Transportation headlines, Monday, July 28

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And 30 years ago today…

So how many people are paying to ride? (L.A. Times) 

This article about fare evasion, turnstiles and ridership estimates is generating a lot of discussion on our Twitter feed. The story looks at the sometimes wide discrepancy between Metro’s ridership estimates and data from the TAP system. The problem is that ridership is more than the TAP numbers, suggesting that the difference consists of people either not paying to ride and those who have paid but aren’t tapping. But pinpointing the number who are evading fares has proven difficult.

Excerpt:

Reducing fare jumping as much as possible has become increasingly important to Metro, which is under pressure to boost ticket revenue as its rail network rapidly expands. Income from fares covers just 26% of Metro’s bus and rail system operating expenses, one of the lowest rates of any major world city. That ratio must increase in the next few years or the agency risks losing crucial federal funding needed to continue building and operating the train network.

Metro has responded by raising fares, starting in September, with more hikes proposed for coming years.

In addition to fare hikes, some elected officials are asking the agency to examine other ways to bring in more revenue. And they are taking note of the disparities between Metro’s ridership estimates and the numbers of tickets being counted at rail stations.

“They owe it to you and to anybody else who’s interested to explain the difference,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Metro board member, who says it’s still too easy to get on trains without paying.

 

Those four graphs frame the issue. It’s a considerably longer article accompanied by some interesting graphics. Please read if you’re interested in the issue.

As the article mentions, there is some evidence that increased fare enforcement and latching the turnstiles present in half of the Metro Rail stations might be having an effect. I also think it’s important to remind everyone that paying fares helps keep the system running and that it’s important for everyone to always tap when boarding a Metro bus or train. That will help riders avoid potentially costly citations and also help Metro because having better ridership data will also help the agency better plan future service and projects.

Metro picks Skanska venture to build first phase of subway extension (L.A. Times) 

A look at some of the issues in play in the Metro Board’s decision last Thursday to award a $1.6-billion construction contract to build the first phase of the Purple Line Extension between Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega. Metro did not pick the low-bidder price-wise and instead selected a contractor — in this case, Skanksa, Traylor and Shea — based on a variety of criteria including price, project management and technical approach.

Metro July meeting recap: subway, SRTP, active transpo and more (Streetsblog LA)

A good recap and analysis of the many issues tackled by the Metro Board at their meeting last Thursday. Streetsblog has been keeping an eye on the short-range plan and funding for pedestrian and bike projects. As Joe Linton notes, the short-range plan approved by the Metro Board is being seen by some as a “casting call” for a potential 2016 ballot measure and thus the interest in particular projects.

Gold Line on schedule, on budget for Azusa extension (L.A. Register) 

A progress report on one of the Measure R-funded projects, the 11.5-mile extension of the Gold Line from eastern Pasadena to the Azusa/Glendora border with six new stations along the way — and considerable development opportunities near the tracks and stations. Construction continues to progress well and is on schedule to be completed by next September, when the process would begin of handing the line over to Metro and testing. Metro is currently forecasting opening the line in early 2016.

Mayor sets out to transform L.A. streets through ‘urban acupuncture’ (L.A. Times) 

A deeper look at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s initiative to transform sections of 15 streets in the city — one per council district — into more walkable, bike-friendly and transit-friendly streets  to encourage residents to eat, shop and play locally instead of driving to distant points in the L.A. megalopolis.

As the article notes, there will be hurdles to cross and this type of effort has been tried in the past. Most notably, some residents say don’t necessarily want streets that will slow down their journey to the nearest freeway.

My hunch is that zoning regulations spelled out in local community plans will play a big role in this effort in terms of attracting the type of development — commercial and residential — that could help re-establish a Main Street type feel to some streets .

Transportation headlines, Monday, May 19

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ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

ART OF TRANSIT: The peloton makes its way down Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena on Saturday during Stage 7 of the Tour of California. Two nearby Gold Line stations helped bring crowds to see the end of the stage. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Riding the Metro (L.A. Register) 

A reporter with the new L.A. Register takes a few rides on Metro Rail and then compares it to the D.C. Metro before lobbing a few questions at Metro CEO Art Leahy. Some interesting observations about the difference in fare evasion on the two systems.

Fare dodging is an organized rebellion in Stockholm, and it’s winning (New York Times) 

Proof that fare evasion is a problem that many other transit agencies grapple with. In this case, an organized group in Stockholm asks members to pay a fee and then skip paying fares; the group then covers the cost of citations that members receive for fare evasion. It’s a growing problem and Stockholm Metro officials say three percent of riders aren’t paying fares, costing the agency $36 million annually.

Gas tax hits rock bottom in 10 states (Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)

The purchasing power of the gas tax in 10 states is at a new all-time low. Why? The gas tax in those states hasn’t changed in many years, while inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the money collected. California isn’t on the list. The gas tax here is 18 cents per gallon and hasn’t changed since 1990. Here’s a recent L.A. Times story about mileage taxes versus gas taxes.

North Figueroa bike lanes: public safety reps against public safety project (Streetsblog L.A.) 

A proposal to install bike lanes along Figueroa in northeast Los Angeles is getting mixed reviews. The city’s transportation department included the lanes in its bike lane plan dating to 2010 but public safety officials have expressed concern the lanes could slow emergency vehicle response times. Streetsblog’s response: the bike lanes are a project to improve road safety. Interesting debate.

Gates to be latched on Wednesday at Green Line’s Avalon station

metro-map-green-line

On Wednesday May 7, 2014, at 6 a.m., Metro will latch the Avalon station of the Metro Green Line. 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) will provide advance notification and customer assistance at the station from Monday, May 5th through Tuesday May 6th between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 6 p.m.  

4635711513_f6a6630bb1_zMetro Green Line stations already latched include Redondo Beach, Douglas, El Segundo, Mariposa, Aviation/LAX, Hawthorne/Lennox, Crenshaw, Vermont/Athens and Harbor Freeway.

Metro plans to latch the four remaining Green Line Stations by the end of this month. All Red/Purple, Blue and Gold Line stations equipped with gates are now latched. Once all latching is completed, 40 of 80 rail stations will be latched; Metro staff are studying whether to add gates at some existing and future rail stations. 

Once gates are latched, turnstiles will not allow a rider to enter the station unless a TAP card with an appropriate fare has been tapped at the gate. 

Gate latching begins this week on the Green Line

The next step to secure gates on the Metro Rail system begins this week at the Green Line’s Crenshaw, Vermont/Athens and Harbor Freeway stations with gates scheduled to be latched Wednesday, April 9. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies are assigned to the stations from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. through April 11 to provide advance notice and to assist patrons.

Metro Green Line stations at Redondo Beach, Douglas, El Segundo, Mariposa, Aviation/LAX and Hawthorne/Lennox stations already have gates that are latched. Metro plans to latch the five remaining Green Line Stations by the end of May. When this phase of latching is complete, 41 of 80 Metro Rail stations will be latched and Metro staff are exploring adding gates at some of the remaining stations. 

Gate latching requires passengers to use a TAP card loaded with an appropriate fare to pass through turnstiles at rail stations. TAP helps to strengthen security and fare enforcement and is utilized as fare media on 11 transportation providers including Metro, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation LADOT), Access, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Gardena, Foothill, Norwalk, Montebello, Santa Clarita and Torrance.

Metrolink has its own TAP-enabled tickets that allow Metrolink riders to transfer to Metro Rail at no additional cost. A total of 26 carriers are scheduled to be part of TAP by the end of this year, helping to create a more seamless and regional transit system.

Metro and its transit partners have been rolling out TAP for several years and Metro is monitoring TAP’s progress to determine its impact on fare evasion. The LASD and civilian security personnel provide added security on board trains and buses, as well as at transit facilities and stations. They randomly check patrons on trains and stations using electronic fare checkers to ensure proper payment is made.

  

  

Video and new staff report on combating fare evasion on the Orange Line

Above is a brief and concise reminder from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to remember to tap your TAP card at the validator at Metro Rail and Orange Line stations. Even if a valid fare is loaded. If you don’t and you’re caught, you’ll likely receive a citation, usually for $75

Hey, let’s do the math on this!!!

Citation = $75

Fare = $1.50

$75 minus $1.50 = $73.50

Paying $73.50 more than you need to ride the bus…perhaps not the wisest investment you could make :)

UPDATE: A reader wisely suggested we include some information on why Metro requires riders to TAP. The reason: it prevents abuse of TAP cards, namely from people who load cash or passes on their cars but never actually use the cards — meaning they’re riding for free.

Below is the latest Metro staff report on the issue of increasing fare enforcement along the Orange Line, where two audits on two days this past December found fare evasion rates of 22 percent and 16 percent, respectively. A number of options are listed, including installation of gates, creating ‘virtual’ gates with arrays of TAP validators, more signage and even video surveillance.

Metro Rail gate latching continues this week

Gate latching on the Metro Rail system continues this week as the Mariposa, Aviation and Hawthorne stations on the Green Line are schedule to be latched on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 6 a.m. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies are providing advance notification and patron assistance at the three stations beginning today through Friday, March 7 between the hours of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Metro plans to latch the remaining Green Line stations by the end of May. On January 29, the Marine, Douglas and El Segundo Green Line stations were latched. All Metro Red/Purple, Blue and Gold Line stations equipped with gates are now latched. Once all latching is complete, 41 of 80 Metro Rail stations will be latched and turnstiles will not allow entry unless a TAP card with appropriate fare has been tapped at the gate.

TAP is a universal fare media that allows passengers to seamlessly transfer between rail and bus without having to dig into pockets or purses for change. Twelve agencies are currently part of the TAP network including Metro, Metrolink, Los Angeles Department of Transportation (including DASH buses), Access, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Foothill, Gardena, Montebello, Norwalk, Santa Clarita and Torrance.  By the end of 2014, a total of 26 agencies will be part of the TAP network including Long Beach Transit and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, February 26

Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email! And don’t forget, Metro is on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pick your social media poison! 

Nice infographic from Fixr: L.A. has four of the top 10 steepest streets in the country, they say.

Click the image to enlarge
Top 10 US steepest streets
Via fixr structural engineering cost guide

Metro takes aim at Orange Line fare evaders (Daily News)

Coverage of yesterday’s media event as part of an effort to lower fare evasion on the Orange Line. Excerpt:

“LA Metro is one of the best buys around, with one of the lowest fares in North America,” said Art Leahy, chief executive of Metro, at a Tuesday news conference. “But we have to pay the bills … so we need people to pay their fare.”

The two-pronged plan focuses on educating riders on how to pay for their fare through added signs at stations and public service announcements on on-board televisions as well as stepped-up enforcement through hefty $75 citations at each of the 18 stations between North Hollywood and Chatsworth.

The Orange Line is particularly vulnerable to fare evasion because, unlike many underground stations in the Metro system, there are no access gates and money is not collected by drivers when riders board a bus, officials and riders said. Instead, passengers purchase or reload a reusable card at self-service kiosks and then must tap the card at a separate free-standing collection machine that deducts the amount needed for a one-way ride, a process some riders say is confusing.

Bottom line: it’s good to see enforcement stepping up. Running transit is expensive and lost revenue ultimately costs riders the service improvements they would like to see.

Cycling on the edge: dodging cars and potholes (L.A. Times) 

Smart opinion article by Paul Thornton who puts it on the record: many of the bike lanes striped by the city of Los Angeles in recent times are also riddled with potholes. That gives cyclists a not-so-fun choice: slam into a pothole and possibly wreck or veer into adjacent traffic lanes and potentially wreck. The challenge is that another city department — the Bureau of Street Services — are responsible for paving streets. My three cents: a lot of the bike lanes in the city of L.A. were done in a rush in order to reach mileage goals prior to mid-July 2013 — and that means there wasn’t always attention to detail.

A Los Angeles primer: Union Station (KCET)

Nice essay about Union Station includes this paragraph:

For all its timeless appeal and admirably vigorous upkeep, Union Station nevertheless suffers a faint but persistent underlying sense of dereliction, or at least uncleanliness. (Sometimes I visit and feel it has finally gone, but then I enter the restrooms too far between janitorial shifts.) One recently attempted solution to the most visible affliction of this or any public space — that of lingering indigent — involved removing most of the seating and cordoning off the rest for ticketed passengers, a measure desperate enough to signal a potentially unsolvable problem. But do airports do much better? Located so far from their cities’ centers and subject to such complicated entry procedures, most never have to face this sort of challenge in the first place. One trip through LAX, though, makes you realize the great advantage of Union Station and its predecessors across America, no matter how neglected: when you walk out of them, you walk straight into downtown.

I think the station is mostly clean, but I agree the restrooms could see some improvement. The issue there is there are only two sets of them, neither very large for the crowds the station sees. As for “straight into downtown,” well…sort of. It’s more straight into the edge of downtown — one reason I’d love to see more development in the northern part of downtown and especially the Civic Center area.

Also, shout out to post author Colin Marshall for his black-and-white photographs.

Two major transit projects break ground in San Bernardino (San Bernardino Sun) 

One project will extend Metrolink service to the University of Redlands, the other will construct a new transit center in San Bernardino that serves area bus lines and Metrolink. Officials say the projects are badly needed as traffic in the Inland Empire is a complete mess. In other words, officials are now trying to cope with the consequence of all those sprawling housing developments they have approved over the years.

Utah makes Google Glass app for bus riders (Salt Lake City Tribune)

The Utah Transit Authority has made a version of its bus-and-train schedule app that will work with Google Glass, although there are (thankfully) still few people wearing the geekware around. I still have a hard time believing anyone would be so amazingly stupid or addicted to the internet that they would need to have a screen on their glasses and if I have a vote, I say no Metro apps for these folks. They can check their phones like the rest of us!

Metro and LASD target fare evasion on the Orange Line

Sheriff's Deputies are cracking down on fare evasion along the Orange Line. Remember to both load fares on your card and tap the card at the validator before boarding the bus! Photo by Paul Gonzalez/Metro.

Sheriff’s Deputies are cracking down on fare evasion along the Orange Line. Remember to both load fares on your card and tap the card at the validator before boarding the bus! Photo by Paul Gonzalez/Metro.

Here’s the news release from Metro:

To reduce fare evasion on the Orange Line, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Transit Services Bureau (TSB) have joined in a two-pronged effort to improve communication and enforce laws requiring riders to buy fare and use TAP cards when riding the Metro system.

New signs are being designed for all 18 Metro Orange Line stations directing riders to tap their TAP cards at validators to deduct appropriate fare. Also, Sheriff’s patrols have beefed up on the popular bus line that runs 18 miles between the North Hollywood Red Line subway station and Chatsworth and Woodland Hills. The Orange Line is a bus service that operates on an exclusive busway like a light rail line, therefore, there are no fare boxes on board and passengers must tap fare cards when entering each station. The Orange Line has about 30,000 weekday boardings.

“In recent enforcement audits we found that a majority of our passengers tap their cards and pay the fare when they enter stations, but an alarming number riders were not paying and a surprising number of people appear to be unclear about when and where to tap their fare cards,” said LASD Commander Michael Claus of the TSB. “Our new signs will direct passengers where to tap and we’ve added a new instructional video to Transit TV indicating that failure to tap may result in a citation and fine.”

Metro conducted three audits on the Orange Line in December and February. The first audit on December 3, 2013 at the North Hollywood, Sherman Way and Van Nuys stations found that 22 percent of Orange Line riders evaded the fare by not having a valid TAP card or enough cash balance on the TAP card to ride the bus. In addition, 9 percent of riders with activated TAP cards and a valid pass did not tap before entering, which is considered misuse of the TAP card and not fare evasion. A second audit conducted December 17, 2013 at the North Hollywood, Canoga and Reseda stations found 16 percent of riders evaded fares and 6 percent TAP misuse. A third audit on February 11, 2014 at the North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Canoga stations found 7 percent of riders evaded fares and 5 percent misuse of TAP.

“There is no excuse for breaking the law and trying to ride for free. The Metro Board has authorized many reduced fare programs for seniors, students, persons with disabilities and Medicare recipients,” said Metro CEO Art Leahy. “Metro fares are among the lowest in the United States. Our riders pay only 26 percent of the cost of operating our expanding service leading to a projected budget gap that, if left unaddressed, threatens the quality of service we provide.”

The base fare for Metro buses and Metro Rail is $1.50, but because of the wide availability of reduced fare programs, the average fare paid is 70 cents. Learn more about Metro reduced fares at metro.net/riding/fares/reduced-fares/

TAP is a universal fare system that includes 12 regional and municipal transit carriers in Los Angeles County. By the end of 2014, 26 agencies will be a part of TAP including Long Beach Transit and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, meaning there will be, for the first time, a seamless regional transit system in which riders can tap to enter and not have to count out change to transfer. In addition to accurate fare recovery, TAP also monitors flow of passengers allowing Metro to tailor service to demand.

Stay informed by following us on The Source and El Pasajero at metro.net, facebook.com/losangelesmetro, twitter.com/metrolosangeles and twitter.com/metroLAalerts and instagram.com/metrolosangeles.

Metro enforcement cuts Orange Line fare evasion

Fare evasion has fallen sharply on the Orange Line since December and beefed up enforcement is credited with a 45 percent increase in the number of riders who pay fares and tap their TAP cards at validators before boarding the bus, according to Metro officials.

Metro conducted three fare enforcement audits on the Orange Line in December and February.

The first — on December 3  at the North Hollywood, Sherman Way and Van Nuys stations — found that 22 percent of Orange Line riders evaded fares by not having a valid TAP card or insufficient cash balance on the card. In addition, nine percent of passengers with an activated TAP card and a valid pass did not tap before entering, which is considered misuse of TAP and not fare evasion. As a result, 445 citations were issued that day.

A second audit was held on Dec. 17 at the North Hollywood, Canoga and Reseda stations. On that day, 16 percent of riders evaded fares and six percent of riders misused their TAP cards and 421 citations written.

A third audit was held February 11 at the North Hollywood, Van Nuys and Canoga stations. On that day, there was a seven percent rate of fare evasion and five percent misuse rate, resulting in 310 citations being issued.

The audits found that some passengers are still unclear about where and when to tap their fare cards. As a result, Metro is developing new posters and signs along with audio and electronic announcements explaining how to use TAP cards. A 30-second, instructional public service announcement about TAP cards is also being made and will be played on Transit TV on Metro buses.

There are about 26,000 boardings on the Orange Line on an average weekday. The Orange Line runs for 18 miles between North Hollywood, Warner Center and the Chatsworth Metrolink station.