Transportation headlines, Wednesday, October 22

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Rail to River moves forward (Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas website)

The post concerns a motion by Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas that asks Metro to supply $2.8 million in funding for more planning and design work on a new walking and bike path in South Los Angeles. The motion will be heard at Thursday’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors.

As envisioned by Ridley-Thomas, the path would convert the old Harbor Subdivision Right-of-Way owned by Metro and convert it to a walking and bike path between the West Boulevard Station of the future LAX/Crenshaw line and the Los Angeles River.

The article and the accompanying video on MRT’s website invokes New York City’s “High Line” as well as the Greenway Trail in Whittier as examples of projects that successfully have converted unused railway to assets that benefit the surrounding communities. Here’s a Source post from earlier this year about the concept.

This item from the Source’s Steve Hymon:

Times, ABC 7 and Metro’s parking stores are wrong and misleading (Streetsblog L.A.) 

Joe Linton responds to stories on parking — and the lack thereof — at some Metro transit stations (L.A. Times and ABC-7). Among his key points: 1) it’s often free parking that is in short supply at some stations stations while paid parking spaces may be available or could be available if managed better, and; 2) there may be other important reasons why people choose not to ride other than parking — such as frequency or quality of transit service.

Whether to include parking at transit stations is a tough piece of public policy, especially given that free parking is subsidized by Metro for better or worse (depending on your point of view). I’ve heard good arguments on all sides of this debate. I’ll offer the same disclosure that I did in yesterday’s headlines: the $2 I pay to sometimes park at the Gold Line’s Del Mar Station makes my transit trip to work a little quicker.

Lyft, Uber secure SFO deal (S.F. Examiner)

The deal means that the three most used app-based rideshare services (or “transportation network companies“) can now legally pick up and drop off passengers at San Francisco International Airport as part of a 90-day pilot program. Sidecar, another popular service, reached an agreement with the airport last week. The terms of the deal will allow the airport to limit the number of vehicles available at the airport at a given time. SFO is the first airport in California and the second in the U.S. to reach an agreement with app-based ride services.

Meanwhile in L.A., Los Angeles World Airports last spring asked for comments on a draft agreement for a potential pilot program to allow transportation network companies at LAX. There’s been little news out of either camp regarding progress on granting permits since then.

In June, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the fledgling rideshare industry in California, issued cease-and-desist letters to a handful of companies specifically citing unauthorized airport operations. Police at both LAX and SFO were reportedly cracking down on unlicensed drivers throughout the summer. But despite such a rough start, SFO and rideshare companies were still able to strike deals within a few months. So is it only a matter of time before similar agreements will be inked at LAX?

NYC sets one-day subway ridership record (WNYC)

Passengers board the New York subway in September. Photo by Jim Pennucci, via Flickr creative commons.

Passengers board the New York subway in September. Photo by Jim Pennucci, via Flickr creative commons.

There were 6.1 million boardings on Sept. 23, the most since records started being kept in 1985. Officials say the subway was only averaging 3.6 million boardings a day 20 years ago and credit the growth to the New York MTA’s efforts to improve the system’s efficiency and capacity.

Washington State traffic forecast finally recognizes reality (Sightline Daily)

The blog post by Clark Williams-Derry of the Sightline Institute cites a recently published forecast from Washington state that predicts traffic growth in the state will be modest and eventually decline. This trend is a striking change from the same orecast from last year which, like many other traffic growth forecasts across the country, indicated steady traffic growth. Williams-Derry calls the forecast a “refreshing change” because:

First, it reflects the growing empirical evidence of a long-term slowdown in the growth of vehicle travel, evident on major roads in Washington, for Washington State roads as a whole, for the US, and for much of the industrialized world.

Second, even if the forecast is wrong, assuming that traffic won’t grow much is the most fiscally prudent way to plan a transportation budget.

The article goes on to say a consequence of slowed traffic growth combined with unrealistically optimistic traffic forecasts (if more cars on the road is an optimistic prospect to anyone) is reduced revenue from gas tax and tolling, most of which the state of Washington is forced to use on debt repayment instead of much-needed infrastructure improvements.

It will be interesting to see if more agencies use the recent trend in declining traffic growth as a basis for predicting a long-term trend, especially considering per capita vehicle miles of travel in the U.S. declined for the 9th straight year in 2013. Even more interesting: whether funds will shift toward other ways of getting around.


9 replies

  1. Things to consider:

    1. Driverless car technology is already on the horizon

    2. Uber and Lyft replace car drivers with very fuel efficient (or no fuel consumption) driverless cars so they don’t have to deal with DAs in SF and LA butting in about background checks of drivers, practically killing of taxi cab companies

    3. Cost of travel by the mile is further reduced because there’s no more labor cost involved with a human driver and no more tipping needed by the passenger; perhaps as low as 10-20 cents a mile

    4. Metro’s faces competition private the private sector who is now able to provide mass transit service, rated cheaply rated distance based fares (which Uber and Lyft does today) providing door-to-door service with personalized driverless cars

    The more you think about, that’s what technology can do today. We have fuel efficient vehicles. Driverless technology coming up. A growing sharing economy. Uber and Lyft becoming very popular as an alternative mode of transportation. Venture capitalists pouring billions of dollars into the idea. Distance based fares is perfectly doable as shown abroad and beta-tested in Utah and with contactless payments taking off with smartphones. No need to worry about smartphone battery running out because chargers are in the car themselves.

    Metro better start keeping up with technology because sooner or later, no taxes will be needed to run public transit; the private sector will be able to do it all on their own using all the technology available today. And yes, people will see through the things that you may try to do to prevent this from happening. Try to pass laws or legislation or threaten lawsuits, people will see through it and it’ll only hurt your support.

  2. I think one way to accommodate both sides is to accelerate TOD that includes housing and multistory parking structures, rather than having huge surface lots. Ultimately, Metro’s job isn’t just to provide transit but to create a better lifestyle in the county; that may mean some subsidized parking, especially at hubs like NoHo, but it needn’t mean endless seas of asphalt. And there should be a systematic way of dividing this type of spending – if x% arrive on foot/bike/bus, x% of this category should go to those improvements; y% by car, y% to car improvements like parking.

    That said, it’s common sense that when lots fill up, it’s time to start charging at least a nominal fee. “Who got there first” is a stupid way to assign priority for a scarce resource. Indeed, it cuts ridership if early morning commuters store their car at the lot all day in a space that could otherwise have been used by multiple riders throughout the day.

  3. I would like to comment on your story about the new “taxi services” in California IE: Uber, Lyft etc. I’ve heard no one talk about the eventual possible affects on public transit agencies,especially Los Angeles’ METRO. The eventual outcome will be the end of taxi service as we knew it But even worse to me that it won’t stop there, it has to affect transit companies because of it’s door to door service by the automobile which historically been the enemy and nemesis of rail and bus companies and transit unions here in the United States. The CA PUC better be very careful about regulating these companies. Thier “taxi fares” will affect transit prices,reasonable as they are in my opinion,and the effects could be grotesque to the future of the transit industry. People,in the past, fled transit lines (rail especially, intercity bus lines and the passenger railroads by the droves. If these companies can artificially reduce thier fares the face of American transportation may change forever and not in a constructive way! It looks to the general population that this “New Idea” will be glamerous and economical to all, It my opinion NO it won’t be and once they achieve a large ridership and the Taxi companies are gone they will try to get riders from public transit. Remember, like the passenger railroads MTA and all other transit agencies own lots of property for transit divisions, rail and bus rights of way that require maintenance,not to mention the subway cars,streetcars and buses that require expensive maintenance and all employees of the agencies whose salaries would have to be negotiated downwards. The more people use this kind of service,which carries few people in thier autos,it could cause much traffic congestion and depending on motive power…a LOT more Smog. They don’t use that name any more but at one time Los Angeles was considered smog capital of the country. I was a boy in LA when the smog blanketed the city and you couldn’t see beyond the next block and your eyes burned with a vengance! Back in the 50’s some envisioned a Los Angeles not using buses and trolleys but using personal helicopters for travel. Well that never happened but we may have a sky full of “Drones” both governmental and privately owned, which like helicopters have a tendency to crash. Won’t that be fun! You don’t want to see another post world war 2 abandonment of transit in favor of new automobile based services and associated new highways. I’m old so maybe I won’t live to see such an apocalypse and I hope you don’t either. Let’s hope reasonable minds prevail now to avoid catastrophies.. later. Thanks. Mike Campbell

  4. Rail stations should be destinations that can attract people to them as places to live, work and play. If the parking element dominates, the station isn’t a destination, it’s just a place to ditch a car and go somewhere more interesting.

    Parking at rail stations should NOT be free for three key reasons: 1) Metro pays for the “free” parking, which takes away resources that could be used to improve the transit system. 2) When parking is free and in high demand the result is a parking shortage. 3) Free parking is a subsidy that COMPETES with Metro’s core service: public transit.

    People in LA have to learn that free parking isn’t an entitlement.

    • Hmm. By your assessment, it’s a bad thing for people living outside the county, or in low-density or poorly-served areas, to “ditch a car” at Wardlow to take Metro to “somewhere more interesting.”

      Well, then I guess it was a mistake to build the Wardlow Station in the first place, given that its obvious raison d’etre is to serve people entering Los Angeles County on the 405. Just like the Artesia Station, whose obvious raison d’etre is to serve people entering Los Angeles County on the 91. It certainly doesn’t serve the local “pan house” and its hotel; indeed, that whole entrance to the station had to be sealed off because the management evidently found that more Blue Line passengers were pulling off the 91 and parking in the casino lot to to catch the trolley than there were getting off the trolley there to play pan.

      Stations don’t need to be close to a business or a high-density residential area in order to be a logical place for boarding or detraining.

      That said, gas has gotten expensive enough that as long as parking at Wardlow is substantially cheaper than parking at Disney Hall, the Bowl, Staples Center, or Exposition Park, the people who already ditch their cars there to go to attend concerts or games, or to visit museums, will continue to do so, just as those who ditch their cars there to go to work downtown will continue to do so as long as Wardlow parking is cheaper than office parking.

      But we don’t want JUST the people ALREADY taking Metro from Wardlow to work or to leisuretime activities; that’s just preaching to the choir! We want MORE people, the people STILL DRIVING ALL THE WAY, AND PAYING THROUGH THE NOSE FOR ON-SITE PARKING, BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER to ditch their cars and take Metro.

      We already have the prime parking spaces at Wardlow restricted to paid permits during the morning rush; isn’t that enough? And if we do meter the rest of the spaces, and maybe even the on-street parking, there’s no reason to meter the parking 24/7: during evenings and weekends, the meter revenue would have to be downright exorbitant (and certainly high enough to push people back into their cars) in order to be enough to pay for the cost of enforcement.

      • “By your assessment, it’s a bad thing for people living outside the county, or in low-density or poorly-served areas, to “ditch a car” at Wardlow to take Metro to “somewhere more interesting.”

        It is when you don’t live in LA County to begin with. If you don’t live in LA County you don’t pay LA County taxes. If you want to visit LA and want to come to Walt Disney Hall, either way you’re going to end up paying. Pay for parking at Wardlow, pay for parking at Walt Disney Hall, either way, it’s a plus for LA County.

        You have no voice in this matter. You’re not an LA County taxpayer, you’re not a LA County voter.

  5. Didn’t the DAs of SF and LA recently threaten to file a lawsuit against the same ride-share companies because they are operating “illegally” so they say?

    So what’s the point of allowing them to picking up passengers at SFO or LAX when they can’t go anywhere?

    So you have one part of government saying they are ok now to pick up passengers at the airport, but the other part of government threatening to file a lawsuit because they are operating illegally. Serious, our laws are messed up.

    • In the latest enforcement action, the claim was essentially that they were committing consumer fraud by lying about background checks, not that they were per se illegal. The remedy would probably be restitution, fines, and a ban on future misleading statements, not a complete ban on operating.

      By the way, what’s Metro’s position on Uber-pooling and other jitney-like apps? Will it oppose them at the PUC? Seek a fee from Uber/Lyft to mitigate any lost fare revenue from publicly subsidized routes?

    • And if the DAs of LA and SF decide to move forward with their lawsuit plans, it’ll be a political disaster because of how Lyft and Uber is becoming very popular.

      Basically, it’s an empty threat just like the “proof of payment” system. When you get caught, you get fined, but chances are you never get caught because there’s lack of enforcement.