Both Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Michael D. Antonovich and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke this morning in Hollywood to Rail-Volution, the national conference of that draws hundreds of transit planners and activists.
A few highlights of what both men said:
Antonovich argued against Measure J, the proposal to extend the Measure R sales tax to accelerate transit projects. He said a regional transportation plan must include clear benefits for the county's 88 cities and he believes Measure R and J both clearly favor the city of Los Angeles over other cities.
Villaraigosa argued for Measure J, saying that Los Angeles was the pre-eminent example of a city re-thinking itself and that Measure R was the first leap forward. He said accelerating projects such as the Westside Subway Extension, Regional Connector, the Eastside Gold Line Extension and the Metro Airport Connector would have regional mobility benefits and lead to thousands of jobs being created.
•Antonovich also stressed the need to better integrate transit schedules across different agencies in Southern California and to use money from the high-speed rail project to create a seamless rail connection between Palmdale and San Diego.
•Villaraigosa made several other points about changes underway in Los Angeles, pointing out that although L.A. was late to the CicLAvia party — other cities previously held similar events — the version here is probably the biggest of them all. He also said that L.A. is aiming to do more than just build new transit — he wants to see the city emphasize livability in its neighborhoods by emphasizing pedestrian and bike connections, too.
•Villaraigosa also reiterated that the America Fast Forward loan program adopted earlier this year by Congress is not an L.A.-specific program. It can — and he believes will — be used by localities around the country.
In his remarks, Metro CEO Art Leahy said that the agency is learning to do things in a more sophisticated way. He cited the Red/Purple Line station at Pershing Square as an early rail station with “nothing there.” He contrasted that with the Hollywood/Highland station (next door to the Rail-Volution conference at the Loews) and said that Metro is becoming much more sophisticated in how the agency builds stations.
If we’re to ever get rail right in LA, we need to abandon the current fare system. The flat rate system was in place only because we didn’t have the technology to do variable pricing structures fast and efficiently. But that was over twenty years ago.
Today we have TAP that can do things like distance based fares simply with tap-and-go. There really is no reason why we still have to use flat rate fares which screws half the people but benefits the other half.
Get everyone who is using TAP together and come to agreement on what a proper value of a mile is for public transit in LA County. Then ditch the flat rate system and move to distance based fares at a fixed price per mile. Those who are seniors, students, disabled, or qualified low income earners can get discounted rate, similar to how seniors and low income people have different rates for electricity and gas.
To keep things fair, let’s also keep an upper ceiling per day, per week, and per month at the day, weekly and monthly pass rate. That way people who travel longer distances would never pay more than $5 per day, $15 per week, or $75 a month even if we move to distance based fares.
This I believe, is the direction we need to head to. Come to full agreement what the value of a mile is in LA, ditch the flat rate system, move to distance based fares at the rate agreed upon, give discounted rates to those that qualify, and set an upper limit per day, week, and month.
Factor in consumer cost.
1. Look at Metro’s rail map. Use some index cards and write down every station on the Metro Rail map and put it into a top hat. Draw two stations from the hat without looking; that’ll be the commuting start point and end point for a typical Joe or Jane Angeleno.
2. Now look at the map and see how to get between the two stations that Joe or Jane has to use to get there.
3. Thirdly, write down how much it costs Joe or Jane Angeleno to travel between those two stations. Remember, it’s $1.50 per ride, and another $1.50 when there’s a transfer.
4. Next, note how far it is between the two stations using Google Maps.
5. Now divide the cost of travel that you got from (3) with the traveled distance from (4). You get how much it really costs per mile for Joe or Jane. Jot that number down and keep a chart as you repeat it over and over again.
As you keep doing it, you begin to see the system isn’t fair at everyone. You begin to see a pattern that Metro only benefits those that have one train ride from end point to end point. For those that involve transfers or for those that travel short rides, Joe or Jane is not getting a good deal at all.
Overall, as you begin to think like Joe or Jane what it costs for them to get from one part of the city to another, you begin to see that Metro’s fare cost isn’t really fair at all. For many, driving, carpooling, riding a motorcycle or scooter, taking a bicycle, or simply walking, comes out far more financially beneficial than using Metro depending on travel distance.
Now I know you’re going to throw in the “but there’s the day pass for $5” or “just get a monthly bus pass for $75” argument, but there’s really no guarantee that those passes will exist or remain at the current price either. And do you really think people will pay $5 for a day pass or $75 for a monthly pass when all they need it is for traveling under 10 miles each way? Or will Joe and Jane find other cheaper alternatives? And for most Joes and Janes, driving is still cheaper even at today’s gas prices. Moreso true if they have a hybrid or all-electric, or if they choose to get by with a motorcycle or scooter.
If you look at the map, yes it seems that it’s hitting the right corners. But if you dissect it to how where people live and work in LA and the current fare policy intact, it makes no sense at all.
Look at it this way:
The Blue Line covers all the way from Long Beach to Downtown LA. It hits every area full of residential areas and business areas. A lot of people are switching to mass transit, but at the same time there are still those that don’t see a benefit of doing so. Majority of the folks that don’t see a benefit cite this reason: “The bus/rail is not worth it to travel short distances.”
If you look at it from a fare perspective with the map, it pretty much benefits those that travel far going into Downtown LA. It’s a steal to go from Long Beach to Downtown LA for $1.50 on the Blue Line. But for those who live in Compton and have a job at a factory in Vernon, is it worth paying $1.50 for six stations? The only real benefit here is the guy living in Long Beach and paying $1.50 all the way into Downtown LA.
Or in the case like me, where I live in MacArthur Park and go to Staples Center games. I can get there by using the Red Line and transferring to the Blue or Expo Lines. That’s great. But the cost of using Metro isn’t worth it. The travel distance is about 2 miles and with our current fare policy, it makes me pay $6 roundtrip for this short trip or $5 for a day pass which I cannot pre-order online. And if I’m going to pay out $6 just to travel 2 miles, I’d rather just vanpool with my game buddies and split the cost of parking with them. It comes out far cheaper that way.
Metro is doing a good job of linking various parts of LA. What they need to work on is seriously revamping the fare structure because the “you get a better deal if you’re lucky enough to have a single ride into Downtown LA from far away” fare model just doesn’t fit the reality of “I live in this part of LA and work/need to visit this part of LA” lifestyle of LA.
You raise good general points, but I don’t understand how you can look at a map of MetroRail projects and conclude that it is too biased towards Downtown and the City of LA. True, the Regional Connector will be downtown, but Expo Phase 2 will be in Culver City and head towards Santa Monica. The Purple Line extension will be in the Westside and include Beverly Hills (hopefully). The Green Line extension will be through the South Bay, and — at the other end — in Norwalk. The Crenshaw Line will skip downtown completely and will make it easier for commuters to bypass downtown. The Gold Line extension, beyond Pasadena and hopefully to Ontario Airport is outside LA proper. And if there is a Red Line extension someday it will probably be to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. Granted, none of this helps you that much you live in Pacific Palicades, but most of the focus goes way beyong Downtown, and the municipality of Los Angeles.
It’s a LA County measure. There are many cities within LA County, which do not benefit from Measure J so there are right to speak against their criticism about Measure J. From their POV, if it’s only going to benefit the City of LA, then it should be a city tax, not a county-wide tax. For example, why should the City of Torrance residents, a city within LA County, be for Measure J when there is no rail going all the way there? What’s in it for them?
The reality is that transit measures in LA is not about “just favoring City of LA” anymore. We’re not like NYC where everything economic is centric to Manhattan.
“LA” instead, economic activity, tourist attractions, and places where people live encompasses everywhere from Santa Monica to the West, to Beverly Hills, Miracle Mile, to Hollywood, Chatsworth and Northridge in the north, to all the way to San Bernardino County Line in the east. To the south, we have Gardena, Torrance, Harbor Gateway, San Pedro and Long Beach. We have people living in the City of Inglewood and Compton, we have people living in Palos Verdes and Mulholland Drive. We have jobs at factories in Vernon, we have the film industry near Santa Monica Blvd. near Hollywood. We have shopping districts on Melrose as well as various fashion and garment districts in Downtown LA. Do you see how big and diverse we area? All of these are centers of diverse economic activities and areas where residents live. LA is just too big to compare us with the likes of NYC.
What we need is a transit plan that takes into consideration that LA is big and diverse, not “favoring City of LA and Downtown LA only.” Not everyone lives and works at Downtown LA. We cannot apply NYC “everyone works in Manhattan logic” here. What we need is transit reform to change our way of thinking to apply how to make mass transit work that best fits the needs and reality of all LA County residents’ lives. We need to stop thinking “let’s bring everyone into Downtown LA because everyone works there.” Instead we need to start thinking “ok, face it, people live and work all over LA and do not fit into a pattern of working centric to Downtown LA only. What can we do to plan out a transit system that fits that reality?”
“…he believes Measure R and J both clearly favor the city of Los Angeles over other cities.”
Of course it favors the city of Los Angeles over the others because, oh I don’t know, maybe perhaps the the city of LA is the geographically largest and most populated city in the county by a long shot? Maybe its naturally by circumstance the anchor point of commute patterns, commerce, and activity? (the MTA New York subway system favors *gasp* Manhattan!!!). His assertion ignores the reality of basic geography and how transit infrastructure plays into that. It sounds purely political at best. Just because said system may not lie squarely within some boundaries of certain cities for example does not mean that the benefits of it will not directly affect that city. In an extreme example, one could argue then, that Burbank/Bob Hope airport favors the city of Burbank over other SFV cities because its within the city of Burbank… Does Altadena not benefit directly from the gold line because it does not technically run INSIDE Altadena in instead runs within neighboring Pasadena? There are of course many other examples but the point is that one must consider where these transportation systems (road or rail) physically need to be implemented most. It’s like arguing that Palmdale should get an HRT subway line because the west side gets one… This simply makes no sense. It is certainly understandable to have complaints about measures like these for legitimate reasons, but this just ignores, well, physics…