PLE construction, offpeak service, scooter chaos: HWR, Aug. 1

Dept. of Twitter Tuesday on Wednesdays: 

Art of Transit

Speaking of tunnel boring machines, here’s a look at the first of two TBMs that will dig the tunnels for section one of our Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega stations.

The worker is cleaning the edge of the machine’s mid-shield before the tail shield is welded onto it. This work is taking place at Wilshire/La Brea Station.

Installation of the overland conveyor system at the South La Brea yard. This helps remove soil from the tunnel. Photos: LA Metro.

Dept. of Timetables: The new Warner Center Shuttle timetable is here. I know there were requests.

Art of Transit 2: 

There’s a webcam that shows the construction of the private development rising next to the Expo Line’s Culver City Station. Go to the page and click on the timelapse function if you have 29 seconds or so to spare.

Will it take until 2047 to extend Metro Rail to WeHo? (LAT)

A good follow-up on the Feasibility Study/Alternatives Analysis released earlier this month for the Crenshaw Northern Extension project. Under the Measure M spending plan (scroll down) the project would be completed in 2047.

Key graphs:

A new policy at Metro also allows cities and other groups to attempt to accelerate construction for projects, if they can secure 5% to 25% of the project’s total cost. Depending on the route Metro selects, that could be at least $550 million.

West Hollywood agreed in May to hire a consultant to locate other sources of funding, including raising the city’s sales tax, bonding against the local sales tax revenue from Measure M, or securing a partnership with a company that could pay for part of the construction.

The ridership is certainly promising — and it’s not a stretch to imagine this line being very popular. Ridership is a good way to attract federal funding, although that’s not exactly in excess supply these days.

The Byzantine Process of Getting a Metro Student Pass when Your Kid Turns Five (Streetsblog LA)

Good post by Joe Linton on the degree of difficulty of getting a student pass for his daughter (the comments are also good). One significant hiccup Joe experienced: getting the proper documentation from school before school is in session in order to get the TAP card before classes actually start.

The post has made the rounds here. It’s worth noting that the current system is in place to prevent adults from fraudulently using kids’ TAP cards.

A Guide To LA’s Scooter Chaos: What You Can (And Can’t) Do On Birds And Limes (LAist)

Good roundup of news involving the popular first/last mile scooters. I like ’em but I’m glad Santa Monica is booting them off the overcrowded beach bike path — which has long needed a widening, even before the electric scooters began roaming the Earth.

Editorial: New York City is thriving. Why is transport such a nightmare? (NYT)

The editorial backs limiting cheap taxi traffic on certain streets, high wages for drivers and congestion pricing to pay for the many-needed subway improvements. Good luck with that slot machine, NYT! 🙂

Things to listen to whilst transiting: I don’t think the audio is posted yet, but KPCC’s Airtalk had an interesting segment this morning on whether Caltrans should be allowed to post signs saying certain projects are paid for with SB 1 funds. One legislator wants the signs removed, alleging they are political speech. Attentive readers know that California voters in November will consider Prop 6, which would repeal the gas tax and vehicle fee increases signed into law in 2017 to pay for transportation projects across the state. The segment was based on this LAT story.

Summery things to listen to: If you haven’t heard of Carole King, ask your parents or grandparents sometime or pick up “Tapestry” at the old-timey store. I was in a Metro conference room with Young Employees yesterday and almost none of them were even familiar with “The Bangles” or “Walk Like an Egyptian,” a song that I wrongly presumed had secured its place in Pop Culture.

21 replies

  1. For the Crenshaw Northern Extension, please consider another alternative: straight up La Brea *and* straight west along Santa Monica Blvd to West Hollywood. This would result in fast connections from both Crenshaw and WeHo to Hollywood. The cost would be high but the ridership would be enormous.

    The La Brea option’s advantage is that it creates a very fast crosstown connection (with transfers to Expo, Purple and Red Lines). But it shouldn’t preclude service to WeHo. West Hollywood is very supportive of this project, and is willing to raise money toward it. And Santa Monica Blvd is the key transit-ready boulevard north of Wilshire, with a high-density mix of residents, jobs and destinations.

    • Yes please. Even if there is not enough funding at this point for the Santa Monica Blvd. portion, it needs to be in the long term plan. And money saved from the La Brea option can be allocated to that project.

  2. I confess I didn’t read the link, but just the title “Editorial: New York City is thriving. Why is transport such a nightmare? (NYT)” tells the story of the public misperception about traffic (pointed out by Don Shoup). Congestion happens in places that are thriving, because they’re thriving. If you don’t want congestion, go somewhere that’s not thriving… like maybe some depleted rust-belt city. Congestion and traffic are generally good problems to have.

  3. Problems with students’ TAP cards don’t stop with the first card. A student TAP card is only valid for 3–4 years, and always expires mid-summer (I’m guessing this is used as a periodic check to make sure the child is still enrolled in school). So every time the card expires, there’s about a 1-month gap between the expiration date and when you can get the enrollment documents to apply for a new card (plus the processing time). This summer I’ll be going through my third cycle of TAP card applications for my children.

    Three years ago there was some issue with the taptogo web site: it allowed me to send applications for all 3 of my children using my own TAP account, but then things somehow got messed up on the backend and I received wrong TAP cards for 2 of my children, so I had to resend those applications by mail. Now the taptogo web site has specific instructions which weren’t there three years ago: “Create a TAP account for each student. A valid, unique email address must be used with each account.” I guess it’s good to be clear, but it would be even better if the web site allowed managing TAP cards for multiple people from a single user account (I think it’s fairly common for parents to manage their kids’ various online accounts).

    I agree with many of the commenters on the Streetsblog article, that the bureaucratic hassle would be reduced if student TAP were replaced with child TAP, made available based on age without the need for school verification. Unlike some of the commenters, I doubt that the reason for school verification has to do with limiting access to non-residents; after all, the deeper senior discounts do not have a residency requirement. My best guess is that school verification is a check intended to make sure children are enrolled in school. Since dropping out is more of a problem in high school than at younger ages, I think a better policy would be to give an age-based discount until age 14 (inclusive), and then a school-based discount for high-school students of any age (most children are already in high school by the time they reach 15, so they should be able to get the right documents in time).

    Steve, do you know what might be involved in changing this policy? There have been several questions on The Source concerning fare policy in recent months (instituting fare caps; technicalities of charging for inter-agency transfers; and now student/child fares), and I am not clear on what kinds of policy changes can be implemented by a decision at Metro, and which require public comment and review. Is it possible to shed light on these questions?

    • Hi Ron;

      Good question. I think the best way to explain it is that, generally speaking, administrative and technical type changes can be implemented by staff but high-level policy is usually left to the Board of Directors to decide. Fares are a Board issue. Even some of the TAP changes go to the Board, too.

      I suspect that any major change to fares involving students or children would go to the Board. I agree that Joe raised some good points — some bigger picture (some bigger picture, some administrative. Hope that helps explain it.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Thanks, Steve.

        I noticed your answer didn’t mention the issue of public comment and review. So when the board (or metro staff) put a question to the public before making a decision, as they did for example before the 2014 fare change, is the decision to go to the public motivated by legal requirements or by political considerations?

        And going back to the changes in fare collection practice that took effect when inter-agency transfers went on TAP (mandatory IAT regardless of future travel; charging transfers to the agency that is boarded second rather than the agency that was boarded first): would these be considered administrative and technical type changes, or high-level policy? I guess this question can be up for debate, because these changes are technical, and they also affect the amount of money collected. So here’s a question that hopefully has a more definite answer: Were these changes in fare collection practice presented to and approved by the board?

        • Hi Ron —

          Sorry for slow reply! The fare change is legally required to go through a public hearing process, as are many types of changes to fares. That’s opposed to more routine items that are heard as part of Board meetings. The public has a right to speak before the Board no matter what, but I think the best way to explain is that the public hearing process is more robust, with more public outreach and usually stretches over a longer period of time (usually months instead of a single month). Another way of explaining it: public hearings are held on any changes to policy that could prompt a Civil Rights complaint.

          Public hearings were held for the TAP transfers: https://thesource.metro.net/2018/01/08/metro-to-hold-public-hearing-jan-17-over-proposed-changes-to-tap/. Also this year, public hearings were held for all-door boarding. Hope that helps explain it better than my first stab!

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  4. Hi Steve,

    Regarding the fare and passes information on Metro’s website, since “Metro-to-Muni Transfer” no longer exists, may I suggest that to be changed to something like ….. “Transfer fare paid with TAP Stored Value”? That would more accurately describe it. Thank you!

    • It would also be accurate to use the phrase “Muni to Metro Transfer.” If you’re doing it the other way around, you buy the transfer from the other agency, and get their transfer price.

  5. The NEW paradigm for this country is chaos! There’s chaos between Ubers and taxis, chaos between scooters and public transit just as there is chaos inside the White House. Consequently, MERTO’s multi-billion dollar transit schemes, that take decades to complete, are subject to raids by “guerilla” scooters and their like. So much for roads going on a “diet” that frustrate commuting stiffs, gold-plated METRO bike-stands and a $2.4 million bunion of a bike kennel next to beautiful Union Station. Didn’t METRO and its consultants-for-life see the future coming? (Little old Pasadena has, backing-out of METRO’s bike scheme as it did METRO’s I-710 fever-dream.) Didn’t Phil and his staff learn anything from Vietnam or 9/11? Simple, chaotic-like, guerilla movements are real threats to thinking-inside-the-box generals and transit bureaucrats alike, especially those with unlimited funds thanks to the US Treasury or METRO’s Measure M. So, METRO simplify your projects, like give your loyal riders more bus stops with seats and shelters in 100+ degree LA, etc. Otherwise your gravy train may be derailed by scooters, Ubers and their fellow guerillas.

  6. These electric scooters are out of control. Last night I yelled at a person riding a full-sized electric moped down the sidewalk in DTLA and the turds/birds just sit out in the middle of the sidewalk ready to take down any pedestrian. Pure lawlessness out there.

    • I used to walk down the sidewalk towards one side so that other pedestrians could easily pass. If I notice a scooter in the distance, I walk in the middle of the sidewalk with a wide a stance as possible. Granted, this works best when you’re a 6ft 3 former football player 🙂

  7. Two questions:

    Why can’t MTA give schools TAP cards to hand out to students when they register? When I was a student riding the bus, every semester I would have to venture to the RTD station to apply for my student pass. Then every month I would have to go to my local city hall to get their discount. So for the first month I had to pay full fare until all of the paperwork got done. Passing out a TAP at registration time will allow students to get to school for the things they need before the start of the semester.

    Will the Crenshaw line have a full complement of rolling stock when it is slated to open? (Same question for each phase of the Purple and Gold. For that matter, when the RC opens what effect will that have on the need for rolling stock?)

  8. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your response, and sorry for my even slower reply. I found the Metro staff report that was prepared for the public hearing you referenced above:

    https://boardagendas.metro.net/board-report/2017-0706/

    The staff report contains a detailed, 5-page analysis of putting the interagency passes on TAP, but this analysis is concerned exclusively with the question of whether customers are disadvantaged by the requirement to have a TAP card for interagency transfers. Nowhere does the analysis note differences in fare collection practice that would come as the result of the switch to TAP, for example the mandatory use of an IAT even when it’s disadvantageous to the customer (as in muni-metro-metro transfers), or charging the transfer fee of the agency of the second boarded vehicle rather than the first. So, while the matter of TAP transfers was brought before the public, the specific issue of changes in fare collection practice was not brought before either the public or the board. It was just implemented.

    I think this is a reason for concern. It is clear that the analysis does not match the implementation in practice. I can’t tell whether the problem is insufficient guidance to the technical team that implemented the transfers on TAP, or failure of the fare analysts to anticipate the technical challenges of implementation. What is clear, from comments on previous Source posts, is that the discrepancy between the analysis and practice was known months before rollout, yet rollout proceeded without fixing the discrepancy.

    Transit fares in L.A. County are fairly complex, with separate agencies setting individual fare policies both internally and for transferring between agencies. Putting such a complex system on a single computerized system like TAP is difficult, and it is inevitable that mistakes will be made in implementation. As I commented on a previous post, Transport for London used to have a commitment that if a mistake were discovered in the programming of the Oyster card, TfL would refund the erroneous charges, and also work to fix the programming error. I would like to see a similar commitment from Metro and TAP, but at this point I don’t even see an acknowledgment from Metro that there is a problem to be addressed.

    I think there need to be good communication channels between the people that implement fares on TAP, the people responsible for fare policy at Metro and other agencies, the executives in charge, and the public, so that mistakes in fare implementation are corrected as soon as they are detected. I don’t know about communication within Metro, but the only place the public can get responses to these sort of questions is The Source, and as you have pointed out many times, The Source is not an official channel for affecting policy. Does Metro have a channel where errors in TAP implementation can be reported and resolved?

    • Hey Ron —

      Metro does have a Civil Rights office to ensure that we’re complying with federal law when it comes to transportation decision making. The Civil Rights page on metro.net is here: https://www.metro.net/about/civil-rights-policy/. They do accept complaints and I think that’s probably the best route to take on the TAP issue. Some folks also direct complaints to our Customer Relations office or members of the Metro Board of Directors. I think in this case that’s the most reasonable course of action if you want to go beyond commenting here.

      Hope that helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  9. Hi Steve,

    What was the methodology for estimating ridership on the Crenshaw North alternatives? Does it include social/recreational trips, which are 27% of all trips (source: https://www.bts.gov/statistical-products/surveys/national-household-travel-survey-daily-travel-quick-facts)?

    It seems very strange to me that San Vicente and La Cienega would have the exact same ridership estimate if social/recreational trips are included. Santa Monica and San Vicente is crowded with drunk partygoers every night of the week, and I can’t imagine that everyone who would board a train at that intersection would be willing (or able) to walk a half mile to La Cienega. The SV alignment could also serve additional riders with an infill station at SM/La Cienega or SM/Holloway (approximately 0.75 miles from both San Vicente to the west and from Fairfax to the east) so the equal ridership estimate seems misleading to me. Perhaps I’m missing something, so I’d be interested to learn more about the study’s methodology.

    Thank you,
    Riley

    • Hi Riley —

      I don’t know what methodology was used but I’ll ask around — I do know that generally speaking models try to forecast beyond just work trips. I do think that ridership projections are just that — “projections” and predicting the future is never a sure thing. Based on ridership numbers that we see across the system, the projections struck me as realistic given the connections to the larger transit network, including with Crenshaw/LAX Line to airport, Expo Line, Purple Line and Red Line and other major corridors in the area. Of course, ridership ultimately depends also on frequency and reliability of service.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source