Motions involving bathrooms at transit stations (or lack thereof), parking at transit stations (or lack thereof) and fares on the Orange Line (or lack of people actually paying for them) have all found their way onto the agenda for the Metro Board of Directors meeting this Thursday.
In particular, the bathroom and parking issues are brought up on a regular basis by readers here and, quite frankly, are also core service issues that most large transit agencies grapple with at some time or another.
Let me be blunt. None of these issues are going to be solved at this Board meeting. As you will see below, each motions call for more study and/or reports from Metro staff. That said, motions are sometimes the beginning of a process.
Obviously the motion is keyed to some specific issues that have arisen near the Orange Line’s Pierce College station. But bathrooms and transit stations have a long, tangled history that is still, of course, being written.
Bathrooms at transit stations are in many cities a thing of the past, mostly for reasons involving maintenance and safety, although some BART and New York Subway stations have restrooms. Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 amNewYork story on bathrooms in the subway system:
Of the open bathrooms, a third were frightening caverns of garbage, urine, standing water or unseemly smells. Odors from the Astoria-Ditmars Blvd. station on the N caused an amNewYork reporter to feel faint during a recent visit.
“They’re pretty disgusting. People are always cleaning themselves in there and doing other stuff,” said Kelvin Pau, 27, a rider using the 168 St. A station, which reeked.
Don’t expect to find toilet paper or soap, as few of the bathrooms had either. And while graffiti has largely been eliminated from subway stations, it lives on in the bathrooms, as many of the walls and stalls were covered in tags.
Keeping the bathrooms tidy and open is a challenge because they are constantly being vandalized or attract “criminal activity,” Seaton said.
Metro has three transit stations with restrooms: Union Station, El Monte Station and Harbor Gateway. The vast majority do not.
Restrooms in transit stations is a subject that has been written about a lot. Here’s a good article about the issue from the Atlantic Cities blog. It will be interesting to see how Metro staff responds to this one, as building more restrooms and then maintaining and patrolling them would be a major undertaking.
One of the key features — and one often heavily promoted — of bus rapid transit is the ability for riders to pay their fares before getting on the bus. The idea is to expedite loading instead of having people line up at the fare box on the bus. As every rider knows, buses are slowed by many things, among them traffic, frequent stops and people lining up on the bus to pay their fare.
Thus, the interestingness of this motion, which implies that off-bus payment isn’t working as well as it should.
There is, of course, a related issue here: everyone is supposed to tap at validators when boarding a bus or rail line. Validators have been moved and/or added at some rail stations to make it easier for riders and to make them more convenient. It sounds like that could be an issue here.
My best guess is that some of the people not tapping have actually paid for passes on their TAP card. That’s good. But here’s the thing, people: The Sheriff’s Deputies that patrol Metro’s system can, and will, cite those who don’t TAP. The rule is passengers are supposed to pay their fares and TAP their cards to ride the system.
Another issue I’ve long found fascinating (in a geeky kind of way): parking at rail stations. There’s a twist here because NoHo serves as the terminus for both the Red Line subway and Orange Line busway and is also a major transfer point on the Metro system.
In some ways, parking at transit stations is a collision of two different ideals. On the one hand, many people want to use transit stations to promote walkability, cycling and denser urban environments. But that’s hard to do when the station is surrounded by a giant parking garage or several football fields of parking.
On the other hand, the aforementioned parking lots are proof positive that parking does attract ridership at some stations and that parking may be a solution to the first-mile, last-mile problem.
Complicating matters is that many stations seem to do fine with no dedicated parking or very limited parking.
And thus the conundrum: which stations are and are not appropriate for dedicated parking? The standard thus far seems to be dictated by the station’s environment, with the more “suburban” stations getting more parking. That makes sense, but also raises another question: where do you draw the line on how much parking to provide?
My answer: I don’t know! I do know that as a Gold Line rider I have several ways to get to stations near my house: walking, cycling, getting a ride, taking a bus or driving. Anyone care to guess which I do the most often? 🙂
I can’t write about parking at rail stations without bringing this up: the nine-mile Purple Line Extension will have seven new stations between Wilshire/Western and the final station at the VA Hospital in Westwood. None will have parking.
It’s certainly no secret and Metro planners talked quite a bit about that decision during the environmental review process. The big problem with parking involved the paucity of affordable real estate along Wilshire Boulevard in which to build lots and garages. There is also the issue that installing more parking along Wilshire is not exactly the best use of land in what is already a dense urban environment.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on any of these motions and related issues. The motions are good because they address specific concerns that have arisen on the system — and also open the door to the kind of big issues that all transit agencies must consider and revisit from time to time.
Categories: Policy & Funding