Today’s Metro rider profile from Zocalo Public Square: A library in her pocket (Oxford Avenue to Watt Way)
From a 2009 study surveying Los Angeles transit riders that concluded buses have an “image problem,” this New York Times article posits that instead of building expensive rail lines, transit agencies should often consider enhance existing bus routes with more amenities and marketing.
The 2009 FTA study used focus groups of “choice riders” — those that have an option whether to drive or take transit — in L.A. to compare perceptions of regular bus routes to the Metro Orange Line. Excerpt:
“Riding the bus carries a ‘shame factor,’ ” the researchers found. “Most of the choice riders would not consider using it, or if they did, they would feel ashamed and keep it a secret.”
But what the local transit agency marketed as the “Orange Line” — really just a bus route in the San Fernando Valley with high frequencies on a dedicated right of way — managed to gain acceptance among “choice riders.”
Focus group participants “used terms like the ‘train-bus’ or the ‘bourgeois bus’ to describe the Orange Line service,” the researchers said. The Orange Line has repeatedly beaten its ridership estimates, and nearly half its riders have access to a car, compared with just a quarter on regular local bus routes in Los Angeles. That performance shows it is possible to overcome anti-bus bias with the right amenities and marketing.
The article is written in a way that suggests it’s the latter — the marketing — that sways riders most. Though it most certainly plays a role, could it be that features commonly associated with rail like station platforms, pre-board fare payment, real-time arrival boards and a dedicated right-of-way suggest a certain level of service that make it convenient and reliable enough for on-the-fence riders to try?
The Q70 and M60 bus services in New York are used examples of routes that could be upgraded and marketed as airport connectors, since both will be faster for most than a proposed rail connection to La Guardia Airport. An L.A. iteration of this might be the LAX Flyaway bus that whisks riders to the airport from Union Station faster than a car or train and which seems to be an often overlooked airport transit option.
The article also takes a shot — perhaps deservedly — at expensive rail projects that end up providing very slow service. A couple of streetcar lines get the NYT wag of the finger, but let’s face it: not every light rail line built recently in the U.S. is setting land-speed records.
MBTA Rail Service Shut Down Tuesday for Snow Cleanup (CBS Boston)
In cold-weather news: another round of ice and snow on Monday forced Boston’s transit agency to shut down the entirety of the city’s train service yesterday. The MBTA‘s reason for the full shutdown:
“From a safety perspective, the MBTA is concerned about the risk of multiple disabled trains that would require evacuations on the tracks, potentially in the dark,” a MassDOT spokesperson said in a statement.
The region’s airports and Amtrak were also operating on limited schedules Monday and Tuesday as the governor of Massachusetts made an emergency declaration for the areas hardest hit by Monday’s winter storm. Even though the storm was just the latest in an already tough winter, there appears to be a bit of skepticism from at least a few stranded passengers:
“Although we’ve had a lot of snow, this is New England and they should be able to take care of these things,” said Tim Ferris, who took a bus to South Station from Portland, Maine, only to find there was no connection to Alewife in Cambridge.
Service resumed earlier today, albeit on a limited basis. The region is anticipating another possible storm later this week.
A group of advocates in Seattle hopes to use language to reframe the discussion of complete streets and make it less of a “war” amongst drivers, cyclists and pedestrians (or “people that drive, bike and walk” ) and more of a civil discussion focused on the common humanity and interests of all users. An excerpt, quoting Seattle Bike Blog‘s James Fucoloro:
“A basic element of a street is that everyone on it is a person,” says Fucoloro. “A person-centered word forces you to ask, maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way.”
Fucoloro says that talking about streets in a way that emphasizes the common humanity of all users, rather than dividing them into tribes with warring interests, has made a real difference in the way Seattle’s planners discuss possible changes to streets with the community.
The group, called the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, created a chart with suggested terminology:
In response to the “accident vs. collision” debate when describing auto-related incidents, Fuculoro most adequately sums up what’s behind the language shift:
Fucoloro says he understands why people default to “accidents” and similar usages. “It’s to avoid thinking about the fact that driving is the most dangerous thing we do on a regular basis,” he says. “But we need that sense of personal responsibility to make streets work.”
While acknowledging that language alone can’t change people’s attitudes, Sarah Goodyear, the article’s author, cites a 1975 experiment that suggests it can alter their perception of events.
Why I’ve just decided to sell my car (NRDC Blog)
A San Francisco based sustainable transit advocate takes us through her decision to go car-free. Going car-free in San Francisco isn’t quite the high hurdle that it is in other places, but the article is still worth a read. Excerpt:
The average American car sits parked for 95% of its life. In San Francisco, I’ll bet you that number is even higher. So when no one moves their car, parking is virtually impossible. I just started to realize that I AM A PART OF THIS PROBLEM. So, that means I could also be part of the solution by selling my car and using someone else’s car only when I need it. I really started to think that the whole notion that we all need to own our own cars, just so we have them available for the tiny percentage of the time that we actually use them, is a little crazy.
I’m not the first to realize that if we would all just share resources — use cars when we need them, move toward real-time, seamless, dynamic ridesharing so the average occupancy of cars is greater than 20%, and make point to point bikes publicly available through bikeshare programs, we could solve a lot of our congestion and parking woes.
In the spirit of the Speed Dating on the Red Line event this Friday, I leave you with a great song about public transit and love — or more specifically some innocent PDA — from 80s alt-rock cult heroes, The Replacements.
And if you haven’t had the chance yet, make sure to give our latest podcast about finding love on transit a listen.
Categories: Transportation Headlines