Transportation headlines, Thursday, July 31

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! 

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

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! 

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 .

TAP validator test at entrance to Gold Line at Union Station

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Those entering or exiting the Gold Line at Union Station recently may notice something different: there are TAP validators now arranged across the bottom of the stairs. The validators, up until now, have been against both walls and next to the ticket machines.

What’s going on? Metro’s TAP team is trying a different arrangement of the validators to see what works best at the entrance to the stairs leading to the train platform. As you know, it’s an area that can get quite crowded at peak hours with people headed both up and down the stairs.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have a preference!

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. 

TAP cards can now be used on Long Beach Transit

photo_regular-serviceThe TAP network continues to grow as Long Beach Transit today becomes the latest agency to join as a fully TAP-enabled bus fleet.

Long Beach Transit riders now have the choice to pay their fare with TAP cards instead of paper passes or cash. A rider simply taps the card against a TAP mobile validator while boarding, listens for the beep and watches for the green screen that shows that the card is valid.

Riders can purchase Long Beach regular, senior/disabled, student, stored value or EZ transit passes at taptogo.net, at the Transit & Visitor Information Center in downtown Long Beach and at select TAP pass sales outlets. Here is the announcement on Long Beach Transit’s website.

Stored value can be purchased at any Metro Rail station TAP vending machine. Fourteen addition transit agencies are set to join TAP this year including the city bus fleets in Glendale, Pasadena and Santa Monica.

Current TAP partners include Access Services, Antelope Valley, Culver City, Foothill, Gardena, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro, Montebello, Norwalk, Santa Clarita and Torrance. Metrolink has its own TAP enabled tickets.

With each addition to the TAP network, we get closer to the goal of a seamless, regional transportation network where passengers can transfer easily without digging into their pockets for change when boarding. 

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.

  

  

A look at what some riders and readers are saying about Metro’s fare change proposal

Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

Option2

As I dearly hope that you’ve heard by now, Metro is proposing a fare increase and changes in order to keep pace with rising costs. A public hearing will be held this Saturday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. in the Board room at Metro headquarters adjacent to Union Station.

The two options proposed by Metro staff are above for those who have not yet seen them. The Metro Board is scheduled to vote on the fare changes at its meeting on May 22; the Metro Board may ask for changes to the fare proposals before voting on them. There is also more information about the changes on metro.net.

The following are comments from riders gleamed from various websites, including this blog. I think this is a good chance to see what people are saying while highlighting the agency’s response, as well as my own thoughts. Here goes:

ON OPTION 2 — OFF-PEAK VERSUS PEAK HOUR FARES

Sheriff Bart at Curbed LA: “Charging more for “rush hour” commuting is one way to help keep people in their cars….what a stupid idea. Eliminating transfer fees within a 90-min window is an idea way past due.”

The idea behind the second option was too look at a fare system that would encourage customers with more flexible schedules to ride outside of the rush hour, when seats are in the most demand and often completely filled on many buses and trains.

I’m certainly aware the second option has been criticized by others who also say the increases are too steep. Again, please keep in mind that the Metro Board of Directors has the discretion to choose either option and to make changes to those options before voting to approve one of the two options.

Continue reading

Motion asks Metro to implement a number of several tech initiatives

In July of last year, Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Vice Chair Eric Garcetti and Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont Walker authored a motion asking Metro staff to report back on several technology matters, including ticketing-by-smart phone, wi-fi access at Metro facilities and the possibility of creating an internet-based customer help desk.

Metro staff responded with the following report, which includes the original motion that shows some of the tech efforts underway — including the ability to add to a TAP card by smart phone — and others that are on the radar but need more work and/or funding [pdf here]:

In response, Garcetti and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Don Knabe have submitted a new motion asking staff to go :

One note: To see a list of some third-party apps that have been developed using Metro scheduling data, please click here and then click on the “third party apps” tab. Metro also has some mobile tools available, detailed at the same link.

As for wi-fi on the Gold Line, that was an effort originally pursued several years ago by the Community Redevelopment Agency. After the CRA was legislated out of existence, the project never moved forward.

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.