Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 18

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Is transit winning the transport battle in the U.S.? (Crikey) 

More reaction to the recent news from the American Public Transit Assn. that Americans took 10.7 billion rides on transit last year, the most since 1956. Alan Davies takes a closer look at the numbers and reports:

Without New York’s MTA, there would’ve been no increase in public transport patronage in the US between 2012 and 2013. The agency carried an extra 123 million passengers by rail and bus combined; more than the total national net increase in patronage of 117.2 million trips over the period.

Outside of New York, there was no net growth in public transport. A number of other cities certainly experienced some growth, but their increases in aggregate were offset by those cities that suffered falls in patronage.

He also points out that there were certainly some rail systems in the country that did see ridership increases — including Metro’s light rail and subway. He concludes with this graph:

As I’ve noted before many times (e.g. see herehere and here) getting travellers to shift out of their cars in significant numbers will only occur if cars are made less attractive compared to public transport. Making public transport more attractive is very important, but policy-makers also need to give much more attention to taming cars.

I haven’t double-checked his numbers but I think the point he makes is fair. There are a few places that are accounting for a lot of America’s transit rides. And while those numbers are pretty strong, there’s no getting around the fact that the vast majority of Americans are still using cars to get around.

Should we be making driving more onerous as an incentive to walk, bike or take transit? I don’t think there is a black-and-white answer but a combination of incentivizing walking/biking/transit and asking motorists to pay their fair share of the transit network (i.e. the thousands of miles of road) built and maintained for them.

Californians grow less reliant on cars, Caltrans survey finds (L.A. Times) 

Missed this interesting article, published last week and relevant to the article above. Between 2010 and ’12, the survey estimates that the percentage of all trips made by walking, biking or transit rose to 22 percent. That number was 11 percent in 2001.

The story’s lede nicely sums it up and puts the findings in perspective:

Californians aren’t depending quite as heavily on cars for commutes and errands as they did a decade ago, according to a new survey by Caltrans.

Although driving is still by far the most dominant mode of transportation across the state, accounting for about three-quarters of daily trips, researchers say a decrease in car usage and a rise in walking, biking and taking transit indicate that Californians’ daily habits could be slowly changing.

What is happening in California mirrors a nationwide decline in driving, experts say: The number of car miles driven annually peaked about a decade ago, and the percentage of people in their teens, 20s and 30s without driver’s licenses continues to grow.


4.4 quake a wake-up call on L.A.’s unknown faults (L.A. Times) 

The earthquake’s epicenter was on the north side of the Santa Monica Mountains near Sepulveda Boulevard on a fault the Times calls “little noticed.” The article points out that some recent large quakes have also occurred on faults that were unknown at the time. Of course, the known faults — i.e. Santa Monica, Inglewood, Newport, Hollywood — also pose the threat of big quakes in the future, too.

Paris car ban stopped after one day (The Guardian) 

Smog hanging over Paris as seen from an airplane on Sunday. Photo by F.Clerc via Flickr creative commons.

Smog hanging over Paris as seen from an airplane on Sunday. Photo by F.Clerc via Flickr creative commons.

In an effort to combat air pollution, officials only allowed license plates ending with odd numbers to drive — others were hit with fines of 22 Euros (ouch!). The ban only lasted a day, as officials said that most residents complied and that weather and air conditions were improving.

Los Angeles State Historic Park gets an overhaul (KCET)

Rendering by California State Parks.

Rendering by California State Parks.

Nice explanation and collection of renderings of the park that is adjacent to Chinatown and the Gold Line — the park has been open for several years but will be undergoing a dramatic overhaul in the next year. The plans look great and the completed park will continue the trend of nice new open spaces in DTLA, joining Grand Park and the Spring Street Park. Of course, it remains important that the park is tied to the Chinatown train station and Broadway, the heart of Chinatown.

They moved mountains (and people) to build L.A.’s freeways (Gizmodo) 

Great article by Nathan Masters on the amount of earth and people moved in order to build Los Angeles’ sprawling freeway system. Excerpt:

In mostly uninhabited Sepulveda Canyon, only the mountains could complain. But many Southland freeways bludgeoned their way through heavily urbanized areas, inflicting the same degree of trauma not to landscapes but to communities.

No area was more affected than L.A.’s Eastside, where transportation planners routed seven freeways directly through residential communities. Starting in 1948, bulldozers cleared wide urban gashes through the multiethnic but mostly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, and East L.A., demolishing thousands of buildings and evicting homeowners from their property. And the freeways didn’t just displace people and businesses. They balkanized the community, making strangers out of neighbors and discouraging urban cohesion. A freeway can be an intimidating thing to cross on foot.

Residents did fight back, flooding public meetings and picketing construction sites. But unlike the mostly white and politically powerful neighborhoods that killed plans for a Beverly Hills Freeway, L.A.’s Eastside couldn’t stop the bulldozer. By the early 1960s, all seven of the planners’ freeways crisscrossed the community.

Five of them tangled together at the East Los Angeles Interchange. Built to provide northbound motorists with a bypass around central Los Angeles, this imposing (and for drivers, often confusing) complex of 30 bridges occupies 135 acres of land—including part of once-idyllic Hollenbeck Park. At the time of its completion in 1961, it was the largest single project ever undertaken by the state’s division of highways. Yet somehow, despite its grand scale and enormous cost, the interchange—like much of the freeway system—is often paralyzed today with traffic, as a procession of trucks and automobiles crawls along the old urban scars.

In some ways, it makes you appreciate the relative smallness of rail construction compared to large swaths of land consumed by freeway building. Definitely check out this post and the many historical photographs accompanying it.

APTA reports record ridership on U.S. public transportation in 2013

The demand for public transportation rose last year as Americans took 10.7 billion trips, the highest transit ridership in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide.

Metro Rail saw an overall ridership increase of 5.4% in 2013, mostly due to the popularity of the Expo Line.

Here’s the press release from APTA:

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

“Access to public transportation matters,” continued Melaniphy. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”

Another reason behind the ridership increases is the economic recovery in certain areas.
When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.”

“The federal investment in public transit is paying off and that is why Congress needs to act this year to pass a new transportation bill,” said Melaniphy.

To see the complete APTA 2013 ridership report, go to:

2013 Ridership Breakdown

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership increased by 2.8 percent across the country as 8 out of 15 transit systems reported increases. Heavy rail in Miami, FL, saw an increase of 10.6 percent that was mostly due to increased frequency during peak service. Other heavy rail systems with increases in ridership for 2013 were in the following cities: Los Angeles, CA (4.8%); New York, NY (4.2%); and Cleveland, OH (2.9%).

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 2.1 percent in 2013 as 20 out of 28 transit systems reported increases. With a new rail line that opened in December 2012, commuter rail in Salt Lake City, UT, saw an increase of 103.3 percent. The following five commuter rail systems saw double digit increases in 2013: Austin, TX (37.3%); Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA (33.9%); Anchorage, AK (30.0%); Lewisville, TX (23.0%); Stockton, CA (19.9%); Minneapolis, MN (12.5%); and Portland, OR (10.3%).

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 1.6 percent in 2013 with 17 out of 27 transit systems reporting increases. Systems that showed double digit increases in 2013 were located in the following cities: New Orleans, LA (28.9%); Denver, CO (14.9%); and San Diego, CA (10.4%). Ridership in the following cities also saw increases in 2013: Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (9.8%); Pittsburgh, PA (7.5%); Salt Lake City, UT (6.8%); Los Angeles, CA (6.0%); San Jose, CA (3.6%); and Philadelphia, PA (3.5%).

Bus ridership increased by 3.8 percent in cities with a population of below 100,000. Nationally, bus ridership in communities of all sizes remained stable, declining by 0.1 percent.
Large bus systems with increases were located in the following areas: Washington, DC (3.5%); Houston, TX (3.4%); Cincinnati, OH (3.4%); and Seattle, WA (3.1%).
Demand response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2013 by 0.5 percent.

Transportation headlines, Wednesday, March 13; will D.C. politicians respond to the rise in transit ridership?

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Public transit celebrates near record year but is D.C. listening? (Politico)

Last year was a good one for transit — ridership in the U.S. was the second highest since 1957 even with Hurricane Sandy sidelining service on the East Coast for a time. The question Politico poses: while cities and states continue to pursue transit, will politicians in D.C. come along for the ride?

New trends could mean fewer international flights to LAX (Daily News)

LAX is a busy airport and likely to remain busy for years to come with flights to many international airports. But this is also true: with little investment in its infrastructure for two decades until recently, LAX is facing competition from many smaller airports that now can handle overseas flights thanks to new, more efficient airplanes.

Closer look at DTLA’s streetcar-adjacent Olympic/Hill development (Curbed LA)

The new mixed-use development will help fill in a stretch of South Park that’s riddled with parking lots — supplying far more parking to the area than is actually needed. Curbed points out the building will be on downtown’s streetcar route, which they see as a near certainty. Perhaps — but it will require the feds ponying up $60-million-plus at a time when D.C. and Congress is struggling to achieve much on the transportation front.

APTA announces record number of trips on public transportation in 2012

The demand for public transportation rose last year as Americans took 10.5 billion trips, the second highest ridership since 1957, and 154 million more trips than the previous year, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the seventh year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide.

From APTA’s press release: 

“In 2012, U.S. public transportation ridership grew at a record level as Americans took 10.5 billion trips.  This is the second highest ridership since 1957, and it shows that there is a growing demand for public transportation,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Every mode of public transportation showed an increase in ridership.  Public transit ridership grew in all areas of the country – north, south, east, and west — in small, medium and large communities, with at least 16 public transit systems reporting record ridership.”

“Considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on some of the nation’s largest systems, this record level of ridership is truly significant,” said Melaniphy.

According to APTA, 74 million trips were lost when public transit systems from Washington, D.C. to Boston were shut down due to Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard that followed the next week.

“Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Melaniphy. “Public transportation saves people money, and people save even more so when gas prices spike.  Also, since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases in areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been added.”

Noting that people are changing their attitudes regarding travel, Melaniphy said, “There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation.  Americans want travel choices; they want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lives. This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support it and want it.”

Melaniphy also pointed out that more Americans are supporting public transportation investment, as evidenced by the large number of transit-oriented ballot initiatives that passed in 2012.

“Last year 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives passed,” said Melaniphy.  “That means there was a nearly 80 percent passage rate.  This extremely high rate of success demonstrates how important public transportation is to people and to communities.”


The complete APTA 2012 ridership report is available here. For some breakdown of the numbers and how L.A. compares to transit in other large cities, continue reading after the jump.

Continue reading

Gender and Metro ridership: more women ride than men, with some exceptions

gender_v_income-01 (1)

The above chart is based on Metro’s 2012 Customer Satisfaction Survey and focuses on the issue of ridership by gender. The gist of it: more women than men overall ride Metro although there are notable exceptions: higher-income riders tend to be male, as are riders with a car available to them.

Recently, Transportation Nation reported the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey which revealed a gender gap in transit ridership: Although women make up 47 percent of the workforce, 50.5 percent of transit riders are women.

“Higher income riders tend to be choice riders who chose to ride Metro even though they have access to a car” said Jeff Boberg, of Metro’s Research Department.  “We have also found out, through focus groups and other surveys, that women tend to factor personal security higher than men.  We have also found that people who ride on Metro buses and trains feel safer on the transit system than those who don’t.  This could at least partially explain the gender gap at higher incomes.”

A greater proportion of Metro riders are in the lower income brackets, which accounts for the overall female percentage of 52%, despite much lower percentages in the higher income ranges.

What do you think? What are the reasons that more choice riders tend to be men? Comment please!

Transportation headlines, Tuesday, March 13

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

Residents want a reduce Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Daily Press)

A coalition of neighborhood groups held a protest outside Santa Monica City Hall on Monday, imploring city officials to reduce the size of the planned commercial and residential development next to a future Expo Line stop. Their big complaint: traffic is bad enough in the area without adding 325 or more residential units amid a 766,000-square-foot development. As one critic says, housing in the area is in short supply — meaning many workers have to commute to their jobs in Santa Monica. Which, of course, is also a pretty good argument for building as many residential units as possible.

Transit agencies have a powerful story to tell legislators (Welcome to the Fast Lane)

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood uses new national transit ridership stats — 2011 was the second-highest transit ridership year since 1957 — to argue Congress needs to pass a long-term transportation spending bill. Excerpt:

The benefits of transit are enormous. Transit helps connect Americans with jobs, education, medical services, groceries, and more.  It helps us spend more time with our families, avoid the stress of driving in traffic, lighten the burden on our congested roadways, lower our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce our carbon emissions. And, for the many Americans who don’t drive, transit provides the only way to get where they need to go.

APTA’s ridership study tells us that Americans need and want public transit. But FTA, APTA, and transit agencies across the country can’t meet the current and growing demand for transit services unless Congress passes a long-term transportation plan.


The above chart also makes a compelling argument that transit ridership is tied to both gas prices and employment.

Bike thief (New York Times)

Filmmaker and cyclist Casey Niestat has had his share of bikes stolen during his time living in New York City. Click above to watch his film in which Niestat steals his own bike several times to demonstrate how few people are willing to stop a bike theft in the Big Apple. He finally gets caught — after dozens of people ignore him. Great video.

Transportation headlines, Monday, March 12

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the Library’s Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.

The Metrolink station at Bob Hope Airport. Officials hope to improve transit access to the airport. Photo by Eric Fredericks, via Flickr creative commons.

Tough times at Burbank airport (L.A. Times)

The loss of American Airlines last month is giving Bob Hope Airport budget headaches. The airport has also seen declining parking revenues and passenger numbers. Officials think improving the airport’s connections with the region’s mass transit system will help.

Use of public transit rose in 2011, but agencies not out of the woods yet (New York Times)

Tansit ridership reached 10.4 billion boardings in 2011 — the second-most since 1957 — which the Times attributes to declining unemployment and rising gas prices. Excerpt:

Ridership rose in many parts of the country whose employment pictures brightened, including Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, San Diego and Louisville, Ky. Dallas, which opened a new light-rail line in 2010, saw a large jump in its light-rail ridership last year.

But there are big challenges ahead for transit systems. Many have had to cut service and raise fares since the downturn began, and the trouble is not over for many systems. So while Boston saw record ridership levels last year — the most since the 1940s — it also faces a big deficit in the coming year, brought on by rising operating costs, high debt and sales tax revenues that have failed to meet expectations in recent years. As a result, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has proposed significant fare increases and service reductions, which could deter riders.


Here’s the news release about 2011 ridership from the American Public Transportation Assn.

The go-nowhere generation (New York Times)

This provocative essay gives a kick in the hindquarters to teens and young adults for spending too much time on the Internet and not enough time on bikes, the open highway or yearning to leave their hometown for someplace better. Or at least somewhere with a job. As a result, we’re no longer a country where the young are “born to run.” Rather, we’re a country of “born to check my ex-girlfriend’s status update.” Sad, but an excellent excuse to kill time watching Bruce play his anthem in Phoenix in 1978.