Infographic: Fares, subsidies and the farebox recovery ratio

Infographic display Metro's farebox recovery ration of 29%

Click to enlarge.

You may have heard the term before, but what is the farebox recovery ratio?

It’s the percentage of revenue generated by fares paid by customers of a transit agency in proportion to the total cost of operations. And it’s an important concept to know about to fully understand how Metro funds transit.

Metro rider’s fares pay 29% of the total cost of transit operations. The remaining 71% is funded by a variety of sources including: state and local taxes (45%), federal grants (22%) and advertising, property leases and other revenue sources (4%).

The Metro long-range plan seeks to raise the farebox recovery ratio to 33%.

Source: Metro FY11 Budget

Scoping meetings to begin for second phase of Foothill Extension

The public meetings begin on Wednesday night for a planned segment of the Gold Line that would run from Azusa to Montclair in the San Gabriel Valley. Details are after the jump.

The Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority — an independent agency from Metro — has said it will begin construction of the Pasadena-to-Azusa segment of the line this year. That segment is funded by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by county voters in 2008. The segment from Azusa to Montclair is listed in the first tier of “strategic unfunded” projects in Metro’s long-range planContinue reading

Metro's view of Gov. Brown's budget proposal

Gov. Brown released his first budget today (okay, his first 21st century budget). Here is the legislative summary by Metro’s government relations team:

Governor Brown released his 2012 budget proposal earlier today. The budget proposes major cuts to many state services and proposes the extension of taxes which are set to expire in the near future. With respect to transportation, the Governor is proposing a budget which will help to stabilize transportation funding, and, in marked contrast to the budgets proposed by former Governor Schwarzenegger, actually proposes adequate funding for public transit. The Governor specifically proposes to ensure that the State Transit Assistance Account remains funded at the levels approved in the recently enacted sales tax/gas tax swap legislation. This action is a significant commitment to public transit and we would like to thank Governor Brown and his Administration for this recommendation. Continue reading

The buck starts here: Caltrans recruiting public input for plans to improve north corridor of scenic rail line to San Luis Obispo

A number of rail services operate on the LOSSAN North corridor. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (operated with state funding) is the primary intercity passenger rail service, and runs between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles (with additional service to Orange County and San Diego). Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (service between Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Portland/Seattle, in addition to stops within the LOSSAN North corridor) also operates on the corridor. Commuter rail service between Los Angeles and Ventura is provided by Metrolink. UP operates freight and goods movement service along the corridor. Map: Figure ES–1, LOSSAN North Study Area from LOSSAN North Corridor Strategic Plan.

A number of rail services operate on the LOSSAN North corridor. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (operated with state funding) is the primary intercity passenger rail service, and runs between San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles (with additional service to Orange County and San Diego). Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (service between Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Portland/Seattle, in addition to stops within the LOSSAN North corridor) also operates on the corridor. Commuter rail service between Los Angeles and Ventura is provided by Metrolink. UP operates freight and goods movement service along the corridor. Map: Figure ES–1, LOSSAN North Study Area from LOSSAN North Corridor Strategic Plan.

Caltrans kicks off the first of four “scoping” meetings Monday to gather public and agency input that will eventually shape the environmental scope of plans to seek funding for much-needed improvements to the 222-mile Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN North) rail corridor. The meeting will be held at Metro from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 10. Meeting details: Public Notice

The rail line, also known as the Pacific Surfliner Rail Corridor, traverses some of California’s most scenic and environmentally-sensitive areas, according to the strategic plan for the corridor, which also notes increased rail traffic — and the impacts thereof — is expected to double over the next 20 years. The heavily-traveled southern portion to San Diego  already makes the entire 331-mile corridor the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation. More than 2.7 million Amtrak passengers share the corridor with some five million commuter passengers.

The real stakeholders in this planning process are the riders, we would say, clearly defined by the increased demand for travel in the area from commuters, students, vacationers and commerce.

Here are some of the issues on the table:

  • How to best improve rail capacity for all types of rail service, including intercity, commuter, and freight/goods movement: The northern LOSSAN corridor is less developed than the southern portion.  Freight rail capacity and reliability is severely impacted by sharing single-track segments within the corridor with passenger rail operations.
  • How to best provide faster, safer, and more reliable passenger service: The long stretches of single-track and relatively short sidings require passenger trains to wait for longer freight trains to clear a section before continuing.
  • How to make the rail corridor a preferred transportation alternative to the increased traffic congestion and longer automobile commutes on Highway 101, which generally parallels the rail line.

Four scoping meetings will be held, one in each county served by the corridor. You can also send comments, questions by Feb. 15 to Matt Fowler at matt_c_fowler@dot.ca.gov.

House of Reps changes transpo funding rule

With Congress looking at ways to cut federal spending, it’s not surprising that one focus has been to cut back on transportation spending, as we posted last week. The House went ahead yesterday and did, in fact, approve a rule that could lead to cuts. It remains to be seen what the practical effect actually is because it’s kind of hard to believe members of Congress are suddenly going to stop trying to bring home the federal bacon to their districts.

Here’s the news from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s daily email to staff:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today, by a margin of 240-191, to eliminate the current rule (House Rule XXI) that makes it a violation of House rules to fund highway, transit and safety programs at levels below the authorized level. The vote, which was conducted along party lines, also included a number of other rules changes designed to promote the policy priorities of the incoming Republican majority. As previously shared in the Daily Brief, a coalition of business, labor and transportation stakeholders, including our agency, had contacted House Republican leaders objecting to the elimination of House Rule XXI, which could have a dramatic impact on highway and transit projects that depend on a consistent flow of federal dollars. A letter, which was co-authored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Laborers International Union of North America, and the American Public Transportation Association, among others, warned that the elimination of House Rule 21 “would hurt investment in transportation infrastructure, reduce jobs, and break faith with the American taxpayer.” Our agency reached out directly to Congressional offices to express our concerns regarding this proposed change with respect to federal funding for transportation projects. Proponents of the rules change argued that the rules change was needed because Congressional spending on transportation consistently exceeds the amount of funds being deposited in the federal Highway Trust Fund. Over the past six years, Congress has moved $34.5 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund to cover the expenses of our nation’s surface transportation program.

FTA gives go-ahead for Westside Subway Extension and Regional Connector to move into preliminary engineering phase

The Federal Transit Administration has notified Metro that it has given formal approval for preliminary engineering work to begin on the Westside Subway Extension and the Regional Connector, moving both projects a step closer to actual construction.

The notification by the FTA means that both the Subway Extension and the Regional Connector are likely to be accepted into the federal New Starts program, which helps local areas pay for large transit projects. Both the Subway Extension and the Connector are also to be funded in part by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The approval also means that the first installment of federal funds could be included in next year’s federal budget.

Furthermore, the FTA has again given strong indications that they support the subway being built quicker than originally planned. Under Metro’s long-range plan, the subway would reach Westwood in 2036. The FTA estimates that the subway could reach Westwood by 2024 under some funding scenarios. Metro is trying to accelerate the subway’s completion to 2022.

Both projects are currently in their final environmental study phase, which is expected to be finished in 2011. Preliminary engineering work is scheduled to be complete for the Subway Extension in late 2011 and the Regional Connector in early 2012.

Final design work is expected to take 14 to 18 months. Under the best-case scenario, utility relocation work for both projects could begin in mid- to late 2012 depending on when the FTA gives the go-ahead to begin building. Continue reading

Subway geotechnical work comes to Beverly Hills

Westside Subway Extension geotechnical testing in Beverly Hills.

With the holidays behind us and a temporary respite from the rain, geotechnical field testing for the Westside Subway Extension Project resumed today. Work this week is scheduled in Beverly Hills and consists of two types of seismic testing.

The photo above shows crews setting up a “Micro-Vib” box and sensors along Durant Drive near South Moreno Drive. The box vibrates the ground. The vibration waves are read by the sensors and recorded by seismograph equipment located in a nearby truck.  The box is then moved about two feet and the test is repeated. A larger “Mini-Vib” truck will also be used to generate a different type of wave. Crews will also conduct similar tests later this week along South Moreno Drive near Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Metro contractors are testing soil along the entire alignment. In certain locations, Metro is also conducting seismic tests and noise and vibration tests.

Data gathered will be used to develop recommendations about how to construct the subway. As those following subway planning know, one of the remaining questions is the location of the Century City station (see previous Source post). The data gathered from these tests will also help develop recommendations about that station location and tunnel alignments in the area.

You can follow the latest work on the Westside Subway project web page. Click on “Field Work.” Or follow the project on Twitter and Facebook.

Metro proposes bus service changes in June

Metro this week formally announced public hearings for proposed bus service changes to take effect in June. Here is a list of the proposed changes and the hearings, which begin on Feb. 1. (Versión en español: after the jump)

The changes – which include some cuts — were requested by Metro CEO Art Leahy, who in nearly two years on the job has been pushing for a bus system that will emphasize quality over quantity.

Leahy has said that the present-day bus system has created a multitude of problems for the agency and its customers. Among them: too many bus lines with excessive service has led to regular budget deficits; deferred maintenance has led to buses that break down and hurt on-time performance; there’s poor schedule adherence, and Metro’s current roster of bus routes is redundant and should be better integrated with rail service provided by Metro or buses run by the 16 municipal transit agencies in Los Angeles County.

After the late 1990s, Metro increased bus service by more than one million hours. Although overall Metro ridership has increased over time, bus ridership has fallen or been flat in the past two decades. Meanwhile, Metro Rail and Metrolink ridership has steadily increased and municipal bus service has increased fourfold.

How full are Metro buses today? Overall, Metro buses are running at an average of 42 percent capacity. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all Metro buses are less than half full. Another measure to gauge bus usage is called ‘load ratio’ — the ratio of passengers to bus seats at the most crowded part of a bus route. By that count Metro’s average load factor is an average of 1.2. (For example, 48 passengers on a 40 seat bus). Many other large transit agencies are running load factors of 1.5 to 1.7.

The proposed changes help to optimize service levels to demand and results in reducing wasteful and underutilized service, according to Metro officials. In nearly all cases where lines are eliminated, they will be replaced by other Metro bus lines or by transit services within one-quarter mile of the existing line. This round of changes follows changes made in June and December of 2010, with all cuts amounting to about 13 percent of Metro bus service. That, of course, is not a trivial amount, but it’s also below bus cuts that have been made in the past couple of years at other large transit agencies.

Continue reading

Proposed rule change in House could threaten transpo funding

Here’s an interesting item from Metro CEO Art Leahy’s daily email to staff:

House Republican leaders have issued a draft of the new rules they will proposing for the 112th Congress that begins early next month. Among the changes is a proposal to eliminate the current rule (House Rule XXI) that makes it a violation of House rules to fund highway, transit and safety programs at levels below the authorized level.  A coalition of business, labor and transportation stakeholders have written a letter to House Republican leaders objecting to this proposed change, which could have a dramatic impact on highway and transit projects that depend on a consistent flow of federal dollars. The letter, which was co-authored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Laborer’s International Union of North America, and the American Public Transportation Association, among others, is attached for your review. Our agency is reaching out directly to Congressional offices to express our concerns regarding this proposed change with respect to federal funding for transportation projects.  House Republicans are expected to meet next Tuesday to consider this and other proposed changes to House rules.

 


Gold Line Foothill Extension update

A rendering of the bridge that will carry Foothill Extension tracks from the center of the 210 freeway over the eastbound lanes. The old bridge was demolished after being damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Here’s the latest update on planning and pre-construction efforts on the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, which will extend the Gold Line from Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border adjacent to Citrus College. The Foothill Extension is a project funded by Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

The update is from Habib Balian, the CEO of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, the agency that is building the line, which will be operated by Metro when completed:

Before the year comes to a close, I want to update you on progress made this month critical to our schedule.

First and foremost is the outstanding cooperation we have received from Caltrans. This month, the agency approved the Phase 2A (Pasadena to Azusa) Project Study Report/Project Report (PSR/PR) and Type Selection Study, essential documents for the progression of the Iconic Freeway Structure (IFS) and overall Phase 2A project. The PSR/PR, a detailed technical document required by Caltrans when working in their right-of-way, was approved for all elements of Phase 2A including construction of the IFS; upgrades to existing bridges, underpasses, and the I-210/I-605 Interchange; conduit laying; fence replacement and other key elements. Caltrans’ “Bridge Type Selection Committee” approved the Authority’s “Type Selection Study” after a substantive meeting in Sacramento with the Authority and the Skanska USA team to discuss the engineering, technical studies, and preliminary design submitted for the IFS. These approvals not only keep the IFS on schedule to begin construction in June, but also keep the entire Phase 2A alignment on schedule as we prepare to select a design-builder in the coming months. Continue reading