How We Roll, March 29: more spending plan reaction, what transit agencies should say on Twitter

I’ve been AWOLish the past 10 days, so lots of catching up to do…

Things to read whilst transiting: I don’t know why the New Yorker continues to give away great journalism. Case in point: editor David Remnick’s new profile of Aretha Franklin, which includes this great nugget at the top of the article: she demands being paid in cash, recalling how so many of her musician friends were ripped off in days of yore.

And still bringing it in 2014 on David Letterman. Her version is better than Adele’s, eh?

Things to read whilst transiting 2: If you’re looking for a new book, I just finished Rinker Buck’s “The Oregon Trail,” about the trip he and his brother took in 2012 in a covered wagon across the trail (a lot of it still remains). Very entertaining and informative — Buck is not a sentimentalist. He shows how the old trail morphed into a modern day transportation network that continues to serve our country.

Oregon trail wagonwheel ruts

Oregon trail ruts in eastern Oregon. Photo by J Brew, via Flickr creative commons.

Art of Transit:

Golden State Freeway, San Joaquin Valley. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Golden State Freeway in a San Joaquin Valley a lot greener than it has been in recent times thanks to the winter rains. Photo by Steve Hymon.

Why we don’t take public transit: readers respond (LAist) 

Good to see LAist jumping more into the fray, transpo-wise. To generalize, the reasons in this article seemed mostly to revolve around the issue of convenience — ranging from bus service to the time it gets to get to and from stations. We got similar answers when we asked the same question in 2010.

It’s a tough issue. As much as we’d like transit to work equally well for everyone, that’s not realistic. It seems to work best for those who live and work near transit — obviously. There is, of course, another set of issues: service. And that’s something agencies need to be mindful of whether it means improving existing service or perhaps redesigning bus routes to better serve more people.

L.A. officials need to commit to keeping Metro’s lines running (LAT) 

The suburbs are fighting back against MTA’s $120 billion transit plan (LA Weekly)

Does L.A. need to commit to spending $425 million on an L.A. River bike path? (LA Weekly)

Our first take on MTA’s bold new transit plan (MoveLA)

MTA’s $120-billion tax increase: no oversight, no deal (CityWatch)

Activists call for more bike/walk spending in Metro’s $120-billion spending plan (KPCC)

I’m sure many of you have read some or all of the above articles about Metro’s draft spending plan for the potential sales tax ballot measure in November. I thought it was important to put them on the blog anyway for those looking for non-Metro coverage.

Trends in the coverage? Hard to pinpoint any one thing. While there certainly seems to be people pleased about the plan, there have also been concerns raised about the sequencing of projects, the projects included, oversight, funds returned to local cities and the amount of funds that would be spent on walking and biking projects.

The two stories that particularly caught my eye? The LAT’s editorial calling for more spending on state of good repair projects in the spending plan — a decidedly non-sexy issue compared to some other things in the plan. I also liked Hillel Aron’s story on one project in the plan — a complete 51-mile L.A. River bike path. Hillel, in his unique style, answers his own question and explains why such a path could be so expensive to build.

Below is video from the Board of Directors’ meeting last Thursday, when the Board approved formally releasing the plan for public review. Discussion of the spending plan and potential ballot measure begins at the 27:35 mark for the video and includes many comments from Board Members, stakeholders and public in attendance at the meeting:

A motion was also introduced at the meeting that will be considered by the Board in June, when they are scheduled to vote on the spending plan and whether to put the ballot measure before voters in November. The motion is seen below and asks that Measure R projects be funded before any new transit projects.


I know there has been a lot written about the plan. If I missed an article, please email me the link and I’ll try to include soon in HWR.

Why cars and cities are a bad match (Washington Post) 

Why? Because cars take up a lot of space, writes Jarrett Walker. Excerpt:

Few things seem more unfashionable than public transit these days, but another trend is more important: More and more people want to live and work in dense cities. The astronomical cost of real estate in these places is a signal that we should be building more of them. But those cities won’t have room for everyone’s car, driverless or not. Most of us will have to learn to travel with others. We can do that in carpools or shuttles or jitneys, but to empower and liberate vast numbers of people without cars, while still using scarce urban space well, we will still need big, fixed-route transit networks.

Does this mean a place like L.A. needs to go to war against the car? I don’t think so. Our region just needs a more balanced approach so it’s not all cars all the time.

March 21: the spending plan lands and reaction begins.

March 14: a skeptical look at the Gold Line extension to Azusa, housing woes in Santa Monica, recommended podcasts for riders who need a diversion.

March 11: another Gold Line Foothill Extension review, more ballot measure talk.

March 10: take our poll — have you ever seen police give a ticket to driver for a crosswalk violation?: in praise of transit networks and options.




3 replies

  1. Welcome back, Steve.
    When you get a chance, can you provide an update of operations and ridership on the Gold Line extension as it completes the first month of service? I’d be interested to know if the parking lots in Azusa are still packed by 7 AM, and if the other parking lots are filling up as well. How many of the peak period trains to Azusa are operating with three cars instead of two? Also, has Metro fixed the communications problems reported earlier (i.e. signage on trains headed to the Sierra Madre, Monrovia and Azusa terminals)? Finally do you have any actual ridership data for the extension, beyond the anecdotal reports of crush loads? Since you are a regular rider of the Gold Line, do you have any personal observations of ridership or operational issues described by other passengers, as compared to your observations before the extension opened?

    • Hi Eric;

      I probably won’t have ridership numbers for a while due to the way that Metro estimates ridership — each month’s numbers represent tallies done over the previous six months and averaged (there’s a formula Metro uses that is approved by the FTA). So it may be a while. I’ll look around and see if any other numbers are available. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the extension is doing well ridership-wise, particularly at peak hours and during weekend days.

      The parking structures in Azusa are still filling very early on weekdays. Conversely, the extension seems to have taken some pressure off the garage at the former terminus at Sierra Madre Villa in Pasadena. The last that I heard the lots at the other stations are filling but not quite so early. I need to get an update.

      As far as operations go, things seem to be running smoother to me. My commute is a little atypical. I typically ride in between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. from Del Mar. Trains are slightly more crowded. There is still parking available when I arrive (it costs $2 to park there, thus deterring some from using the garage, I suspect). I usually ride home between 5 and 6 p.m. The two-car train to Azusa last night at 5:30ish p.m. was crowded but not unbearably so.

      I’m finding the signage to be more accurate. There are also Metro employees on the platform at Union Station to ensure people get on the right trains.

      Hope that helps,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source