Metro Board of Directors to consider motion on improving rail and bus stations

The Rosa Parks station on the Blue Line. Photo by Sean_Marshall, via Flickr creative commons.

It’s kind of an obvious statement: rail and busway stations are the gateway for the tens of thousands of passengers entering the Metro system each day. And since most people have to spend at least a few of minutes at stations, the quality of time spent there is crucial to the overall transit experience.

In that vein, a motion by Metro Board Chair and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seeks to improve rail and bus stations across the Metro system with  specific mention of Blue Line stations. The motion would also put aside $10 million in the Metro budget to pay for upgrades.

The Metro Board of Directors will consider the motion at tomorrow’s Board meeting at 9 a.m. at Metro headquarters.

I think there’s a lot of interesting things in this motion and I encourage you to read it. Among the issues tackled in the motion are wayfinding and signage, network connections to stations, noise at Green Line stations (most are in the middle of the 105 freeway) and expanding a Metro grant program to help cities zone and plan transit-oriented developments.

We’ll have more tomorrow after the Board considers the motion.

Station Improvements Item 31

28 replies

  1. How does the sensor know if the person is boarding or getting off? I see many people exiting through both the front and rear depending on how crowded the bus is or which doorway is closer. Sometimes I even see people sneak in through the back! The only thing a sensor can do is to count passengers, but the whether that data are ons or offs is indistinguishable.

    A person using an old-fashioned tally counter I can understand because the person doing the counting can visually see which way the rider is going; on or off.

    But a sensor is just a device that logs and counts what passes through their area. It has no rational thinking capability like humans do to distinguish that a person heading out the door is getting off, person going into the bus is getting onboard.

  2. The Advanced Transportation Management System does cover both ons and offs, through sensors placed in the doorway (and does not rely on the farebox).

    “Automatic Passenger Counting (APC) is used to quantitatively monitor passenger use of Metro’s bus network and provide the agency with a critical component of the information needed to enhance and improve its bus services.

    Sensors mounted in bus doorways count passengers boarding and exiting at the same time the corresponding information on bus stop location and time is acquired from the AVL system.

    At the end of every day, the WAN is used to transfer the accumulated data from each bus to Metro’s central computer system for processing and reporting.”

    If you know who is getting off and on, you now have the average number of passengers on a bus. Now you can get average trip length through some math.

  3. That’s not the correct way to get “an average number of passengers per mile.”

    Dividing the number of passengers on board to the bus to the bus’ total distance traveled only gives an estimate of how a passenger are on the bus per every X miles, NOT the average distance of what people travel.

    Think closely about this. If ten people take the bus for 10 miles, what’s the average distance traveled per person? 1 mi? No, 10 people made the trip for 10 miles, the average of is 10 miles.

    Use an Excel spreadsheet; column A noting each person (1 each), column B noting each person’s travel distance (10 each). Highlight all the data sets in column B, and the at the bottom you see that the average is 10 mi for all 10 individual people.

    The claims and data figures that Metro provide is misleading, there is no way to figure out the actual average of distance traveled by every passenger.

  4. @ Steve Pon

    The average passenger miles number probably doesn’t capture what you have in mind. It is the average cumulative distance covered by all routes over a single day. That is quite easy to measure by looking at the odometer at the beginning and end of day, for every line. These numbers are summed up over all lines. Next, the number is probably multiplied by some average number of passengers (probably close to average capacity of a bus) and you arrive at “average passenger miles per day”. Modern fleet systems are equipped with GPS tracking on all vehicles, so the tracking software can count the miles travelled automatically. The figures probably take Metro a couple mouse clicks to generate.

    Have a look at this website in the definitions section:

    While it’s not going to describe how Metro comes up with the number, it is certainly not technologically impossible to come up with such a number. The bureau also indicates that transit authorities seldom record trip length. That’s hard for the reasons you alluded to above. Instead, it’s estimated using average figures.

    @calwatch I do have to agree, banning eating/drinking on the platforms would be pointless, especially because these areas have several trash cans, are routinely cleaned by Metro staff, and as you pointed out, are hard to remotely enforce in an audible manner.

  5. @calwatch
    I highly doubt it. When I get on the Orange Line, I tap my monthly pass at the reader upon boarding. That’s how as far as Metro knows that I got on the Orange Line. When I get off the bus, I just step off the bus. I don’t go through any sensors upon exiting the bus.

    Besides, averaging out on and offs is rather, a poor way of figuring out the average statistics to use as a solid claim. How do you tell that the person who got off was a person who traveled only 4 miles as opposed to 15 miles? You can’t do this unless there’s a distinguishing feature to identify the person who got off here was the same person who got on 4 miles ago as opposed to another person who got off here was the same person who got on 15 miles ago.

    My guess is that Metro has no way of knowing that the person who got on at Canoga was the same person who got off at North Hollywood so as to come up with a figure that this person traveled 4 or 15 miles on the Orange Line. Their claims of average miles people travel on their buses and rails are as good as their ungrounded basis that fare evasion was only 3%. Pfft, yeah right. With that data busted, it casts big credibility issues to claims made by Metro.

    Same with the people riding on their rail lines, if not the data has to be far less reliable because of the problem of using the honor system for so many years and was riddled with so many freeloaders. How are they supposed to keep track of the number of boarding when people aren’t tapping or even paying for tickets in the first place? Did Metro somehow invest our tax dollars in military grade body heat sensor technology to count the number of body heat in the trains that we don’t know about? Is there some kind of ultra high frequency motion detector technology that it can count hundreds of people going in and out of their light rails at any given time with pin point accuracy?

    Metro has no way of doing this for thousands of daily riders in all of their buses and rail lines to come up with an average distance that travelers ride on their public transit system. Somehow I doubt the bus drivers and rail operators have an excellent photographic memory to memorize who got on where and who got off where, times that with the huge number of on and off that occur simultaneously either.

  6. Actually it shouldn’t be too difficult to find out when people get off since the sensors can tell, by the sequence of when they are crossed, where people get off. It is an average, so it is really irrelevant as to when a particular passenger gets off, since they are just averaging ons and offs, and the number of passengers on the bus at any given time is known. That should be a “how do they do it” feature.

    I would suspend the ban on eating at outdoor platforms, but not inside the subway or inside transit vehicles. The sillier thing is banning eating on transitway platforms, where there are no intercoms to yell at people, or on freeway platforms when there is no way you can hear any announcement made anyway.

  7. @Snack Time

    Yeah right, 4 miles per passenger. I ride the Orange Line everyday from Canoga and most of the people ride that far more than 4 miles. By the time the bus reaches Reseda, it’s so full that they have a tough time getting passengers onboard from thereon and no one gets off until North Hollywood. That’s way more than 4 miles per passenger.

    Besides, I have to ask how Metro gets its info for “average passenger miles.” For starts, how are they supposed to know how far each passenger that boarded the bus traveled? You could count how many passengers got on board from the number of paid fares, but how are they suppose to figure out where a passenger boarded the bus and where they got off the bus? What do they do, scan an invisible light upon everyone as they board the bus and track where you got on and off based on GPS data? I doubt bus drivers keeps a board to write “white guy in red shirt got on board at Canoga, got off at North Hollywood” either. Or do we all have some kind of implanted chips in our bodies so Metro can figure out where I got on and where I got off to calculate the average passenger miles?

    Where’s the accountability that this number is even correct? It’s technologically impossible to figure this out.

  8. @ Steven Pon

    While there may be demand, what portion of public transit users are asking for it? A majority? Probably not. I am making the argument that the average ride is too short to necessitate entertainment with a snack from a vending machine.

    I went to LA metro’s website for ridership statistics:
    Note that the website doesn’t track data for ridership on metro rail.

    In 2011, Over all metro lines (buses including the Metro Silver and Orange Line), there were a total of 1,082,631 boardings per weekend day for an average of 4,534,095 miles per weekend day. That means that the average daily ride (the common case) in LA on public transit is a little over 4 miles.

    I realize that many people use metro to commute and often need to utilize the extra time in a better way, especially if they can catch up on a missed breakfast or simply refresh themselves. I have the opinion that people can do better if they simply take better care of themselves at home or at work, if possible.

    I board the Gold Line daily to get to work, from the Fillmore station, where a cafe built into the ground floor of the metro parking structure has gone out of business. A Starbucks opened up across the tracks. The station is far from dirty (actually, I feel many stations are very clean, and not just on the Gold Line).

    How can we measure whether the food ban has any effect on leaving waste on the train? We can’t just say “OK, it’s cool to eat on the train”, measure whether the trains are dirtier, and then reinforce the ban. Personally, the voice reminders on the train reinforce the idea that the rail cars are not a place to eat (or place feet on the seats).

    For every city that offers vending machines at every station, I can name two that don’t. And for most people, I think it is convenient enough to have vending at Union Station (including a Subway, Starbucks, pretzels, well-stocked convenience store, and snack kiosks) on at least one end of many people’s itineraries.

    Since I worked in the restaurant business, I know very well how restaurants keep their businesses clean. My point is that Metro is a transportation service first and foremost, not a food entertainment enterprise. It’s kind of nonsensical to talk about restaurants banning food – restaurants are in the food entertainment enterprise. The limited money is better spent on ways to maximize ridership revenue and improving quality of transportation. In my humble opinion, this has nothing to do with the digestive tract.

  9. @Snack Time

    I disagree. Not everyone shares the same idea because if everything went the way things you prefer, we wouldn’t have McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Taco Bells or even have healthier things like Subways, V8 juices, and vegetarian restaurants as well. These companies exist today because not only because there’s demand for it, but they also create jobs for our local economy.

    Besides, many cities around the world install vending machines and kiosks at their stations. Not everything in vending machines has to be unhealthy. Even bottled water or vegetable juice can in them as well. It’s not just hamburgers and KFCs, they also opens doors for healthier options like tuna sandwiches and salads.

    If there’s a demand for it, I say why not? The stations are dirty as it is today even with the food and drink ban in effect. The ban has no effect in leaving trash and waste on our trains and stations. If that’s not working, it’s better to lift it and open opportunities to provide better services and amenities, make additional revenue and use a portion of that to help pay for cleanliness of the stations.

    How do you think restaurants keep their places clean? If restaurants started banning food because customers creates a mess on the floor, they wouldn’t be in the restaurant business. Instead, portions of revenues earned by restaurants go to hiring janitors. Hiring janitors creates jobs. More janitors means created more demand for cleaning supplies and everything else is a butterfly effect down the road which goes onto help jump starting this economy.

    I say do it and make better use of space. These restrictions are hurting Metro more than they are helping them.

  10. I don’t see why people are so anxious to add vending machines. These machines sell primarily food and drink which are bad for your health, bad for your environment and bad for Metro. Rest assured the majority of people using the machines will leave the wrappers and bottles on the seats. Not to mention the need to put power to the machine, secure it, keep it stocked, and take up shaded and sheltered area.

    I don’t know what the estimated travel time is for the average metro ride. But do you need a snack that desperately to cover that time?

    The metro is here for your transportation convenience. Pack your own snacks (it’s cheaper and healthier), try to empty your bowels at home (hopefully more sanitary than using most public restrooms) and enjoy the ride.

  11. Turnstiling the Blue Line and the surface (not elevated, not underground, not freeway-median) stations of the Gold Line is futile as it is for the surface stations on the Expo Line. Why? Because anyone can just walk along the tracks past the ramp to the edge of the platform and climb up.

    Ironic given the Turnstiles’ origins in Yvonne Burke’s desire to help her district’s residents from getting fare-evasion tickets….on the Blue Line

    This is a main reason why the turnstile project is a debacle and needs to be scrapped: the system cannot be completely “gated”. Ever.

  12. Add another one who votes for more services and amenities. Retail activities at LAX terminals and at Union Station provide services for travelers as well as pump more energy into our local economy. That model should be copied in small scale to all of our transit centers.

    How about those kiosks that we see at shopping malls? Those would be perfect size for our light rail stations and subway mezzanines:

    Rental income and sales tax from the sales of goods and services provide more sources of funding that is desperately needed especially at a time when you can’t count on bipartisan support from Congress. If you can’t count on politicians, it’s time Metro start seeking other sources. What better way than to provide goods and services as well as making desperately needed cash at the same time?

  13. Add displays with yoga/tai chi/stretching exercise guides so people can use their waiting time to improve their health.

  14. Estube esperando el tren en la wardlo station y no yego solo dijeron k no avia servicio x k no ponen una persona adecir k no ay servicio. Oasi como los policias checan los tikets asi deverian de aver puesto a alguien porque com pre mi tiket y no lo use ……… 🙁 y gaste mi dinero aver quien me lo repone..?

  15. Seeking more revenue earning possibilities like newspaper stands, restrooms and vending machines should be top priority. You can’t rely on tax support and Congress forever to pay for costs of upkeep, maintenance, and upgrades to trains and stations. Station amenities should be added now than later so that they create additional revenue and can be used as an additional funding source for Metro.

    Why not add a small “facilities surcharge” for foods and drinks sold at the station? A nickel surcharge on all food and bottled drinks sold at the station could generate lots of additional income for Metro which could be used for janitorial services and station upgrades.

  16. #1 problem to be solved above all else- Noise on the center freeway stations on Green and Gold lines. Walls, covers, roofs- something needs to be done now. Its almost a tragedy the Green has not been fixed in all the years it has been open.. This is much more important that more amenities at this point. Its a health/safety type issue that needs to be resolved soon.

  17. I have to agree with the need, want and desire for having more retail and vending opportunities available at subway and train stations.

    Lockers may be considered a security risk (which is a shame). But there are all sorts of possibilities for inside the station as well as improving the neighborhood around the station area (which seems to be what this motion is aimed more at).

    How about the classic newspaper/ magazine/ manga news stand/ vendor?

    How about a TAP card-operated and TAP sponsored bottled drink vending machine?

    Of course, we also need better signs and neighborhood maps, more trees around the stations, bicycle racks and transit-oriented development, but we shouldn’t forget the stations.

  18. -Widen Blueline and Greenline Escalotors..
    -Bathrooms are an absolute must.
    – ATMs.
    -Vending machines (Why does MacArthur Park staion have coke machines but not others?).
    -Widen the Vernon and Florence station platforms on the BlueLine.
    -Better signage.
    -And for *Bleeps* sake, turnstyles at all Blue Line Stations. Why do I feel like these stations are boobie trapped for the “lower class” and also allow wanderers about the platform.

  19. I’d welcome lifting the ban on food and drinks on the trains and stations.

    The food and drink ban doesn’t have an effect to keep the places any clean as it stands today either. Might as well lift it and use profit sharing revenues from sales of food and drinks to maintain tidiness instead.

  20. Finally, I have felt that the blue line service is not as good as the other lines. Some of the blue line stations lack lighting and security. As for the TOD, hopefully they do some along the blue line.

  21. Retail stands for newspapers, magazines, etc. and maybe even small snacks or bottled drinks (maybe) would be great in the rail stations. There’s so much space on the Red/Purple line mezzanines especially that is just wasted. Allowing performers to get a permit and perform on those mezzanines could also be a good idea.

    I understand not wanting any of this on the platforms, but the mezzanines in the subway stations are extremely underused and certainly valuable space for a number of different activities/uses.

  22. While seconding Y Fukuzawa’s and “Alexander The Great”‘s excellent suggestions here are a few more:
    – Add displays to indicate the time of arrival/departure of the next train and an alert system for delays
    – Provide an audio system for announcements that can actually be heard AND understood
    – Provide secure, overnight parking at all Metro stations that have parking space. This will allow people who take the Metrolink in to work to leave a car there overnight (without fear of it being vandalized/stolen) so they can commute to their workplace (as opposed to spending an hour or more on the bus(es)).
    – Connect the Norwalk Metro Green Line and Metrolink stations
    – Make sure the elevators and escalators are kept clean and in working order. A ride in the Norwalk Green Line elevator, for instance, feels like a ride in a sewage truck.
    – Add multi-storeyed parking at the Norwalk Green Line station (most weekdays it’s full by 7:30am). Also, there’s an empty lot at the North-East corner of Hoxie/Imperial that looks like it could be taken over by the MTA and added as an additional parking lot.
    – Add weather-proof shelters at the above-ground train stations.

  23. You really can’t compare Metrolink and Metro when it comes to allowing food and drink on board. Metrolink caters to commuters mostly, and look at their ridership numbers – there’s not nearly as many people traveling on it as on Metro. Not to mention their trains only run during certain times and ticket prices are higher, giving them more time and money to get people onboard to clean.

    Bottled drinks with caps should be allowed, but I’ve come across way too many food wrappers and spilled sodas on both buses and trains (and platforms, for that matter) to want Metro to allow eating and drinking.

  24. @Michael
    Automakers are not the only ones at fault here. LA Metro themselves are also at fault for being too restrictive over the freedom that the car provides.

    When you’re driving in a motor vehicle, you can go to a drive thru and order a burger if you get hungry along the way. If you get thirsty, you can drive to a 7-Eleven and buy bottled water. If nature starts calling, you can drive up to the nearest gas station and go for a bathroom break. If you’re short of cash, you can drive to the bank along the way and withdraw cash from the ATM. If you’re carrying too many things, you can head back to the car and stash it in the trunk for the time being.

    None of these are possible when using public transit. No food, no drinks, no restrooms, no retail spaces to buy things, no ATMs, no lockers. Transit centers are just that; an inefficient uni-tasker whose sole purpose is just to wait for the bus or the train. LA Metro brought it upon themselves for putting too many restrictions that doesn’t fit in with the travel patterns on how people really get about.

  25. I agree with Y. Fukuzawa. Vending machines and restrooms are two must haves at each train station. The Board of Directors need to start implementing things at bus stops and train stations that will actually increase ridership, if not revenue.

    However, albeit a defeatist attitude, I don’t believe SoCal (Los Angeles) public transit will get much better. The car is too much at the center of everything here. Auto makers will never allow the public transit to take over the car. Just my two cents.

  26. If the money proposed to be spent on “improving BUS SERVICE” as opposed to the “stations”, the MTA would be seen in a lot better light by its riders!

  27. g. Pedestrian & cycling oriented land uses (e.g. vendor stands, local retail, etc.)

    Thank you. It surprises me that it took so long for Metro to figure this out. Those train stations and transit centers can be put to way better use by opening up to retail space that actually earns Metro extra revenue in forms of rental income.

    Revenues earned from newspaper stands, a mini CVS Pharmacy, a mini Taco Bell, an ATM machine, coin operated restrooms and lockers, not only helps the local economy and brings extra revenue to Metro, but it’s also a much more efficient and pragmatic use of transit centers than dead empty spaces.

    As it stands now, transit riders have nothing else to do lest waste 10-30 minutes of their lives waiting for the bus or train to come. Put in vendor stands that sell the the LA Times, Newsweek, the latest Tom Clancy novels or English translated Japanese manga; something which transit riders can buy and read as they wait for the bus or commute to work or school. Even installing bottled drink vending machines does a lot more than nothing.

    Next up, ease the restriction on food and drink bans (at least for bottled drinks that has twist caps on them!) on Metro. Metrolink doesn’t have this policy and they are kept clean, why should Metro have to be any different? Or is there something more underlying which implies that Metro riders tend to be more slobs than Metrolink riders?

  28. Among other things, bus stops need an overhaul!
    Sorry, but most bus stops are a disgrace: they only have an ugly bench and a lonely pole, also an overflowing trashcan; while having no bus shelters!! Installing bus shelters would be a great start. Emptying trash cans would be another thing to improve. And also the “West LA Transit Center” hub is a nightmare. Dirty, utilitarian, ugly… worse than a third-world type of transit; it’s no wonder, most Angelinos avoid public transit by all means.
    Metro needs to create clean, aesthetically-pleasing bus stops, something that is made for human beings. Time for an upgrade, dear Metro!