How We Roll: would the Expo Line have won KPCC’s bike-car-transit race to SaMo?

Art of Transit: 


Things to listen to whilst transiting — Judge John Hodgman live at SF Sketchfest

How would you like it if your dad taped this photo on your bunk bed?

How would you like it if your dad taped this photo on your bunk bed?

All the cases heard before a live audience are funny. But the capper is the final case involving a 15-year-old teen who wants the Judge to stop his dad from taping weird and scary photos to his bunk bed. Judge Hodgman has a way of flushing out the monsters who live among us and this case is both laugh out loud and in its own weird way touching. View all the evidence here; listen below.


Bike versus Car versus Bus in race between Union Station and Santa Monica Pier (KPCC Take Two)

Such races are oldies but goodies. In this one, Take Two dispatched its competitors from Union Station at 8:30 a.m. on a weekday morning. Asked ahead of time who would win, listeners selected the bike. You can listen to the segment by clicking the link above.

And who won?

Jacob Margolis biked there in 65 minutes, while Sue Carpenter drove and parked in the span of 70 minutes. Leo Duran spent 94 minutes using public transportation.

The car took the 10 freeway, the bike went Union Station to Venice Boulevard and took that all the way west before cutting north to the pier and the transit rider took the Big Blue Bus’ R10 route all the way from Union Station to 2nd and Broadway in SaMo — just steps from the Pier.

The Expo Line was sadly ineligible to participate in Take Two's big LAUS to DTSM race. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

The Expo Line was sadly ineligible to participate in Take Two’s big LAUS to DTSM race. Photo: Steve Hymon/Metro.

By now, attentive Source readers are surely jumping from their transit seats and screaming “we want a replay.” The problem is that Take Two is holding its contest before the Expo Line opens from DTLA to DTSM this spring.

How long would the ride take from Union Station to the Pier using Expo? Let’s go to the timetables. From Union Station there is an 8:30 a.m. Red/Purple Line train that arrives at 7th/Metro at 8:35 a.m. At 8:40 a.m., an Expo Line train departs for Culver City and is scheduled to arrive there at 9:09 a.m.

Obviously the segment between Culver City and SaMo hasn’t opened yet, but let’s suppose that takes about 15 to 20 minutes (we don’t have a timetable yet) to travel those 6.6 miles. Let’s be conservative and say it takes 20 minutes. That gets an Expo Line rider into the station at 4th and Colorado at 9:29 a.m. and then it’s a very short walk to the Pier at the end of Colorado.

So an Expo Line rider may have won. ‘May’ is the key word there. It would depend on the transfer going well at 7th/Metro. There also could be faster cycling routes and, of course, faster cyclists. Only a pointyheaded geek would mention that biking from DTLA to DTSM is also downhill, although against the wind on some days.

If Take Two is true to the name of its program, it should do a second take on this race after Expo opens! 🙂

UPDATE, 5:13 p.m.: KPCC’s Jacob Margolis just emailed me to say that they want a rematch after the Expo Line opens. Perhaps Jacob’s feeling a little like Appollo Creed after the first fight against Rocky Balboa — “I won but I didn’t beat him”:

Also from Take Two: in this program dedicated to transpo, Take Two reports that Verizon cell service and wifi will begin in the Red/Purple Line subway between Union Station and 7th/Metro at the end of May.

Susan Shelley: drop in ridership should be a stop sign for tax hike (Daily News) 

In this op-ed, the former candidate for the Assembly writes that the drop in ridership at Metro and other transit agencies is the reason that voters should reject a potential Metro ballot measure to raise sales taxes by one-half cent and continue the Measure R half-cent sales tax.

Her arguments: the ability of Metro to sell bonds and pay them back with sales tax revenue is sticking future generations with the bill. And, she writes, future taxpayers may not be taking transit given advances in self-driving cars and such. Excerpt:

By then, Metro’s trains may be in the Smithsonian’s collection of 20th century transportation oddities, and people may be commuting in driverless cars that sync up to their calendar apps. But today’s kindergarteners will still be paying those higher sales taxes.

It’s really not fair to stick them with the bill for this era’s politically favored projects. Maybe if we could go back 30 years, we wouldn’t choose to spend $9 billion adding shiny rail lines to a transit system that now serves fewer passengers than it did when it was just a boring bus system.

My reaction:

•I would recommend waiting to see the potential ballot measure’s spending plan before deciding if it’s something you want to support or not at the polls (if it makes it to the ballot). There may be projects or programs that you support. The spending plan, btw, is scheduled to be released in March. A public comment period will follow. The Metro Board of Directors will ultimately decide what’s in the spending plan and whether or not to take any sales tax increase to the voters.

•I think that making a decision on a potential ballot measure solely because of the ’85-’15 comparison is making a decision based on limited info. I personally don’t have a problem with the LAT comparing ridership in 1985 to 2015. I also agree with others who have pointed out that there are other years in which ridership could be compared that would tell a different story.

•With limited amounts of state and federal funds available, the three sales tax increases approved by voters in 1980, 1990 and 2008 helped Los Angeles County begin its rail transit program. Unlike other metro areas around the United States, we had to start from scratch (the last of the streetcars stopped running in 1963) and we had to start from zero in the most populous county in the U.S.  The system isn’t finished and there are changes and improvements underway to the Metro Bus network. I think that’s worth considering.

City and residents debate the fate of a lot at 1st and Boyle (Streetsblog LA)

Really interesting story about the empty lot across 1st Street from Mariachi Plaza and the Gold Line station. The lot was the property of the now defunct-Community Redevelopment Agency. Now the city of Los Angeles has a limited amount of time to start a project there due to

But what do residents and businesses want? As Sahra Sulaiman reports from a recent community meeting, there doesn’t seem to be much consensus although most folks say the neighborhood really needs parking. What the what? Isn’t there a Gold Line station right across the street? Well, yes, but boardings at the station haven’t exactly been sky-high and people are driving to the neighborhood from areas without rail transit.

On the plus side, it’s good to hear that Boyle Heights is a regional destination. I’m curious if the Regional Connector will have an effect on Mariachi Plaza ridership. The Connector project will allow for a one-seat ride for people traveling light rail from downtown L.A. instead of having to transfer from the Red/Purple Line to the Gold Line at Union Station.

Read the post. It’s also a sign that even in a big city there remain some pretty good development opportunities in and around downtown. Now it’s just a matter of deciding what to build.


12 replies

  1. Earlier this afternoon, I was driving to downtown SM via Olympic. As I was stopped at a light on 26th, I saw a single car train slowly pulling through the Expo station next to me, and thought, “why not?” So I took Olympic all the way to 5th, hitting a few red lights along the way. I made a right at 5th just 5 seconds before the train pulled in. I’m assuming it didn’t come to a complete stop at the 17th St station, since it’s not yet in service, so driving through SM was just slightly faster. The train would probably have beaten me driving on surface streets anywhere else, but Olympic has light traffic once you’re west of Bundy.

  2. While I enjoyed the KPCC story and your analysis of the Bike/Car/Bus challenge, I have to critique your computations for how the transit alternative will compare when Expo is completed to Santa Monica. You say that you took a conservative approach by estimating that Expo will take 20 extra minutes to get from Culver City to Santa Monica. This “conservative” estimate assumes an average travel speed of 19.8 MPH between Culver City and Santa Monica. The actual travel speed on the existing segment of Expo between DTLA and Culver City is 17.8 MPH, based on the 8.6 mile distance and 29 minute scheduled travel time. Therefore, a conservative estimate for travel time between 7th/Metro and the Fourth Street terminus should be at least 51 minutes. Add to that the ten minutes to get from LAUS to 7th/Metro on the Red Line (which assumes that you start the race on the Red Line platform , which seems an unfair advantage over the competing modes), and ten minutes to walk the 0.4 miles between the 4th/Colorado terminal of the Expo Line, and your total travel time is more than 70 minutes, so the transit trip would still lose to the other two modes, though it would be a much closer race.
    Maybe you could save a couple minutes at the end by using Santa Monica’s Bike Share system for the last leg of the trip!

    • The entire Expo Line is expected to take 46 minutes. The second phase except the last bit in SM is either fully gated or runs on grade separated aerial structures so you can’t compare to Phase I, which has an unnecessary stop at Farmdale, is not gated for much of its journey, and has to go through many many intersections with traffic lights.

      Union Station to 7th Metro is a 5 minute ride per the timetables. Service is every 5 minutes at 8:30 would be 2.5 minutes. Say a generous 2.5 minutes to walk into the station from the front of Union Station and you have 10 minutes. Expo will eventually operate on 6 minute headways starting in 2017 so a 3 minute wait would be average. Walking 0.4 miles is 6-7 minutes for the average non-senior or disabled person who is not lollygagging (if we are comparing to someone bicycling fast through the city I think they could easily do this in 5 minutes.

      Adding this up is 2.5+2.5+5+3+46+7 = 66 minutes.

      They should have made the person with the bike lock up their bike, which I am not sure happened. If that was the case, then transit would likely win in most scenarios.

      • Matt: Where did you get your information on Expo travel time? Seriously, I’d like to see your source.
        Traveling 6.6 miles in 17 minutes (46-29=17) requires an average operating speed of 23 MPH, that seems fast considering the number of at-grade crossings. There are at least 15 at-grade crossing along the Phase 2 alignment, including five in Los Angeles (Bagley, Overland, Military and Barrington, according to Wikipedia). Is Expo going to have signal priority at those intersections? If Phase 1 is any indication, the City of LA is unwilling to give signal priority to Expo. Maybe “the last bit in Santa Monica”, which includes at least 10 at-grade crossings, will be different, I certainly hope so. We should have an answer in a couple months, after Metro completes their pre-revenue tests and publishes their schedules.
        As for walk time, average walk speed for a healthy person is 3 MPH, or 8 minutes for a 0.4 mile walk. I added 2 minutes to account for signal delay time at three intersections (Fourth, Main/Second, and Ocean) between Expo and the SM Pier.

      • Expo Line Rider, 46 minutes is from the EIR. Also, there is no such thing as signal priority at gated crossings because there is no signal for the train to go through.

  3. To be fair, I think the “bike v car v transit” rematch should occur once the Expo Bike path is completely finished and open to the public. I’ve heard conflicting reports if that opening will coincide with the opening of the Expo rail line.

  4. I’m surprised the bicyclist took Venice all the way; once you get past Robertson you can hop off Venice to the Ballona Creek bike path, which is a straight shot to the coast, no cross traffic and no light. Probably could have shaved another 5-10 minutes off.

  5. My reaction to the Susan Shelly article is below.
    I sent it as a letter to the editor and an online comment, but somehow I doubt they’ll post it or approve it.
    So far they haven’t approved any posts in response.

    In her editorial and on her former campaign website, would-be-Representative Shelly proposes some fairly disrespectful policies but makes a point of calling for mutual respect. I don’t think it’s very genuine to throw a punch and call for civility.

    “Why did you think that multi-billion dollar projects that benefit multiple generations should be paid for in a single year?

    You spent no time whatsoever contemplating the chaos and unfairness of your proposal. One year taxes would be crippling, the next year they’d drop down to normal? Who does that help?

    Our previous generations built the NYC subway system, and it’s extremely popular even today. So why are you so sure that we’re building relics? Self driving cars?

    You think self driving cars won’t get stuck in traffic? Or contribute to climate change? Or remain dependent on fossil fuels?

    Under what moral authority do you think it’s preferable to wreck the planet for future generations instead of building permanent infrastructure and asking our children to one day pay their fare share?

    AND for all your citations, you failed to mention that these ballot measures have been funding road building and widening as much as our rail system. This almost never helps traffic in the long term. Everyone who knows transit knows that’s wasted money to mollify car owners who are used to driving on several trillion dollars of subsided roadways and cannot imagine a better future.

    And you used ridership as the only metric of quality. Ridership was calculated per ride, so if rail saves us a few transfers, that’s counted as a decrease in Metro’s statistics. Also, in the 1980s, the buses had no air conditioning, but only cost fifty cents. The quality of the ride isn’t comparable at all. You would know that if you actually talked to bus riders. You didn’t talk to us, probably because you don’t value our experiences nearly as much as the opinions you’ve pulled out of your ass.

    In short, your article sucked, it was, at best misleading, and in case you do make it into elected office one day, you really should take a budgeting class.

    Dayle Diamond

    P.S. I took a look at your archived campaign website. Prop 13 shifts the property tax base from old homeowners onto young people. It takes a lot of nerve for you to glibly throw out a ‘think of the children’. The centerpiece of your campaign was ripping us off. “

      • Considering the snarky reply you left for me the other day, that was approved, not much of a surprise. She is entitled to her opinion and you to yours. More civility would go along way as well as not presuming that she didn’t have a budgeting class.

  6. WTH is going on with the 210? All this work going on and no one seems to know what for. Extra lane?, HOV? Or just spending money? What’s up?

  7. The location of Union Station as a starting point is pretty arbitrary, and gives the advantage to transit. If it were someone in the downtown area, say living on one of the apartments on Main or Spring, they would have to either walk to the bus stop/train station, the garage, or fetch their bicycle either from inside their home or in a bike locker/room downstairs. Also, this was done at the peak hour. The reason the PM peak is so annoying is that people take night trips at that time, but they can’t conveniently return via transit because it runs infrequently or, in the case or SMBBB 10, not at all after 9 pm. The benefit of the Expo Line is that it will run 20 minute or better night service to midnight, when buses in the area run every 30 minutes or worse.