Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 5

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 blog.

In Los Angeles, cuts will make bus commuters longer (New York Times)

The 305's route between UCLA and Willowbrook. Click to see a larger map.

The NYT takes a look at the recent bus service cuts recommended by Metro staff and approved in March by the Metro Board of Directors(on a 7 to 6 vote). Specifically, the paper looks at the 305, which runs a long, stair-step route between Willowbrook and UCLA and carries many low-income workers to their jobs.

The 305 will be eliminated after the Expo Line opens, a decision that the NYT predicts will greatly increase the transfers that current riders of the 305 will have to make and could take twice as long and cost three times as much. Metro staff explains that the agency is trying to build a grid-system for its bus lines that will be more efficient for more people instead of customized lines that zigzag across the region.

Obviously it remains to be seen how the future commutes come together for current 305 riders. It is also interesting that this is perhaps the most critical media story about the recent service cuts and it comes from the NYT and not a more local media outlet.

That said, Human Transit blogger Jarrett Walker has posted a lengthy and critical response to the NYT story. He argues that cutting the 305 is a fair move, that the line was low-frequency and that it’s better to invest resources into fast, frequent travel on a grid system that serves far more people. Excerpt:

The other moral of this story is even simpler: If your mission is to serve a whole city or region, designing bus routes around any self-identified group of people is almost always a bad idea.  Most successful and attractive transit seeks maximum versatility, by serving the most diverse possible range of demographics, trip purposes, and origin-destination pairs.

1984: the year of catastrophic traffic that never was (KCET)

As excited as Angelenos were about the Olympics coming to town, many were equally fearful of the traffic the summer games would create. In the end, it turned out to be much ado about nothing, writes Erin Aubry Kaplan. Traffic never materialized and many people took pride in the fact that the games were in town, even parts of town that don’t see much tourist traffic. The post is loosely pegged to the 405 closure on July 16-17. We’ll see if history of sorts manages to repeat itself.

The case for not-so-high-speed rail (Washington Monthly)

This long article is well worth reading. The author argues that as nice as 180 mph bullet trains may be, it’s perhaps best for the U.S. to upgrade its current rail system to something that’s relatively quick and convenient for medium-range trips, where trains already enjoy a high market share. On the other hand, big bullet train projects are often so expensive and politically challenging that they often fail.

The bicycle dividend (New York Times)

This blog post looks at the economics of bike lane and infrastructure construction and concludes that it’s a pretty good deal for taxpayers on a number of fronts, ranging from job creation to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Still, federal spending on bike programs amounted to $4 per American in 2010.

3 replies

  1. What percentage of this 305 bus route riders actually ride this end-to-end from Willowbrook to UCLA?

    There’s no statistical analysis given on how passengers travel on this route so it’s a blank statement at best.

    If you’re travelling 20+ mi of bus route on a zig-zag line at a flat rate fee of $1.50 per passengers for only 3 passengers that go end-to-end, than clearly it’s a reason why Metro is in the red.

  2. Steve, the fact that the NYT posted this is more of an indictment of the lack of local media in the areas served than any indication of interest. We are talking about a constituency of riders that has no Patch, no suburban daily or upscale weekly covering them. The LA Times daily coverage of transportation has gone from average to abysmal, with more focus on 405 trivia (today’s eruv story) than daily transportation issues. The NYT is noted for finding interesting stories in interesting places. In the Bay Area, a lot of people prefer the NYT over the local papers, and I can only imagine that it is starting to be the case in LA.