A closer look at transit ridership around LA County

The proportion of commuters who use mass transit to get to work varies wildly across the Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area (which encompasses Los Angeles and Orange Counties). Source: 2000 U.S. Census.

Last week, The Source mentioned an Australian study that concluded that perhaps the connection between higher density and transit use was not as robust as previously thought. The study authors also suggested that Los Angeles was a prime example of their theory: a dense city with “relatively low rail and bus use.” I think that suggestion merits a closer look.


For starters, what’s relative? Across Los Angeles County, 7.3 percent of people over the age of 16 ride mass transit to commute to work. That is certainly below many older cities and counties with more miles of fixed rail than Los Angeles. These cities include Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York — where in the New York-White Plains metro area 44 percent of commuters use mass transit. But the percentage in L.A. County is still above the national average of five percent who use transit to get to work. And it’s similar to the percentages in some metro areas that are about the same size as massive L.A. County.

Secondly, as the following map illustrates, the proportion of residents who ride mass transit to work varies wildly across the Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the Census Bureau. Noticeably, the densest parts of L.A. also contain high proportions of transit commuters. Here are some examples from randomly chosen Census Block groups around L.A.: UCLA, 41%; Hollywood, 39%; Downtown, 59%; Koreatown, 64%; MacArthur Park, 67%; the area southeast of the 10 and 110, 85%.

Source: 2000 Census data.

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Need assistance? Live Help beta arrives on Metro.net

Live Help Screen Shot

Metro has recently launched a new feature on Metro.net, Live Help beta.

Live Help beta creates a seamless link between Metro.net and Customer Relations, allowing patrons to chat live with Customer Information Agents via a web based instant messaging interface. This provides web savvy (or phone-phobic) customers with an easy alternative to calling 323-GO-METRO, Metro’s Customer Relations line.

Robin O’Hara, Senior Communications Officer at Metro, says the purpose of implementing Live Help is simple: better customer service.

The growing popularity of Metro.net, which has seen a 27% spike in page views since relaunching last year, also played a part in the decision to launch the new service. “More of our customers are using Metro.net and we wanted to deliver the best technology possible in helping them to navigate not only our website but also the Metro system,” says O’Hara. Continue reading

Dispatches from San Jose: VTA's Eco Pass

A thing of beauty: A multi-modal street in downtown San Jose serving light rail and buses in exclusive lanes, as well as private automobiles. Photo by C. Rubin.

One of our goals at The Source is to give attention to novel transportation ideas found elsewhere — whether it’s innovate ways to finance transit projects or finding better ways to share bus schedules with the public. With that in mind, we turn our attention to a transit pass program run by the Valley Transit Authority (VTA), the public agency that serves the San Jose metropolitan area with 75 different bus routes and 42.2 miles of light rail service.

It’s called the Residential Eco Pass, and it offers deeply discounted annual transit passes to residential communities.

To get the inside scoop — its genesis, successes, and challenges — I recently spoke with three officials at VTA who have worked closely on the program: Chief of External Affairs Greta Helm, Sales and Promotions Supervisor Dino Guevarra and Deputy Director of Accounting Ali Hudda.


Implemented a decade ago, the residential program was designed to mimic VTA’s successful employer-based Eco Pass program, which is designed to make it easy for workers to get transit passes through their employers and has been adopted by several of the region’s major companies such as Yahoo! and Lockheed Martin. The overarching goal of the residential program is to get transit passes into as many people’s hands as possible — i.e. to provide a cheap and easy way for San Joseans to try public transit and see how it can enhance their travel around the region.

How It Works

To obtain a Residential Eco Pass, a so-called housing community — a homeowners association or residents of an apartment or condo building — must agree to buy an annual transit pass for every resident over the age of five. According to Gueverra, the Residential Eco Pass is most often treated as a community amenity and the cost is absorbed into the price of rent or homeowners dues. Continue reading

Metro.net gets updated with an improved Service Advisories page

The Metro web team has revamped the Service Advisories feature on Metro.net with an interface facelift and improved functionality to make it easier for Metro bus and rail riders to stay on top of service issues that may affect their travels.

What’s new? Here’s a list of features that have been rolled out:

  • Filter by mode (bus, rail, special)
    Allows customers to view advisories be specified modes. Only ride Metro Rail? Choose rail from the dropdown menu and filter out the bus advisories.
  • Filter by date
    Allows customers to view service advisories by a specific date. So if you know you have a big meeting coming up you can check ahead to see if there are any planned service advisories that may affect your trip.
  • Current and upcoming advisories
    Complimenting filter by date is the ability to view upcoming service advisories (more than a week in future) in addition to current advisories. On the main service advisories page the current advisories are display, but an additional column lets you see if a given line has any upcoming advisories.
  • Better organization
    In addition to filtering features, the service advisories page has been reorganized to make information easier to find. Instead of a long list of advisories with full descriptions all on one page, the list has been truncated. Wordy descriptions have been replaced with succinct headlines that link to a page with a more detailed description of the advisory.
  • Live service alerts and Trip Planner integrated onto Service Advisories page
    Customers don’t have to search Metro.net for other useful features when viewing service advisories – the @MetroLAalerts Twitter feed and the Trip Planner are now included in the sidebar of the Service Advisories page.

Access the Service Advisories feature directly from the homepage of Metro.net – it can be found in the sidebar or from the top menu under Rider Tools. You can also access the page directly by going to http://www.metro.net/service/advisories/.

So what do you think of the updated Service Advisories feature? As with most features on Metro.net, feedback is encouraged so that the service can be improved to better serve customers. Leave your comments here on The Source or contact the web team directly using this form.

Video: Metrolink Positive Train Control System

In a post earlier today we told you about a $6.6 million federal grant to help fund Metrolink’s efforts to install Positive Train Control (PTC) along its commuter rail system.

But what is PTC exactly? This informative video from Metrolink features some nice computer animation that explains how system works.

In a nutshell: a network of computers and GPS technology connect trains, signals and central offices to ensure the safest possible operation of trains.

Mapnificent, now for LA

Suppose you’re out and about in LA, and you’ve got a spare hour. What to do? Where could you go? How far could you go?

Thanks to Mapnificent, it is now possible to figure out just how far you could roam within a certain period of time in the Los Angeles area.

Developed by a German graduate student named Stefan Wehrmeyer, Mapnificent produces Google Maps that show how far someone could travel from one point using mass transit, walking or biking.

Wehrmeyer explains his project in much greater detail here and in the video below.

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Metrolink launches user-friendly mobile site

Metrolink Mobile Image

Metrolink has launched a new mobile website that allows its patrons to access vital information about the commuter rail system while on the go.

A Google Maps enhanced trip planner, service updates from Twitter, schedules, a system map and station information are all accessible from the new mobile-friendly interface.

I gave the site a whirl from my iPhone and I have to say – I’m impressed. Pointing the iPhone’s browser to metrolinktrains.com, the same URL used to access the full-fledged site, automatically loads the mobile site.

The home page is simple in the best way possible. Eight large, touch-friendly buttons make navigating the site a breeze. Each section loads quickly and seem perfectly optimized for the smartphone. The service alerts page in particular looks like it will be of great use to Metrolink riders who don’t follow the agency on Twitter.

In a press release, posted after the jump, Metrolink calls the site a beta release – but clearly the agency did their homework before launching this one.

On a side note: Metro’s own mobile site has received a quiet update. Service alerts from Twitter are now featured prominently on the home page and a tab has been added for news which features the latest headlines from The Source. Check it out on the mobile web at m.metro.net. Continue reading

Metro's Paul Taylor talks up Beijing-Metro traffic pact on KCRW show

Paul Taylor in China. Metro's Deputy CEO Paul Taylor (third from left in front row) meets with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport in late August, early September.

Paul Taylor in China: Metro's Deputy CEO Paul Taylor (third from left in front row) meets with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport in late August, early September.

Recently returned from meetings with Beijing transportation officials concerned about a wildly expanding traffic knot in this populous city, Metro’s Deputy CEO Paul Taylor discussed the global implications of traffic management on KCRW’s design and architecture show hosted by design editor Frances Anderton. Listen in online at kcrw.org.

Taylor returned from the Beijing meetings held Aug. 30 – Sept. 1 with a proposed agreement to pool traffic management expertise. The Metro Board of Directors formally approved the Memorandum of Cooperation with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport at its October meeting. The agreement does not involve any exchange of funding resources.

For the backstory see The Source post Sept. 15: Wide, wide world of transit: Metro and Beijing Transport team up to battle traffic congestion.

Regional Trip Planner gets a visual update and Google Maps integration

Regional Trip Planner, old and new.

A sample of the cosmetic changes to the Regional Trip Planner.

Metro has begun to implement changes to the online Regional Trip Planner – namely an updated design and Google Maps integration.

The visual design has been updated to match the look and feel of the redesigned Metro.net website, the language has been updated to be more user-friendly to first time riders and the addition of Google Maps provides much improved visuals and functionality.

Here are a few facts about the Regional Trip Planner:

  • This September the Trip Planner provided 5,392,130 trip itineraries.
  • The Trip Planner has scheduling data for 70 Southern California transit carriers.
  • The Trip Planner was first introduced in 1999.

The changes are live, and you can check out the updated Regional Trip Planner now.

Plans are in the works for future improvements to the software – let us know how you feel about the recent updates and what you’d like to see in the future by leaving a comment.

Tech tip: easily view PDF timetables using gPDF and Google Docs in Firefox and Chrome

Metro provides digital timetables for each of its 191 bus routes and 5 rail lines in the PDF format. While PDF is a universally accepted format, and an accessible one at that, I find PDF documents to be a bit disruptive when browsing for vital information – like timetables – on the web.

Metro’s web and operations teams are currently in the process of creating HTML timetables – timetables that can be viewed in your browser like any other web page – for Metro.net, but until the conversion is complete we’re stuck with PDF’s. The good new is that there’s a solution for users who’d rather view timetables in their web browsers rather than going through the hassle of downloading PDF timetables and opening them with a separate program. Continue reading