Transportation headlines, Tuesday, August 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! 

Jimmy Kimmel wasn’t the only person attending the Emmy Awards on Monday who took Metro to the Nokia Theatre. The above photos were taken at the Pico Station shared by the Blue Line and Expo Line and located one block from Staples Center and L.A. Live. Photos by Josh Southwick/Metro.

Jimmy Kimmel takes the subway to Emmy Awards in downtown L.A. (L.A. Times)

Pretty amazing to see the social media hoo-ha that breaks out when a celeb steps onto mass transit, particularly in a city that (undeservedly, IMO) is not exactly known for its local rail system. That said, it’s a nice shot of free PR for Metro and if Jimmy Kimmel can be an urban pioneer and figure out how to get a TAP card from the ticket machines, so can many others! See our post with his tweets and some reaction from riders.

BART’s early warning earthquake system could have broader applications (San Francisco Appeal)

The system that has been in testing since 2012 provides a 10-second warning that a temblor will occur, which agency officials say is enough time to significantly slow trains to help prevent derailments. Funding a broader system could also help slow motorists, warn surgeons and give just enough time to others to make a difference, say supporters of the system. Seems to me that any kind of warning is better than none.

Reworked projects to bring 320 apartments to the Arts District (Downtown News) 

The development was actually downsized after community members protested that it was too large for the Arts District. If the project near the intersection of Santa Fe Avenue and 7th Street gets built, it’s another big boost in the number of people living in the Arts District — particularly with the large One Santa Fe development nearing completion. Reporter and transit activist Roger Rudick responded to the news on Facebook with this: “If we don’t get that subway station in the Division 20 Yards and 6th Street we’re going to be trapped back here.”

As some folks know, Metro’s subway maintenance yards are along the Los Angeles River in the Arts District — that’s where the trains go when they’re out of service at Union Station. There has been occasional talk over the years about building a platform for the subway in the yards to serve the Arts District. Nothing has happened yet but as the neighborhood grows, I’m guessing there will be more demand for subway service — it could be an easy ride through Union Station to the rest of downtown and beyond — along with some inevitable concerns about the subway bringing too many people into the neighborhood. We’ll see… :)

L.A.’s demand-based parking moving in exactly the right direction (KCET)

City of Los Angeles officials say that their ExpressPark Program in DTLA is resulting in slightly lower average prices and more parking spaces being occupied. There’s some doubt as to whether that’s because of the demand-based system that adjusts meter prices or a reflection of an improving local economy and more people driving downtown. Nonetheless, the system will soon expand to Westwood and it’s the kind of thing that academics such as UCLA’s Donald Shoup have long been advocating.

Lost in America (New York Times)

Columnist Frank Bruni riffs on recent survey results showing that Americans have record low views when it comes to the federal government. More troubling, Bruni writes, is that Americans no longer believe that their children’s generation will fare better than their own, a reversal of a long-held American dream. Excerpt:

And it suggests that this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about fear. It’s about impotence. We can’t calm the world in the way we’d like to, can’t find common ground and peace at home, can’t pass needed laws, can’t build necessary infrastructure, can’t, can’t, can’t.

In the Journal/NBC poll, 60 percent of Americans said that we were a nation in decline. How sad. Sadder still was this: Nowhere in the survey was there any indication that they saw a method or a messenger poised to arrest it.

It’s a tough one. I’m 48 and feels to me that the world has been in some type of turmoil at very regular intervals throughout my life. On the home front, feels to me that most people I know have very little interest or enthusiasm when it comes to Washington D.C.

Take our poll: What do you want/need from Metro’s service alerts?

Why the poll?

As government enters — at times slowly — the 21st Century and its rich mix of social media, government is also learning new ways to talk to the taxpaying public. It’s no longer a one-way conversation, people.

Many of our riders already know that our service alerts tend to focus on service impacts rather than the cause of the impacts. To some degree, that’s going to change. We’re presently trying to develop some basic descriptions to better explain what’s happening on our system and the accompanying impacts to riders.

As we do this, we want to know what’s important for riders. Thus, the above poll. We want to know what you think before we make any changes.

Admittedly, speaking in plain English has been a struggle at times. Here are a couple of recent examples from Metro’s primary Twitter feed:

What these tweets don’t say is that a blind man had fallen on the tracks. He was lucky not to be hit by the train and was being extricated by emergency personnel, thus the understandable delays to subway service. He was called a trespasser because that’s Metro’s existing protocol: anyone on the tracks who shouldn’t be there is considered by the agency to be trespassing.

I am well aware that riders have chafed at times at Metro’s service alerts and the information included and, equally important, not included. Especially now that other government agencies — i.e. the LAFD, LASD and LAPD — and media and riders are often posting info on social media in real time about incidents involving Metro.

Why do agencies withhold some information and have trouble, at times, speaking in plain English? It’s a good question.

I don’t think there is a precise answer, nor do I think Metro is the only agency to struggle with what to say — and what not to say. Rather, I think there has been a mix of issues that boils down to two things: a reluctance to broadcast information that is incomplete, can’t be 100 percent verified, unfairly places blame for an incident or is insensitive to serious, perhaps deadly incidents. And, to be honest, I think there is a natural reluctance at many agencies, including this one, to say anything that might make an agency look bad.

Sometimes, too, there are other more complicated reasons. An agency may not want to give a troubled soul a bad idea — thus the reason we are extremely reluctant to discuss suicide-by-train on Metro’s blog or social media even when media is reporting it. The same goes with security issues: when it comes to rider safety, policing and system security, we often follow the ‘do no harm’ rule and say only what is absolutely necessary.

Thank you for taking the poll and for providing any feedback via comments or social media. I think you’ll be seeing some changes soon that will hopefully be for the better.

Data nerds rejoice! More metro data now available.

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Metro Research launched a new web page on metro.net today. Click here to check it out!

On the new page you can take a quick poll about Metro’s services, sign up for Metro research opportunities and find links to transportation data resources. The page will also be a hub for sharing research data and reports inside and outside the agency.

In addition, results from 10 years of the annual customer satisfaction survey as well as several other surveys and focus groups are available for your perusal.

Reader poll results: Expo Line opening was the big story of 2012!

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The results. Ignore the ‘country’ column — it’s the same as the overall results.

Thanks to everyone who took our poll on the biggest transportation stories in 2012. As the above chart demonstrates, the verdict was pretty clear: the opening of the first phase of the Expo Line was the big to-do in the minds of many readers.

My take on a few of the year’s big storylines:

•Perhaps the biggest overall story of 2012 was the unceasing expansion of transit in Los Angeles County. The first phase of the Expo Line opened, the Orange Line Extension opened, the new El Monte Station opened, the Crenshaw/LAX Line went out to bid, the pace of construction quickened on both the second phase of the Expo Line and the Gold Line Foothill Extension and the environmental studies were completed for the Regional Connector and Westside Subway Extension — with early utility work now underway for both.

Four years after the passage of Measure R, it’s pretty clear that L.A. County is serious about transforming itself and building a transit network to compliment its sprawling road network. It has been a long time coming — and it’s great to see.

Continue reading

Reminder: take our poll on Metro service over the holidays!

 

So far voting hasn’t exactly exploded — although we have more voters than those who voted for Herman Cain in the Iowa caucus!

Please take the time to vote and leave a comment if you would like. It’s a good way to provide feedback to the agency about the all-night rail and Orange Line service that Metro ran over the New Year’s weekend — as well as other Metro service over the holidays.