How We Roll, Dec. 15: cheap taxis vs public transport

Art of Transit (when Delta Airlines decides Detroit is on the way from Cincinnati  to Los Angeles): 


Cool light display in tunnel connecting terminals at the very nice Detroit airport.

The mighty Mississippi River downstream from Davenport, Iowa.

I’m pretty sure this is Sierra Grande in northeast New Mexico.

Quasi-related: I’m a big fan of the Flyaway bus, but it took a full 90 minutes last night from the time I exited the Delta Terminal at LAX (at 5:50 p.m.) to the time the bus made it Union Station. The 30-minute wait at LAX didn’t help, nor did traffic clogging the HOV lane on the 105 and the crawl through DTLA on the 110 (where there are no HOV lanes). Also, if you travel from the airport to Union Station, your may or may not need a ticket to ride the bus, based on my experiences. I buy a ticket ahead of time online but they rarely get checked in the confusion that always comes with arriving at Union Station.

‘They can just take an Uber’ (Slate)

Good piece by Henry Grabar, saying that voters, cities and transit agencies would be mistaken if they substitute subsidized ride-sharing rides for actual transit service. As Grabar points out, a number of agencies have cut deals with Uber or Lyft to subsidize rides.

Obviously, taxis will never be able to substitute for the people-moving power of high-capacity subways and bus corridors. Anyone who argues otherwise is being disingenuous.

But even for high-subsidy (read: expensive for taxpayers) transit routes, the budget-soothing promise of Uber isn’t cut and dry. What if grabbing an Uber isn’t about to get cheaper—but more expensive?

As Grabar points out, ride sharing may be well funded by venture capitalists — but that’s not quite the same as being profitable and there’s many reasons to think those cheap rides won’t be cheap forever.

That said, the last paragraph of the article is key. As he points out, there are some great partnerships out there with the cheap taxi industry. The key, this article suggests is not to replace transit with ride sharing but rather find a way to supplement it and widen its appeal. Which is something that Metro’s Innovation office has been looking at.

How do you ease traffic in Los Angeles? Make it harder to park (LAT)

This op-ed by a trio of researchers picks up the mantle of UCLA parking policy guru Donald Shoup, arguing (correctly, I think) that too much free and/or easy parking just provides another incentive for everyone to drive much of the time.

How to stop that problem? Cities should enforce parking maximums on new developments or allow them to be built with no parking, the trio writes, so the glut of parking doesn’t perpetuate. In other words, put away the carrot and get out the stick! Excerpt:

Any change to the existing parking paradigm will be met with resistance. Developers may protest parking limits out of fear that they won’t be able to maximize their profits in selling or leasing housing. Parking-free buildings may create angry neighbors worried about drivers endlessly patrolling their streets for spaces. But strategies such as neighborhood permits can mitigate many of these problems. 

Angelenos like to think they have a right to cheap and easy mobility in the form of car ownership. We suggest that cheap and easy accessibility — to work, stores and fun — is the right we should strive to promote.

This is a rough-and-tumble political issue in L.A. and the region. When new developments are proposed, pols often meet resistance because they will cause more traffic. Parking and road improvements, to date, have been a way to mitigate that argument and keep cars from trolling for parking in neighborhoods next to new developments.

That said, my sense is that parking is getting harder in some parts of town. Parking in DTLA, for example, doesn’t feel quite as easy as it was even five years ago and the prices seem to be climbing upward as many parking lots are developed. Enough to get people on transit? Yeah, it’s probably good for transit and probably also good for the cheap taxi industry. Transit helps get cars off the road. Cheap taxis…not so much.

Go Metro to the Kings and Rams!: Rough second period last night versus Buffalo but I suspect the Kings will be okay, although the goaltending issue is sort of huge. As for the Rams, now that they have a new coach I’m sure the QB will put 400 yards up on the angry Seahawks tonight in Seattle. Right?

Wealth divides: exploring the dividing lines between rich and poor in American cities (ESRI)

Great series of maps and charts showing the diminishing middle class in some U.S. cities. As the text points out, upper income and lower income households now make up the majority of households in the U.S.

Man punches and kicks another man at Hollywood Metro station (LAist) 

The altercation happened about 1 a.m. Tuesday at the Hollywood/Vine Red Line station and the video has been making the rounds on local TV news. Excerpt:

L.A. County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ramon Montenegro said via a statement, “You can see some verbal exchange, not sure if it was a verbal altercation. But whatever it was it didn’t warrant an assault because it didn’t appear the victim was a threat to the other gentleman.”

Anyone with information should contact the LASD at 888-950-7233.

To emphasize: if you know of anything or recognize the suspect, please call the Sheriff’s Department at the number above.


As the year winds down, something from last night from the that famous musical hall atop the subway….

Not sure who Lisa Fischer is? Watch the Oscar-winning documentary, “Twenty Feet from Stardom.”

8 replies

  1. Steve, have you tried using TAP to pay for Flyaway fare? They let me do this on the outbound from Union Station but I haven’t tried inbound. It’s not clear how I would prove that I paid and am therefore entitled to my luggage.

    • Hey —

      I hate to say I had no idea that you could use TAP on Flyaway, but I had no idea that you can use TAP on Flyaway. Although now that you mention it, that sounds vaguely familiar. So many things cross my desk!

      I usually just buy a ticket online and use my phone as a ticket. Outbound from Union Station I think they’ve almost always checked my ticket — it’s the inbound from LAX when they sometimes don’t.

      I’ll look into the TAP thing. That’s probably something we should remind readers of more often, especially since it’s still a few years until the Crenshaw/LAX Line and people mover are working together. Even then, Flyaway will be the best option for many folks.

      On a quasi-related note, I had to leave home at 4:30 a.m. for this last flight and I ended up Ubering. From Pas, it was $42 door-to-door to my terminal in 35 minutes. I can’t afford to do that often, but it made me appreciate how ride hailing can fit into the bigger transpo picture.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. Disgusting display of violence. But once again, where is “our” Sheriff in charge of the security? Please show to the Metro board before renewing their contract for millions…

    • Both above ground and below, Hollywood neighborhood always seems to attract the most random acts of violence. I hope the man who lost his teeth in the attack recovers, and that the perp is found and prosecuted. Thanks to the hero who took the picture of the guy. Also,his friend who kicked away the bag was a part of it. The Greek chorus. Makes me sick.

  3. Your experience with the Flyaway bus doesn’t surprise me. The outbound ride from Union Station to LAX works better because the exact departure time is known, so riders know if they just missed a bus and should take a coffee break. The inbound rider, however, has know way of knowing if a bus is coming in 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Nothing to do but wait on the traffic island breathing exhaust fumes. The experience would be improved by a nextbus service… if riders could use their phone to see the wait time to the nearest 5 minutes, they could go inside the terminal for a bit.

  4. Re parking: Is Donald Shoup related to Paul Shoup, President of the Southern Pacific in the 1920s?

  5. The biggest issue with the ride services and working with transit is their fare unpredictability. If too many drivers catch a cold, the cost could easily surge to double or triple the usual cost. Transit and taxis work on a fixed fare structure. You can fix the background check and training issues but fare surging is inherent to the ride service model, but surge fares don’t help the person earning $10 an hour who gets fired if she is late too often.

  6. 90 minutes? It would have been faster to take the shuttle to the Green Line, and then transfer to the Blue and then Red/Purple… if you don’t have a ton of luggage, of course.