How We Roll, May 26: some light reading for Memorial Day weekend

Cell phone signal in Red/Purple Line update: Verizon Wireless has extended their service to cover the entire Purple Line to Wilshire/Western station as of last month. This brings us to three carriers now with active cell service on the entire Purple Line: Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile. And work continues to get cell coverage throughout the entire Red Line.

Bike Night reminder: if you’re passing through Union Station on your way home — or looking for something to do to begin the holiday weekend, Bike Night begins at 5:30 p.m. More here.

Art of transit: 


Metro Board votes to kill 710 tunnel (Streetsblog LA)

Metro Board drops support for controversial 710 freeway tunnel (LAT)

710 freeway tunnel fight dealt a deciding blow by Metro Board (SGV Tribune)

Thorough media coverage above of the Metro Board vote on Thursday to pick local road improvements as the preferred alternative for the SR-710 North project — instead of the controversial and more expensive freeway tunnel option. The idea is to build traffic mitigation projects as soon as possible instead of waiting years for a tunnel that had considerable opposition and still needed billions of dollars in funding.

Dozens of members of the public and elected officials testified during the Board meeting. Folks on both sides of the issue made some good points. The fact that there were good arguments on both sides is probably why the dispute over the 710 gap has played out for the better part of 50 years.

As I tweeted yesterday, I’m a little leery to see yesterday’s vote as a sea change in the way we think about mobility in our region. The freeway building era has effectively been over for at least 20 years — the 105 freeway and the 210 extension to San Bernardino County were the swan songs of that effort. Our region still depends enormously on cars to get around (83 percent of commuters drive to work at last count, according to the Census Bureau) and the 710 dispute, I think, had its own particulars that made it less about ‘driving’ and more about the desires of some different communities in the western San Gabriel Valley.

That said, I thought Metro Board Chair John Fasana made some good points on Thursday. “Within the basin south of the San Gabriels and the Santa Monicas, the highway system that we have today is what we will have 100 years from now,” he said. “We might add a lane here and there and make ramp improvements, but we will have to live with the same highway system that we have.” 

I think that’s spot on and, in fact, what we already see happening with work around the region to smooth bottlenecks and make the freeways work as best they can. There was funding in Metro’s Measure R and Measure M for those type of projects. The Highways Project page on has a good roundup of projects underway or in the planning stages. And this Measure M fact sheet lists both highway and transit projects — see page three.

Visualizing LA Metro’s ridership data, 2009 until 2016 (Lisa Schweitzer blog)

The USC associate professor of public policy puts together a nifty graphic showing ridership on the Metro bus and rail system over a seven-year span. She also tries to parse together reasons for the decline in overall system ridership that began in April 2014, which is mostly attributable to losses on the bus side — although there have been dips on some of the rail lines (most notably the Blue and Green).

I agree with Lisa: there’s no single factor. In fact, there are probably a bunch of them ranging from a strong economy to cheap Uber/Lyft rides to service issues to lower gas prices to lower auto prices to traffic slowing buses to the need for a bus route restructuring. Among other reasons.

Lisa also tackles another related issue: some of the push back that local writers get when reporting about ridership. Surprise, surprise: the criticism of ridership stories often relies on arguments that can be easily debunked and, sure enough, Lisa administers a pretty nice debunking.

I count myself as someone who believes in a lot of the New Urbanist theories and messaging. But I’ve noticed a sanctimoniousness creeping into urbanism discussions for a while now. It hasn’t and won’t serve urbanism well. Not all people who question density, road diets, investments in transit and those sort of things are NIMBYs or ignorant or acting only in their self interest. They often raise good points and urbanists really need to figure out how to best address those points or their tent will no longer grow.

Categories: Transportation News

6 replies

  1. Where do things stand with AT&T providing service on the Red and Purple Lines?

    • Hi Nicholas;

      AT&T has signed an agreement with Metro’s contractor that is installing the cell phone equipment in the subway. AT&T service should be in place between Union Station and 7th/Metro — we’re waiting to hear the date when service is up. Apparently they’re shooting for later in the summer. We’ll post more when we know more.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • Hi Steve, in April they have closures of Red line over two weekends, I can see antenae alsready installed and connected @ Hollywood / Western and further south to Wilshire / Vermont stations. No signal, though. Any timeframe by InSite Wireless?

        • Hey Joe —

          The most recent info I have is that cell service for Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile is supposed to be in place for the entire Red Line by the end of this year. As for the equipment, that has been installed for some time but work needs to be done with the providers to actually get the cell signal down there. We also have an agreement with AT&T to cover Union Station to 7th/Metro, with that hopefully happening by end of summer. Hope this helps,

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

  2. Regarding ridership trends- recall that AB-60 has permitted undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licences since January 2015, and that many undocumented workers reside in areas with poor transit and have unconventional commutes. When we take that into account the ridership drops on buses and the Blue and Green lines (which travel thru peripheral poor immigrant neighborhoods) around the same time make sense. I’m kind of surprised Lisa Schweitzer didn’t so much as consider it as a possible variable.

  3. AB 60 went into effect Jan 2015 allowing undocumented immigrants to legally drive is California. L.A Times reported in 2016 that 605,000 new drivers licenses were issued. I think we lost transit riders to folks who wanted to drive. Question still stands on why metro wasn’t able to keep them as customers.