How We Roll, Oct. 6: grading Metro stations, the war on driving and Ms. Marvel

Newsflash!: Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this week signed into law AB 726, which would authorize Metro to utilize double articulated buses on the Metro Orange Line in the future. In a legislative update to staff, Metro CEO Phil Washington wrote: “This bill will allow Metro to significantly increase capacity on the Orange Line and will continue our leadership role by utilizing new technology to provide transportation service. This bill was sponsored by Metro.:

New report: grading California’s rail transit station areas (UC Berkeley & Next 10) 



The new study evaluates rail stations based on “a scorecard of 11 indicators, including factors like walkability, affordability, percentage of residents and employees who use transit, and number of jobs and households within 1/2 mile radius. We then used that information to grade 489 transit stations in 6 rail systems across the state, excluding commuter lines like Metrolink and Caltrain and Amtrak, but including L.A.’s bus rapid transit line given it’s rail-like qualities.”

The study also looked at “walkability, ridership levels, existing land-use and permitting policies, affordability and transit quality.” The Expo Line, which opened in 2012, is omitted.

I think the results are certainly interesting although not terribly surprising — visiting any of the stations in person gives you a fairly good idea how they’re performing. And let’s face it: tossing 11 factors into a blender to come up with a letter grade only gets you so far: the Gold Line’s Chinatown Station on the edge of downtown L.A. gets an A, but the 7th/Metro Station in the heart of DTLA gets an A-. The Gold Line’s Mariachi Plaza gets an A (perhaps because there is a big employer, a hospital, nearby) but the Gold Line’s South Pasadena Station gets a C-.

The Gold Line leaving South Pasadena Station on a recent evening. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Gold Line leaving South Pasadena Station on a recent evening. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

The South Pasadena Station is busy and has helped revitalize Mission Street. As I’ve noted in the past, it hasn’t attracted a ton of residential development, although the number of parcels available nearby are limited. The area around the station is largely residential and I don’t think anyone wants or expects serious commercial development nearby. Parking is limited. To my eye, the the station has been very successful — but gets dinged here, presumably, because it’s not near a ton of jobs.

As Cal Hollis, Metro’s Executive Officer for Countywide Planning Cal Hollis, told the LAT: “The less urban areas — Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Clara Valley — will score lower. Metro is in the middle, serving both urban and less urban areas. If you applied the same criteria to New York City transit, MUNI and BART would rank lower.”

Two other thoughts: It’s hardly news that transit-oriented development hasn’t happened in some parts of our county. It’s also not surprising that Metro’s subway (the Red/Purple Line) fared well. Unlike many of the agency’s light rail lines (such as the Blue Line), the subway doesn’t rigidly follow old rail right-of-ways — the subway, in fact goes mostly under busy streets such as Hill, 7th, Wilshire, Vermont, Hollywood and Lankershim. It’s Metro’s busiest rail line and runs under areas where there was already considerable and nearby commercial and residential development.

Ethan Elkind has some interesting thoughts on the study, namely that building it doesn’t always mean that people will show up. And he has some suggestions about what could be done in the future to beef up some station areas:

So what can be done to improve scores? First, local leaders with stations in their jurisdictions should plan for and encourage thriving, walkable neighborhoods around the stations.  Second, state leaders can help underperforming areas that lack a market for new development by focusing state investment and financing programs in those areas, such as through green bonds and tax-increment financing. Finally, transit leaders should condition any rail expansion on a local commitment to transit-oriented development around the stations, and they should consider reducing service to underperforming stations in order to better serve stations with thriving neighborhoods around them.

Related Statistic: In the past decade, 2,017 housing units have been built in joint developments on Metro-owned properties; another 570 units are either under construction or in the negotiating phase. These developments typically take place on parcels that Metro purchased for transit project construction.

Another Related Statistic: Metro and cities in L.A. County will certainly have more opportunities to build better rail stations. Metro has five rail lines under construction totaling about 31 miles of track and 27 new stations. The projects: the Crenshaw/LAX Line, the Expo Line Phase 2, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Purple Line Extension and the Regional Connector.

Here is the news release for the L.A. area:


Stop the war on drivers (L.A. Business Journal) 

Who won this war? Venice Boulevard: a bike lane sandwiched by three car traffic lanes and a car parking area. Photo by Mark Hogan, via Flickr creative commons.

Who won this war? Venice Boulevard: a bike lane sandwiched by three car traffic lanes and a car parking area. Photo by Mark Hogan, via Flickr creative commons.

The veto of a bill to allow vehicles with one occupant to use the HOV lanes on the 134 and 210 and the new L.A. mobility plan — which proposes to reduce traffic lanes in some areas in favor of bike lanes — has Business Journal editor Charles Crumply fuming and wanting “better and more roads.” Excerpt:

Yeah, this is a war all right. A nasty war of attrition on drivers. The goal, of course, is to make it so uncomfortable, so expensive for you to drive that it will force you to take mass transit.

Look, I think most of us agree that it’d be nice if we could ride a bicycle to work and take a train for an evening out. Maybe someday we’ll get there. But Los Angeles today is not like Paris or Tokyo or even New York, where long-established train systems and dense cities mean mass transit makes sense right now.

Given the ubiquity of roads, parking and cars in L.A., I have a hard time taking seriously that there’s a war on driving. There are certainly some places where bike lanes and other traffic-calming measures have been implemented — but I think those areas are the exception and not the rule.

Our region pushed driving over other mobility options for a long, long time. I’m not sure that has worked out terribly well. Do you?

L.A.’s Olympic ambitions could boost river restoration — but at what cost? (LAT)

The piggyback yards on the east side of the L.A. River. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

The piggyback yards on the east side of the L.A. River. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

Reporter David Zahniser takes a good look at efforts make the 120-acre Piggyback freight rail yard into a key part of the effort to restore the adjacent Los Angeles River. The Union Pacific-owned yard is also slated — at least at this point — to serve as the Olympic Village should L.A. secure the 2024 Summer Games.

As the article notes, transforming a sprawling freight yard into a bucolic village in less than nine years is ambitious. Former County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says he thinks the project could be a “budget buster” and thinks it would be better to house athletes at UCLA and USC. Others aren’t so skeptical and say that housing, parkland and a restored river — all near Union Station, the county’s transit hub — would be a better use of the land than the freight yard.

Good article about an important slice of public policy.

Credit: Marvel Comics.

Credit: Marvel Comics.

Things to listen to whilst sitting/standing/waiting/stuck on transit: The Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast tackles the popular Marvel comic, Ms. Marvel (not to be confused with Captain Marvel). As per many things in pop culture, I hadn’t heard of it but am always glad to hear about something that many readers find charming. And next time you’re on the bus, look up! Maybe someone is watching out for you.

Recent How We Rolls: 

Oct. 5: reading about mobility while on transit, Long Beach gets a Flyaway bus, coal vs electric buses, traffic vs delivery trucks.

Oct. 1: all about cities — gentrification, TODs vs parking, the changing DTLA skyline, Show Me a Hero, cities and transit and diversity.

Sept. 30: Can Uber and Lyft solve our first-mile-last-mile problems?, trains and cleanliness, the blessing of the infrastructure.

Sept. 29: Richard Katz weighs in on the San Fernando Valley’s transit needs, bill signed for hit-and-run alerts on electronic freeway signs, Shell exits the arctic, the N.Y. Islanders new goal horn brought to you by the NYMTA

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.

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24 replies

  1. The ability to legally use up to 82-foot (25-meters) buses on the Orange Line is a major change that will lessen the need to convert the line to light-rail. Which potentially translates into more major transit lines being installed due to this cost savings.

    I haven’t found any information about these size buses being assembled in the U.S., which is needed to get federal funds. This makes it more likely that Metro will get 80-foot buses assembled somewhere other than North America, unless a transit bus manufacturer the U.S. market, such as New Flyer, is willing to make a small number of extended 80-foot double articulated buses based on their 60-foot model. Metro does tend to want all their buses to be from the same manufacturer to simply maintenance. The problem is that New Flyer is also trying to cut costs by keeping their bus lines to higher volume assembly, essentially making a small custom batch run of designing and assembling 80-foot buses unlikely.

    • Buses suck. We need to convert the Orange Line to a rail system. It was a dumb idea to begin with that the SFV gets a bus line instead of a rail line.

  2. Thanks for, on October 6, finally removing a message for an **August 4th** service disruption from the variable message machine at the Allen Gold Line Station. Never mind there were numerous service disrutions on the Gold Line (and other lines) in the past 10 weeks — you still kept what must have been a most important reminder. Patrons don’t mind service disruptions. They understand they are part of line. They just don’t like being kept in the dark, and Metro needs to do a better job of informing its riders. I thought that was the point of the variable message machines since the empty monitors look like they will never be brought online.

  3. I’m an outsider (from “Apple Grande” as Steve Hymon so eloquently called my hometown), but this report is actually fascinating. I, however, have a few questions about this study. Where are the Expo Line stations? And why are the Orange Line BRT stations included in the report? Also, of the six rail networks the study profiled, why did they not include ridership statistics for each transit agency? And lastly, will revise their information in the coming years when Los Angeles Metro, BART, Sacramento’s RT and San Diego Trolley expand their systems?

  4. “Second, state leaders can help underperforming areas that lack a market for new development by focusing state investment and financing programs in those areas…”

    Oh geez, I have to laugh at this statement.

    The reality is that LA isn’t a barren place, the difficulty is that many of the places in LA are already developed and there’s already people living and conducting businesses there, and those are the primary headaches that are needed to resolve what to do with the existing properties that are surrounding areas of the station.

    You can’t develop something when there’s already people living and doing businesses there, and you can’t knock down homes and businesses and tell them to move out without compensation because new construction is coming. Real life isn’t SimCity and you can’t just bulldoze the property surrounding the underperforming Metro station without just compensation.

    Let’s say I own a home, apartment complex or business right next to the station. I know that the Metro station is underperforming, but I myself can’t do anything about it. What do you want me to do? Go into major debt and build a condo or mixed use project? What bank is going to fund me? I’m not a major real estate company, I’m not a major property developer, and I’m not a major construction company either.

    And I know that the government cannot buy me out without just compensation as it is my right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. Government can’t knock on my door and say “we want to build a mixed use complex right here to spur transit oriented development. You’re in the way, so move away.”

    Therefore, if the government or some other property developer wants to buy me out, I expect no less than a billion dollars to be paid to me because I know that this property can be used to build a condo or some kind of profitable development project that I will not get to dip my hands into but the government or the property developer will be able to profit heavily from. Why should I move out for pennies on the dollar? What’s in it for me?

    If said property in question is an apartment or a strip mall, the tenants living at that apartment or tenants having their stores there will also expect some sort of compensation to move out as well. You can’t just throw them out into the street telling them to buzz off because there’s a new Apple Store and a J-Crew being built here.

    • Sorry to inform you but the government can take your land and pay you what they think it’s worth not what you do. A lot of people were evicted from Chavez Ravine so they could build Dodger Stadium. A family was evicted from their home near the Hollywood Bowl to build a museum which never happened, it’s a parking lot. And the City of West Hollywood forced the owner of the land at Santa Monica Bl. and La Brea Ave. to sell his property although he was ready to redevelop it. The MTA as well as any other government agency can take your land and pay you what they think it’s worth and if you don’t comply your home will be demolished while you sit in jail.

      • “Sorry to inform you but the government can take your land and pay you what they think it’s worth not what you do. ”

        Incorrect. You don’t have to accept the government’s offer if you do your own independent appraisal and said appraisal says it’s more than what government thinks it’s worth. Otherwise, government can make up any number of figure, say like the property is only worth $1 with no course of action in order to try and cheapskate their way out of the eminent domain process.

        Back in those days you mentioned, there was no internet and it was difficult to find an eminent domain attorney so the people had no resources to get their act together to fight against government. Nowadays, all such information and attorneys specializing in said fields are just a type on Google away. Not so hard to just Google up “eminent domain lawyers” on Google to come up with a list of attorneys specializing in that field of law.

        Now LA is screwed whenever they try to buy out businesses and homes because of the real estate market in LA today. You have single story homes built in the 1920s that are selling on Zillow for over $500,000 because the land that the home is sitting on is worth more than the house. Try to buy out a parcel of land, it’s going to get expensive really quickly, and government will try to cheaply buy it out, but the property owners will band together, hire an eminent domain attorney and fight in court or negotiate a higher price today knowing this. Billions of taxpayer dollars will be used just to buy out the property through legal proceedings and payments, and that’s all before a single cent is used before those are knocked down and a shovel is put to ground.

        LA screwed itself royally for nothing thinking ahead.

        • In the cases of Chavez Ravine and the proposed Hollywood Museum it wasn’t just get out, it was being arrested by the Sheriffs and watch your home demolished with all your possessions still inside. Steven Anthony had an attorney and they still tore his house down after they arrested him for not vacating it and selling it to the county.

          In the case of the Gateway Shopping Center in West Hollywood, that was only about 10 years ago. The owner of the land wanted to redevelop it. The city didn’t like his plan so they forced him to sell it to another developer using imminent domain although that was illegal.

      • “In the cases of Chavez Ravine and the proposed Hollywood Museum it wasn’t just get out, it was being arrested by the Sheriffs and watch your home demolished with all your possessions still inside. Steven Anthony had an attorney and they still tore his house down after they arrested him for not vacating it and selling it to the county.”

        Consider that the Chavez Ravine buy out was done in the late 1950s. I’m pretty sure back in the 1950s, cops beating African-Americans for doing nothing wrong and having them mauled by police dogs was the norm also and hardly anyone noticed because there was no TV broadcasting it, no media reporting it, no one owning a video camera or a smartphone, obviously no Youtube to share to the world what’s going on.

        The fact that there’s not much media or video anywhere on the internet about this pretty much shows how little or no one paid attention to this at that time.

        The world back then was a lot different than today. Can you imagine the uproar by everyone left and right if they pulled off a similar stunt like that today? Cops coming in arresting people and tearing down their home? Oh boy, you betcha the ACLU will be coming after them. Perhaps even the NRA will also come to the side too if those home owners were rightfully protecting themselves with arms against government. Having both the ACLU and the NRA come together to fight for the same cause? You bet that’s a problem for government and the political careers of politicians.

        You can’t compare what government was capable of doing back in the 1950s due to lack of technology and apply the same logic on what government can’t do today in 2015 thanks to technology.

        • Funny you should mention T.V. Both incidents were broadcast live when they happened. I also recall some of the houses in Chavez Ravene had oil wells on their property. I often wondered if the wells were still operating under the stadium.

  5. “Our region pushed driving over other mobility options for a long, long time. I’m not sure that has worked out terribly well. Do you?”

    You can’t have car-free mobility without higher density either and that is a given fact. You can’t have both “I want to live in a suburban home with a big backyard and a large front lawn far away from the city” yet also have “I want a rail station right in front of my home that’ll take me anywhere I want for cheap.”

    You want good mass transit, you need higher density. I say we just start demolishing old single story low rise homes and businesses all over LA, rebuild them to taller, higher density mixed use complexes, and reclaim some of the empty lands to start laying down new tracks instead of trying to make use of old right of ways.

  6. I really don’t care if there’s a war on car drivers going on. For all I care, the people complaining that the roads are going to get more crowded can just simply downsize to something smaller and more agile like a motorcycle for their commuting needs instead. It’s not like many people driving motorcycles or scooters isn’t so out-of-this-world either considering many countries where their populace uses two wheel vehicles as their primary method of transportation.

    The vast majority of the people driving cars in LA today are single person drivers anyway. Cars do take up a lot of space and we use too much of them to accommodate those car drivers with bigger roads and more parking. Motorcycles and scooters on the other hand, are much smaller and do not need that much space.

    On the photo above of the street traffic on Venice Blvd., the winner of the war is the person on a motorcycle or scooter (not shown of course, go figure) who gets to zoom past all the cars stuck there to the front of the pack.

  7. I ride the red line every week day from the North Hollywood station to 7th & Figueroa. From NoHo it’s frequently late, always crowded and filthy. During peak hours there should be trains every 5 minutes, not every 10. I’m not sure how you rate yourselves a B? Plus, having the LASD illegally checking tap cards is a complete joke. In one trip I’ve had to show my tap card 3 times. That doesn’t include scanning it just to get through the turnstiles. Yes, let’s treat everyone like criminals and cause even more delays just to catch a handful of idiots.

  8. I’m not surprised Southwest Museum gets a B-. It would be better if Marmion Way, the street it’s on, had longer sidewalks. Lots of people park there every morning to get on the Gold Line, so by 9:00 a.m. or so you need to park pretty far from the station — and lo and behold, there are no sidewalks. It’s even worse when it rains, as all parking spots are taken up to the No Parking zone early in the morning. My recommendation: build longer sidewalks; extend the parking area to accommodate more people who need to drive to the station. (And I just lost yet another few minutes of my life by writing this, hoping against hope that anything will ever improve.)

  9. Local governments should step their game up with regard to allowing transit-supporting land use patterns near transit stations. With almost 90 local jurisdictions in LA County, and a wide range of preferences for different urban forms that can be quite a challenge.

    I think Metro could also do a better job of hitting existing activity centers. For example, the Expo Line skirts the edge of Downtown Culver City instead of dropping you off in the center. Moving off the existing ROW would have added to the cost, but made the system more useful.

  10. I use the Vermont/Beverly Red Line Station every week and was interested to see that it got an A grade. HOWEVER, the TV monitor at the north end of the station has not worked for a very long time. Does anybody pay attention to and fix these things?

  11. “Continue methodically building out mass transit systems while accommodating automobiles and trucks with better and more roads.”

    How much more methodical could you get? Community outreach, public comment, etc. When I lived on the West Side, the 405 was being widened the entire time I lived there (nightmare). Growing up, I can remember the 110 double decker and the 105 being built. The 210 is still pretty new, Wilshire has been freshly paved, red light cameras taken down, The Sepulveda Pass Bridge Widening, Skirball, etc. Crumpley sounds like a moron; an old one, that cant run to catch his own train. Thats just too much work.

  12. “Grading California’s Rail Transit Station Areas” — Did someone forget to inform Next 10 that the Orange Line is NOT a rail line?

    That said, all of the Orange Line stations ranked higher than four of the Blue Line stations… O_o