Transportation headlines, Tuesday, July 14

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Lots of talk of Metro's past this week. How about a glimpse into its future? (Photo via Instagram @kneel28)

Lots of talk of Metro’s past this week. How about a glimpse into its future? (Photo via Instagram @kneel28)

Blue Line turns 25; laid tracks for era of expansion in L.A. (L.A. Times)

On its 25th anniversary, Times’ transportation reporter Laura Nelson takes a fair a look at the Blue Line’s influence on L.A. County. She notes the line proved early critics wrong by exceeding ridership projections, but it isn’t without its problems.

Some of the modern issues the line faces are attributed to decision-making at the time the line was constructed: favoring the cheaper and faster-to-construct route along existing street-level right-of-way. USC’s Lisa Schweitzer is quoted saying that officials were making it up as they went along.

The hope then, with Metro looking at the construction of an additional 37 miles of rail in the next two decades, is that the Blue Line and the four rail lines that followed it were learning experiences for the agency.

Times analysis finds the county’s 817 most dangerous intersections (L.A. Times)

Some great work by the Times team here breaking down 12 years of accident data per intersection that shows dense, walkable neighborhoods like downtown L.A., Koreatown, Westlake and Hollywood are home to the intersections with the most pedestrian-involved accidents.

In addition to the breakdown of 665,000 accidents spanning from 2002 and 2013 where 1 in 10 accidents involved pedestrians, the article looks at what’s being done to make these intersections safer for pedestrians and the challenges that local officials and advocates face. One of those hurdles, the article says, may simply be public opinion. Excerpt:

“There’s this perception — not just in Los Angeles, but in other major cities — that nobody walks,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, a former New York City transportation commissioner who is now a principal at Bloomberg Associates, which advises cities on quality-of-life issues. “That’s not only an inaccurate, but a deadly perception.”

Over at Curbed LA, they’ve used the Times’ interactive maps to narrow in on the five most dangerous places for walkers in L.A.  Not coincidentally, the most dangerous places are also high-density and considered some of L.A.’s most walkable neighborhoods. The single most dangerous intersection, however, is not, but may earn its shameful title because of its design.

USC discontinues rideshare subsidy program for 3000+ employees; offers parking passes as consolation (LA Streetsblog)

Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman examines the reason why USC recently discontinued its ride-share subsidy program. Interestingly, the letter announcing of the change indicated that the rideshare program was a success, but the main factors likely contributing to the demise of the program: differing priorities and what else but money.

How to explore L.A. the “low carbon way” (KCET)

KCET features the authors of the L.A. travel book””Loving L.A. The Low Carbon Way,” which takes it readers on car-free Los Angeles adventures. The books provides 24 car-free day trip ideas throughout Los Angeles. Excerpt:

The book aims to debunk many of the standard L.A. myths, like our supposed lack of public transportation and the vast distances, which make the city difficult to traverse. “We were favorably impressed by the cleanliness, efficiency, and timeliness (for the most part) of the different modes of public transportation,” Chase told me. Furthermore, she added, “Our surprises included the accessibility and relative low cost (or no cost) of many of the venues.” Their many good experiences on the train and bus encouraged them to venture further.

The sushi in England is terrible (Zocalo Public Square)

Pamela Reynolds. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Pamela Reynolds. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

I can imagine. The latest installment of Zocalo Public Square’s Metro rider series.

Find Joe on Twitter @joseph_lem.

11 replies

  1. “What the MUNI did with rear-door-boarding and on-board tap-in probably made fare evasion harder to police.”

    All-door boarding is the norm in Sydney, Australia too but we don’t have that problem.

    I’ll tell you why. Over in NSW (New South Wales) and one must tap their Opal card (their TAP card) to board and disembark to get charged the right fare. Now that may sound strange, but it really works.

    See, over there, the bus fares change depending on how far you go. Sydney, just like LA, came to the conclusion that they can’t keep charging riders the same fare and can’t keep doing fare increases because everyone had different transit needs. Some people just needed to use the bus to go to Woolworths or Coles (that’s their Ralphs and Vons), while others traveled all the way from the suburbs to Downtown Sydney. They needed fare reform so they moved bus fares to a pay-by-the-distance model.

    And how they do it is that instead of fare enforcement, they provide incentives to encourage riders to be honest (tap-out) because that way, you get charged less for trips that are shorter.

    If you tap-in, but don’t don’t tap-out, you’re charged full fare ($4.50). But if you’re honest and tap-in and tap-out on exit, you might get a cheaper fare for shorter trips ($2.10), which is intended for people using the bus to go to their grocery store or other short range activities. Since people don’t want to pay more than they need to, they’re encouraged to tap-out. Why would anyone want to pay $4.50 just to go to Woolworths or Coles when they can do it for $2.10? In order to get the $2.10 fare, you must tap out.

    I don’t see why not you guys can’t do something similar where the cheapest bus ride like going to the grocery store can be $0.50 with the most expensive bus trip like going to Disneyland can be $7.00. I’m sure people don’t want to be dinged $7.00 just to go to the grocery store so they’ll be sure to tap-out on exit so they only get to pay $0.50 for that trip. And I’m sure the vast majority of low-income riders on Metro who are dependent on the bus will be happy with this idea. That’s how you encourage people to be honest: provide incentives.

    Now I know people are going to say that this still leaves room for cheaters to tap-out early so they only pay $0.50 for a trip intended to cost $7.00, but as with everything, for every problem, there’s always a solution for those concerns. In Sydney, we figured out that we can just disable the contactless card reader until the bus reaches to a full stop at the bus stop so that people can’t tap-out while the bus is in motion. This prevents cheaters tapping-out before actually getting off the bus at their intended destination, so by having the contactless card readers go into sleep mode until the bus reaches a full stop at the bus stop, riders can’t tap-out.

    I’m sure other cities have figured out other ingenious ways to do this. LA just needs to learn that there are solutions that have been done all over the world and they just need to expand their knowledge. We live in the age of Google, Youtube, and Wikipedia where information like this and knowledge of how other major cities run their transit system is at right at their fingertips.

  2. Yes, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York have (except for some of the outlying trolley stops in Boston and Philadelphia) gated stations. And the larger stations are not only gated, but staffed.

    In the Bay Area, BART has gated, staffed stations. CalTrain does not. On the MUNI, the Market Street and Twin Peaks subway stations are gated and staffed (necessary because the 1, 3, and 5-day passes are still the scratch-off type, not currently machine-readable), but on the other hand, every MUNI vehicle has on-board Clipper card scanners (on Cable Cars, the Conductor carries a portable scanner), and all the buses now allow rear-door boarding unless you’re paying a cash fare.

    There are tradeoffs. Gates and/or staffed stations catch fare evasion, but add maintenance and staffing costs. What the MUNI did with rear-door-boarding and on-board tap-in probably made fare evasion harder to police. I’m not especially happy myself with the whole business of Metro Rail going to all-TAP, and requiring separate fare-purchase and tap-in operations (unlike San Diego), but leaving some stations non-gated (a week ago, I managed to get from Wardlow to Del Amo before I realized that I’d forgotten to tap-in at Wardlow, and had to get off, go down to street level, and catch the next train, in order to correct my mistake; that this saved me from being on the train that got stranded a few feet short of Florence is beside the point.) Nor am I particularly happy with the way gating was implemented at 7th/Metro, forcing me to pay an additional single-trip fare if I stop for dinner at 10e, The Counter, Engine Co. No 28, or the Pantry, on my way to Disney Hall (but only if I take the Red Line the rest of the way, not if I take a bus).

    • “There are tradeoffs. Gates and/or staffed stations catch fare evasion, but add maintenance and staffing costs. ”

      I doubt anyone here is saying that there are no costs to gates, people here are smart enough to realize that there are costs to gating and those are to be expected and I’m sure everyone is very well aware of that there is no such thing as free lunch in this world. It’s just a matter of whether Metro should spend the money on them as places like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, London, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Tokyo has done. And as it is today, most people today say LA should and that such costs are necessary for Metro to run their day-to-day operations.

      Besides, it’s not like Metro can’t find ways to recuperate those costs in another way. There’s so many things Metro can do to gain more revenue. Ending free parking is one example; why give something away for free at taxpayer expense when it can generate revenue? Perhaps some of the free parking space can be rented out to food trucks? Adding retail space to stations is another; it’ll promote creation of jobs, helping the local economy, and collecting more sales taxes from goods sold. Utilizing station space for creative ads is another form of revenue making. TAP cards usage can be expanded to be able to purchase actual merchandise and goods at retailers than just paying for transit fares so that Metro can collect merchant transaction fees with them. Once gates are installed, Metro can seek to implement a distance based fare policy on Metro Rail, which has been proven in the rest of the world that they are better in increasing farebox recovery ratio than under a flat rate fare system.

      Alternative view is that one can’t look at “it costs money so we can’t do it.” The opposite end to that is “what are the things Metro should be doing to gain more revenue?” And there’s a lot that Metro is not doing today that can be done in a short amount of time to increase their revenue.

  3. I am skeptical of the conclusions drawn from the LA Times article. The busiest intersections have more accidents because… They are busy. The analysts need to scale the number of accidents by the number of pedestrian crossings. The figure of merit isn’t “how many accidents involving pedestrians were there” but “how many accidents per pedestrian crossing?”

  4. Great article; however, you fail to mentioned LA had the Pacific Electric Red Cars (1901-1961) that went beyond LA County line, the rail network reached far north to SFV, far west to Santa Monica, far south to Newport Beach and far east to Redland and was the envy of the world. However, it was dismantle for freeways, cars, buses, oil and tires. If the State, surrounding Counties and Cities worked together to improve the rail system, just imagine what this whole area would look like today? Today, our rail system is very disconnected, Metrorail stops at county line, Metrolink doesn’t reach to Palm Springs or Temecula area, you have to take several different buses to reach areas without rail or drive our congested freeway system, what a missed opportunity not saving PE Red Cars.

    • “If the State, surrounding Counties and Cities worked together to improve the rail system, just imagine what this whole area would look like today?”

      We’d all like this but the reality is that there are different fare systems, different fare collections and payment methods, no uniform payments system, and no statewide or regional standard. You can’t expect a flat rate fare to be implemented throughout the state, across county lines, and within the county.

      Should a person going from LA to San Diego pay the same fare as someone going from DTLA to Koreatown?
      Should a person going from Irvine to Burbank pay the same fare as someone going from San Pedro to Torrance?
      Should a person going from Chatsworth to Marina del Rey pay the same fare as someone going to their neighborhood grocery store?

      Amtrak California has their own fare collection method (distance based)
      Coaster has their own fare collection method (distance based)
      Metrolink has their own fare collection method (distance based)
      Metro has their own fare collection method (flat rate)
      Torrance Transit has their own fare collection method (flat rate)

      Not that the problem can’t be solved; up in the Bay Area, the same Clipper Card can do both distance based fares (BART and Caltrain) with flat rate fares (SF MUNI), so the idea is doable with TAP.

      But even then you still have incompatibility between Clipper Card system and the Metro TAP system and the San Diego MTS Compass Card system within the state. So just to travel about this state, you need three different transit cards, with money loaded up onto all of them, with varying fare rules and systems (flat rate vs distance based, transfer rules, etc.), with no standard, interoperability, interchangeability.

      Contrast that with the system used in Japan. Everybody, including all the private rail operators run under one single fare system (distance based fares), they all utilize the same Suica payments standards, and the Suica card is interoperable with other transit payments for other cities in Japan. Over there, a person living in Tokyo needs only one Suica card to travel all over Tokyo, and if that person goes to another Japanese city like Sapporo or Osaka, the same Suica transit card can be used to ride transit in Sapporo and Osaka as well. Did you know that in Japan, they can actually pay for video games through the Nintendo eShop using their transit card?! They’re light years ahead of us, it’s not even funny.

  5. Sorry, I don’t buy the excuse that they were making it up as they went along.

    I remember taking the first trip from DTLA to Long Beach on the Blue Line on one the first few days when it first opened. I was surprised that there were no gates that checked my ticket, no one bothered to check the ticket, and I found it amusing how they made it very easy to cheat the system. It was very apparent that I could’ve ridden the trip for free.

    I thought it was stupid idea how they spent so much money in a system that people can cheat their way to get around without paying. I am still baffled why anyone thought the honor system was a great idea, how anyone could not have seen this a mile away that it was a bad idea. Lo and behold, it took Metro two decades to figure this out that they needed gates.

    Had they built them with gates from the start, it would’ve been much, much cheaper for us all.

      • Note to all that here’s a great example of someone citing selective examples from the US and “as much of Europe” which uses the honor system “fine” to prove their point (without citing any facts or data or their definition of “fine”), all the while disregarding that cities like San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco bear no resemblance to Los Angeles. But this is tolerated because it’s an American city and Europe.

        However, if someone rebuttals that:

        A. This person fails to cite any form of how the fare evasion rates are in these cities (what is their definition of “works fine,” did they do any research on how problematic their fare evasion rates are? Where do they get their judgment from? Hearsay and conjecture?)

        B. Fails to cite other US cities and Europe which do have gates (i.e. New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Paris, Madrid, etc.)

        C. Or pray if someone brings in Asian cities (Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore) as an example

        Then they get upset that someone argues with them, and likely come into an argument that LA isn’t like any of these cities (yet, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento and some European cities are?)

        Let’s just see how “fine” cities like San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Though, I’m inclined to say MUNI, BART, and Caltrain all have validators/gates that this person doesn’t really know what he’s talking about when mentioning “San Francisco,” I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he really means VTA in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley) which does operate under an honor system:

        Sacramento RT fare evasion problems:

        San Diego MTS, shortchanged $900,000 annually due to fare evasion

        VTA Santa Clara fare evasion problems:

        Doesn’t seem working so “fine” to me.

    • At the time the Blue Line started, fare enforcement was consistent and prevalent. As the 90’s progressed there seemed to be less and less of them.