How We Roll, July 29: rise of the machines?

Art of Transit: 


Metro will introduce four rail cars each month to ease crowding on Expo Line (KPCC)

Metro CEO Phil Washington appeared on Airtalk with Larry Mantle on Thursday; click on the link above to listen online. Asked about crowding on the Expo Line, Washington said:

We’re doing that right now. We are building train cars right now. Our contractor, Kinkisharyo, is producing about 4 cars per month. We bring those cars in, we test them, we commission them and put them right on the Gold Line and on the Expo Line; you’re going to see big relief on both those lines very, very soon. Those cars are coming in at 4 a month, we’re trying to increase that to 5 per month, you’re going to relief, you’re going to see 3-cars consists on both those lines very soon.

Attentive Source readers know that the delivery of rail cars has been underway for some time now and that the new rail cars are also being used on the Gold Line. At this point, Metro has received 40 of the initial order for 78 new cars. After the rail cars arrive, it takes some work to break them in and get them ready for regular service. Please see this post for a more thorough explanation.

Phil also was asked about security on the system. He said:

We are doubling down on our security. You’re going to see much more of a security presence on all of our lines –the Red Line and the Blue Line especially. We understand what’s happening out there in terms of safety. Crime has actually decreased since our double-down efforts about 6 months ago.

Here’s the latest crime stats that went to the Board — they’re through April. They show a 10 percent system-wide decrease in crime between January and April of 2016 compared to the same time period in 2015.

Shared vehicles could make our cities drastically more livable (Vox)

The post is pegged to a recent study that looked at what would happen to a city that had a fleet of self-driving shared cars — i.e. you pay to ride — and on-demand mini-buses that had mostly fixed routes. Their conclusion:

Congestion disappeared, traffic emissions were reduced by one third, and 95% less space was required for public parking in our model city served by Shared Taxis and Taxi-Buses.

Vox writer David Roberts sees this as yet another sign that urban mobility is about to be upended by technology. He also acknowledges that getting to the day when folks give up their privately owned cars in favor of a shared fleet is “tricky.”

I’m a little skeptical and think such a day is still more than a few years away. I don’t have the faintest idea how you get everyone in a city or neighborhood to rely on shared cars — perhaps by making ownership of private cars prohibitive, I suppose. Skepticism aside, I wonder which American city is progressive enough, nimble enough, dense enough and transit/bike/pedestrian-friendly enough to perhaps give this a try one day.

My best guess: it will be a West Coast city — and I consider Portland to be West Coast.

Can self-driving technology save the bus? (Curbed LA)

And while we’re on the subject of self-driving buses, L.A.’s Alissa Walker makes an excellent point:

Series T-800 bus operator? Let's hope not. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Series T-800 bus operator? Let’s hope not. Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The timing for improvements like these is important because cities need to push the use of their existing transit in partnerships with these coming-soon shuttles, vans, jitneys, taxi-buses, mini-buses—whatever you want to call them—right now. Getting people to leave their cars at home needs to be the overall goal here, because cars—specifically, parked cars—are taking up too much space in our cities. Reducing car ownership is the best possible strategy, from a vehicular congestion angle, land-use perspective, and an environmental standpoint. And to do that, people need options that work for them.

Most importantly, though, is getting this kind of shared, smart bus service right first, before self-driving cars hit the market. A good experience may very well convince people who are bullish on autonomous technology that they don’t need to purchase their own self-driving car at all.

I completely agree and I’d go a step further: why wait for buses to be self-driving to make them a desirable species? A lot of the things that turn people off from the bus are fixable: routes, schedules and bus stops can be changed. Boarding can be sped up. Bus lanes and traffic signal priority are existing technologies, so to speak. Dynamic, on-demand routing can be done with a real, live, human bus operator who can smile, say hello, answer a question and keep an eye on things.

Or we can hand all the work to the machines, who will no doubt pay us back in glorious fashion at a later date:

10 replies

  1. I just moved out of West LA because it was so over crowded but still have to commute back due to work. I thought it was going to be much easier with public transportation and was very excited only to be disappointed. Last time I took the expo line, I felt like a sardine because people were crammed in so tightly that you lose a sense of safety. Not to mention that the bus times are not so reliable, specially at night. I waited in west Hollywood for over an hour after getting of the red line with no avail so had to register with lyft on the spot to make it to work on time and spent more money. I also noticed a lot of people sleeping on the benches.

  2. I see one very serious problem here; there’s just too much automotive dependency phase! In fact, the addiction to rubber tires/steering wheels is what originally got Southern California, specifically the Los Angeles region, into the trouble it’s presently in. So far, the best way to deal with the situation is to, at the VERY LEAST, is to build and expand the rail system to the point where it either duplicates or even exceeds what Henry Huntington created with the Red and Yellow Car systems! Let’s face one obvious fact: rail transportation is much safer than all three types of automobile (car, BUS, and TRUCK); automating these vehicles to the point where the human driver is replaced by a silicon chip could very easily prove to be distasterous for ALL ground-based transport, since the chip is only as good as the humans who designed and created it in the first place!!

    Furthermore, rail uses up much less energy to get its vehicles moving; the automobile in all three types WASTES copious amounts of energy, to the point where its efficiency is only TEN PERCENT from engine to wheels! Electrically powered rail vehicles employ motors with very few friction points, and rotate like wheels from the very start of motion. Hence, rail cars need much less maintenance, and can stay in operation for several YEARS before any serious repair work must be performed (the “mean distance/time between failure”, (or, since it’s distance, the MDBF)). Also, the tracks on which trains operate last much longer than ANY paved automotive surface, and this directly translates into great savings (much, much lower life cycle costs). Even if rail tracks need extensive repairs, the job is completed much quicker than the repair of an automotive roadway surface of the same length, with far, far fewer environmental impacts!

    A large fleet of autonomous cars needs a cleaning and maintenance crew which is large enough to populate a medium-sized town; all trains need is a crew of 12 personnel for two 6-car trains (subway), or a crew of six for two 3-car light rail trains at each terminal. The public automobile known as a bus would need a cleaning crew every ten miles or so per line which would also translate into a town-sized janitorial company.

    Too many people think that buses are a lower-cost alternative to rail; NOTHING CAN BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!!!! Such people fail to understand that the automobile, in general, receives hand-over-fist subsidies at all levels of government, and since the bus is perceived as performing a public service, that one AUTOMOBILE receives even more subsidies, such as just rolling along on streets that are paid for by others than the transit agency (FREELOADERS!!)

    A rather sickeningly interesting note here: we hear some people tell the world that freeways were first developed here in Southern California; this is also a LIE!! Like the Volkswagens we may see on these freeways, they are nothing more than imports from Nazi Germany—-Hitler’s creation!!! Hitler didn’t order the Autobahn constructed for any real TRANSPORTATION purpose; he simply understood that the automobile is an inherently fascist machine (you own the vehicle, but the government under which you live literally dictates to you every aspect of its use). He also knew that he could gain total control of access to that form of transport simply by denying certain people the needed drivers’ licences to operate their vehicles. Also, freeways are far and away much more expensive than subways; a ten-mile subway line would have to contain six parallel tracks just to equal the cost of five miles of eight lanes of freeway, since subways remove NO taxable land from the tax rolls (space taken for a freeway is forever removed from taxability, thus forcing people occupying adjacent areas to pay much higher taxes than if the freeway were NOT THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!).

    Let’s not forget the automobile’s effect on humanity as a whole: I must call attention to a five-minute animated film entitled: “Mr. Walker and Mr. Wheeler”. In this animated short, Mr. Walker was the most amiable, friendly person you could possibly meet until he got behind the wheel of a car. As the newly created Mr. Wheeler, he was someone in their right mind that NO person enjoys close proximity to. The Walker/Wheeler phenomena is extremely pervasive in such ” automobiliated” areas, and the further that humanity gets driven deeper and deeper down into excessive automotive dependence, the greater the chance that the “Wheeler” personality will even dominate the thoughts and behaviors of pedestrians, even if they presently don’t own or have ready access to a motor vehicle!! THIS IS WHAT IS REALLY WRONG WITH HUMANITY IN AUTOMOBILIATED AREAS SUCH AS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!!!!!!!!!! Compare life in a city where rail is the mainstay of ground transportation to an automobiliated area; the first phenomena detected would be the friendliness and amiability of the residents in the rail city as opposed to the near total lack and disregard for almost anything human in the automobiliated area!

    So, from various comparisons of several areas around the country, it can be readily seen that Los Angeles needs, at the very least, TEN TIMES more rail transit than what is being presently constructed and planned.


  3. Why do Metro representatives seem to express concerns ONLY about such problems on the GOLD and EXPO rail lines (admittedly overcrowded, especially during peak commuting times)?

    As a frequent rider of the BLUE Line, I can tell you that the number of three-car trains on the BLUE Line has significantly DECREASED over the past 12 months or so. For example, late afternoon trains southbound from 7th Street Station on Saturdays used to be three cars in length, but for the past few months they have had only 2 cars. There are many other examples of decreases in train length on the Blue Line at other times and days.

    The result is steadily increasing overcrowding on the Blue Line–to a degree that can be grotesque, making the experience especially unpleasant when the weather is hot and the A/C is inadequate.

    Plus, Metro has SLASHED the number of Blue Line trains over the same period, significantly extending the times between trains, even while providing much more frequent service on the Gold Line–not to mention how erratic Blue Line service has become, even compared to the reduced schedule.

    Still, Metro never says ANYTHING about trying to reverse the significant decline in service on the Blue Line.

    Could the reason for Metro’s lack of concern about the Blue Line have something to do with the demographics of Blue Line ridership, compared to those who take the Expo and Gold Lines? (Hint: Blue Line ridership leans much more toward lower-income and minority passengers.than does ridership on the Gold & Expo Lines.)

    Is it any wonder that Blue Line ridership has been falling steadily (and substantially) over the past several years? Even transit-dependent people have learned that the buses can be more reliable than MetroRail.

    Why should taxpayers vote this fall to give more tax money to Metro, when service to the poorest and most transit-dependent passengers concentrated south of downtown L.A. continues to deteriorate even as Metro plans to expand service further to the suburbs?

    • See that’s all part of the plan is to make you believe that the service is in desperate need of money, otherwise if it ain’t broke why vote fir higher taxes.

      While on the subject, what’s up with the AC? If I get in a car and it’s not working I will wait for another train or change cars. It becomes absolutely unbearable by the time you reach near the route.

  4. I slipped and fell the other day on the Subway because of the liquid on the bottoms of my shoes.

    That liquid was, based on smell, urine.

    Because someone used the lateral seats near the end of the car as a toilet.

    And yet your security seems to be focused on the terrorist phantom.

    And I certainly don’t see them, except on Mezzanines checking fares.

    • This is so true. It’s great to see six homeland security officers having a coffee in the tunnel at Union Station. But at the same time, there are people smoking on the platform at 7th/Metro and sleeping all over the other stations.

      I really wish Metro would stop citing these crime statistics. Of course crime is “down”- there are no officers present to document it 99% of the time!

  5. To relieve overcrowding, stop using forward and rearward facing seats. Use bench seats along each side of car to create more standing room. Like how it is done in New York, Tokyo, Toronto.

    • If we really want to replicate good service, we should privatize, or partially privatize mass transit, like how it’s done in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Why should we keep taxing ourselves for poorer services, higher fares, and service cuts? Anyone who has traveled to these cities know they are 50 years ahead of us in mass transportation. They know how to make mass transit profitable without asking taxpayers for more money. We on the other hand, keep throwing taxes to it and look what we get. Poorer service, constant breakdowns, more crime, higher fares, and service cuts. The money we give to Metro never goes to fixing things, instead, they waste our tax dollars in stuff like the grandiose Metro Taj Mahal Headquarters, renaming stations after politicians and funding their own pensions.

  6. I think the main problem with the new cars is that they are full of bugs and Metro is having trouble putting them and keeping them in service. It is great they keep getting more of them, but when they can’t put even half of them into service it does no good.