Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 31

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Shouldn’t Metro know how many people are riding for free? (L.A. Times) 

The editorial follows the LAT news story earlier this week about fare evasion — rail ridership estimates had 115 million boardings last year while the number of ‘taps’ recorded was 70 million. The difference is made up of people who didn’t pay fares or who had passes on TAP cards but didn’t tap them as required. Excerpt that sums up the issue well:

The amount of money Metro loses to fare evasion is most likely small compared with its operating budget — fares cover only about 26% of the cost of the rides. Officials want to raise ticket prices in the coming years to bring that number up to about 33% of the cost. But the widespread perception of fare evasion undermines public confidence in the agency and makes it harder for Metro to convince riders and taxpayers that it needs more money.

Sharrows: a primer (Orange20Bikes) 

As the headlines suggests, this is a good primer on those lane markings that show cyclists where to ride and inform motorists that bikes are to be expected in a lane. Long-time readers know that I’m not really fond of them as I think they’re mostly a good way to make it look like you’re doing something when you’re doing nothing. This blog post sort of agrees, pointing out that cities like them for that very reason (and they’re cheap) while also pointing out some research shows that sharrows tend to prompt motorists to give cyclists a bit more room and they attract a few more cyclists on roads where they’re present. That hasn’t been my experience when cycling on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, although the sharrows are pretty faded — last time I bothered to notice them.

Speaking of bikes…

LAPD: No public record found that bike lanes delay emergency response times (Streetsblog L.A.)

In response to a public records request, the LAPD found no documents or studies showing that bike lanes slow down police or emergency vehicles. The request stemmed from an ongoing dispute in Northeast L.A. about a city plan to put bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. As it turns out, response times in that part of the city are already slower than elsewhere — but there’s no actual proof that the bike lanes would slow things down any further.

New LADOT G.M. enthusiastically accepts management challenge (The Planning Report) 

Good interview with Seleta Reynolds, the new chief of the city of Los Angeles’ transportation department, which oversees DASH buses, bike lane construction and traffic signals. She worked previously in San Francisco. I thought what she had to say about walking was interesting. Excerpt:

One of the most telling things that I’ve taken away from projects I’ve done was during a study in Spokane Washington. We asked people why they wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood. “Well, I like walking.” You ask them, “Why is that? What is it about walking that’s important?” They would give you answers like, “I might run into my neighbor along the way”; “You don’t know what you’ll see”; “Something unexpected or interesting might happen”; “I don’t experience the city in the same way when I’m in my car”; “It also offers an opportunity to unplug and interact with people in my household.”

Social interactions that strengthen neighborhoods and even can strengthen the resiliency of a community to recover after a disaster are improved if you offer people the opportunity to walk or bike to get around. Making those modes a real option for trips that are less than a mile for walking or one-to-three miles for biking is important for a huge variety of reasons. That’s what I’m interested in from an active transportation perspective. That’s where the opportunities are.

Well put. Everyone I know loves to talk about some city they visited where you could walk everywhere or there were lovely places to walk. Yet, there isn’t as much clamoring for that on the home front. It will be interesting to see what Reynolds can do, especially given that zoning is controlled by the city’s planning department and the City Council has last say on everything — and often exercises that right.

Is Reynolds the antidote to L.A.’s defeatist attitude on transportation? (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Speaking of the new LADOT chief, Damien Newton writes that hiring someone from outside L.A. to run the city’s transportation department was probably a wise move. Damien also says arguments otherwise — that L.A. is too unique and thus needs one of its own — amount to big pile of bunk. Excerpt:

For some reason, people that live and drive in Los Angeles have sat through so many traffic jams that they have come to believe that idling in endless traffic is a natural phenomenon.  They also believe a harmful corollary: that things that have worked in other areas to make people’s commutes better will not work in Los Angeles. Because “this is Los Angeles.”

It’s the reverse of exceptionalism.

Because over the last six and a half years, we’ve heard that Los Angeles, and Angelenos are so enamored with our vehicles that we will never be able to walk, much less ride a bike or ride transit, even though wild dogs can learn to ride transit. Following the passage of Measure R, many are starting to accept that transit is a viable option in Los Angeles, although the anti-transit theory it still pops up in some cities on the Westside.

Nowadays, we hear some mix of theories from “smart growth won’t work in Southern California,” to “road diets won’t work in Southern California” to “people won’t bicycle in Southern California.” These sort of self-defeating prophecies sap the energy out of transportation reformers, jade community activists, and generally have a corrosive impact on those seeking to make our streets safe for everyone.

Concur. The only thing unique about L.A. is that we have better Mexican food and an arguably better climate that some of other sprawling metropolises around the planet.

Motorized roller skates: from fiction to reality (BBC)

Speeds up to 12 miles per hour! They run on electricity and look easy to step in and out of. Tilt foot forward, they go. Tilt foot back, they stop. So says the manufacturer.

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 helps 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 .

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.

  

  

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, Monday, December 2

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Ridership discrepancy calls Metro’s estimation method into question (L.A. Times)

The article ponders the difference between Metro’s traditional way of estimating ridership and new data generated by the latched turnstiles at entrances to Red and Purple Line stations. The traditional ridership estimates have been running significantly higher than the turnstile counts since gates begun to be latched in June.

Metro officials say that the turnstile data is preliminary and not yet complete enough to serve as a substitute for ridership data. As for ridership, officials say the traditional estimates seem to be capturing trends on the subway and that the methodology behind those estimates is approved by the Federal Transit Administration.

Speed is cited as possible cause of deadly train crash in the Bronx (New York Times) 

No official word yet on the cause of the Metro North commuter train derailment just north of Manhattan on Sunday morning that killed four passengers and critically injured 11.

The speed limit along the curved stretch of track next to the Hudson River is 30 miles per hour and officials suggested Monday that the train was going faster; no one knows why. The NYT quotes an anonymous source saying the engineer told emergency workers he had to quickly apply the brakes.

Metro North’s Hudson Valley Line remains closed. It has been a difficult year for Metro North; two of its trains on the New Haven Line collided in May, injuring 70, and a railroad worker was struck and killed by a train in late spring.

More states raise taxes to pay for transportation (Kansas City Star) 

With Congress log-jammed, states and local governments are increasingly willing to raise taxes to pay for transportation improvements. Conservative groups are grumbling and may challenge some of the tax hikes, but politicians from both parties are finding that improving infrastructure is popular with voters.

In other words, the closer the politicians live to the actual people and land they govern, the more responsive they are.

Why mass transit is doomed in America: politicians don’t know people who use it (Salon) 

Race, class, fear and shame: transit barriers (KCET)

Two good semi-related articles. At KCET, long-time transit rider D.J. Waldie looks at some recent studies and articles that suggest the so-called ‘car bias’ remains strong and is preventing people from trying transit — even when transit may save them time and money. The big problem, as Waldie writes, is that new policies are encouraging denser developments near transit which may end up housing people who still won’t take the bus or train. Hmmm. No, make that a double hmmm.

At Salon, writer Alex Pareene gets grumpy on the fact that politicians in New York — which should be the most transit-friendly state in the nation owing to the Big Apple — consistently find ways to steer money away from transit.

But it’s not just a New York problem, Pareene writes before delivering a big-time spanking to Minneapolis and Atlanta. And then he finishes up his article with this eternally glorious paragraph which made the Source smile and then smile again:

Just about the only place where there seems to be hope for mass transit in America is, bizarrely enough, Los Angeles, where the system is currently in the process of growing and improving. Why there, of all places? Maybe because while Los Angeles politicians are as unlikely to ride buses and trains as politicians anywhere else, they do have a personal stake in seeing other drivers get the hell off the road.

Transportation headlines, Monday, November 18

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ART OF TRANSIT: My somewhat less-than-cheery view of fall colors in downtown L.A. What can I say? I get grump-grump on Fridays!

N.H.T.S.A reports higher traffic deaths (New York Times) 

The lead really sums it up:

More people died on United States roads in 2012 than in 2011, according to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motorcyclist and pedestrian deaths each increased for the third year in a row, and deaths of bicyclists reached the highest level in six years. Over all, however, traffic deaths continue to be at historic lows.

Fatalities in 2011 were at their lowest level since 1949. The 2012 increase could not be attributed to Americans driving more, because motorists drove nearly the same number of miles in 2012 as they did in 2011, according to the report. Highway deaths increased to 33,561 in 2012, according to the safety agency’s 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System, known as FARS. That is 1,082 – or 3.3 percent – more than the 2011 figure. The majority of the increase occurred in the first quarter of 2012, which the report notes was the warmest in history.

There’s a lot of chilling news in just two paragraphs; I’m sure everyone would like to know what is happening on the motorcycle, pedestrian and cycling fronts (on cycling, I’m guessing perhaps more people are biking).

The last sentence threw me for a loop, too. I expected it to say colder than usual — i.e. perhaps accidents were weather related. In fact, it may be the other way around. Warmer temps meant perhaps that more people were on the road driving not as carefully as they should.

Metro gate rail problem lets cheaters ride for free (L.A. Times) 

The headline is misleading. The article is a look at Metro’s plans to install and latch gates at 41 of Metro’s 80 stations, including the entire subway and many of the busiest stops. The remaining stops are not getting gates because of lack of space (think platforms in the middle of the tracks) or the expense involved. At the stations with no gates, passengers are expected to tap their TAP cards (this is the so-called problem in the headline) and those who fail to tap can be cited by Sheriff’s Deputies. County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky published a similar article about this issue back in September.

Ed P. Reyes River Greenway on the verge of opening for business (L.A. Streetsblog)

Nice look at the new 1.15-acre park adjacent to the 5 freeway, Los Angeles River and Gold Line tracks named after former L.A. Councilman Ed Reyes, a champion of making the river look like, well, a river. Gold Line riders have been able to watch the work progress over the past year; the park is on the east side of the river and south side of the tracks. Another six-acre park is planned on the old Albion Dairy site on the eastern bank of the river between Spring and Albion streets. Slowly but surely, the river is getting some green space.

And it can definitely use it — here’s a nice pic from Simon Oh posted to Instagram and looking south from the 1st Street Bridge:

Making connections on a trapped subway train (NPR)

Very nice story about Paquita Williams, a subway conductor and 15-year veteran of the New York Subway. Excerpt:

With the power out, Paquita walked the length of the train, comforting nervous passengers. That made a real impression on Laura. “You really made everybody on that train connect,” Laura says. “We all started talking with each other like human beings. And we left the train and somebody was like, ‘Let’s do this again tomorrow morning.’

Go to the above link to listen to the segment — it only runs about two minutes.