How We Roll, Wednesday, September 23

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Art of Transit:


Metro Night at Dodger Stadium:

More coverage of Metro Night at Dodgers Stadium is here. One fan made a fair assessment of our poppy orange buses in the context of a Dodgers game:

Touché. Maybe Metro can rent a few buses from Big Blue Bus for the playoffs?

Reminder: it’s almost hockey season and Metro can take you there, too.

Meanwhile, back at Metro headquarters…

An interesting motion by Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas that could potentially lead to college students in our region getting heavily discounted Metro passes through their college registration process. At present, students must fill out an application, submit it to Metro and then wait to get a pass — a process that some have complained takes too much time and is cumbersome. Here’s the motion that is scheduled to be considered by the Metro Board at their meeting on Thursday:

Motion by:
Mark Ridley-Thomas
September 24, 2015

Relating to Item 49, File ID 2015-1290
Community College Student Transit Pass Pilot Program

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) staff is pursuing a number of strategies to increase ridership. While the agency currently offers subsidized monthly transit passes to students, it has not partnered with community colleges to offer a deep subsidy consistent with “Universal Pass” programs, which allow students significantly subsidized transit passes through their academic registration process. This model has been implemented at both public and private institutions locally and across the nation, and has demonstrated an ability to increase transit ridership and reduce student driving, thereby reducing traffic congestion. Research that dates back over two decades suggests that these programs are also worthwhile for the transit operator, as the programs have led to increases in total transit ridership, filled empty seats, and reduced the operating cost per ride.

As the agency pursues strategies to attract a new, diverse and sustained group of riders, the community college base may be one key sector to focus our efforts; the population tends to remain local over the long-term, and the subsidized pass can provide an impetus to become acquainted with our system. The recent expansion of the TAP card to all municipal operators throughout the County’s system would likely also increase the utilization and futility of a Universal Community College Student Transit Pass Program.

In addition to the “opt-in” increase in student registration fees, the costs of such a program could be subsidized by the college, as it will reduce parking demands. In addition, Metro could solicit additional resources through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee. Later this Fall, the Metro must also provide a proposal to the State of California on how we propose to spend approximately $30 million of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund/Low Carbon Transit Operations Program revenue that is expected to be allocated to the agency through the State’s Cap and Trade Program; a revenue source that is anticipated to grow in the coming years. Given the focus on increasing ridership, this may also be a viable funding source for a Universal Pass program.

MOTION by Ridley-Thomas that the Board of Directors direct the Chief Executive Officer to provide a report in 60 days on the current College TAP Program, including the usage, marketing and outreach efforts to community colleges, as well as an assessment of the feasibility of piloting a Universal Community College Student Transit Pass Program.


In other transit news…


An unlikely savior: China invests in America’s high-speed rail (The Economist)

After years of talks, Chinese officials announced last week a joint-venture with XpressWest Enterprises LLC to build a 230-mile high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The government-controlled China Railway International USA will be providing $100 million upfront to XpressWest after the firm, formerly known as DesertXpress, was unsuccessful in securing federal funding.

This announcement coincided with Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S. this week. The Economist looks at the probable reasons why China wants to be involved in the project, and how the U.S. government and private industry’s reluctance to invest high-speed rail have created a prime opportunity for the country. Excerpt:

Still, American industry is missing out. No one thinks the investment in the rail line will be a big money spinner for China Railway International USA. “Transportation isn’t supposed to make money,” says Mr Kunz. Instead, China is taking a strategic step to boost its own industry. After investing in more miles of new high-speed rail than any other country in the world, it has developed the engineering know-how to build tracks and trains—which it now hopes to export to overseas markets. The United States is one of more than 20 countries where China aims to build a market for its rail industry.

This sounds like government officials may be getting their own high-speed pilot test courtesy of the Chinese government — if it gets built and there are reasons for skepticism. If it works well, perhaps the reluctance to spend on high-speed infrastructure will be lifted. The takeaway: if you travel to Las Vegas often, the sure winner in all of this is you.

“Pizza Rat” spurs debate on debate on how to clean up New York City subway system (N.Y. Times)

An innocent video of a rat, now known as “Pizza Rat,” heroically attempting to carry a slice of pizza down the stairs in a New York City subway station earlier this week has sparked serious questions about the cleanliness of New York City subways.

Coincidentally, the New York State Comptroller yesterday released an audit report on the NYMTA‘s efforts to clean up its system. The report is somewhat critical of the effectiveness of the clean-up program thus far, although officials from the NYMTA disagree with the findings. The NYMTA’s efforts include a pilot program to remove trash cans in 39 subway stations with the hope of encouraging riders to take their trash with them instead of leaving it in overflowing trash cans that attract rats. The transit authority spends about $2.9 million a year to eradicate rodents each year.

The Source’s Big Apple correspondent/former blogger Fred Camino told us his thoughts about trash in the New York City subway. “I’ve made use of the station trash cans many times,” he said. “And if I know one thing about people, even with trash cans they love throwing garbage on the ground.” As for Pizza Rat, he said it’s rare to see a rat on the platform and they usually “know their place down near the tracks.”

The world’s first self-driving public shuttle is smart, efficient and adorable (Quartz)

Interesting news in Europe. The Netherlands will be rolling out the world’s first self-driving public shuttle on public roads beginning in November. The vehicle, called the WePod, can carry up to six passengers and speeds of up to…15 miles per hour. Not very fast, but it will be the first self-driving car to operate in traffic. Among the other restrictions of its use, the shuttle will not operate in inclement weather or at night. The company will run service on only one route between two Dutch cities when the shuttle debuts this fall, but is eying expanded service to other Dutch cities by next summer.

Bankrupt Leap Transit Inc. buses up for bid (West Auctions)

Well, now it’s really official. Leap, the Silicon Valley-based luxury bus service that declared bankruptcy last week, is auctioning off its two CNG buses. Bids open on October 8 and start at $5.



L.A. declares a homelessness emergency; now what? (L.A. Times)

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

The L.A. Times editorial board weighs in on the L.A. City Council’s announcement yesterday to dedicate $100 million to address L.A.’s “homelessness emergency.” Excerpt:

A declaration of emergency is not a master plan, although the council could produce an effective one if its members are as focused and serious as they say they are, and if they can explain why previous city efforts have failed to solve the problem. The main pledge Tuesday was the council’s plan to commit $100 million toward solving the problem of homelessness. Why they picked that number wasn’t clear; nor was it apparent where in the city’s strained budget the council would find the money.

Beyond those questions, the Times offers suggestions on where the city should focus its efforts if funding is found, like creating programs for re-housing newly homeless or those at risk and creating more permanent housing for the chronically homeless.  Even with additional funds and an emergency declaration, the major challenge politicians face will be convincing skeptical residents that this type of housing can and should be mixed within their community, not “relegated just to skid row or Venice.”

The Plot Twist: eBook sales slip and print is far from dead (N.Y. Times)

A story about the publishing apocalypse that never came, or at least that’s been delayed for awhile. Publishers are reporting that eBook sales fell another 10 percent in the past five months and they’re taking taking note by shelling out more money to expand their publication and distribution infrastructures.

Explanations for the trend may be that more readers are taking a hybrid approach to how they consume books,  sometimes reading on tablets and other times choosing print. Other theories include higher eBook prices that are discouraging digital purchases, the worn out novelty of eBook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, or that consumers are buying their eBooks less from the traditional publishers — a more ominous explanation for the publishers reporting declining digital sales. Giving some credence to the latter, Amazon reports their digital book sales are still on the rise.

Anecdotally, the hybrid theory seems about right. For me, the question of digital or print is a matter of the cost, convenience, or sometimes personal preference which varies from time-to-time. (Disclaimer: this is coming from a guy who read the first three books of the A Song of Fire and Ice series on an iPhone 4). My observations on public transit seem to suggest that both print and digital books are living harmoniously in the modern world.

Photo by Steve Hymon.

The photo above is from one of our favorites bookstore outside of Vromans in Pasadena, which is near Gold Line Lake Station and several bus lines, including the 180/181 and 780 Rapid, and The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles accessible from the Metro Red Line Pershing Square Station. 

Can you name the bookstore in the photo? Hint: it’s not in California and is also located near bus, light rail and streetcar.

Some recent How We Rolls: 

Sept. 22: New York subway’s ‘pizza rat,’ more on China’s bid to build high-speed rail to Vegas, a motion that seeks to make college/vocational TAP cards easier and cheaper to obtain and books versus tablets on transit.

Sept. 21: L.A.’s mobility plan, things to listen to on transit, sins of two carmakers, bike riding along the L.A. River.

Sept. 18: My so long to long-time Metro flack Marc Littman, will it take China’s dollars to finally build a train between L.A. and Vegas and a horse rides light rail in Ireland.

Sept. 17: Development finally coming to Washington Boulevard along the Blue Line, can Apple’s and Google’s self-driving cars defeat traffic and pro football vs California.

Sept. 15: Trying to find a route for a light rail line between Union Station and Artesia, parking at Bakersfield’s bullet train station to-be and a rider revolt against the Washington Metro.

Sept. 2: the Summer Olympics 2024 and transit edition.

Joe is on Twitter @joseph_lem. 

11 replies

  1. I get a headache when I read on either my phone or tablet and although similar things can be done on tablets, having a physical book to jot down notes on the margins and the ability to use sticky notes and highlight sections is more practical to me on a paper copy. Besides, I think its dangerous to go completely paperless. There’s value in print.

  2. Person drops whole slice of pizza and rat prompts system wide clean up? Can we talk about Pizza Handling and how poor pizza care can bring rats. Who dropped that slice? Where are they, and what did they have for dinner after the said slice was dropped? Were they issued a DAT? The rat was gonna eat SOMETHING if that slice wasn’t dropped anyway.

    So shout out to the rat for being persistent. I once watched a cinnamon roll sit at Florence Station while i went south, and then later the same bun as I went north. Maybe this is why metro decided to clean the system? Not sure, but I know none of our rodents were willing to tackle this litter problem of an awesome looking cinnamon bun sitting on the platform. Had I not missed my train, I might have grabbed it, kissed it up to god or made up some five second rule to eat it for breakfast.

    So NYC wants to clean the system NOW, is there anything else wrong with it? Or has the novel video shown us that NYC is dirtier than ever (anyone who knows anything about NYC would know its probably cleaner than ever.) Rats dragging pizza like the new graffiti and lights out in the car.

    New York, chill out. You’ve got too many Hipsters these days that moved there to talk about the grit and not live in it; unless you’re in The Bronx, the last true piece of NYC. I’m just sayin, some things are naturally a part of the city. : )

  3. Incidentally New York is one of the few systems globally where food and drink are allowed and vendors sell food all the time in the subway. It should give those who want to put more vendors in the Los Angeles subway pause.

  4. RE: China investing in LA-Vegas HSR

    Since none of our tax dollars are being used, all the best wishes to China. The only issue I have is that China needs to build this with stringent US safety standards and consider that CA is earthquake country. We don’t want stuff like this happening here:

    Otherwise, China will learn a hard lesson that here in America, we have thing called major lawsuits.

  5. Powell’s Bookstore (pictured) in Portland, Oregon is also within an easy walk of both the Intercity Bus Station and their also picturesque Union Station

  6. Powell’s in portland, the best. Very fond of Alias and Skylight in LA. Also read all of ASOIAF on an iphone, which was convenient although it bothered me that some of the books were riddled with typos. It seems rather shoddy and unprofessional for a technology which presumes to replace print.