Transportation headlines, Monday, September 15

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MTA bus and train fares to rise on Monday (L.A. Times)

Transportation reporter Laura Nelson does a good job of breaking down the new fare structure that went into effect earlier today — with the regular fares rising to $1.75 (with two hours of free transfers) and weekly passes now $25 and monthly passes now $100. Please click here for charts showing the new fares as well as a useful Frequently Asked Questions on the fares.

The article also offers useful context about the finances and politics that drove the fare hike. Two key graphs:

Metro staff members estimate that ridership will drop by 3% to 4% during the first six months of the increase, but that fare revenue will grow by $21 million this fiscal year and $28 million in subsequent years.

That will not be enough to correct the agency’s long-term financial problems. Metro analysts have pushed for a series of three fare increases over eight years, saying more income is needed to offset an expected cumulative deficit of $225 million over the next decade. Agency directors approved the fare hike that begins Monday but postponed two subsequent increases proposed for 2017 and 2020, saying they needed more information about the agency’s financial outlook.

The Metro Board earlier this year asked staff to report back on other sources of revenue — so that’s something to keep an eye on. The other question looming over the issue of fares is a possible ballot measure in 2016 and what it may or may not include (no decision has yet been made on the ballot measure or its contents). Measure R did include a temporary fare freeze.

As for the basics on the fare increase, the $1.50 regular fare went up to $1.75 today but now includes two hours of free transfers.

Poll: 68 percent want more transit spending (The Hill)

Speaking of transportation funding, the Mineta Transportation Institute’s poll for the American Public Transportation Assn. shows slightly more Americans want more spent on public transit. Putting aside the not-so-small issue that both groups benefit from more dollars spent on transit, I’m guessing there is significant support in most metropolitan areas in the U.S. for transit. In Los Angeles County, 68 percent is a key number as 66.6 percent of voters are needed to approve transportation ballot measures. Measure R in 2008 was approved with 67.9 percent of the vote and Measure J in 2012 failed with 66.1 percent approval.

LAWA’s Gina Marie Lindsey: investments in LAX continue (The Planning Report) 

The general manager of Los Angeles World Airports — a city of Los Angeles agency — talks about the challenges and difficulties of installing remote baggage check-in at LAX and the automated people mover that will take passengers from the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the airport terminals. While the people mover’s route is pretty much settled outside the terminal horseshoe, Lindsey says the important matter of deciding its route and station locations should be decided within the next few months. Earlier this year, LAX was looking at configurations that included two stations or four stations.

Perris Valley Line taking shape (Press-Enterprise)

Nice to see some progress on the 24-mile extension of the Metrolink line from Riverside into the Perris Valley. Officials say the line is forecast to open near the end of 2015. It’s the first major Metrolink expansion in more than a decade, reports the Press-Enterprise.

Meet Seleta Reynolds, the safe streets advocate running LADOT (Streetsblog LA)

Damien Newton interviews the new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which manages traffic signals and the city’s DASH and Commuter Express buses, among other things. A lot of the conversation focuses on bike policy and Reynolds is mindful to (correctly) remind everyone that the City Council has pretty much the final say in everything.

Guest editorial: urban change in L.A., too little too slow (Streetsblog LA)

Thoughtful article by architect and urban designer Gerhard Mayer. His main point: while L.A. is certainly changing, it’s changing a lot more slowly than other cities and far too much of the city is devoted to roads and/or parking lots. The key paragraph:

L.A.’s land use imbalance is acute. In a “normal” city, only approx. one-fifth of the city’s land is dedicated to transportation. Four-fifths of that city is used for buildings that generate revenue – or for open space. Not in LA; here, as much as 60 percent of our land – three-fifths – is used to accommodate our automobiles. Only two-fifths of LA has buildings that generates revenue to maintain, renew and expand our public services.

Of course, it’s hard to come up with averages like that on such a sprawling city but the statistics sound about right for some parts of the city. I just drove to Oregon and back and L.A. is hardly alone. Driving through Klamath Falls I was struck with a downtown that appeared to be on life support while outside of town, the usual shopping malls with the usual big box stores were surrounded by vast parking lots and a lot of traffic.

Coming to the rescue of riders who drop treasures on the tracks (New York Times) 

Interesting article about the transit workers in the New York subway who use a variety of tools to scoop up belongings that riders have dropped on tracks below the platforms. This includes a bag of blood, a variety of artificial limbs, engagement rings and stuffed animals. Of course, we implore all riders to NEVER try to retrieve such items themselves on our transit system or any other. If you drop something valuable, please contact our Customer Relations department.

Regulator slow to respond to deadly vehicle defects (New York Times) 

A long and deeply reported article that is extremely critical of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The nut graphs:

An investigation by The New York Times into the agency’s handling of major safety defects over the past decade found that it frequently has been slow to identify problems, tentative to act and reluctant to employ its full legal powers against companies.

The Times analyzed agency correspondence, regulatory documents and public databases and interviewed congressional and executive branch investigators, former agency employees and auto safety experts. It found that in many of the major vehicle safety issues of recent years — including unintended acceleration in Toyotas, fires in Jeep fuel tanks and air bag ruptures in Hondas, as well as the G.M. ignition defect — the agency did not take a leading role until well after the problems had reached a crisis level, safety advocates had sounded alarms and motorists were injured or died.

Not only does the agency spend about as much money rating new cars — a favorite marketing tool for automakers — as it does investigating potentially deadly manufacturing defects, but it also has been so deferential to automakers that it made a key question it poses about fatal accidents optional — a policy it is only now changing after inquiries from The Times.

 

The article includes many anecdotes and examples. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach: the agency declines to directly answer many of the Times’ questions, none of which seem unreasonable to ask.

Transportation headlines, Monday, September 23

em>Have a transportation-related article you think should be included in headlines? Drop me an email!

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The Expo Line, from our Instagram stream.

THINGS THAT HAVING NOTHING TO DO WITH TRANSIT BUT I WILL MENTION THEM ANYWAY: “Rush” is one of the better sports movies ever made even if you know nothing about Formula One racing. And Happy Birthday, Bruce Springsteen, who will hopefully bring the E Street Band back to the Expo Line-adjacent Sports Arena next year. The dude is equally awesome in Spanish.

Unauthorized bike lanes created in Midtown (New York Times)

In full view of many pedestrians and motorists, bike activists used paint and stencils on Saturday night and Sunday morning to extend the bike lane on Avenue of the Americas (also known as 6th Avenue) from 42nd Street to 50th Street, the southern boundary of Central Park. My hunch is they won’t last long despite the chutzpah behind the effort.

Bad urban planning is why you’re fat (co.exist)

UC Berkeley researchers found that activity levels of kids in “smart growth” neighborhoods — i.e. where it’s easy to walk and bike — were 46 percent higher than kids from conventional neighborhoods. Of course, the ‘burbs have long been accused of promoting too much sitting and driving. On the other end of the spectrum, there has also been a lot written about the lack of parks, sidewalks, bike lanes and decent food choices in low-income areas in cities.

Portland: TriMet’s mobile ticketing app reviewed (Human Transit)

The smartphone app allows bus and train travelers to purchase tickets with their phones, meaning no more paper tickets. Here’s the top of the review:

For as long as I can remember, every bus trip in Portland has started with the counting and recounting of small bills and change held in a sweaty palm, always with the low-level anxiety from the thought of dropping a quarter and being unable to board. Pay your fare at the farebox, recieve a flimsy newsprint ticket. Secret that ticket in a secure pocket, to prevent it from being carried away by a stray gust of wind. If you have to transfer, check your pocket every 30 seconds to make sure it’s still there.

TriMet, the transit agency here in Portland, finally launched their long-awaitedsmartphone app on Wednesday. I’ve tried it out for most of my trips since, after a summer spent jealously reading tweets from people lucky enough to be invited to the beta test. My first impression: this application suddenly makes using Portland’s bus system much more relevant to me, and I suspect to many others.

 

There aren’t fare cards or turnstiles in Portland, so this is not directly relevant here in L.A. County. The bigger point, I think, is that enabling people to buy fares with smartphones seems like a move that could help boost ridership.

Survey says downtowners have lots of money and are ready to spend (Downtown News)

While it definitely does not sound very scientific, the results seem to indicate that downtown L.A. continues to attract residents with higher incomes that are college educated and mostly employed. And they want more upscale stores, such as the kind found in the ‘burbs. The most requested are Trader Joes and an In-N-Out. The fact that so few local or national chains are downtown shows just how badly the area fared until recently. I always use the Apple store example. No problem finding one in Manhattan or downtown Chicago or San Francisco whereas the closest to DTLA are the Grove or Old Pasadena.

Perhaps the most interesting stats from the survey:

•Twelve percent of downtown residents work on the Westside and six percent in the San Fernando Valley.

•Thirty percent walk to work and 34 percent work at home. In Los Angeles County, only 2.9 percent of people walk to work and 4.7 percent work at home, according to the latest Census Bureau numbers.

It’s great to see all the progress that has been made in DTLA, which remains the number one job center in the region and the area’s transit hub. I think there’s a lot of work still to do to make the area live up to its full potential and there will certainly be challenges — among them preserving and creating affordable housing while hopefully attracting investment in the area, which is a good thing. As the saying goes, if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking.

London Tube station record broken (BBC) 

The two blokes visited all 270 stations in 16 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds, thereby shaving eight minutes off the previous record. They say there’s a lot of athleticism involved because of the need to run to catch transfers. And please don’t call them trainspotters, they say. Well, okay. Perhaps they can just be called weird.

Focus group says that these redesigned screens on Metro ticket machines are a big step in right direction; what do you think?

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What do you think? Are we on the right track with these new screen designs?

A focus group on Tuesday — the third focus group so far — indicated that ticket vending machine redesigns by Metro’s Creative Services Staff are headed in the right direction.

All of the participants were impressed with the new designs and provided helpful feedback to further refine the screens. They assured Metro that the new screens were a vast improvement over the existing screens and were “very clear and self-explanatory.”  Another participant noted, “I don’t have to concentrate and look for the options. They are very clearly organized.”

One new addition is a more prominent selection screen with 10 different languages, which will make purchases easier for limited-English customers and tourists from abroad. Other improvements include more understandable terminology and less jargon, simpler screens with fewer options and more intuitive selections and more explanations of options — which hopefully will mean less pushing of the ‘help’ button for customers.

The new screens will help all riders purchase and reload TAP cards more quickly and easily, a big help to both rail and bus riders. Bus riders are now using TAP cards more than ever before. Preliminary results from the most recent bus survey conducted by Metro Research show that about seven in 10 bus riders are now using TAP cards to pay for their fares. This is up from about five in 10 in the previous quarter.

What do you think? If you’re leaving a comment, please be as specific as possible about what you like or don’t like or any suggestions that you may have.

New customer survey: what do you want in a bus headway sign?

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Metro manages a fleet with 2,228 buses that averages more than one million weekday boardings. Our buses traveled over 70 million miles in 2012!

It is a big job to make sure everyone knows where all of these buses are headed. We could use your help ensuring that we communicate our bus destinations as clearly as possible.

Just click on the link below to take a short survey about bus headsigns. You could be one of five winners of a monthly TAP card! (You will have to fill out contact information to be eligible for the contest.)

Survey Link

Photo: Metro.

Photo: Metro.

Missed the Green Line to LAX workshops? You can still share your thoughts by taking this survey

Green Line to LAX Community Workshops solicited comments from attendees.

Green Line to LAX Community Workshops solicited comments from attendees.

Yesterday was the last of the first round of community workshops for the the Green Line to LAX extension. According to the project team over 200 people attended the three workshops to learn more about the project and offer their input on how best to connect the Green Line to the airport.

If you weren’t able to attend the meetings, fear not, you can still share your feedback with the project team.

First, I recommend getting some background information on the project. This can be found on the project page on Metro.net, the project’s Facebook page or right here on The Source.

Once you’ve done that there are a number of methods to share your input. First is the LAX User Questionnaire, a 16-question survey about how you currently get to LAX and how you’d prefer to get to LAX. Another option is to use this online comment/feedback form to email the project team specific comments.

Comments are requested by October 1, 2011.

Why I Cycle: The bike-to-transit experience

In celebration of National Bike Month and Bike Week L.A. (this week!) we’ve launched a new survey series entitled ‘Why I Cycle.’ This series spotlights local bicyclists who have made the daring leap from car-dependent to car-free or at least car-light in Los Angeles.

Want to share your story? Point your browser to thesource.metro.net/cyclesurvey

Why I Cycle: Connecting Transit Modes

Of particular interest to Metro is bike-to-transit behavior. The results: 49% of Why I Cycle survey respondents said they bike to fill a commuting gap – the fabled “last mile” dilemma.

We asked “If you ride your bike to transit, what lines do you take?”

Many people use a mix of transit but Metro Rail received the most votes, followed by Metro Rapid and Local buses.

Why I Cycle: Rail Station AccessWe asked Metro Rail riders how they access stations with their bikes. Results: 32% said they use the stairs, 18% use the escalators and 16% use the elevators. The remaining 16% said they don’t take their bikes on the train.

The large percentage of cyclists who access Metro rail stations using the stairs will be happy to hear that thanks to feedback at Metro’s Bicycle Roundtable, special stair channels for bicycles will be considered in the design of new Metro stations. The under construction El Monte Transit Station will be the first station to implement stair channels.

We also asked for specific ideas on how to improve bike-to-transit connections. Many said they’d like to see rail cars added that are solely dedicated for bicycles. Others complained that turnstiles made it difficult to enter stations and that wider gates should be installed. Bus racks capable of holding three bikes was another common suggestion.

After the jump, more thoughts from survey respondents on how to improve the bike-to-transit experience. Continue reading

Why I Cycle: Joseph, Long Beach

In celebration of National Bike Month and in anticipation of Bike Week L.A. (May 16-20) we’ve launched a new survey series entitled ‘Why I Cycle’. This series spotlights local bicyclists who have made the daring leap from car-dependent to car-free or at least car-light in Los Angeles.

Want to share your story? Point your browser to thesource.metro.net/cyclesurvey

Name: Joseph
Location: Long Beach

What’s the No. 1 reason you bicycle?

It’s fastest, cheapest and most fun way to get exercise. Going to the gym would waste more time (I have to get places anyone), it is boring, and expensive. My bike is cheaper than driving, heck it’s cheaper than an Easy Pass or LB Transit pass, and it is faster than driving to work and then driving to the gym 3 times a week.

What bike paths, routes or lanes do you take?

I don’t have any on my current route to work. :-(
But I do take bike lanes to church, to the beach or Belmont Shore, and to restaurants in Downtown Long Beach.

If you could make one change to improve your biking experience in Los Angeles County, what would it be?

Bike lanes or cycletracks on all major streets, especial the streets that intersect with every rail and rapid transit line. May more people would bike for transportation if they felt safe and if it was a pleasant experience, not dodging traffic or dealing with winding side streets.

What specific improvements would you recommend to improve bike-to-transit trips?

Increase bike parking at all rapid transit stations, and add bike racks at EVERY bus stop. Make sure there are safe ways (protected or buffered bike lanes, cycletracks, or bike boulevards) to get to every bus stop or transit station. And make it possible to rent bikes at major stations, so people can leave a bike at one station and then pick up another when they get to their destination, without having to cram the bike onto the train. Washington DC’s bike sharing system is a great example.

How would you encourage others to bicycle?

Los Angeles is beautiful and it has the best weather and some of the best terrain for bike riding in the whole world. Why stay stuck in traffic, in your car, when you can get exercise, save money, have fun, and even save time by riding a bike and taking transit?

Briefly, how would you describe your typical biking experience?

I love it!