How We Roll, May 4: Expo parking and predicting future of ride hailing

Reminder: Telephone Town Halls on the potential ballot measure begin tonight with Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas talking to residents of Carson, Compton, Culver City, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lynwood, the communities of South Los Angeles, Koreatown, and portions of West Los Angeles. More info here about calling in.

Things to read whilst transiting: Statistician and writer Nate Silver explains why his political predictions in 2016 aren’t quite as, uh, accurate as perhaps they could have been.

Things to read 2: Interesting back-and-forth between the NYT’s two film critics on the future of actually leaving the house to see a movie in theaters. As A.O. Scott neatly puts it:

“SCOTT Interesting that you bring up radio, a medium that, like the movies, is believed to be wobbling toward extinction, undone by streaming services and podcasting. Movies and radio are the twin progenitors of the modernity we inhabit. Radio got the world hooked on recorded music and the sounds of strangers’ voices in our private spaces. Movies begat our addiction to screens. And both seem to be in danger of being devoured by their offspring, by the power of the appetites they unleashed.”

Speaking of the radio, some music to help you Bridge the Hump:

Art of Transit: 

You don't see too many closed car washes in L.A. This one is on Manchester Boulevard in South L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

You don’t see too many closed car washes in L.A. This one is on Manchester Boulevard in South L.A. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Azusa parking problems around Gold Line stations prompting restrictions (KPCC)

As we’ve been noting, the demand for parking spaces at the Azusa stations for the Gold Line is greater than the supply. KPCC asks a new question: is this a sign of things to come for the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica?


Professor Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA’s Lewis Center and the Institute of Transportation Studies, said even if parking is tight around the stations, the travel patterns on the Expo Line will be different.

“It’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison,” he said. More people will be arriving on the crowded westside as their destination, rather than having to park there to begin their journey.

The new Expo line will have a combined 544 parking spaces at three of the seven stops. Real estate around the new Expo stops, in denser, more urban west Los Angeles, is also more valuable and developed, making adding more parking unlikely.

The Expo Line has a combined 544 spaces at three of the seven new stations (please see this post for more info about parking at the three stations). The Gold Line extension has a little more than 1,500 spaces at its six new stations. Generally speaking, the density of residences and job jobs seems higher around the Expo Line stations.

Parking at the Bundy station can be seen to the right of the tracks. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Parking at the Bundy station can be seen to the right of the tracks. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Expo Line also has a new bike path that parallels most of the extension, a really good network of bike lanes in Santa Monica and each station will have service from Big Blue Bus and/or Metro Bus lines. Unlike Azusa, there is not a big population of people living west of Santa Monica who will be wanting to use the train — unless I’m greatly underestimating our local mermaid population.

So we’ll see how the Expo Line shakes out. I’m guessing there will be a lot of people who live a mile or more from the train and will want to use it — and will have to find a way to get there sans automobile. Keep in mind, too, that the Purple Line Extension to Westwood is being built with no parking garages or lots, something which isn’t as weird as it may sound: many Metro stations already lack parking and there is no parking to be found at many busy transit stations spanning the globe.

UPDATE: A reader in the comment section raises a good point/question about those coming into Santa Monica from the north via PCH. Again, please see this post about obtaining a monthly parking permit at the three new Expo stations with parking. There are also a number of commercial parking garages around downtown Santa Monica, albeit they’re expensive. Metro’s 534 bus also runs on PCH every 20 to 30 minutes during peak hours and offers free transfers to the Expo Line.

One other note: the communities along PCH are vastly less populous than the ones east and south of the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley. There is considerable commuting traffic on PCH from those living in Ventura County and the western San Fernando Valley. If downtown L.A. is their destination, there is Metrolink service to Ventura County and the Orange Line/Red Line combo is available in the SFV.

Why do many pedestrians have to press ‘beg buttons’ to cross the street? (Gizmodo)

Good question by Alissa Walker. Wild guess: perhaps no officials in charge of said beg buttons walk much. Read the very good article for more informed skepticism.

Related: I had to wait almost five minutes yesterday to get a ‘walk’ signal across the Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena to reach the Gold Line’s Del Mar Station. #NotAShocker

Uber says it plans to kill surge pricing even though drivers say it makes the job worth it (NPR)

Further proof of my theory that cheap-o ride hailing services won’t last. The big reason they’re popular is because of the smartphone thing. The other reason: Uber and Lyft are cheaper than taxis.

But they’re cheap only because a number of people are willing to run their cars into the ground to earn a few bucks driving for them. It’s inevitable, I think, that the cost of ride hailing drivers will go up and that cost has to be passed along to customers.

Disclaimer: I once sympathized with a magazine colleague for being transferred to the magazine’s future-less website (see: “dumb things I said in 1993”) and I maintained for some time that no one would want to read a newspaper on a computer (see: “dumb things I said between 2000 and 2005”).

Recent How We Rolls: 

May 3: Azusa parking situation, pedestrian woes, long airport lines.

May 2: Is L.A. still cartopia or cartopia lite?

You can also follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

28 replies

  1. VAPID stereotypes and SAD misinformation from Metro drive me NUTS.

    “Unlike Azusa, there is not a big population of people living west of Santa Monica who will be wanting to use the train — unless I’m greatly underestimating our local mermaid population.” – official Metro spokesman,

    I guess the 86,000 cars a day on PCH at Chautauqua don’t count as potential Expo clients.

    All the “Z Commuters” coming through the mountains from the 101 cities to the westside. Nope, no wanting to use the train.

    I guess the busloads of workers taking the 534 Malibu bus west every morning from SM don’t count at Metro HQ as potential Expo clients.

    Or the thousands of people who take the Santa Monica Route 10 express bus, the Venice 33 or the Metro express buses between the Palisades and downtown LA.

    Here’s what this thinking has got us: a $1.5 billion train from LA to the beach that has no reasonable connection to the existing travel modes: cars.

    Thousands of beach parking places within a quarter mile of the train terminus … obvious park and ride spaces … with no practical connection. And expensive.

    Santa Monica has played games with Metro and prohibited any meaningful park and ride construction. They have taken a $1.5 BILLION Metro investment and privatized it for themselves.

    So, tens of thousands of PCH commuters will drive right past the Expo terminal, which may as well be on another planet, unreachable.

    And the Metro Ivory Tower will wonder why its systemwide patronage drops, despite all the shiny new toys.

    • Hi Hans;

      Fair enough point about those coming to Santa Monica via PCH. Here’s what I added to the post:

      UPDATE: A reader raises a good point about those coming into Santa Monica from the north via PCH. Again, please see this post about obtaining a monthly parking permit at the three stations with parking. There are also a number of commercial parking garages around downtown Santa Monica, albeit they’re expensive. Metro’s 534 bus also runs on PCH every 20 to 30 minutes during peak hours and transfers to the Expo Line are free.

      Finally, I’ll add one question: I’m not sure where in Santa Monica there is a large enough plot of land to accommodate a large parking lot or parking garage. It would certainly be a big expense to acquire property and build and maintain a garage, raising again the question of how much expense taxpayers should bear for the the segment of ridership that uses cars to reach transit.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • There needs to be more all day and evening transit service away from Expo then, if you don’t want people to park and ride.

      • Thanks for thoughtful reply.

        There does not need to be a parking garage.

        The huge surface parking lots along PCH are largely unused most weekdays.

    • Most of those driving PCH are from the Valley and commuting to SM. When I worked in SM, nearly all the people who lived in suburbs lived in the Calabassas/Thousand Oaks area and commuted via PCH to the office. They aren’t going to have a use for Expo.

  2. Parking may be the least of concerns for Expo Phase 2 for the very reason you mention Steve, there isn’t anyone living west of Santa Monica who would be taking the line –nor south or north for that matter. Expo is made almost exclusively for those who live and work near the line as well as the intrepid souls who would connect via the bus network. The greatest concern of course is available space on the trains. How many will turn up for 2-car trains running 12 minute headways? –and how many will return for that experience month upon month? That’s the $64 question. Metro has one chance to make a first good impression with the Expo Line. I kind get the feeling the Source’s spin room will be working full tilt two weeks hence.

    • It won’t be 2 car trains all that long as Metro takes delivery of rail cars. The Gold Line has already started some 3 car trains. People coming to the Westside from points East in the morning are the real focus of the line as they have unbelievably difficult commutes. Roads and freeways are completely jam packed bumper to bumper all the way from Downtown and beyond. There isn’t even a carpool lane on the 10 between Downtown and SM.

    • That’s why I believe in grade separation for urban rail lines. It’s not a safety issue (as cross gate could prevent a huge percentage of accidents), but rather, a capacity issue. If the rail line is separated from general traffic, it could have much higher frequency, and it could be operated at a higher speed. Both could boost ridership.

    • Right now, in addition to the new cars being delivered and the current rail cars being used dedicated to expo line and even some blue line cars, it MAY be safe to say that at least all peak hour trains will have 3 car train sets.

      I’ll say it again. The entire Expo Line is much shorter (15-18 miles) that the entire Gold Line (28-32 miles), and add to the fact that Metro will running 12 min frequency even during peak hours (Gold Line is 6 min), it seems that Expo probably won’t run into the same issues as Gold is currently going thru.

      May this possibly answer your $64 question??

  3. I see there is a new Expo Line schedule on line now — with an effective date of May 22. Makes you wonder what they’re planning for the 20th and 21st.

    Also, the hoped-for 46-minute travel time seems to have become 47 minutes eastbound and 50 westbound.

  4. On the subject of the expo line, the new timetables released yesterday show the weekday and weekend schedules being identical; is this true? And the heading still says “westbound to Culver City”, not Santa Monica.

  5. Like a lot of people have been mentioning, people travelling from Ventura county/ West Valley via Malibu/ Topanga Cyns and PCH will never use the Expo line to get to their destination. Though parking is an issue, most people usually turn a blind eye to public transit in general in this city and would rather drive their car rather than ride share or vanpool. I commute northbound over Topanga Cyn every single morning and have the people I see driving over to the Westside are never have more than 1 person in their car. This is exactly why Metro needs an express line over Topanga Cyn (maybe named the 527, after Topanga’s code name of CA 27) that connects the Orange Line (Warner Center, Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, Calabasas, etc) to Expo Line (Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, and literally everything else on the westside). I find that a line such as that could potentially be a very effective line for Metro, as not only would it serve those who live/work in Topanga who either want to get into the city in either direction, but it could also provide beach access on weekends. Overall, Metro seriously needs to consider ways to GET people to the Expo Line if they want it to have any success. So to answer this articles “so called facts”, I can respectfully argue that there IS a large population living west and northwest of Santa Monica that could potentialy have access to the Expo line if given an easy, accessble line to it.

  6. I’ll actually give you kudo’s for getting that line to santa monica in place years ago while still living in long beach i endured the commute to santa monica to work for a startup. which either involved driving or doing green line to aviation and taking bus #3 to work. Nowadays i do like going to santa monica as a weekend trip only. After that first time i was reluctant to do ever consider accepting a job in santa monica again.

  7. Steve,

    You stated above “As we’ve been noting, the supply of parking spaces at the Azusa stations for the Gold Line are greater than the supply.” Shouldn’t that statement be something on the order of demand for parking spaces is greater than the supply?

    Not only is there no parking for motor vehicles at some Metro stations, there is also no bicycle parking at the Warner Center on the Orange Line and no bicycle parking at 15 rail stations. There are also no bicycle lockers at 54 train stations plus the Warner Center on the Orange Line. That leaves a potential bicycle user only two choices at those stations. One is to not ride a bicycle to those stations or else find some way to board with the bicycle. Metro is not encouraging people to bicycle to many of the train stations by not having parking available. To go beyond the limited amount of space on trains for bicycles there needs to be parking available, otherwise people are going to leave the bicycle at home.

    • Yes. Numerous grammatical issues fixed in that sentence. Thanks Dennis!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Absolutely, we need more secure bike parking. Many people are reluctant to leave their bikes on a rack where it gets easily stolen. With technology the way it is, having live web streaming of bike parking areas might be an easy deterrent to those who might steal a bicycle. You could rewind back 24 hours and find the moment that someone stole your bike, and get a clear photo of that person for police to investigate.

  8. In a conversation with a Metro manager at one of the meetings about the potential November ballot measure, this manager told me that Metro expects to hit 62,000 boarding’s per weekday within months of the Expo Phase II opening. That amount of boarding’s was predicted in the EIR for 2030. The average weekday boarding’s for March on the Expo Line was 30,000, which means Metro expects the Expo Line boarding’s to more than double within months of the Phase II opening.

    The Expo Line is different than the other light-rail lines in that there will probably be a lot of people throughout the day and night traveling on it to get to entertainment or to travel to the beach, which would extent the busy periods far beyond the peak commute hours. That and the fact that the job centers are at several points along the route means that the line will be busy in both directions at a lot of hours. There is a beach along the Blue Line but its far removed from the high population density core of Los Angeles. Santa Monica is aligned with the core of Los Angeles which runs from east LA to the city of Santa Monica.

  9. The Expo Line moves along a corridor that has far more people bicycling than any other rail line planned or in existence. The Census Bureau annual household surveys has 1.3% for bicycle commuting in the city of Los Angeles. A zip code in the USC area is at 9%, Culver City has 2%, the city of Santa Monica, at 3.4% is in the top 30 U.S. cities with a population of 65,000 or more for bicycle commuting and Venice is about 4%. Metro is not prepared for the amount of people who will show up at the Expo Line stations with bicycles. An example of that is the Culver City station which has 57 people on a waiting list for a bike locker, which is by far the highest amount of any station with bike lockers. There is going to be a secure bicycle parking facility at the Culver City station opening up shortly after the Expo Phase II opening. But that facility will only hold 62 bicycles. Which means it will likely fill up with bicycles within a month after opening.

  10. “the communities along PCH are vastly less populous than the ones east and south of the Gold Line in the San Gabriel Valley.”
    I’m betting that this statement conveniently forgot to mention the communities South along the Lincoln Blvd parking to LAX and the beach cities. This bureaucratic border area is served by BBB at the north end, barely. I’ve never been on a 3 bus that wasn’t a human sardine can; this route begs for heavy rail but no signs of improvement have been discovered.

  11. NOTE TO AUTHOR: the first link about the Telephone Town Halls is BROKEN – please fix. I could not quickly find any previous references on the morass that is the Metro web site.

    And A.O. Scott left out the biggest reason for radio dying – the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that allowed hideous consolidation of radio and TV station ownership and resulting reduction of local diversity. Aside from non-English language programming, AM radio is dominated by right wing talk, sports and (gag) Radio Disney. Now, I must leave to hose off my shoes ….

  12. Metro is partially responsible to the Azusa’s parking problem. It needs to fund Foothill Transit to operate more frequent bus lines near the new stations. Metro does not serve as a good role model either but putting its own bus routes to 45 minutes per bus near the Arcadia and Monrovia Stations.

    Hopefully Metro learns its lessons by providing more funding to the muni buses that serve the new Expo stations.

  13. So many fun and exciting issues to discuss! First, the schedule:
    1) Epic fail for not changing the terminus from Culver City to Santa Monica, I hope Metro hasn’t sent this version of the schedule to the printer yet.
    2) In what universe are the Westwood and Palms station in “Century City”? That column heading should also be changed. Why not “Rancho Park/Palms” I can understand not using the name “Cheviot Hills”, to punish their NIMBY residents for the lawsuit.
    3) The difference in the eastbound (47 minutes) and westbound (50 minutes) travel times. I had assumed that this difference had something to do with signal priority in Santa Monica, as I’ve heard that Expo will get signal priority in only one direction at Lincoln Blvd. However closer inspection shows all of the schedule difference between the Culver City and La Cienega stations: 2 minutes eastbound and 5 minutes westbound. Can Metro explain that difference? Current Expo schedules show 3 minutes for the westbound segment from La Cienega to Culver City.

      • One out of three. Somebody has revised the schedules so the the terminus is now listed as Santa Monica, instead of Culver City. The other issues remain unchanged, so you can expect Expo to take you to Century City on May 20.

  14. Regarding bike parking:
    1) There’s no excuse for Metro not prioritizing bike parking over car parking (sorry for the double negative). It’s cheaper, greener and more space efficient. Us bikers are even willing to pay for parking! Metro should convert car parking to bike parking wherever demand exceeds supply.
    2) When I signed up for a bike locker at Culver City in early 2015 I was number 14 on the waiting list. I didn’t get my locker until January of this year. So a 57 person waiting list would take around 4 years to clear at that rate. You can expect the demand for bike parking at Culver City to increase at least 50 percent since your residents will now want to use Expo to travel to Santa Monica as well as downtown LA. The bike hub can’t get here soon enough!
    3) Good news! Bike share! The Expo Line will be able to take incredible advantage of the existing and planned bike share systems. Santa Monica Breeze will be available from day one (May 20) serving three Expo stations. The downtown LA system will serve two Expo stations. The Beverly Hills, UCLA and Culver City systems are all being planned and have the opportunity to include bike share at Expo stations. Only West Hollywood appears to be too far away from Expo to include a bike share station at Expo.

  15. Regarding the train car fleet for Expo: I’m cautiously optimistic that Metro will be able to serve us with three-car trains from May 20 forward. The current operations on Expo alternate every six minutes between a two-car train in service (between Culver City and downtown LA) and a one-car train out of service (performing pre-revenue testing). Starting on May 20, Metro should be able to combine these consists to provide service on a three-car train every 12 minutes.
    Am I delusional to believe this?

    • I don’t know the answer. As we’ve said many times before, the train car fleet is stretched at this time.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source