How We Roll, February 28: ride hailing vs traffic, Blue/Expo delays, 2017 transit predictions

Dept. of Delays: The Blue Line and Expo Line delays during today’s morning rush hour was caused by this car getting stuck on the tracks at 12th and Flower in downtown L.A. at about 5:25 a.m. How’d the car get there? Early word is that the driver was allegedly drunk.

The problem was removing the car from the tracks without damaging any rail equipment, meaning there was no train service between Pico and 7th/Metro on two very busy light rail lines. The car was finally lifted away from the tracks about 7:30 a.m. and service was restored shortly thereafter with — not surprisingly — residual delays. Thank you to everyone for their patience!

Art of Transit: 

It’s settled: Uber is making NYC gridlock worse (Streetsblog NYC)

The post concerns a new report that tries to quantify exactly how much traffic ride hailing cars are causing in Gotham — allegedly a three to four percent jump in vehicle miles driven. Not a huge shocker, given how popular ride hailing has become and how much cheaper ride hailing is than traditional taxis.

I thought the comments were much more illuminating with readers offering the pros and cons of ride hailing.

Here’s one comment from an Uber driver in Pittsburgh:

Since the 1930s/40s top-down urban transit “experts” have erected and protected inefficient, expensive, rigid, top-down, bureaucratic, politicized, government-run modes of transportation (trains on rails!) and monopoly cab and bus companies that detract from city living in myriad ways.

Uber is filling in the holes in this archaic system, supplementing fixed-line buses and subways, reaching farther into the suburbs, providing service to drunks and restaurant employees in the wee hours. Yes there are costs — more congestion in a city already in virtual gridlock during daylight hours. Uber has obviously made city-living better and serves cab-starved suburbanites too — unless you think 70 million people in North America who use it every month are morons.

To be clear: I don’t think ride hailing customers are morons (disclosure: I’m occasionally one of them). I do think it’s fair to observe:

•That ride hailing has been very popular and it has likely put a dent in transit ridership in some cities. And it may have even put a dent in traffic, although I’m not sure how many people really care given there are many things that dent traffic.

•Ride hailing is popular because it’s extremely convenient and cheap — and perhaps cheap in a way that is not sustainable for companies such as Uber.

•Predictions that ride hailing — including self-driving ride hailing cars — will lower car ownership and reduce traffic should be taken with a grain of salt, given those predictions tend to be made by ride hailing companies, their agents or those who simply like to dream.

UPDATE: after I posted this, the video was posted to the Internet of Uber’s CEO arguing with one of his drivers about cheap fares. And then came the inevitable CEO apology.

RELATED 1: CityLab has their own take on the study about ride hailing in New York but they buried the lead, which is the final line of the post: “And reducing car reliance means investing in public transportation.”

RELATED 2: Which is basically what I wrote about transit ridership vs driving and ride hailing in yesterdays’ How We Roll. To quote myself: “With ridership off at many transit agencies, I think the message is pretty clear: if you want the discretionary crowd to ride (and keep riding), speed and convenience matters. A lot.”

53-story hotel tower planned near L.A. Convention Center (Urbanize LA)

The tower at Fig & Pico in DTLA is a very short walk to the Blue Line’s and Expo Line’s Pico Station and across from the Convention Center, Staple Center and LA Live.

Transit officials backtrack on controversial policy to sell naming rights to stations (LAT)

The policy approved by the Metro Board in December allowed the Board to pick and choose companies, the idea being to use companies that were appropriate for a public transit station. But an agency attorney opined that would open the agency to lawsuits from spurned companies based on First Amendment rights. And thus ends the station naming policy, which was originally sought as a way to raise revenues for the agency.


Talking headways podcast: transit predictions 2017 (Streetsblog)

Lots of good background for those interested in transit trends around the U.S. — and some predictions from last year that proved correct and not as much correct 🙂 Here’s the overview page for the Seattle Streetcar downtown extension, which is talked about by Jeff Wood and Yonah Freemark.

8 replies

  1. Perhaps it is time for “World-Class City” Los Angeles to properly secure its transit system from attack by motorists as we saw this morning. If what Seattle did with barriers to a similar situation where its bus/train tunnel begins at South Royal Brougham cannot be afforded, at least could Metro look at a Calgary Transit Mall-style car trap?

  2. From what Ive heard, UBER and LYFT charge far more than transit, and nearly as much as taxis; also their prices fluctuate by demand, much as airlines and Amtrak do. So I dont see why many transit riders would switch to Uber or Lyft.

  3. And why were potentially hundreds of commuters, both transit passengers and drivers, late today? Because once again in their infinite wisdom Metro decided it was more cost effective to build TWO rail lines at grade. Think of the money they saved, while you are explaining to your boss why you’re late. Again. Thanks Metro for your long-range planning insights!!!

    • I think that one of the problems is that until relatively recently, stakeholders put little pressure on politicians and Metro to grade separate the lines. I wasn’t living in So Cal during the Blue Line planning but I do know that on Expo, the big controversy concerned the street crossing at Overland, not the Flower Street section of the line. Also, the 22-mile Blue Line was built for $877 million and opened in 1990. Even then, that was cheap. By comparison, the six-mile Expo Extension that opened last year cost about $1.5 billion. Back in the 1980s, area pols wanted to get something built even with a limited amount of funds.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • I recall the big controversy concerning the crossing at Overland as well. The nieghborhood wanted the train to go beneath Overland Avenue but no one wanted to spend the money for what would have been the least intrusive solution which would have preserved the integrity of the nieghborhood. The Expo Construction Authority, not the least bit concerned with those who live adjacent to the line proposed a massive concrete structure that would have towered over the bedroom comunity. Needless to say that wasn’t embraced either. But rather than actually give the neighborood a choice between an at-grade crossing or an elevated one, the Expo Construction Authority went behind everyone’s backs and cooked up a “solution” with the LADoT that turned the four lane Overland Avenue into a six lane highway. Everybody loses. And the money saved by not building the elevated crossing? Who knows where that went because the City of Los Angles had to pay out of pocket for an elevated crossing at Sepulveda.

    • Steve, besides participating in meetings, who should I call to relay possible solutions for transit ? The planning committees? I don’t have the free time to participate in the meetings.

      • Hi Jarret;

        I would try to get in touch with either the Metro Board Members that represent your district or the Service Council for your particular area.

        As for the Board, if you live in L.A. County, all five County Supervisors are on the Board. To determine which supervisorial district you live in, click here. If you live in the city of Los Angeles, get in touch with Mayor Garcetti and his three appointees (Bonin, Krekorian, Dupont-Walker). Any other questions, just email me at

        Hope that helps,

        Steve Hymon
        Editor, The Source

  4. It’s mind boggling that it would take more than two hours to remove this vehicle from the tracks! You folks built the tracks adjacent to city streets — you ought to be better trained on how to yank these vehicles out of there quickly.