decades and points out that there are several trends within that timespan — for example, the growth in ridership after 2000. “This ‘arbitrary starting year’ trick is a very common in misleading journalism. Be suspicious whenever you see a single past year is cited as a point of comparison,” Walker writes.

In part two, Jarrett focuses on looking beyond immediate trends — saying long-term spending doesn’t necessarily impact short-term ridership gains. “The rapid transit program is designed for long-term ridership growth and city-shaping effects,” he writes. “One of the key things they do, for example, is make denser development viable, which enables more people to live and work where transit is excellent and therefore rely on it more.”

I certainly agree that Metro is building for the long-haul and many new projects are still to open or be built — and I think those projects will be good for the region. But the LAT pointing to billions of transit investments and looking at short-term ridership didn’t bother me. It’s taxpayer money being spent and the free press can and should ponder that.

What’s really happening to L.A. transit (Transit Center) 

This post points to the declining overall number of Metro buses on the road at rush hour. The post also illuminates a greater tension: the feeling of some — both within the agency and outside — who believe that Metro’s bus network was not being run in the most efficient manner because of many under-performing routes.

Over the last decade, that has resulted in some service reductions and an ongoing attempt to shift some bus hours from low ridership routes to busier ones in order to offer more frequent bus service on the busier lines. The peer review committee that reviewed Metro fares and operations basically endorsed that approach last year.

What do COGs want to see in Metro’s potential ballot measure? (Investing in Place) 

A COG is one of those awful pieces of jargon that stands for Councils of Government. With 88 cities in Los Angeles County, there are nine COGs representing those cities. In this post, Jessica Meaney looks at how each COG may want to spend money from the PBM, another piece of jargon I’m using to avoid typing “potential ballot measure” umpteenthousand times.

The crux of it: each COG seemingly has different priorities when it comes to spending money on transit versus highways versus “active transportation” — even more transpo jargon that basically means human-powered locomotion, i.e. most often walking and biking.

Metro is scheduled to release a spending plan for the PBM in March.

On the way home (NYT Magazine)

Ever see workers biking somewhere in the middle of the night or the wee wee hours and wonder where they’re going? This nice article looks at an immigrant from the Republic of Congo who immigrates to America — New England, specifically — and commutes to his bakery job on a bike. That means some dark, cold and late night rides, not to mention an encounter with the police.

Lithium-ion batteries pose potential fire risk (New York MTA)

The New York MTA joins Amtrak and Metrolink (among others) in banning hoverboards from trains, buses and stations. From the news release: “Hoverboards are regulated by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration [PHMSA — ugh]. The Administration recently issued an alert “under certain conditions, lithium batteries can pose a heat, fire, and explosion risk,” and found that 80% of hoverboards in a study did not have proper certification of battery testing.”

Metro has not banned hoverboards, but riding them in any Metro facility is prohibited.

New York may get wonderful, open gangway cars (TreeHugger)

Toronto already uses subway cars that allow passengers to walk the entire length of the train. The advantage: trains increase capacity and it’s easier for riders to move to a different part of the train — and for everyone’s eyes to see the entire train, presumably increasing safety.

Here’s a news report from 2011, when Toronto adopted the cars:

Things to read whilst transiting: Gregg Easterbrook makes his Super Bowl prediction in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback and likes Carolina, 20-17. Read to find out why. I also like Carolina: Denver may have the NFL’s best defense, but the Panthers have the NFL’s most mobile quarterback. I’m betting that’s the difference with Carolina treating Peyton Manning in much the same way that the Broncos treated Tom Brady in the AFC title game.

Things to read whilst transiting 2: A very interesting NYT story about the dude who came to own the only video recording of Super Bowl I and the NFL’s refusal to purchase those tapes even as Super Bowl 50 looms.

Things to read whilst transiting 3: Keep in mind that the Denver Broncos are responsible for more boring Super Bowls than any other team. Peter King’s MMQB column has a nice look back at the time that the Redskins rolled up 35 points in just 18 plays against Denver in Super Bowl XXII.

Recent How We Rolls: 

Jan. 29: initial internet reaction to the LAT ridership story.

Jan. 27: the LAT drops its big story on transit ridership declines and we offer a few thoughts.

Jan. 25: new Board motion calls for studying rail line to new Rams stadium in Inglewood.

Jan. 21-22: transit ridership declines, why teens are driving less and seniors more, Metro construction update.

Jan. 16: Expo Line tracks handed over to Metro, four interesting ideas for transpo in our region.

I’m on Twitter and have a photography blog. Questions or ideas for How We Roll? Email me.


5 replies

  1. It’s long been the attitude at the MTA and previously at the LACTC that lower fares will cause increased ridership which should be avoided. The funding formula is outdated and should reflect the subsidy breakdown based on actual ridership instead of the current formula where the MTA transport 85% of bus riders in Los Angeles County but only receives 60% of the allotted subsidies.

    Lower the fares and ridership will increase. It worked in 1982 but the RTD was ordered to cut the additional service they attempted to provide.

    • Cutting fares would require an additional tax somewhere. Service is already heavily subsidized and Metro is in danger of losing federal funding because its farebox recovery is so low. $1.75 with free transfers is actually very cheap and if anything Metro is going to have to raise them further soon. We were paying $1.00 fares in the late 80s when minimum wage was $4.25 hr. Now Min. Wage is set to soar to $15 an hour so the equivalent fare should be in the $3.50 range if fares were to keep up with wages.

      • There is a 25% difference in what the MTA Operations is entitled too and what it receives. Yes, if the municipals only received the 15% they are entitled to based on ridership they would have to raise their fares.