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 .

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.

Transportation headlines, Friday, October 18

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ART OF TRANSIT: A Red/Purple Line subway car in Metro’s maintenance shop. From our Instagram feed.

BART workers go on strike (San Francisco Chronicle) 

After a long negotiation on Thursday, talks broke down and workers walked out at 12:01 a.m. today, leaving tens of thousands of Bay Area workers to find other ways to reach work. While unions representing workers agreed to contribute four percent of their pay toward their pensions and contribute more to their health insurance costs, BART and workers couldn’t agree on a schedule or percentage for pay increases.

Perhaps most interesting, they also couldn’t agree on changes to work rules that BART officials said hindered their ability to run the rail system efficiently and unions said protected their rights. In particular, BART wants station managers to file reports by email, deliver pay stubs electronically and more flexibility to add or reduce service and worker hours. Unions objected to those.

BART connects San Francisco to cities south along the San Francisco Peninsula and to the many communities in the East Bay, including (most prominently) Oakland. Some charter buses are ferrying commuters, but others are out of luck or are driving. Traffic is bad and it doesn’t sound like a deal between BART and its workers is close.

Metro locks in more revenue (ZevWeb) 

Good article on the impact of gate latching on the Red/Purple Lines. The upshot: revenues from fares on the subway increased in September by 40 percent over last May before the gates were latched. If that pattern holds — key word ‘if’ — Metro could see a gain of $6 million in revenues annually from the subway. Of course, revenues are not the same as profit.

Excerpt:

Fare evaders are now unable to freely enter the system and, for the most part, have moved on to other modes of travel, Sutton said, giving paying customers a better ride by improving their security and safety—and by opening up a little more elbow room.

Even with the gates latched, some committed scofflaws will always find ways to game the system, Sutton said. About 19,000 people entered the subway without paying in September, using a variety of tricks or blatantly jumping the gates. Metro is in the process of tweaking the new system to make fare evasion more difficult, and the Sheriff’s Department is issuing citations to catch those who squeeze through.

Nonetheless,  in most places the system is working well. During one morning rush hour this week, transit patrons streamed through the gates at the North Hollywood station, tapping in succession as they rushed to catch the next train. At ticket vending machines, fare purchases were made swiftly, with no long lines forming.

Overall, I think this is a positive for the agency. Metro is hardly alone among agencies battling fare evasion; it’s good to see progress here is being made.

Suggestions for Metro: TVM software updates (Steven White: The Accidental Urbanist) 

Steven follows up on his post earlier this month about Metro’s ongoing efforts to make instructions easier to understand on ticket vending machines. This time around, Steven shows some ideas that he thinks would make instructions explicitly clear — and finally terminate the confusion over which (if any) buttons patrons are supposed to press.

He also has a few other ideas on how to make information clear to everyone:

Also, on the printed banner for the top of the machine, Metro could clarify the text and fare explanations. The design they’re currently working on says “Stored Value: Metro 1-Ride, $1.50″ which is a strange way of saying “the fare is $1.50 every time you board.” It would be much clearer to write

METRO FARES
Standard: $1.50 per boarding (no transfers included).
Reduced Fare (Seniors, Disabled & Medicare): Peak Hours $0.55 per boarding, Off-Peak Hours $0.25 per boarding
Valid passes also accepted.

STORED VALUE
Available in amounts $1.50 and higher

METRO PASSES
1-Day Pass: $5
7-Day Pass: $20
30-Day Pass: $75

With these clarifications of both text and design, I think the new TVM updates will make a huge positive difference. Buying a pass is often the most confusing step for Metro riders, and this will help ease that process greatly. Of course, feel free to leave additional comments or suggestions below.

Kudos for Steven to take the time to mull over this stuff. It may not be the most fascinating thing in the world, but ticket machines are the first point of contact for thousands of people new to the Metro system. And that first contact should be as good as possible; not a War of the Worlds type scenario.

Streetsblog LA’s Damien Newton: Everyone on the road breaks the law (L.A. Times)

Damien ventures into the belly of the beast — i.e. the Times newsroom — for a video interview with editorial writer and avowed motorist Carla Hall over biking in L.A. Damien is both predictably articulate and well dressed as Carla asks him questions about the cyclist/motorist conflicts. From the accompanying article:

He doesn’t care if you’re on a bike; he cares that you stop thinking of bicyclists as an odd nuisance — and stop framing the debate as “drivers vs. bicyclists”:

“The subtext is ‘We need to get along with these weirdos, because they’re out there.’ ”

It helps his message that he’s not particularly weird himself. He’s 36, married to an engineer and a father of two small children. He cheers the new state law requiring drivers to stay three feet away from bicyclists, but he’s not going to be the purist with a yardstick attached to his bike to make sure motorists are observing the law.

My three cents: sure, there are cyclists who break the law or do stupid things. But….please. Motorists literally get away with murder or almost murder every single day in this region. Cars running red lights, not stopping for crosswalks, tailgating, speeding, weaving, driving drunk — these are all things that are commonplace because enforcement is light or non-existent. Meanwhile, over the past century, the L.A. region was paved nearly from head-to-toe often with only regard to the car and not the pedestrian or the cyclist. And thus my response when I hear someone in a car complain that a cyclist or walker is slowing them down: BOO HOO!

TODAY’S TIMEWASTER: 

The L.A. Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals play at the L.A. Coliseum in 1959. There’s about an hour of footage starting with the beginning of the game.

Three-month progress report on gate latching shows increased revenue for Red/Purple Line

A three-month report on the progress of gate latching and the TAP fare media on the Red/Purple Line subway will be presented to a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) board committee Thursday, including preliminary data showing that more people are paying the proper fare, resulting in increased revenue for Metro.

Sixteen gates on the Red/Purple Line subway were latched between June 19 and August 5 this past summer.

“The increase in revenue during the study period indicates that passengers holding valid fare are tapping and riders who previously were not paying had bought TAP cards and fare or stopped using the Red/Purple Line subway altogether,” said David Sutton, Deputy Executive Officer. “Increased revenue to the Red/Purple Line may be as high as $6 million per year, which could offset additional costs of installing the system.”

Sutton stressed that while this is an encouraging sign, data from a three month sample isn’t enough to verify a trend in terms of more revenue or previous rates of fare evasion.  “When latching is completed on the light rail system we will be able to compile a larger sample to help tell us the level of success of latching the gates,” Sutton said.

Gate latching at five Gold Line stations was completed on September 16. Latching is scheduled to be completed for six Blue Line stations by Dec. 9 and 14 Green Line stations by January 13, 2014.

Gate latching and the use of the TAP fare media are integral to the development of a seamless, regional transit network.

Metro, Metrolink, Access Services and nine municipal transit systems are currently on the TAP network. By the end of 2014, 26 operators will recognize TAP as fare media. TAP is the largest and most successful smartcard fare media in North America with 1.2 million passes sold monthly. TAP is used for 22 million boardings per month and is accepted on at least 3,800 buses in the region.

Transportation headlines, Friday, September 27

em>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!

ART OF TRANSIT: The Gold Line, via our Instagram page.

Gate latching hits a roadblock (ZebWeb)

Good story. Here’s the top:

L.A.’s subway system has locked its gates and finally moved past an honor system that’s been in place for more than two decades. But it’s a different story at dozens of Metro light rail stations, which usually have stand-alone fare-card readers but no barriers to entry.

David Sutton, Metro’s deputy executive officer in charge of the gate-latching project, said that won’t change any time soon. Last week, in response to a July motion from several members of the Board of Directors, Sutton and his team released a report on the feasibility of installing lockable turnstiles on Phase 1 of Expo Line and at future stations throughout the expanding rail system.

“We’re not going to be able to lock them all,” Sutton said. “Some of the stations just don’t lend themselves to gates because of the space available and the cost.”

[snip]

Some stations on the light rail system are already equipped with turnstiles, and their latching is slated for completion by February, Sutton said. On the Gold Line, the 5 out of 21 stations with turnstiles were latched earlier this month. Next up is the Blue Line, where 6 of 21 stations are scheduled to be latched in December, followed by all 14 stations of the elevated Green Line.

Along all Metro’s light rail routes, there currently are 41 stations where customers can enter without a barrier requiring payment, including the entire first phase of Expo Line. Sutton and his team examined the possibility of installing barriers at all non-gated light rail stations and have identified 13 for further analysis.

For those interested in this issue, please read the entire article. There’s a lot of info in there, including a good nugget about ticket sales rising on the Red/Purple Lines in August.

Legislature OKs CEQA changes (The Independent)

A bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown that includes some gentle changes to state law governing how big projects are studied and what kind of lawsuits can be filed against them. The changes deal in part with parking for infill projects in urban areas with more than 50,000 people. The Legislature’s intention is to make it easier for projects to be built and studied; we’ll see if it works out that way.

Roads kill map (Pulitzer Center)

The map shows the rate of road deaths in countries across the globe. Among the worst: Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand and Venezuela, all with more than 30 deaths per one million residents.

 

Metro Rail gate latching proceeding faster than expected; five Gold Line gates to be latched in mid-September

Latching of gates on the Metro Red/Purple Lines was completed August 5, 2013, three weeks ahead of schedule, meaning latching can proceed on the Metro Gold Line without delay. The first gates were latched on the Red/Purple Lines at Union Station on June 19, 2013.

Five Gold Line stations will be latched on Monday, September 16, two in East Los Angeles at Mariachi Plaza and Soto Street and three stations in Pasadena at Sierra Madre Villa, Allen Avenue and Lake Avenue. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) will staff the stations one week prior to latching through Monday, September 30, 2013 to ensure safety and to alert passengers of the schedule for latching.

New floor decals in distinctive yellow colors will be installed soon on the walls and floors near turnstiles with the slogan “TAP is Your Ticket.”

TAP is a universal fare system used by Metro Rail, Metro’s 2,000 buses and 10 other municipal transit agencies. Metrolink has its own TAP-enabled card that permits Metrolink passengers to transfer to Metro Rail with no extra charge. TAP allows passengers to transfer seamlessly to another carrier without having to fumble for change or figure out what a particular carrier charges. In addition, TAP provides up-to-date passenger data so service can be adjusted for demand, if needed.

TAP can be purchased at TAP vending machines at all Metro Rail stations, at nearly 500 retail outlets including many Ralphs markets and participating check cashing services. A TAP card can be reloaded and reused. TAP can be purchased online at http://www.taptogo.net and it can be registered so that if a TAP card is lost or stolen the card and remaining value can be returned.

The original schedule called for Sierra Madre Villa, Allen and Lake Stations to be latched on Monday, October 14, 2013 with Mariachi Plaza and Soto Stations scheduled to latch the following week on Monday, October 21, 2013.