Transportation headlines, Thursday, May 21

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ART OF TRANSIT: Walkers on the public stairs in San Marino. Photo by Steve Hymon (who doesn't live in San Marino, btw).

ART OF TRANSIT: Walkers on the public stairs in San Marino. Photo by Steve Hymon (who doesn’t live in San Marino, btw).

L.A.’s minimum wage to rise to $15 by 2020 (L.A. Times) 

A relevant story given that Metro’s latest customer survey showed that the average household income for bus riders was about $15,500 — and $22,000 for rail riders. Of course, Metro serves many parts of Los Angeles County whereas the minimum wage hike will take effect only in the city of Los Angeles (about 40 percent of the county population-wise).

Key excerpt:

Some labor leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the gradual timeline elected leaders set for raising base wages. But on Tuesday the harshest criticism of the law came from business groups, which warned lawmakers that the mandate would force employers to lay off workers or leave the city altogether.

I’m curious to see what, if any, effect the wage hike has on Metro’s proposed ballot measure for the Nov. 2016 ballot. As we posted recently, one possible scenario has Metro asking voters to approve an additional half-cent sales tax increase.

Business groups were largely supportive of Measure R and the many transportation projects funded, including an expansion of the transit system. A wage hike and a sales tax increase are two very different things, but both involve spending money.

Of course, there’s another way of looking at it, expressed by L.A. Councilmember and Metro Board Member Mike Bonin when asked if the wage increase would have unintended consequences:

“Those concerns about potential unintended consequences are also balanced against the very real and known consequences we have and we see in Los Angeles every day of people getting a poverty wage for working full time,” he said.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy also provides a very interesting commentary, saying L.A.’s minimum wage increase is a “fascinating experiment” — and one in which he praises.

As an exercise in participatory politics, the success of the living-wage movement is encouraging, and the new laws, when they come into effect, will have a significant impact on the lives of low-paid workers and their families. Someone who works a forty-hour week and earns $7.25 an hour receives an annual wage of fifteen thousand and eighty dollars, before deductions for Social Security and Medicare. That’s more than nine thousand dollars below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, and is marginally below the threshold for a family of two. At fifteen dollars an hour, the annual wage rises to thirty one thousand two hundred dollars, which is well above the poverty thresholds.

As Cassidy points out, many other large cities have or are in the midst of raising the wage. He also cites numerous research that shows job losses due to wage increases are basically negligible. In fact, he cites research saying that a minimum wage increase could result in a job increase because workers have more money to spend.

It’s also worth mentioning that Metro does offer fare discounts to a variety of groups, including those who earn low incomes. Please see this page on for more information and how to apply.

Metro to pay $4.25 million to man struck by Gold Line train (L.A. Times) 

The legal settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing. The man was hit by a train at a pedestrian crosswalk at the Southwest Museum Station in 2009 and lost his foot in the accident. New warning signals were placed at the crosswalk after the accident to better warn people that trains were coming from both directions, according to Metro.

San Francisco luxury bus Leap suspended by state regulators (L.A. Times)

Leap is one of the so-called luxury buses trolling San Francisco for riders willing to fork over significantly more money than it costs to ride a city bus. But Leap has had to stop operations because of various state concerns and incomplete paperwork. Leap officials say they’ll be back on the road in no time. We shall see.

What’s the most bike-friendly city in the U.S.? (Grist) 

An un-skeptical clickbait/rehash of the Walkscore list, which said Cambridge, Mass., as number one. The top 10 has a lot of college towns — the largest city is Minneapolis, which last I heard sometimes gets some snow and chilly temperatures and has simply lovely biking weather 24/7/365. Santa Monica comes in sixth.

That’s nice. SaMo has gone to great lengths to build bike lanes but No. 6 seems a tad generous when compared to the rest of the U.S. SaMo also has a bit of a car traffic issue and even the beach bike lane is often congested with bikes, walkers, rollerbladers, skaters and Segways. Long Beach, on the other hand, has a beach bike lane and an adjacent walking path — a wiser approach, IMO.

Los Angeles is very, very busy (Zocalo Public Square) 

Asia Montgomery. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

Asia Montgomery. Photo by Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing series of profiles of Metro riders.


Quasily-related to transit: 

Things to watch on transit: For those riders or cubicle dwellers/prisoners with a good internet connection: Great band, great song and great montage of clips to close out David Letterman’s late night run.

I found a taker for my offer of a free book. Video below of Heather taking the solemn oath to gift Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: America 1927” to another transit rider when she’s done reading it:

Next freebie book: “Great White Fathers: The Story of the Obsessive Quest to Create Mt. Rushmore” by John Taliaferro. First person to email me gets the book (and it’s a hardcover!).

Photo: National Park Service.

Photo: National Park Service.

•Things to listen to on transit: “The Songs That Makes Us Cry,” NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast. Many of the suggestions come from listeners and let’s just say I wouldn’t have guessed the first song played in a million years. One song mentioned in the comments worthy of consideration:

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram for my occasional posts on mostly non-transity things. 

11 replies

  1. The methodology for detemining the most ‘bike friendly city’ is a bit odd. Sorry, but only retired masochists insist on biking in heavy rain, snow and ice. Flat with good weather: Davis, check, Santa Monica, check.
    Berkeley, WHAT? Narrow streets, hilly terrain, countless bizarre one-way residential streets, 30K students, almost no parking, and mediocre public transit results in daily battles between kamikaze bike riders and drivers with no good alternatives.

  2. I earn minimum minimum wage and I think raising the minimum wage to $15 will not work and actually quite insulting because it seems like politicians are “buying” our votes. It’s like “we know you don’t like us, but we’ll give you more money if you promise to continue to vote for us” like we’re some kind of idiots who doesn’t know anything about how the world works. I agree that it’ll just lead to loss of jobs and more unemployment. When the person says “fascinating experiment,” what happens when the experiment was deemed a failure? Do we go back to reducing the minimum wage? Has there been any place in the US where minimum wage was reduced?

    • During the civil rights movement in the 60’s, one of the things that was being fought for was also fair wages. The level that was being asked for, when adjusted for inflation, was…. $15 per hour.
      It never has been raised to above $11 in real dollars. And when it did, it was at 90% of the poverty level.

      • Speaking of the civil rights era, LBJ promoted the “Great Society” and the “War on Poverty.” Those were all “social experiments.” None of them worked and hasn’t much so today, much like the “Great Leap Forward,” or the “Five Year Plans” led by Mao Zedong. Yet the social experiment continues at tremendous tax dollars each year, with no end in sight.

        Just as the City of LA passed a minimum wage increase law, Irvine repealed their living wage law:

        Sooner or later, the City of LA will begin to grasp that this “social experiment” is doomed to failure, much as the idea of how flat rate fares make any sense in running a transit system.

  3. Only a year ago, both Los Angeles and San Francisco tried to shut down Lyft and Uber because they thought they were breaking the law because they didn’t have the same approval from the same regulator, the CPUC.

    Lyft settled, but Uber didn’t and still continued to operate, defying the law. Guess what, Uber and Lyft are still here and eventually both LA and SF backed down because they were massively unpopular. That set a precedent that startups shouldn’t pay like Lyft did because Uber still is allowed without paying or giving in and in the end, both are still operating here in LA and San Francisco all the while defying a stupid law no one cares, that no one even knows about, and everyone knowing it’s just yet another way for government to steal money from the people, just like jaywalking tickets to pedestrians and purposefully making parking signs confusing to grab more parking tickets.

    Me thinks Leap will remain, unless the CPUC can provide a valid reason why Uber and Lyft are okay while Leap is not, they’ll have a tough time convincing everyone what right they have in shutting down businesses.

    I already see the excuses coming: Leap runs a bus, it’s a different animal than a car like Uber and Lyft! We need to play it safe! Where and how does the law draw the line that what vehicle falls under severe scrutiny by the CPUC while another does not? Does it say specifically that if a vehicle is 40 feet it’s considered a bus and falls into CPUC regulations? So what if Leap decides to shorten their bus length 39 feet and 11 inches so it avoid being scrutinized by the CPUC,t hen it’s instantly ok?

  4. Doesn’t surprise me at all that CA is so stupid that it feels necessary to give power to government agencies that have nothing to do with their main job and start bullying startups and entrepreneurs.

    Let me guess, it’s the usual excuse “oh it’s because it’s in the name of public safety!!!” right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ve heard that before. That’s how the TSA and militarization of police got started and boy everyone loves it!

    And we know what’s going to happen next:

    Leap, et. al v. California Public Utilities Commision in federal court. Leap, et. al. backed by venture capital funds hiring the best antitrust attorneys fighting a court battle at taxpayers’ expense against CA state gov’t agency. CA state gov’t agency doesn’t care either way because all court costs and any legal settlement payouts are paid by taxpayers anyway.


    Leap decides to move to Texas where they have no such restrictions or regulations, CA loses smart entrepreneurs over to TX, more jobs are created in TX and CA loses more jobs because of stupid government regulations.

    Way to go California, way to go.

    • Option three:

      Los Angeles embraces and welcomes Leap with open arms as another optional method of transportation. Los Angeles has the perfect opportunity here to usurp Leap away from San Francisco, stick a middle finger against Sacramento politicians and bureaucrats, create new jobs in LA and make a point to the CPUC and any other state gov’t agency that it shouldn’t get in the way of discouraging new ideas, freedom, liberty and being successful in entrepreneurship as this country stands for.

      There’s nothing wrong with defying stupid laws to make a point. It’s part of our nation’s history to openly defy against backward laws and many brave people like these have defied them to make a point:

      Interestingly, the Deep South were Solid Democrats back then. And California is Democrat too. Looks like the core of Democrats hasn’t really changed much in the past 50-60 years since the civil rights era: they’re still the party of stupid regulations, laws, licensing schemes and unfair practices to maintain the status quo.

  5. Someone once said that mass transit will never be run by private companies because it won’t be profitable.

    Fast forward several years later, private companies start running mass transit without taxpayer dollars and government starts shutting them down due to stupid regulations so they say, which is more likely to be fear of true competition and fear of ending their monopoly (sounds like antitrust laws don’t apply to government).

    Sounds like the truth is that private companies can’t get into mass transit because government gets in the way! Way to go, curb entrepreneurship, over regulate the system to prevent new ideas from taking shape, more government control over how people conduct their lives.

    Seriously, the California Public Utilities Commission? Don’t they have anything better to do, like regulating utility companies, fighting pollution from power plants, and chasing water wasters instead of over-stepping their bounds into transit licensing? What they hell does Utilities have to with Transit? They’re totally different areas and definitely not something government at any level should be sticking their nose into in the first place.

    So what, if I have a minivan and wanted to help out my neighbors who have no car go shopping and charge them like a buck each for that service, some government utility commission is going to come knocking on my door? Am I the only one who thinks all of this is absurd?

  6. SaMo is right up there and a lot more than just the beach path. Green bike lanes all across the city now. Lots of buffered bike lanes and Bike Share will be there in the next year. A few protected bike lanes would really put it over the top.

    I live just next to the city line in Los Angeles and it is always pretty depressing coming into LA for that last half mile, but they at least paved the street and put in new markings on Ohio and San Vicente Blvds.