Transportation headlines, Tuesday, Nov. 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 Headlines blog, which you can also access via email subscription or RSS feed.


Photo by Mikeyadamz via Flickr

Do we really need all those parking spaces? (The Atlantic: Cities)

Not really, and they encourage driving and discourage public transit use. To comfort our businesses, many of whom believe ample parking prompts loyalty, here are reasons that retailers don’t need free parking to thrive. The post is based on London shopping but take a look and see if you don’t think some of the logic might hold true for even car-happy L.A.

Not so fast on bullet train, some say (L.A. Times)

Palmdale welcomes the bullet train but other cities are taking a more cautious — if not hostile — approach.

Orange County transit board approves fare increase … (Orange County Register)

The Orange County Transportation Authority approved an increase in bus fares to help cover rising operating costs … an ongoing issue for transit agencies across the country. Bus fares will bump from $1.50 to $2 and the day pass will rise from $4 to $5. The OC increase will take effect Feb. 10. During this fiscal year Metro fare revenues are projected to cover 27 percent of costs, among the lowest of any major transit property in the world.

… and a new boss (Rancho Santa Margarita Patch)

OCTA also has a new CEO. It’s Deputy CEO Darrell Johnson, who replaces retiring CEO Will Kempton.

Making public transit ‘cool’ (Urban & Landscape Design)

Metro is applauded on an international design site for efforts to lure people out of their cars and onto public transportation by creative communication.

18 replies

  1. “some of us dont live a life defined by a five mile radius bubble.”

    Maybe you should move to Arizona then. I hear that in Arizona, you need to travel over 10 miles one way to get anything.

    LA is a compact city if you think about it because there’s nothing you can’t do within a five mile radius. No one needs to go to Nordstrom over in Santa Monica Place when there’s a same Nordstrom closer by; they sell the same thing and they have the same specials. Any savings in going to Nordstrom in Santa Monica gets negated in driving costs to get there.

    Same thing for BestBuy. What’s the point of wasting gas and driving to BestBuy for Black Friday deals? Any savings get negated for just driving there. You get a better deal on Cyber Monday with free shipping.

    People need to start thinking in terms of “______ is ten miles away. That means it’ll be twenty miles roundtrip and it costs figuratively 25 cents a mile. That means I end up paying $5 just to go to and from there. That’s not much of a savings, I’ll look closer or buy it online with free shipping.”

  2. Mospeada,

    Age of the car is one thing, but how much much you use it is has more effect in spreading out maintenance costs throughout the years.

    My Honda Civic was bought brand new in 1989. The most I’ve ever put into it was 4,000 miles in a year. The odometer recently went past 70,000 miles for the first time. 70,000 miles in 23 years, and Honda Civic transmissions are known to last for 150,000 miles or more with proper maintenance. I have many many years of life left.

    In the past 23 years I owned this vehicle, I did one brake job and one tire change. Stuff like changing batteries and changing air filters I could do myself than pay some corporation $70 in labor. If you ask me, paying the flat $70/hour labor rate for something that takes less than ten minutes is a rip off. Being said that, the cost of maintenance over 23 years is minimal.

    When I go on vacations, it’s usually with other friends and family. We just rent a car and split the cost of the rental car. No need to be using my own Civic and adding miles to it when we can just rent a bigger sedan from Hertz Local at the weekend rate and divide the cost between four people.

    If you live frugally, you save a lot of money. A lot of people buy these big gas guzzling SUVs with automatic transmissions and drive around the city with no plan whatsoever, wasting gas and live faraway from their work and wonder why they never seem to have any money.

    As for the quip about living in a five mile bubble, I see no need to. The city is dense enough that I have all the needs and friends nearby. I have a movie theater within walking distance. I can watch NetFlix and Hulu online. I don’t need to go out and eat at restaurants, I can cook better than most people out there. There really is no need to travel far to get your needs and wants done. Most of the stuff that they sell at Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, or whatever can easily be bought online anyway. Yeah, I’ve been to Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade. Meh, nothing new. Anything that can bought there can be bought online.

    Besides, that’s the whole point about living in a dense city: getting things done without traveling farther. It’s already possible as it is thanks to with free shipping.

    My tips to save money driving a car:

    Drive a fuel efficient vehicle. If you don’t know how to drive a stick shift, at least get a hybrid.

    Live closer to where you work. Shorter commutes adds up throughout the year to keep your annual mileage low which will save a ton of money in auto insurance.

    Living closer to work will save a lot of money in recurring maintenance costs. A person who has a 20 mi commute will end up going through recurring maintenance 4 times as faster than a person who has a 5 mi commute.

    Always check with your auto insurance company for other discounts that you may qualify like garage parking, airbags, child safety seats, good driver and mature driver discounts. Certain professions (teachers, scientists, etc.) are also eligible for additional discounts by AAA auto insurance. Adding renters insurance through AAA can also further decrease your auto insurance through multi-policy savings.

    Simple maintenance like changing air filters and replacing batteries are simple enough to do on your own. You can buy parts online for a fraction of the cost at retail stores.

    Do all of this, you still can enjoy a cheap car life without resorting to public transit. No one has to pay $75 a month in bus passes if all one does is drive short distances.

  3. @ civic rider

    during the week i rarely go to the grocery store. i save those trips for the weekend where the grocery store is within walking distance of my home. so dont be so dismissive of my commuting habits which account for most of my miles. though i do on ocassion visit friends or do thing things in other parts of LA using metro where its convenient. some of us dont live a life defined by a five mile radius bubble.

    you do bring up some good points on some maintence saving tips. but i would not be so dismissive of the cost maintnece depreciation and age will inevitably increase the cost and frequency of your vehicle maintenance.

  4. Mospaeda,

    First, do you really travel 10 miles in commuting or are you actually using it to make different sidetrips along the way that add up miles to the odometer? Driving habits and driving patterns make a big impact on maintenance costs.

    For me, I do all my shopping along my commuting route. I don’t go off the track and rack up additional miles to the odometer. If said particular shop is along my 5 mi commuting route, that’s where I do my shopping. If a shop isn’t on my 5 mi commuting route, I don’t go there because I see no need to. I make most of my purchases online and have it shipped for free to my workplace where there’s always someone to receive it.

    I buy groceries at Ralphs which is between my home and workplace. When I shop at Ralphs, I use my Ralphs Rewards card to save an extra 20 cents per gallon at the fuel pump. I buy clothes at a Target which is close by as well.

    Reducing your driving, changing your driving habits, and planning the most efficient route to reduce miles added to the odometer really helps prolong the life of your vehicle and save a lot of money down the road in maintenance costs.

    And when the time comes to do maintenance, most stuff you can just do on your own.

    Since I add so few miles to my car, the last time I went in for scheduled maintenance was over five years ago. Brakes, bought it online at Amazon. Front and rear brake pads cost less than $100 for high end EBC brakes which at retail stores cost two or three times as that. Took it to a mechanic, he changed the all of the brakes for $80 since I already had the parts in hand.

    See, that’s how mechanics look at you: if they see you that you’re knowledgeable and already have the parts in hand to do the job what you want done, they charge a reasonable price. If they sense that you’re a sucker, they rip you off.

    And that brake job was five years ago. $180 in brake job cost every five years isn’t so bad is it? That’s only $36 per year.

    As for replacing air filters, it isn’t rocket science. It’s as cheap as going to a nearby AutoZone, telling the clerk your make and model of your vehicle, buying the parts, pop opening the hood and replacing it right then and there. It takes less than three minutes to do. If you’re paying $70 in labor at Jiffy Lube just to do something you can do on your own by watching how-to videos on Youtube, then you deserve to get ripped off.

  5. A lot of factors go into cost of driving.

    Travel distance
    If you live in the suburbs and commute to Downtown LA, you get a great deal in the cost of commuting with public transit. If you live and work closeby, you don’t get a great deal because you end up paying more on a per mile basis.

    Fuel economy of the vehicle
    This is a no brainer. The better the fuel economy, the lower fill up cost at the pump. Small engine cars with standard transmission, hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, motorcycles and scooters can get by with better mileage with far less gas consumption. Cars are getting better MPGs year after year so the point of high gas prices doesn’t have much affect. Electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf uses no gas at all. Gas could be $10 a gallon but if it doesn’t consume gas, the cost is zero. If a 100 MPG scooter only uses a gallon of gas a week, even at $10 a gallon gas prices, the cost of gas still is $10 a week.

    Insurance rates
    Insurance companies do check odometer readings to see if you are telling the truth on how many miles you drive each year. They do cross checking of where you live and where you are employed to fact check this as well. And they keep a historical record of this to set your auto insurance rates accordingly. If you travel 20 miles to work everyday using the freeway, obviously your risk of getting into an auto accident is much higher than one who only travels 5 miles to work everyday. Hence it only makes sense that those who drive more pay more in auto insurance, whereas those that drive less pay less in auto insurance.

    Maintenance costs
    Most maintenance on cars are made on the number of miles on the odometer. If all you do is travel 5 miles, obviously your brakes and oil changes last much longer than those who have 20 mile commutes. For example, most automakers recommend oil changes every 10,000 miles. But if all you do is put in 2,500 miles per year, the next oil change won’t be necessary until 4 years. And $19.95 for an oil change every 4 years, that’s nothing.

    Changing brake pads also depends highly on your driving habits. If you sit in 20 mi commutes bumper to bumper stop and go freeway traffic, naturally you wear out your pads a lot quicker than someone who only uses the car for five miles. An average life of a brake pads are 50,000 mi. For most people that fall into the 10,000 mi per year range, that’s one brake job every five years. But for those that fall into the 2,500 mi per year range, one wouldn’t need new brakes for 20 years.

    A large number of places and businesses in LA still remain free. This includes garage parking for apartment dwellers, parking at business parks all over the city, and retail stores like 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, Vons and Ralphs. Parking is pretty gratis for mall shoppers with proper validation, and parking is free for majority of streets in residential neighborhoods. The cost of parking when necessary, when compared to the majority of LA, is insignificant.

    Number of people in the car
    Carpooling still remains a cheaper alternative to public transit. If you have four people in your party (friends, family, co-workers), the cost of driving is much cheaper than taking public transit. If a parking lot for a Downtown LA even costs $10, a party of four carpool can split the tab to $2.50 per person. That’s 50% cheaper than everyone paying $5 each for a Metro Day Pass.

  6. @ Civic Rider

    What about Maintenance cost?

    Brakes, Air Filters, Tires, etc.

    I spent nearly $1,000 dollars in one month doing general maintenance on my vehicle (tires not included) and my commute is 10 miles (20 miles roundtrip).

  7. I just ride a scooter.

    Apartment to work, 7 miles each way. Fuel efficiency is awesome at 63 MPG. Takes less than $4 worth of gas per week, way cheaper than the bus. Insurance is only $100 a year. Maintenance simple enough to do on your own.

  8. Sure there is.

    Pay less for shorter rides, pay more for longer rides.

    It’s like electricity: pay less if you use less, pay more if you use more.
    You pay less for groceries if you buy less, you pay more for groceries if you a lot.
    You pay more in gas if you drive farther, you pay less gas if you drive less.
    You pay more taxes if you earn more moeny, you pay less taxes if you earn less.

    I mean, is this common sense logic difficult to understand?

    How Metro operates is like akin to the average joe living in an apartment and Google which runs thousands of servers pay the same $75 electric bill per month. Google gets a fantastic deal and the average joe gets screwed.

    How would you feel if you end up paying the same $75 price for a box of cereal at Vons when another guy can get 100 boxes of cereals for the same $75? Or are you fine with that too?

  9. In The Valley,

    Cost of insurance is $180 a year with AAA, including all discounts such as persistency, good driver, garage parking, anti-theft and airbag discounts. Knocks off another 20% for having renters insurance for my apartment. Liability is 30/60/25. Includes comprehensive, collision and uninsured.

    How did I get my auto insurance to be so low? Because one of the factors of setting auto insurance rates is how many miles one travels per year. AAA confirms this by recording your odometer reading each year. Since I only travel 5 miles to work, they see me as a very low risk driver and since they confirmed that my annual mileage is so low my auto insurance only comes out to that much. See even insurance companies factor in travel distance.

    So $40 a month in gas = $480 + Insurance $180 a year = $660
    Metro bus pass is $75 a month x 12 = $900 a year

    Even adding in insurance, it’s still $240 cheaper than Metro. And I get to go whenever I want. And I don’t have to wait for the bus. And I don’t have to stand in the rain waiting for the bus risking hypothermia in the upcoming winter storm months.

    Have fun being wet and catching a cold. I’ll be warm in my car, getting by cheaper, faster, and more efficient, because I flat out refuse to be ripped off $75 a month just to commute 5 miles.

  10. @Civic Rider

    Just saw your post, so $40 for gas and how much for insurance? I would assume you that you have liability only insurance with the minimum State coverages of 15/30/5. How much is that costing you?

    And what of the cost of repair and upkeep on your car? Also license and registration fees for your automobile?

    The cost of the Metro fare is fair.

  11. @Steven P “Because for us, $5 a day/$15 a week/$75 a month isn’t a a deal if all we do is go back and forth from our apartment to our place of work less than 5 miles away.”

    The short truth is that there ISN’T ANY fare structure that will be perceived as being “fair” to everyone. Can’t be done.

    The present fare structure is eminently fair and if Metro wanted to raise fares it wouldn’t change my opinion.

    @Martin makes a very good case in his comments. Outside of Japan, the rest of Asia cannot be compared fairly with the US or Western Europe. I understand that you feel passionately about this but I will not argue with you about this.

  12. “And can you really run a car (the cost of buying/leasing it, the gas, the insurance, fees for parking at or near your work-place) for less than $15 a week?”

    Yes. I live and work and do all my shopping needs close by and have a fuel efficient car. I drive an 1989 stick shift Honda Civic that manages to get 27-30 MPG on surface streets. Parking is free both at my apartment and my place of work. Parking is free at Ralphs which is along my commuting route. I rarely go to places that charge parking fees anyway so parking fees are a non-issue for me.

    My workplace is 5 miles from my home. I drive instead of taking the bus; it’s faster, cheaper, and more convenient. I get to go when I want to go instead of wasting time waiting for the bus to come. My monthly gas fill up is $40 even at today’s gas prices. That’s still $35 cheaper than taking the bus.

    I’m sure those who fall into the short distance category like me and who also own hybrid or electric cars or those that get by with a motorcycle or scooter can do better than me.

  13. “Asian fares are cheap because wages are low and the general cost of living is low too.”

    WOW. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    Hong Kong GDP per capita: $31,757
    South Korea GDP per capita: $31,220
    Taiwan GDP per capita: $38,200
    Singapore GDP per capita: $43,117
    Japan GDP per capita: $45,870

    So are you saying that capitalistic Asian countries with a large middle class and high living standards like Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are dissimilar from the US and Europe? Or do I sense an underlying notion of “yellow races being inferior to the white race?”

    “You can get on a ferry or a streetcar (and travel from one end of the route to the other for the base fare) in Hong Kong for less than 25 cents.”

    What year was the last time you went to Hong Kong? The age when Bruce Lee made Enter The Dragon which is close to over FORTY YEARS AGO?

  14. Hi Brian and IT Guy,
    A couple of comments on the points you make, though I quite understand if Steve decides not to post this. This is not a chat board and I guess, from past posts, that this discussion will go on and on.

    I didn’t get the impression that the Metro buses I took were full of white-collar workers. Quite the contrary. And can you really run a car (the cost of buying/leasing it, the gas, the insurance, fees for parking at or near your work-place) for less than $15 a week? It’d be ten times that where I live. I can see the perceived “unfairness” of having to pay for each journey separately, but the bottom line is still that a journey to and from work on Metro is between $3 (minimum) and $5 (maximum) for everybody.

    Asian fares are cheap because wages are low and the general cost of living is low too. You can get on a ferry or a streetcar (and travel from one end of the route to the other for the base fare) in Hong Kong for less than 25 cents. I don’t know what the car ownership rate is, but my guess is that it’s very very low indeed. I was comparing Europe and the USA, because our living standards are not that dissimilar with both large numbers of people who are not paid large salaries as well as a large middle-class.

    I suppose the main difference is in our attitude to the car. I live in London and have lived for many years in Paris. In both, well over half the population (myself included) do not own a car. Public transit is regarded as a necessity, a car as a luxury if you can afford it. It would be a household’s biggest expense after rent or mortgage payments and groceries, utility bills and clothes take priority over having a car. I guess the same is true of the emerging economies in Asia. I walk (or bike) for a journey of less than a couple of miles and take a bus or a subway for longer distances. Yet In LA $5 dollar a day public transit is perceived as expensive and a car as a necessity. So it may be cultural, though the rising patronage of your improving system suggests that it could be changing.

  15. Yes most cities run like LA under a flat rate system. But at the same time they also share the same pitfalls: they are massively in the red with low few farebox recovery ratios. They are also highly dependent on taxpayers to keep them afloat when desperately needed taxpayer funds could be used elsewhere like improving our school system or improving our nation’s healthcare system.

    Look at NYC, the best transit system in the US. It has a flat rate system of $2.25 and they’re still massively in debt. Even they can only achieve 55.5% from the farebox.

    Same with every transit agency all of the US. LA Metro barely recovers 27% of its costs from the farebox. That being said, they other 73% has to be sustained from taxes and other subsidies. And the gap keeps getting bigger and bigger as we face even bigger budgets cuts. And scarce money is diverted away to projects instead of maintenance which is what we see with the poor state of the Blue Line.

    In sharp contrast, look at Asia where they use distance fares. Taipei Metro has a system where short rides cost $0.60 and longer rides is at $2.00. They are sustainable on its own with a remarkable 119% farebox recovery ratio. They can operate their entire system just through the farebox and actually even make profit which they can in turn, use that money to further improve their system without being so reliant on taxes. And this is coming from a city where a majority of people ride scooters to get around the city too.

    Taipei: Scooter-city, yet its mass transit achieves 119% farebox recovery ratio from distance based fares that range from $0.60~$2.00.

    LA: Car-city, yet Metro achieves a pitiful 27% in farebox recovery ratio from $1.50 flat rate fares.

    Look at Singapore. They have distance based fares where shorter rides start off at $0.80 and longer rides caps off at $2.50. A variable structure encourages riders from all walks of life, short or long, to use mass transit. And look at their farebox recovery ratio: 125%, something that US transit operators would only ever dream to achieve.

    Look at Hong Kong. They have distance based fares which start off at $0.50 and up. They achieve an astounding 149% in farebox recovery ratio. They pretty much can run mass transit on their own and build new mass transit projects on their own without any form of tax subsidy. Taxes are instead used for more important things like healthcare, education, and other forms of social welfare.

    Sure transit is easier to manage with a flat rate system. The downside is that it becomes a burden to taxpayers just to keep it running when vital money could be spent elsewhere. We need better education, we need better healthcare, we need better law enforcement and firefighters. Wouldn’t it be better if mass transit could take care on its own with 100%+ farebox recovery ratios on a distance based fare system so it wouldn’t be so dependent on taxes like it is today? And instead, use the billions saved in taxpayer dollars to improve other key things that desperately need funding?

  16. “In how many other cities in the world, can you go to work and back for a maximum of $5 a day or $20 a week (and use your pass in your lunch-hour or evenings and at weekends for free)? It’s a bargain in my book. And with more rail, and faster journey times, maybe more people will see it that way.”

    It all depends on travel distance.

    If you live and work within walking/bicycling distance your commute is free. Think that’s not possible? Guess again.

    Not everyone fits into the “I live in a house in the San Fernando Valley and work in office buildings in Downtown LA” demographic. Not everyone has a car 20 mile commute. The city is dynamic with a variable mix of residential and business areas. You cannot tie the logic that everyone has a long commute like you do so everyone must be getting a great deal with the flat rate system.

    The reality is, LA is very big and diverse. We have apartment complexes all over the city and we also have business all over the city. That means there are just as many Angelenos who live in apartment complexes within the LA Basin and work close by.

    Why do you think people still drive to work to places like Target, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and BestBuy instead of taking the bus? How do people working at Papa Johns, Walgreens, or Ralphs get to work all over the city? How do people living near LAX go to work at LAX and their surrounding businesses? The car. And where do they live? Close by. Now why is that?

    Because for us, $5 a day/$15 a week/$75 a month isn’t a a deal if all we do is go back and forth from our apartment to our place of work less than 5 miles away.

    You may be getting a spectacular deal for living all the way out in the suburbs and traveling 20 miles into LA for only $75 a month in bus passes.

    We however, get massively ripped off for paying the same $75 a month just to travel 5 measly miles. Dollar per mile, we’re still better off driving. Why should we pay the same $75 in monthly passes when we travel so much less than you do?

    You white collar folks do not understand reality. You cannot comprehend what we really think about public transit in this city. The reality is, the bus isn’t that cheap when traveling short distances and it may come to a surprise, but that fits a lot of Angeleno demographics too.

    It’s like saying “the rich and middle income who lives in the suburbs and has a longer commute pays $75 for traveling farther, but the poor who lives in the city and has shorter commutes pays $75 for traveling shorter.”

    How is this even remotely fair?

    Furthermore, the pay per ride fee system also sucks big time. It makes totally no sense that a person traveling 10 miles on one bus gets away with only paying $1.50, whereas another person who travels the same 10 miles but it involves a transfer has to pay $3.00. And there are those who only need it for less than fives miles but it involves a transfer and they too have to pay $3.00.

    How do you make any sense of that? The system is totally unfair and needs a serious change.

  17. Steven,
    I know you have stated before that Metro is the odd-one out as far as fare structure is concerned, but in my experience this is simply not true outside the Far East.

    Aren’t most US cities the same as LA? Certainly most European cities are. In fact in the UK the move over the past ten years in every single city has been away from distance-based fares to a flat-fare one. Even London has a flat-fare for buses (around $2 – cheap by British standards) and for cash fares on the subway (where it’s a massive $7 whether you go one stop or ride the whole system, as long as you don’t exit). Paris has moved from six zones for three over ten years and goes to a single zone for weekly and monthly passes next year, with cash fares following as soon as finances allow it. It used to have distance-based bus fares, but these were gradually abolished in favour of the flat fare (around $2). Berlin has two zones, but the outer one goers out as far as Metro rail does in LA. Cities with a population of around a million never have more than a single zone, but the Greater Paris transit area has twelve million and is fast moving towards one zone too.

    So why is Metro thought to be out of step?

    Where LA seems different to me is in the low base fare. Distance-based fares would have to use that as a minimum, surely, with longer distances paying much higher fares. Would a lower fare really stop people using their cars for short distances? Dash is only 50 cents, but it doesn’t seem to be full of the car owners of, say, Los Feliz or Hollywood using it to pop to the convenience store. I think if you keep arguing for distance-based fares, you’ll end up with a system where they vary from, say, $2 to $10 or even $15, and not from 50 cents to $5. That’s what happens on Metrolink trains.

    In how many other cities in the world, can you go to work and back for a maximum of $5 a day or $20 a week (and use your pass in your lunch-hour or evenings and at weekends for free)? It’s a bargain in my book. And with more rail, and faster journey times, maybe more people will see it that way.

    I have, incidentally, just (a few hours ago) returned from another trip to your great city, where I found both Metro buses and trains well patronized. I used the Thanksgiving holiday to explore the Metrolink system, with a day on the beach at San Clemente, a ride over the mountains and back to Lancaster and a trip to Riverside. All for $10 over four days: and how many miles is all that? The trains were well patronised and on time. My only regret is that they were not more frequent.

  18. The OCTA raising their flat rate fares is exactly what will happen with Metro unless they change their fare structures.

    This is exactly why travel distance need to be factored in. Who’s going to ride the bus if it costs $2 or more per boarding without factoring whether the rider uses for a two miles or twenty miles?

    Flat rate makes absolutely no sense at all and all it does is discourage travelers back to driving cars because it’s not worth it to pay $2 for a short trip. There is no need to be even relying on a flat rate system either. We have the technology to do tap-in and tap-out distance based fares. I seriously don’t know why other countries can adopt this but not Metro.