Transportation headlines, Tuesday, May 11

Here’s a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog. Don’t forget you can also follow the Metro Library on Facebook and Twitter.

The cost of low transit fares (Santa Monica Lookout)

Raising fares won’t fix mass transit (Los Angeles Times)

In the Lookout, columnist Frank Gruber argues that keeping bus fares low for years on the Big Blue Bus has denied the agency the money that it needs to provide better service and attract more people to mass transit. Gruber backs the current fare hikes proposed in Santa Monica and says it was smart to get rid of a proposal to eliminate transfers — something that would have given riders less for more. In the L.A. Times, business columnist David Lazarus opines that the fare hikes at many agencies in So Cal — and which take effect at Metro on July 1 — are only intended to raise money and not provide better service that would attract more riders. He also says it’s time for Metro to lock the gates at rail stations to prevent the agency from giving away free rides to those who take advantage of the honor system.

Transit agencies unleash the power of geeks (Wall Street Journal)

An increasing number of agencies have realized the best way to get cutting-edge technology is to give the geek generation raw data and let them do the work. Excerpt:

In November 2009, MassDOT made public a raw transit-data feed for five bus lines. Boston-area app developers pounced. Within an hour of the release, says Mr. Dempsey, someone had mapped the data on Google Earth to show the real-time location of buses. Within two days, a developer set up a simple, free website on Google Maps, where riders can track buses from any Internet-linked computer.

Within a week, a developer built a desktop application that displays the countdown to arrival time for the rider’s favorite stop. A developer built iPhone and Android apps that integrate real-time bus and train data. Someone else introduced a 617 phone system for any technologically challenged Bostonians who lack BlackBerrys or Androids.

High-speed rail exec’s financial deal (San Francisco Chronicle)

The Matier & Ross column point out that the new CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority is now the top paid transit official in the state with his deal pegged at an average of $412,500 in each of his first two years. Roelef Van Ark comes to the HSR agency from Alstom, the French maker of bullet trains. Richard Katz, a member of the Board of Directors of Metro and the HSR Board, says he understand there will be blowback on the deal but that on a project that costs more than $40 billion and needs half of that in private funds, it was necessary to hire someone who will inspire confidence in all quarters.