Transportation headlines, Monday, January 27

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When is a fare hike really a fare cut (Human Transit) 

Transportation planner Jarrett Walker gives a brief review of Metro’s proposed fare restructuring/increases and likes what he sees. In particular, he’s pleased that the agency is proposing to get rid of the transfer penalty, which requires passengers to pay full fare whenever they transfer buses and/or trains.


The vast dense core of Los Angeles is one of North America’s great grid systems, designed to allow easy travel between any point A and any point B via a single connection.   Unfortunately, their current fare structure charges for a connection.  This makes as much sense as a road tolling system that charges only for turns.

It’s nonsense.  Connections are an inconvenience to passengers that is required by the structure of an efficient network.   Charging for connections encourages riders to demand wildly inefficient services like the late and famous 305, which zigzag diagonally across the grid, increasing complexity without adding much useful service.  It amounts to punishing customers for helping Metro run an efficient and attractive service pattern.

Like other fees, fare penalties for connections arise in part because journalists and activists over-react to the base fare figure, creating more political heat for raising that number.  So like money-losing airlines, the agencies have to look for other things to charge for to hit their fare recovery targets.  But charging for connections is counterproductive, because connections are the foundation of the network.  Airlines don’t do it.  In fact, airfares via a connection are often cheaper than the nonstop.  That’s because the connecting itinerary lets the airline run a more efficient service pattern.

Walker acknowledges that under the pair of Metro staff proposals, fares would overall increase. It depends on what the Metro Board ultimately approves but under the proposals some people would end up paying more — in particular those who use passes — while some passengers may find that they are paying a lower fare because transfers would be free.

The public hearing on the fare proposals is at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at Metro headquarters in downtown Los Angeles (next to Union Station). Here is an earlier Source post looking at the proposals.

Gold Line extension gets low priority from SanBag (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin) 

The San Bernardino Associated Governments subcommittee that deals with transportation funding has recommended first providing funding a pair of Metrolink projects over extending the Gold Line to Montclair and eventually to the airport in Ontario.

SanBAG officials say at this time there’s only so much money to go around and the Metrolink projects — extending tracks to Redlands and double-tracking some sections of the San Bernardino Line — have more countywide appeal at this time. That said, officials are generally supportive of the Gold Line projects but say that it’s a moot point until the Azusa-to-Montclair segment secures funding. If the project stays within L.A. County and ends at Claremont, then San Bernardino funds for construction and operating costs wouldn’t be needed.

In the meantime, the Board of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority last week approved issuing a RFP to find a firm to conduct an Alternatives Analysis of a Gold Line segment between Montclair and Ontario airport. The study is expected to take a couple years to complete.

My write: High noon at Bergamot Transit Village (Santa Monica Daily Press) 

The proposed development near the future Expo Line station in Santa Monica would have five buildings, 765,095 square feet of development, 473 apartments (93 affordable/workforce units) and 25 artist live/work spaces in three buildings. The tallest building would be 85 feet — taller than surrounding buildings. In this op-ed, Bill Bauer writes that the City Council should reject the development for being too tall, too large and too much of a traffic generator.

Santa Monica’s traffic woes in recent years are legendary; the question is what, if anything, can be done about it? The second phase of the Expo Line will at least offer an alternative for some east-west commuters. I suppose the ultra-hypothetical question is what if Santa Monica was served by Expo, the Purple Line Extension (which is funded only as far as Westwood) and a Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor project that connected with Expo, the subway and traveled south along the 405? They key word there is ‘hypothetical,’ btw.

Are streetcars really part of a city’s transit network? (The Atlantic Cities)

Yes and no, writes Eric Jaffe. On the one hand, they are often run by regional transit agencies and allow transfers to their buses and trains. On the other hand, they usually carry a very small portion of overall ridership, raising the question whether streetcars are the best use of local and federal funds.

Satellite photos show how dire snow conditions are at Yosemite and in the Sierra range (National Parks Traveler) 

Not a transportation story, but since drought is in the news — and we will all be impacted — the visuals here are pretty striking. If the mosquitos aren’t too bad, looks like 2014 will be an early backpacking year. Maybe this will be the summer I finally haul my ever-widening backside up to Honeymoon Lake and Granite Park.

6 replies

  1. I think we should all stop making assumptions. Assumptions got us to the mess that the honor system was working just fine and lo and behold, it was out of control.

    And assumptions that “the majority of poor travels longer distances” versus “the majority of the poor travels shorter distances” are going to get us nowhere.

    The fact is that Metro nor any state or local government agency has never conducted or have released any solid studies relating to income-to-commuting-distance for Los Angeles area.

    We cannot apply nationwide statistics as a basis for Los Angeles. In other cities in the US, the poor do have longer trips and distance based fares are likely to hurt them so it makes sense that distance based fares is not the way to go.

    But the comments here made by Angelenos do make an excellent point that burger flippers at McDonald’s here in Los Angeles are not living way out in the suburbs and commuting 20 miles to earn minimum wage. Their points about poor minimum wage earners likely to be hurt the most with a fare hike to $2.25 to travel short distances is valid and warrants a study.

    Los Angeles is a different animal than the rest of the cities or metropolitan areas in the US. We have exactly the opposite situation where there is a substantially large low income households whom primarily resides in multi-family apartment houses and their primary service sector jobs tend to be nearby.

    Before jumping to assumptions and conclusions, Metro needs to do a comprehensive study that relates income to commuting distance for Los Angeles. What is the average of which income level range that has how many miles of commute? That is the study that needs to be conducted before talking about fare restructuring.

    Something like this needs to be released before fare restructuring talks are to begin:

    Annual income $10,000-$20,000 for Los Angeles: ?? miles of commute
    Annual income $20,000-$30,000 for Los Angeles: ?? miles of commute
    Annual income $30,000-$40,000 for Los Angeles: ?? miles of commute

    Let’s not make the same mistake as the honor system based solely on assumptions. The results of the study could be way different than was assumed as was shown with our out of control fare evasion rates of 22% on the Orange Line.

  2. Phantom Commuter,

    And at the same time, there are still many parts of the city that have not been gentrified. Inglewood residents still work in Inglewood. Vernon workers like in South LA. Gardena residents work in Gardena, Culver City residents go to UCLA. And your point being?

    Metro is not just for City of LA. Metro is a LA County transit agency, that’s why it’s official name is Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Meaning, Metro serves the whole of LA County, not just the City of LA. LA County includes all the 88 mini-cities within LA County, from City of Santa Monica to City of Bell, from City of Lancaster to City of Long Beach.

    Not everyone in this 33,500 square mile county with a population of 10 million and still likely to grow has a “suburb-to-downtown” commute. A vast majority of the people living in LA County DO NOT travel that far to go from their jobs to where they live.

    An independent study by Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Studies conducted a study back in 2011 which ranked which cities in the US where residents travel the farthest from their work:

    LA, surprisingly, ranks only 2nd to NYC as the most gas misers (that means, we use the 2nd least gas overall behind NYC) in the US. Are you surprised with that fact?

    If you disagree with this statement, show me your proof that majority of LA residents have 20 mile commutes and that burger flippers all live in McMansions out in the suburbs just to come to work earning minimum wage in the city!!

  3. Many service workers live and work in the suburbs, or commute long distances. They can’t afford to live in Los Angeles anymore. Many parts of the city, including Downtown, are rapidly gentrifying.

  4. Fare hike unfair for the poor,

    That’s where you’re getting it all wrong. Metro isn’t building public transit for the poor. They are building public transit to convince those who live in suburbs, who normally drive on our freeways and have 20 miles commutes into DTLA, to “Go Metro.”

    “Go Metro” is not a slogan to the poor. The poor has always “Gone Metro” because they cannot afford cars. The “Go Metro” slogan is aimed at the rich and the middle class who live farther away from their jobs, those who can afford cars and just want another alternative to get around without paying for much for their long suburb-to-downtown commute and lifestyle.

    As you stated, the poor do not travel that far to get to their jobs. Minimum wage earning burger flippers at McDonalds or the cashiers who incessantly say “credit is free, debit is a dollar” at Carl’s Jr. do not commute into LA from the suburbs. So do the “retail specialists” at Target and K-Mart. The people making your taco at Taco Bell? Ditto. The guy working the graveyard shift at 7-Eleven isn’t commuting all the way from Arcadia either. Heck, even the tellers at your local Bank of America branch ain’t commuting 10-20 miles to come to work everyday!

    The poor are the ones who, through our crappy education system and lack of safety net, are restricted to remedial service sector jobs that are close to their multi-family rental housing complexes. And the poor are the ones that always get hurt through fare hikes.

    The poor cannot afford cars.
    The poor don’t travel that far.
    The poor, in the end, has to pay more for shorter distances, their main spheres of activities, to subsidize the rich and the middle class so that they can travel longer distances for cheap.

    You really thought that Metro was helping the poor? Wake up! Metro isn’t an agency out to help people out of poverty, it’s a government agency that keeps you in poverty and makes sure you stay in poverty!

  5. How can raising fares to $2.25 be considered a “fare cut” when majority of the poor now have to pay more to get to their low wage earning jobs a few miles away from their apartments!?

    Make the people who can afford homes out in the suburbs and have good paying white collar jobs pay the $2.25. Keep people like us who only need it for a few miles stay at $1.50!

    I have to chuckle at these know-it-all people who say the poor is gonna get hurt. They have absolutely no idea how we live and the realities of our way of life! Do you all think we live way out in the suburbs in McMansions and commute 20 miles on the bus just to come flip burgers or serve your coffee?