Art of Transit:
Employment is up in the OC, but bus ridership over the past decade is down 30 percent — far more than declines seen nationally in that time span and at Metro, which has seen a dip of about 4.4 percent in the past two years. Service cuts and fare increases are to blame while some riders say the buses aren’t dependable enough to get them to work on time.
The authority aims to stave off further losses in ridership with new marketing and bus designs, and recently hired a contractor to survey former riders.
It has discounted youth fares, is looking to consolidate the number of stops on existing routes and is rolling out a mobile ticketing app, and there’s talk about cutting fares on short trips, a policy other transit agencies have adopted. Right now, a one-way bus fare is $2, no matter the trip length.
Next fall, OCTA will start a Santa Ana-to-Long Beach “rapid” bus service, which makes fewer stops – a concept that’s proved popular in an existing rapid line that carries riders between Costa Mesa and Fullerton.
OCTA doesn’t offer any rail service and building rail has been contentious there. Buses don’t have any special lanes, thereby meaning that driving may be faster and/or more convenient. Plus the geography of the county is tough — a lot of big, spread-out subdivisions. I’m not sure the answer but obviously Orange County residents of all stripes should have a way of getting around without having to buy a car.
A plan to put bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard has sparked a big hoo-ha in West L.A. with some motorists and neighborhood associations saying any loss of traffic lanes will lead to more congestion while cyclists, planners, UCLA students and even the city of L.A.’s transportation department saying the lanes will help offer a traffic alternative. At this point, the lanes are still planned but the L.A. council member who represents the area has said he will try to stop them.
It’s obviously a salient issue here with the new Expo Line Station opening in the future on Westwood Boulevard just south of Pico Boulevard. Further down the road (literally and figuratively), there will be a Purple Line Station eventually at Westwood and Wilshire. There will be no parking at either station. My point: Westwood Boulevard will figure prominently in first-mile, last-mile connections to both future rail lines.
Public lands visitation and recreation, by the numbers (High Country News)
For those interested in traffic in or near our national parks and other public lands, an array of fascinating statistics. One factoid that caught my eye: Utah Highway Patrol had to temporarily close the entrance to Arches National Park over this past Memorial Day weekend when traffic congestion went off the charts.
Transit is usually a tough sell in rural areas but some national parks have figured it out. Yosemite still allows private vehicles into the Yosemite Valley but has a nice shuttle bus system for those who want to park their cars or not bring them at all. Zion National Park, I think, has the right idea: they ban private cars in Zion Canyon during parts of the year and force nearly everyone onto the frequent bus shuttles. The lack of traffic in the canyon makes for a more pleasant experience (I think) for everyone, including those who want to bike.
Still catching up from being out of town. Good scoop by Sahra Sulaiman. In short, the program that subsidizes transit passes for USC employees is being eliminated in favor of one that offers subsidized parking. USC officials say it’s a matter of preserving revenues to run their overall transportation and parking program. Streetsblog takes a pretty dim view given that three Expo Line Stations are adjacent to USC, not to mention that USC campaigned hard for the Expo Park/USC Station to be included in the project. Equally important, the campus has long been served by a number of busy Metro bus lines.
It remains to be seen whether USC employees continue to use transit — there are certainly a ton of other employers in our region who don’t help pay for transit either. I do know that this has generated some complaints.
Mitch McConnell casts doubt on House’s plan for transportation bill (New York Times)
The article is from July 16 but is still timely. The gist of it: the House has approved a five-month extension of a federal transportation funding bill. The Senate is trying to do something longer and their bill will likely be different. According to the latest update from Metro’s government relations team, it’s unclear what will happen — with Congressional recess looming.
This is wonky but HUGELY important to Metro and other transit agencies that depend on federal dollars for important projects, ranging from new rail lines to maintenance, among others.
What does look clear is this: that raising the federal gas tax for the first time since 1993 — the gas tax is the chief source of revenues for the Highway Trust Fund — is off the table. That’s hardly a surprise with next year’s federal elections looming for both political parties. Instead…
But in the last two years, an idea that began as an outlandish proposal by a freshman House Democrat, John Delaney of Maryland, has evolved into the closest thing to consensus on infrastructure funding.
The idea: Rewrite the tax code governing United States corporations operating internationally to end the unintended incentive for those companies to leave trillions of dollars in profits overseas, and add a component taxing those overseas profits. Much of the revenue from that one-time “transition” tax would be dedicated to infrastructure spending.
Not directly transportation related, but very interesting for those looking for something to read while riding transit. And it certainly involves key infrastructure.
Mulroy — the former water chief in Vegas — has long enjoyed friendly press as she pushed for more conservation in Vegas and across the West. This, as far as I can recall, is one of the more critical pieces, suggesting that any gains in water conservation were quickly spent allowing Vegas to continue booming. For her part, Mulroy is her usual candid self, saying that growth was inevitable with or without her in the job.
Water officials in Vegas have been critical of the article, which I thought was fair and well-reported. The Vegas stance is that their region still uses far less water than other metro areas in the West (including the L.A. area) and has been a better water citizen, depending much less on the Colorado River than other Western states that draw from the river.
The article raises some really interesting questions. I have a hard time saying that Vegas is any more of a sinner than other cities that have built in arid or semi-arid climates — after all, those of us in our region don’t exactly have the moral high ground when it comes to water use.
On other hand, I do think it’s fair to say that the way Vegas sprawled is troublesome, with an emphasis on single-family homes instead of a denser type of housing that might have resulted in less water and energy use with less transportation. Perhaps the question is not whether Vegas uses less water than L.A. Perhaps the question is why they perhaps seemingly made the same mistakes?
Categories: Transportation Headlines