Take our poll: What do you want/need from Metro’s service alerts?

Why the poll?

As government enters — at times slowly — the 21st Century and its rich mix of social media, government is also learning new ways to talk to the taxpaying public. It’s no longer a one-way conversation, people.

Many of our riders already know that our service alerts tend to focus on service impacts rather than the cause of the impacts. To some degree, that’s going to change. We’re presently trying to develop some basic descriptions to better explain what’s happening on our system and the accompanying impacts to riders.

As we do this, we want to know what’s important for riders. Thus, the above poll. We want to know what you think before we make any changes.

Admittedly, speaking in plain English has been a struggle at times. Here are a couple of recent examples from Metro’s primary Twitter feed:

What these tweets don’t say is that a blind man had fallen on the tracks. He was lucky not to be hit by the train and was being extricated by emergency personnel, thus the understandable delays to subway service. He was called a trespasser because that’s Metro’s existing protocol: anyone on the tracks who shouldn’t be there is considered by the agency to be trespassing.

I am well aware that riders have chafed at times at Metro’s service alerts and the information included and, equally important, not included. Especially now that other government agencies — i.e. the LAFD, LASD and LAPD — and media and riders are often posting info on social media in real time about incidents involving Metro.

Why do agencies withhold some information and have trouble, at times, speaking in plain English? It’s a good question.

I don’t think there is a precise answer, nor do I think Metro is the only agency to struggle with what to say — and what not to say. Rather, I think there has been a mix of issues that boils down to two things: a reluctance to broadcast information that is incomplete, can’t be 100 percent verified, unfairly places blame for an incident or is insensitive to serious, perhaps deadly incidents. And, to be honest, I think there is a natural reluctance at many agencies, including this one, to say anything that might make an agency look bad.

Sometimes, too, there are other more complicated reasons. An agency may not want to give a troubled soul a bad idea — thus the reason we are extremely reluctant to discuss suicide-by-train on Metro’s blog or social media even when media is reporting it. The same goes with security issues: when it comes to rider safety, policing and system security, we often follow the ‘do no harm’ rule and say only what is absolutely necessary.

Thank you for taking the poll and for providing any feedback via comments or social media. I think you’ll be seeing some changes soon that will hopefully be for the better.

Take our poll: how was Metro service on New Year’s Eve and Day?

The Gold Line's Memorial Park station on New Year's Day morning. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

The Gold Line’s Memorial Park station on New Year’s Day morning. Photo by Dave Sotero/Metro.

As has been the case the past few years, many people used Metro on New Year’s Eve — service was free from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. — and on New Year’s Day, in particular to reach the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena.

On New Year’s Eve, there was obviously a lot happening all over the region with the Grand Park celebration bringing thousands to downtown Los Angeles.

Please take the poll and leave a comment.

Some tweets from the past couple of days are below. The photo taken by Zach Behrens gives you a pretty good idea of what New Year’s Eve looked like:

Self-driving cars versus transit: will they compete? Take our poll

Although I’m normally allergic to panel discussions, I actually attended one last month at the Mobility 21 conference on self-driving cars that rose to the level of mighty interesting.

The gist of the conversation: virtually ever major car company is pursuing self-driving cars, the technology is sound, the cars could reduce accidents (in other words, not like human drivers are all that safe) and lawmakers better start getting super serious as to how to regulate them as a lot of them could be on the road within a decade.

And this–the really interesting part: the big marketing push and the big source of demand will likely come from those who can’t or don’t want to drive (seniors, teens, disabled, etc.) but need the mobility a self-driving car could supply. In fact, one of the panelists even proposed that self-driving cars could save government money by negating the need to supply transit in areas where transit is inefficient.

This is already how Google is framing the self-driving car issue:

Not discussed by the panel is another issue I find interesting: if there is a proliferation of self-driving cars, what does that do to transit?

On the one hand, roads will continue to have only a finite amount of space. Yes, perhaps self-driving cars may squeeze some extra capacity from roads by driving more efficiently — but you can only pack so many cars in so much space, presumably.

On the other hand, cars often enjoy the door-to-door convenience factor not afforded by transit. At present, one of the major draws to transit is that it’s a chance for people to relax and/or get some work done.

What happens if you can get that work done in your own car that is driving itself to work? Would sitting in traffic be more tolerable if you didn’t actually have to be the one tapping the brakes and accelerator? Or would traffic still make you go bonkety-bonkers?

Take the poll and comment please.

Poll results thus far: transit riders mixed on whether Google Glass should be allowed aboard buses and trains



Above are the results thus far of our unscientific (as always) poll on how transit riders feel about other transit riders wearing Google Glass in the future with some of the comments below.

Thus far, the results are very mixed and indicate that Google Glass may have a little work to do in the marketing department. I’ll keep the poll open for those interested in this topic and haven’t voted yet.

Also, from our original post:

Here’s a fun story in last week’s New Yorker about one of those testers and his experiences. As the story explains, having the functions of a smartphone sitting on your face (for lack of a better term) is very different animal than having the functions of a smartphone in your hand or pocket.

As the article also notes, some establishments have already banned Google Glass because they don’t want users surreptitiously taking photos through glasses either for legal reasons (an art gallery may not own the rights to the art it displays) or for the sake of their clientele (patrons at a bar, for example).

Mid-City to Downtown L.A.: Which route is the safest to bike?

Mid-City to Downtown LA

Every weekday morning I commute to work during rush hour on bike, starting from the Mid-City neighborhood and ending at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station in downtown LA.

On a bike it’s a tricky commute for many cyclists. Only one east-west street in the area has a bike lane — 7th Street — and that’s only from just west of Vermont to Figueroa. One other street, Venice Boulevard, has been designated as a bike route by the city of Los Angeles, meaning it’s deemed suitable for bike travel but there are no bike lanes. (Here’s the city’s online bike map, a very helpful tool)

Nonetheless, I’ve found there are many options in the area, although nearly all of them involve riding side-by-side with motorized vehicles. On most commute days, I prefer taking one of the main boulevards because they are faster and more convenient; there are smaller residential streets, but taking them means encountering a lot of stop signs and crossing L.A.’s busy north-south streets at intersections that may not have traffic signals or stop signs.

Some of my conclusions that may be helpful to other Mid-City-to-downtown bike commuters: 

• I favor and often take Venice Boulevard or Pico Boulevard straight down as they seem to be the safest and less hectic of the big boulevards. For example, if I take Pico Boulevard starting from Arlington Avenue to Union Station, it takes me about 18 minutes to bike to work (Google Maps predicts it would take about 18 to 28 minutes to drive during rush hour).

• Olympic Boulevard is in my opinion the worst to bike on during rush hour, especially if you’re heading west. Its road conditions are beyond poor (cracks and potholes everywhere), and the right lane is less than ideal in size for car drivers going at 35+ MPH to safely pass a cyclist without having to fully switch lanes.

• Wilshire Boulevard is also a nasty monster for cyclists. But its recent addition of a dedicated bus only lane between Western Avenue to South Park View Street (cyclists are allowed to use the bus lane) has also been an improvement for cyclists, especially those who are looking to connect to the 7th Street bike lane. The other advantage of Wilshire is that cyclists can use the Purple Line subway’s Wilshire/Western station to leapfrog into downtown. Relying on the 720 bus is trickier as bike racks are often full.

• Connecting to 7th Street’s bike lane from Vermont Avenue to Figueroa Street is a nice addition to my route on days when traffic is more congested than usual on Pico or Venice Boulevard. Only issue with biking on 7th Street is that the bike lane ends abruptly at Figueroa and the lanes get significantly narrower east of that. Also, the number of red lights you hit between Figueroa and Spring Street is superabundant.

Having said that, which boulevard do you prefer to bike on? And, if you don’t take or prefer any, what are some neighborhood streets that allow for a safe and fast way to bike from the Mid-City area to Downtown LA?

Take our poll: how do you feel about fellow transit riders wearing Google Glass?

Google Glass. Photo by Antonio Zugaldia, via Flickr creative commons.

In recent months, I’ve been reading with increasing curiosity about Google Glass, the glasses developed by Google which allow users to view the internet and take photos and videos. They are not on the market yet, but Google has been providing them to some members of the public for test runs.

Here’s a fun story in last week’s New Yorker about one of those testers and his experiences. As the story explains, having the functions of a smartphone sitting on your face (for lack of a better term) is very different animal than having the functions of a smartphone in your hand or pocket.

As the article also notes, some establishments have already banned Google Glass because they don’t want users surreptitiously taking photos through glasses either for legal reasons (an art gallery may not own the rights to the art it displays) or for the sake of their clientele (patrons at a bar, for example).

If Google Glass becomes popular, I’m curious about how transit riders view the devices. Are they just another cool gadget building on the advances of smartphones? Or do you think they’re overly obtrusive and a violation of whatever privacy you have left when riding public transport?

Take the poll and feel free to comment please; one comment per customer please.

Data nerds rejoice! More metro data now available.


Metro Research launched a new web page on metro.net today. Click here to check it out!

On the new page you can take a quick poll about Metro’s services, sign up for Metro research opportunities and find links to transportation data resources. The page will also be a hub for sharing research data and reports inside and outside the agency.

In addition, results from 10 years of the annual customer satisfaction survey as well as several other surveys and focus groups are available for your perusal.

Transportation headlines, special edition: LA Streetsblog’s post “You can’t fix traffic, you are the traffic” is a must read

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

Traffic on the 405. Photo by malingering, via Flickr creative commons.

If you have three minutes to spare, I highly recommend Damien Newton's post in response to an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times griping about Westside traffic.

In the Times, editorial writer Carla Hall complained that Los Angeles City Council candidates for the Westside seat (11th district) didn't say much about fixing traffic at a recent Streetsblog forum. She's a longtime Brentwood resident and motorist and doesn't think transit and cycling improvements will help improve her commute to downtown Los Angeles.

I thought the article was intended to be more provocative than informative — it's hard to blame Westside motorists for venting/blowing their stack. Damien apparently thought likewise.

I think the issue that we both had was the notion that traffic can be fixed solely by focusing on traffic. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of evidence from around the world that traffic gets “fixed” — chokepoints can be smoothed, roads can be managed differently (i.e. the ExpressLanes) but it's pretty hard to make traffic go poof and vanish without without wrecking the economy or making it literally illegal or too expensive to drive.

Take it away, Damien:

But to your specific problem, living in Brentwood and commuting via car Downtown there are really only three solutions: move, get a new job, or get over it. That commute is a result of decisions you made and are making. Thanks to a wife that makes quite a bit more than I do, we could live in Brentwood if we wanted to, but we live in Mar Vista. Why? Because the Expo Line and Bike Path are coming. Brentwood may have a legendary private school system and some of the nicest real estate in L.A., but Mar Vista will have much better bike and transit options.It’s all part of the decisions we make. It’s the governments job to make it possible for you to live where you want and can afford and work where you want and can get a job. It’s not their job to make it as easy and smooth as possible. Your commute is part of the price you pay to live in Brentwood and work Downtown.And if you think there are too many cars on the street, remember that you are in one of them. You’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Continue reading

Reader poll results: Expo Line opening was the big story of 2012!

Screen Shot 2012-12-28 at 10.25.40 AM

The results. Ignore the ‘country’ column — it’s the same as the overall results.

Thanks to everyone who took our poll on the biggest transportation stories in 2012. As the above chart demonstrates, the verdict was pretty clear: the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line was the big to-do in the minds of many readers.

My take on a few of the year’s big storylines:

•Perhaps the biggest overall story of 2012 was the unceasing expansion of transit in Los Angeles County. The first phase of the Expo Line opened, the Orange Line Extension opened, the new El Monte Station opened, the Crenshaw/LAX Line went out to bid, the pace of construction quickened on both the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the environmental studies were completed for the Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension — with early utility work now underway for both.

Four years after the passage of Measure R, it’s pretty clear that L.A. County is serious about transforming itself and building a transit network to compliment its sprawling road network. It has been a long time coming — and it’s great to see.

Continue reading

What was the biggest transportation story of 2012? Take our poll!


By any measure, 2012 was a busy year transportation-wise. Go ahead and pick three of the above — I’m curious what you see as the big story of the year.

And, of course, feel free to comment — particularly if you choose “other” and think some of the above choices are total bunk!