Transportation headlines, Thursday, October 27

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.

A chosen rail line? (Jewish Journal)

Local transit writer and advocate Joel Epstein penned this piece that compares the trials and tribulations of building transit in Jerusalem and Los Angeles. The cities are dramatically different geographically: one is a compact, ancient city with mostly narrow pedestrian-scaled streets; the other is an expansive, 20th Century mega-region. But that’s what makes the similarities so striking.

Blogs and social media change the conversation on transit (Greater Greater Washington)

D.C. transportation blogger Matt Johnson shares his thoughts on how social media and blogs have become an indispensable tool in transit debates. The discussion came out of a panel talk at this month’s Rail~Volution conference. Johnson argues that blogs are not as much about “bringing people over to our opinion, but as a way to give people the tools they need to be a productive participant in the conversation.” I like to think that The Source also fills that niche. Check out the story to see how other transit agencies are using blogs, Facebook and Twitter to engage transit riders.

Transit agencies urged to coordinate service (SF Chronicle)

The Bay Area’s regional transportation planning agency, MTC, is developing a plan that would require the region’s twelve operators to work together more closely. In particular, the plan would have agencies share staff and better coordinate routes to improve the cost efficiency of the whole system. Officials have stopped short, however, of trying to create one super-agency — to the relief and dismay of competing parties. What’s prompting this major shake-up? For one, Bay Area transit systems have been pumping more and more money into operations, but are seeing diminishing ridership gains.

5 replies

  1. Putting higher frequencies to routes without any data to back up the need for the said ridership numbers at any given time at any given route is a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.

    A better approach is to data collect tap-in/tap-out of transit riders’ TAP card so that Metro can see what times at what routes are the heaviest and where the riders tend to get off the most (efficiently find express and limited routes), where the key transfer points between which transit agencies and find out what the average wait time at those transfer points are (coordination of transfers).

    Do you think cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo maintain higher frequencies because they just blanket the entire city with trains and buses 24/7 without regards to studying how transit riders actually move about the city? No, they are able to do it because they efficiently manage the train schedules, express and limited service frequencies, and coordinate between different transit agencies efficiently through the demand shown with data collected from tap-in/tap-out.

    And again, there’s nothing “big brother watching your every move” about this. It’s not like transit agencies embed a GPS homing device onto your TAP card and know your intricate details like your social security number or your credit history or what time you brush your teeth.

    As an example, this would be the data collection of a transit rider from Wilshire/Western to Crenshaw/Torrance taking Metro Rapid 710 transfering to Torrance 5

    • TAP Card # XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX (the 16 digit TAP card number on the back of each card)
    • Tap-in: 2011/10/31 0843 LACMTA RL 710, Wilshire/Western, odometer reading of LACMTA 710 at boarding
    • Tap-out: 2011/10/31 0932 LACMTA RL 710, Crenshaw/Manhattan Beach, odometer reading of LACMTA 710 at disembarking
    • Tap-in: 2011/10/31 1000 Torrance 5, Crenshaw/Manhattan Beach, odometer reading of Torrance 5 at boarding
    • Tap-out: 2011/10/31 1010 Torrance 5, Crenshaw/Torrance, odometer reading of Torrance 5 at disembarking

    Now what if they see that every weekday they see 10 people taking the same route from Wilshire/Western who makes the connection at Crenshaw/Manhattan onto Torrance Transit? There’s no tap-out data to prove this now. But under tap-in/tap-out said data can become visible. What could LACMTA and Torrance Transit do? They can now coordinate the schedule so that the transfer point between LACMTA and Torrance Transit at Crenshaw/Manhattan can be less than 5 minutes instead of 28 minutes.

    Furthermore, by collecting the odometer reading of the buses at boarding and disembarking, what’s now possible is for fares to become fractionalized based on distance instead of full flat fares.

    Isn’t technology wonderful?

  2. “Oh yes, let’s throw even more good money after bad into programs like TAP to monitor every move every rider makes, like Big Brother–NOT!!!”

    I don’t see tap-in/tap-out as a “big brother watching every step of your move.”

    As IT Guy in Irvine said, the tap-in/tap-out concept is in use in many places throughout the world.

    One needs to look no farther than the Clipper Card system used for BART in the Bay Area:

    The concept is even used on buses for the NJ Transit:

    From London to Tokyo, from Singapore to Hong Kong, from Washington DC to PATCO, all have a closed tap-in/tap-out system. Last time I checked, none of these cities are a police state where citizens are afraid of “big brother watching over you.”

  3. @TAP Lies Bus Riders Pay For

    If LA Metro can sustain higher frequencies without higher taxes or higher fares, that’s perfectly fine.

    But we need to step back and look at reality here. We have budget cuts. People’s wallets are tightening. More people are against higher taxes. This is all going on when LA Metro is undergoing one of the largest transportation projects this city has seen in decades.

    We cannot sustain the existing system without a total revamp of how we pay for our fares and how we allocate our backend IT structure to a more efficient and modern system that is proven to level the tax-to-farebox recovery ratio elsewhere.

    Tap-in/tap-out distance fare systems are not new. It’s being used in many cities across the world and it has shown to efficiently manage public transit system to a more data-centric model instead of relying on a carpet-bombing “let’s just tax everyone more or raise fares fore everyone so we can add more frequencies” model.

  4. Oh yes, let’s throw even more good money after bad into programs like TAP to monitor every move every rider makes, like Big Brother–NOT!!!

    Instead of wasting so much money on the TAP system and fare gates, Metro could have simply maintained higher levels of frequency on its service. There’s no need to “tap-in/tap-out” (unless if you’re trying fork over bus fares to folks like an “IT Guy in Irvine”). That way, you don’t have to study or time the “optimal” connection; when buses run frequently, almost every connection is an optimal one.

    See the Bus Riders Union’s report on how Metro has slashed service while spending money on capital projects like TAP and fare gates:

  5. It is virtually impossible to coordinate transit services under an open system that’s the norm in the US; there’s no data gathering involved on when and how many people that “taps out” who then subsequently “taps in” to their transferring service.

    For example, there is no clear data visibility on how long it took for Jane San Franciscan from the moment she steps off the SF Muni 38L bus near Montgomery to coordinate the transfer time onto the Muni M Subway under the same agency, let alone Caltrain which is a different agency.

    Since Jane doesn’t “tap-out” when she steps off the SF Muni bus, it’s anyone’s guess how long Jane waited for the transfer. Without a “tap-out” data collection process, the coordination process will be a very difficult task to manage, if not almost impossible to accomplish.

    In contrast, if you look at the statistics of all the transit agencies in the world that have just the right amount of frequencies, the correct amount of express and limited services, and minimum wait times for the next bus or train, they all have one thing in common: they’re usually the ones that operate under a closed loop “tap-in/tap-out” system.