Transportation headlines, Monday, February 2

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Today’s Metro rider profile by Zocalo Public Square: I love the clouds (and The Smiths) (Alondra Boulevard to Wardlow Road)

Broadway in downtown L.A. (Photo @fernrios @bbrendam via Instagram)

Broadway in downtown L.A. (Photo @fernrios @bbrendam via Instagram)

Did the MBTA’s late-night experiment really work? (Boston Globe)

A good article looking back at the one-year pilot program that extended the MBTA‘s weekend service past 2 a.m. The program will end next month with its future up in the air. The extended service was estimated to cost $13 million, which means based on the extended service’s ridership estimates, each ride will end up costing the MBTA about $13.

From the last Friday in March through January 11, more than 845,000 riders took the T between 12:30 and 3 on Saturday and Sunday mornings, according to an MBTA spokesman. Ridership was steady until the winter holidays, about 17,000 to 20,000 per weekend. From Thanksgiving weekend through the end of the year, it was closer to 10,000. Whether that will be enough to keep the late-night trains running remains to be seen. Funded in part by sponsors — including the Red Sox and The Boston Globe — the one-year pilot program is nearing its end. MBTA officials expect to brief the authority’s board on the results soon.

Extended service was originally sold as a boon to the local economy and a way to promote Boston as a world-class city and improve its reputation. After next month, the program’s fate hinges on whether these intangible benefits can outweigh the MBTA’s budget concerns. Supporters of the extended service believe it’s the benefits, not the costs, that should win out:

Insisting on a cold financial calculus to decide the fate of late-night service misses the point entirely, says Malia Lazu, whose Future Boston was among the earliest backers of late-night service — despite a powerful enemy in the late mayor Tom Menino, who was largely averse to city-sponsored late-night shenanigans. “The problems at the MBTA aren’t that we have late-night service,” Lazu notes. “That’s not their fiscal problem. That’s not their long-term planning problem.” She insists it’s foolish to demand that a service that is aimed at benefiting the public good in ways as disparate as curbing drunken driving and enlivening downtown also be revenue-neutral. “Do we kind of want to move our city forward? Or do we want to continue to be, you know, the little provincial city-town?” Lazu asks.

BART satisfaction lowest in 15 years (Mass Transit Magazine)

According to the most recent customer survey of Bay Area riders, satisfaction on BART trains is the lowest since 1998, dropping 14 percent in the past two years. Passengers cited overcrowded, hot and dirty train cars as some of the main reasons for the dissatisfaction. The agency believes part of the dissatisfaction is due to increased ridership on a system beginning to show its age:

‘BART is a victim of its own success,’ BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said. ‘We have more people riding our trains than ever, but the same resources to serve them.’

The agency is expecting a new fleet of rail cars in 2016, which might alleviate some of the most common complaints. Shorter-term fixes include installing easy-to-clean seat covers and synthetic flooring, capital improvements and more maintenance workers.

More women ride mass transit than men. Shouldn’t transit agencies be catering to them? (CityLab)

A reporter in Philadelphia found that 64 percent of public transit riders in the city are women. Other studies, using different methodologies, found Philly leading the way with women riders but other U.S. cities also showed similar ridership trends. Excerpt:

According to Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, women predominate on mass transit around the globe. It’s a phenomenon, she says, that is mostly not a matter of choice. “I don’t know about Philadelphia, but there are many studies that indicate there are women who are riding transit out of necessity,” she says. “Women are captive transit users. If there is one car in the family, it is often driven by the man in the household. Men are much more likely to use motorbikes or mopeds than women. Taking a taxi is often too expensive to be an option. For many of these women [public transit] is the only transportation mode.”

Knowing this information, the article goes on to ask what can transit agencies do to improve safety and to better accommodate this large portion of its ridership:

Marketers of many, many consumer products focus on women—quite naturally, because women are the ones doing most of the buying for families. Imagine if more transit systems in the U.S. started doing the same. The result would no doubt be transit systems that would be better for, and more attractive to, everyone.

Photo: Dame Helen Mirren demonstrates perfect subway etiquette (Gothamist)

A photo of Academy Award winner Dame Helen Mirren demonstrating near perfect transit etiquette on the New York subway this weekend.  Gothamist believes the NYMTA should dump their latest etiquette campaign and just use this photo to demonstrate perfect transit etiquette (though I believe pole-dancing on trains should still be addressed).

4 replies

  1. Yes. On one Philadelphia vacation, I rode the PATCO “Speedline,” just to ride it, and to be able to say I’d set foot in New Jersey (I’ve been within 20 feet of the ground in all 50 States, and the District of Columbia, and all before I turned 50, with over a year to spare). A pure (but fare-paid) joyride.

    • I can up that. I visited all 50 states, plus Guam, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico and not just within 20 feet of the ground, but actual stays there, and I am also on my third additional pages on my US Passport before I turned 30. Considering that, I think all US mass transit sucks compared to what I’ve ridden in Europe and in Asia.

      The best transit systems that I’ve ridden are:

      1. Hong Kong
      2. Taipei
      3. Singapore
      4. Seoul
      5. Tokyo
      6. London
      7. Amsterdam
      8. Brussels
      9. Paris
      10. New York City

      Based on transit pricing (cheaply rated distance based fares), efficiency, and cleanliness. Sorry, but after riding mass transit all over the world, none of the US transit agencies, even NYMTA can compare to transit over in Asia; I just simply cannot justify a system where it costs $2.50 per ride regardless whether you’re just going a short distance or a long trip. I prefer a “pay cheap for short trips, pay a bit more for longer trips” like the norm in Asia. It’s not that hard, you fill up your card, you tap-in and you tap-out and it automatically deducts the fare based on travel distance. There’s nothing confusing about it.

  2. SEPTA recently announced that its two subway lines (Broad Street [Orange] and Market-Frankford [Blue]) would now provide weekend “Owl” subway service. Similar to Boston, SEPTA operated overnight subway service on both lines as part of a pilot program. The Philadelphia transit agency saw that ridership was sufficient enough to make overnight service permanent. [PATCO operates a single subway line serving Philadelphia and parts of Camden County, New Jersey and it has always provided 24-hour service. PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) runs a subway system serving Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken, New Jersey, and Manhattan also has always operated round-the-clock service.]

  3. The New York MTA has a number of 24/7 subway lines.
    The CTA has 24/7 service on the red and blue lines.
    The NORTA has 24/7 service on the St. Charles Streetcar.
    SEPTA and the SF MUNI provide “Owl” service via buses on several rail routes.