How We Roll, Jan. 29: ridership, bike share and the Delhi car ban

Art of Transit: 

Metro talk on Reddit — click here to see the thread


Things to listen to whilst on transit: if you’re a rider/reader of a certain age, it’s getting scary to listen to the news. So many of the folks we listened to on the radio growing up have passed away recently. It’s tough. These folks provided the soundtrack to our (younger lives). Here’s a great song from the Jefferson Starship; one of the band’s founders, Paul Kantner, died Thursday. Boy does this video capture the sound and look and everything of the late 1970s…

Some bus riders secretly do just want a car (Citylab)

What the LAT missed in their story about declining bus ridership (LAist)

LAT misleads on Metro ridership history (Ethan Elkind)

A lot of folks have been quick to declare that newspapers are either morgue-bound or relics of previous centuries. Not so fast. The LAT’s story on transit ridership, published Wednesday, was further proof that when a major media organization spends time and resources and does fresh reporting on a local issue of interest to the public, a lot of people pay attention.

The story by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel not surprisingly prompted a lot of really interesting reaction, I thought. Metro CEO Phil Washington chimed in at yesterday’s Board meeting and there was a lot of discussion on blogs and social media. To simplify, some people thought the story hit the bullseye while others said the LAT cherrypicked favorable stats and relied too heavily on quotes from someone who is a longtime critic of Metro.

My three cents? I’m going to speak very broadly. The founding fathers understood the role of a free press: to be skeptical, to ask uncomfortable questions, to challenge widely-accepted ideas, to be provocative, to use statistics that maybe those in power wouldn’t highlight, etc. The FF understood readers can decide for themselves if they like/trust/agree with what they read. Most of all, The FF understood good government needs a variety of viewpoints.

Or to put it another way: nothing in the LAT story caused me to spit out my Trader Joe’s vanilla almond granola crunch (yum!).

Sure, the James Moore quote in the LAT article was a wing-flapper — and I disagree that every bus rider really wants a car. But any journalist who leaves that quote in their notebook should probably be reassigned to the pantry cleaning beat.

As for the above stories, let’s start with Citylab, where Eric Jaffe uses the Moore quote to show how difficult it is to get transit riders to really say how they feel about transit. Eric concludes:

So Moore and Hymon both have a case. Sure, some people who ride the bus every day really just want a car, because it would make their lives much easier. But others really seem to love the bus they take to work every day, perhaps precisely because it frees them from the costs and stresses that come with owning a car and driving it in a congested city.

The greater lesson for a place like L.A. that’s intent on reducing car-reliance is that city residents are perfectly capable of developing strong feelings toward a bus if the service is designed right. That means increasing frequency and reliability instead of cutting operations, dedicating traffic lanes to buses instead of making them fight through general traffic, crafting grid-like networks that connect people with their jobs across an entire metro area, and helping riders feel safe. Such steps would go a long way toward making people comfortable enough to profess their love for the bus out in the open.

Over at LAist, Matt Tinoco speculates on some of the causes for ridership declines and asks a good and provocative question of his own: is gentrification playing a role in ridership trends? Are lower-income transit riders — those most likely to ride — getting priced out of neighborhoods well-served by transit and perhaps getting pushed to other parts of the region where transit service isn’t as prevalent?

Ethan Elkind takes issue with the LAT’s comparing ridership today to 1985 — a very high transit ridership year in our region — and argues that year was an anomaly. Ethan also suggests that lowering fares would likely attract new riders as would building more housing and commercial development near transit.

L.A.’s bike share program is being set up to fail (LAT)

In this op-ed, urban historian and writer Justin Clark argues that the Metro bike share program coming to downtown Los Angeles this summer won’t reduce car traffic and will be too expensive to attract riders. In particular, Justin opines that a transit rider could get to their destination more cheaply and more quickly by transferring from transit-to-transit instead of transit-to-bike share, which will require a separate fare.

Here’s the response from Metro bike staff to different issues raised in the op-ed:

A sample Metro bike share kiosk.

A sample Metro bike share kiosk.

•Metro is working toward allowing transit users to transfer to bike share in the same way they would transfer to another bus or train.

•Metro chose their bike share vendor, BTS/B-Cycle, based on extensive research to find a vendor with an established supply chain of bikes, as well as a vendor capable of overseeing a countywide bike share system.

•Metro is working to make their system interoperable with Santa Monica’s bike share program.

•Metro’s bike share system will eventually have 4,000 or so bikes, exceeding industry standards for “bike density.” The Metro bike share program will be larger than Denver’s and about two-thirds the size of the one in New York City.

•The same research cited in the op-ed shows that bike share trips in Melbourne, Sydney and Minneapolis replaced car trips about 20 percent of the time — a fact omitted in the op-ed.

The Metro bike share program kicks off this summer in downtown Los Angeles with about 1,000 bikes at dozens of different bike share stations.

Metro to deck La Brea for 22 consecutive weekends (Larchmont Chronicle) 

Actually…as the article’s first sentence makes clear, no final decision has been announced yet on how best to install the decking at Wilshire and La Brea for work on the Purple Line Extension’s Wilshire/La Brea Station.

The decking will allow traffic to continue to use Wilshire Boulevard while excavation of the Wilshire/La Brea station takes place beneath the street. L.A. Councilmember David Ryu prefers the 22-week option. Work is scheduled to begin in April; this will be the first station on the first segment of the Purple Line Extension to be decked.

Metro and a variety of community stakeholders have been looking at two options: a seven-week full closure of part of Wilshire Boulevard to install the decking or 22 weekend closures. Below is a slide from a community presentation:


Click above to see larger.

The results are in from Delhi’s partial car ban (Citylab)

New Delhi traffic.

Chronically beset by traffic and smog, officials tried something new this month: only allowing half the private cars in the city to drive each day (based on license plate numbers). The result: air pollution went up! What the what?

Citylab suggests the reason why: car ownership rates are on the low side and a lot of the smog is probably coming from trucks, power plants, industry and other sources. Still, Citylab says the program provided some valuable information and traffic was certainly improved.

Things to read on transit: Beneath the noir, L.A. is fundamentally primal shows a less glitzy — or less filtered — view of Los Angeles in the latter 20th century. The gallery and text is on the Zocalo Public Square website.

Recent How We Rolls: 

Jan. 25: new Board motion calls for studying rail line to new Rams stadium in Inglewood.

Jan. 21-22: transit ridership declines, why teens are driving less and seniors more, Metro construction update.

Jan. 16: Expo Line tracks handed over to Metro, four interesting ideas for transpo in our region.

Jan. 15: big cars, electric cars and self-driving cars.

I’m on Twitter and have a photography blog. Questions or ideas for How We Roll? Email me.

4 replies

  1. I say it’s because our station designs suck big time. I mean, look at our rail stations, it’s nothing more than a slab of concrete with some cheap steel pylons for roofing. It’s narrow, noisy, and totally boring. Some places are so devoid of anything, dark and dangerous that you wouldn’t want to be waiting for the train late at night.

    In contrast, look at Germany’s station designs. It’s like a shopping mall with full glass enclosures, easy to read signage, wide open spaces for human traffic, clean, bright, and a fun place to visit in itself. You can tell just from the picture that this is a safe place to wait for the train even late at night. Why can’t we have this? If you make the station really nice like this, people will use it.

    You build it like a dump and operate it like a dump, no one is going to use it.

  2. At some point after more and more transit only corridors are created there will be growth in transit ridership overall if service hours are not cut. Its inevitable. But if overall service hours are cut, then that would counter gains made by creating dedicated transit corridors. Its also likely that if more parking or travel lanes are created for motor vehicles, then more people will drive. Also that if more bicycle only lanes, paths and parking are created there will tend to be more people bicycling.

  3. Can’t he MTA go back over their own history concerning decking? From Hill St. between Temple and First; Hill St. and Fifth St.; all the way to Wilshire and Western and Hollywood and Highland streets were never closed except at night for station construction. Why now are they talking about closing two major thoroughfares for station construction during the day? It seems the MTA operates in a reverse time machine where they become more and more less efficient building rail.