HWR, July 7: Expo/Gold ridership, explaining the Regional Connector, mulling rideshare drivers and streetcars

Dept. of Ridership: Metro’s monthly ridership estimates just posted to metro.net and show that the Gold Line and Expo Line had new all-time highs for average weekday ridership in June.

No, I’m not trying to coat things in sugar. Overall, Metro’s ridership remains flat — and has declined since April 2014, largely due to fewer boardings on the bus system (many other large transit agencies across the U.S. have also seen ridership dips). Still, it’s good to see the rail extensions that opened last year are performing well.

Attentive Source readers know that ridership estimates are counted over the prior six months, so what you’re seeing below is really a reflection of transit boardings over that span.

Dept. of Quote of the Week: 

From Alissa Walker in a long post on Curbed LA about tech and traffic in L.A.:

Instead of mocking LA’s public transportation while claiming the threat of long commutes will somehow drive away future startups, tech leaders need to leverage the power of their own industry to get behind the city’s proven solution for tackling traffic. It’s not Waze Carpool, it’s not a Lyft Shuttle, it’s not whatever Elon is digging up next—it’s championing our own public transit systems.

I think that’s a great point, forcefully written.

And I’ll add this: I don’t see a lot of the big tech firms getting that involved with public transit or providing input on the planning of various transit projects. I sit through the Metro Board meetings month after month after month and there aren’t a lot of tech or other business titans arguing for projects when there’s still time to shape them.

Dept. of Speaking of Ride Sharing: 

Without going into the details, I recently had a bit of a nightmare ride from the Cincy suburbs to the Cincy airport: a driver who took a pricier longcut instead of a shortcut, wouldn’t shut up, was not a terribly good driver and who wouldn’t shut up — including saying some stuff that was inappropriate. And being inappropriate with me isn’t easy.

The company in question quickly gave me a partial refund, so that’s not the issue.

The issue: the company in question never actually met the driver in question. Assuming the drivers are the most important assets of these companies, why isn’t anyone interviewing them in person to see if they are sane human beings who can be trusted ferrying paying customers?

Compare that to your average bus driver, who goes through extensive training and is interviewed and supervised by a transit agency. As with many things ride sharing — including the ability of Uber and Lyft to take punishing losses thanks to investors — it pretty much makes little sense.

From the Dept. of Twitter: 

We’re always looking at how other transit agencies handle their social media for ideas on how to improve. I thought the folks in the Twin Cities did a nice job with the above video.

Attentive readers also know that Metro and the Gold Line Foothill Construction Authority recently signed a master agreement for the project and the Metro Board approved a budget for the extension from Azusa to Claremont. More here.

It’s hard to keep track of the many developments sprouting near transit lines these days. The one above is next to the Expo Line’s Sepulveda Station and was formerly, if memory serves, a concrete plant. It’s a good location — an easy train ride to DTSM, Culver City, Expo Park/USC and DTLA and a nice stroll to Sawtelle Japantown and the stores/eateries along Pico Boulevard. Plus, Adventure 16 is across Pico for all your rock climbing, backpacking and bear repellent needs 🙂

A lot of folks answered Farley and I agree the Regional Connector isn’t the most intuitive name. The best way to understand it: the Connector will link the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines and create two light rail lines: one that runs between Azusa and Long Beach and the other that runs between East Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

The two lines will share five stations in downtown Los Angeles: the new underground Little Tokyo station, Historic Broadway (at 2nd and Broadway), Grand Ave Arts/Bunker Hill (at 2nd and Hope), the existing 7th/Metro Station and the existing Pico Station. Transferring between the two lines will be easy at those five stations: step off one train and wait at the same platform for the one going to your destination.

This means riders coming into DTLA on the Gold Line — from East L.A. or Azusa — won’t have to transfer to the subway at Union Station any more to reach the heart of downtown. The same goes for Blue and Expo riders who may want to reach destinations north of 7th Street. Transfers = Time Munch and the Connector project will speed up trips to and through DTLA for current and future riders on our light rail system. The Connector will also enable more frequent service, meaning more capacity.

Maybe this map shows it best:

Now for some headlines I missed during my recent sojourn to Ohio…

City leaders seek to speed up L.A. streetcar’s 36-year wait for funding (LAT)

Under Measure M, $200 million in funding would begin to flow to the city’s streetcar project in 2053. City officials want to get the money sooner — but under Measure M, projects can only be accelerated if they don’t impact the funding or timeline for

The Cincy streetcar in action last week near lovely Music Hall. I know: not a very good pic. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

other projects.

Speaking of streetcars…that reminds of my recent Cincy trip/imprisonment. A streetcar opened there last year after the mayor tried to stop construction fearing the thing would be a sinkhole for dollars. As it happens, the streetcar (which runs in traffic) has proven to be slow and isn’t attracting tons of riders. Most folks I talked to in Cincy pooh-poohed it although I don’t think many realize modern streetcars are really more of a development tool rather than a transit tool given their syrupy speeds.

The idea is to show residents, businesses and developers that particular corridors are important and will receive investments and infrastructure. The other idea is that people are more likely to ride a cute streetcar than a regular old bus.

Related: Over at Human Transit, transit planner Jarrett Walker argues a frequent shuttle bus will serve Providence better than a streetcar. That said, my hunch is a streetcar in DTLA may not travel at warp speed but would probably attract riders, given the size of DTLA and the number of people moving about here.

France will ban sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 (Citylab)

Volvo, better on electric, moves to phase out conventional engines (NYT)

Yes, 2040 is a long ways off. And, yes, most of us can’t afford a new Volvo. Still, these are the initial steps that may help solve what has been an intractable problem: an extremely popular way of getting around also results in a lot of smog and emissions that lead to climate change.

It’s gonna be hot — record breaking hot (National Weather Service)

Be careful, folks. If you can find shade while waiting for buses and trains, please do so. Or go to Oxnard.

Programming note: I’ll be away until later in the month. Stay as cool as you can and when I get back we’ll try to delve into the many things happening around town transpo-wise. Thanks for reading! 



26 replies

  1. This might be a mute point but I was under the impression that the Future Gold Line was an approved project to Claremont (possible Montclair). The map in this article does not show this. If fact it shows many projects that are in discussion or part of the Mater Plan using Measure “M” Funds. Why is that? Is there a map showing this project yet? THANKS

    • Hi John,

      This is the most recent map of Regional Connector but it is from 2014, and I’m sure an updated version which will be produced later on will include the new extension and other Measure M projects, which were not approved at the time this map was created.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source.

      • Anna, I’m not sure if you’re looking for feedback on a new map right now, but there’s been significant confusion among riders about whether the Silver Line is a bus or a train. It also appears that the layout of the lines has to be adjusted for the regional connector because 2nd/Hope cannot be south/west of Pershing Square.

  2. MARTA has free 24 hour parking for MARTA riders, others pay to park for the day or short extended time. The key is MARTA’s BREEZE (TAP) card must show use. Also not to leave behind, one must tap their BREEZE card again, hence it shows you did ride MARTA. It was interesting while Atlanta’s was replacing their turnstiles for a more secure gate entry system to reduce fare jumpers, METRO in its infinite wisdom was installing turnstiles that really does not stop a person from entering. As I recall, every station had a MARTA security employee at each station to assist with TVMs and oversee the gates.

  3. Speaking of the heat, I wonder how many bus shelters could be built for the cost of that downtown streetcar. Metro’s ridership is slumping because fewer people are taking the bus, not because of a lack of transit in DTLA. I don’t think anyone needs a streetcar to see that there’s development potential in DTLA, just look up at the forest of construction cranes.

  4. You have a good point. Parking fees should be implemented more judiciously rather than as a blanket policy. If a large proportion of riders at a station (say, Irwindale), arrive by car, then fees should be reconsidered. If there is a lot of transit connectivity and a very high parking demand (like Universal City), then fees are appropriate.

    • I don’t want to be the bad guy here, but I want ridership numbers to suffer a bit so that Metro would realize the stupidity of their mistake, I have known people who are already angry enough that the 690 stopped going to Pasadena and for them to transfer on is sort of time waster.

    • The issue was that the Irwindale parking lot was filling up around 7 AM prior to charging for parking. I tried to park there in the past but couldn’t because there were no spaces. The bigger issue with Metro is charging for parking evenings and weekends – something most other providers don’t do. On nights and weekends I park on the street, as the signs for preferential parking generally restrict weekday parking as that is the biggest concern for adjacent residents. Unfortunately, as part of the parking charge pilot program, it does not appear they did outreach to mitigate the impacts of their change.

  5. Given I only have experience with LA Metro using the Goldline, I’ll only comment regarding it. Yes, June was a new high, by a whopping 118 riders, but only the June to June comparison has any POTENTIAL meaning; ridership will be lower in the summer months. I don’t see anything to suggest a trend in increasing ridership and Metro’s I’ll-conceived pay for parking at the east Goldline stations has, likely, put hundreds of cars back into the 210 freeway and/or pushed them to further west stations where parking is, for the moment, still free. The Irwindale station lot is now half empty; congrats Metro, mission successful {slow clap}. I expect Metro will use the empty parking as an excuse to reduce planned parking at the Goldline extension stations in the near future.

    Anecdotally, most of my co-workers, who were regular Goldline riders and 690 express rider prior to that, are back to driving the 210 to Pasadena.

    I wish Metro would finally wake up to the fact that maximizing ridership on the Goldline must involve giving riders someplace they can drive to, park, and access the station via a short walk, shuttle, or similar.

    • Monthly parking is $39. If that’s what pushed you / your coworkers to stop riding, I think you need to step back and reassess. You’re certainly spending more than that in gas…

      • B, the charge for parking at places like Irwindale is not justified because the people who parked there were not parking to hop on a Red line train to Universal Studios. These people are commuters who work in Downtown and in Pasadena. Metro for years has been trying to promote people who have white collar jobs to take public transit, well they certainly are losing or at least alienating them away from the Gold Line.

      • I ride the Gold Line at Arcadia Station. Since Metro start charging for parking east of Arcadia, I’ve noticed more cars parked at the Arcadia parking structure… It is counterintuitive to charge for parking at Metro stations while trying to get people to ride the trains. Metro needs to come up with better solutions for the first and last miles. In my case, I would rather not driving to the station at all. However, taking Metro bus to the light rail station adds at least 30 minutes more to my commute vs. 6 minute driving.

    • I agree with you on the parking situation at Irwindale, Metro did a completely STUPID move in conceiving this flawed idea of charging for parking. With Foothill Transit canceling the 690 Express to Pasadena, we are basically resort to driving to Pasadena or Los Angeles. It is interesting how they used the idea that the parking at the stations in North Hollywood and Universal City/ Studio City, while it is a bit understandable as to why they wanted to implement the parking fees because of idiots who use the lots for something else, out here in the San Gabriel Valley, it is sort of obvious that we use the lots to go to Downtown Los Angeles or to Pasadena.

      For the ENTIRE year Metro has been promoting to commuters to park and ride and even went as far as trying to hard sell Measure M to the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley communicates to everyone that we ought to not endorse anymore measures coming from Metro since it will only line their pocket with cash to fund their lavish offices and private events.

    • I’m grateful to have done my fair share of traveling throughout the world, I can tell you, there’s nothing more depressing or less effective than riding public transit from one parking lot to another. Tragically, that describes most of Los Angeles.

      An interesting bit of information, Hong Kong is the only profitable transit system in the world because it is a landowner / developer that creates destinations at each station. What do you think would be better for the region and transit agency, 100 parking spaces (expected at no cost, only used on weekdays) or 100 dwellings that generate income, a sense of “place” and are more likely to use the station every single day?

      I wish Americans would finally wake up the fact that driving and car dependency are SOO much more expensive when the public doesn’t have to subsidize car use.

    • It cost me $6 for gas alone to drive from Silver Lake to Pasadena in a day before including overall cost of insurance, registration fees and maintenance (hint – it’s definitely not cheap!!), So care to explain how an extra few bucks for parking is all of a sudden an inconvenience?? People will make up for it by having less wear and tear on their vehicles.

      Now I will agree with you on one thing though. These parking fee aren’t gonna stop anyone from parking at station and proceed to go somewhere else that doesn’t involve a train or bus. Universal City definitely comes to mind here.

    • People will pay for parking if the inconvenience of the alternative is worse. They’re just not inconvenienced enough right now, but we’ll get there. The pay-for-parking system maintains that balance of taking rail vs. driving vs. not making the trip at all.

  6. I think it’s commonly understood that downtown streetcar circulators are an inefficient and expensive ploy. So why isn’t anyone in an official capacity speaking up and putting the brakes on this project while there’s still a chance? Everyone’s thinking the same thing, but sitting quietly by as Downtown actors with special interests ram this through.

    • I completely agree. These cute downtown streetcars are in mixed traffic but on fixed rails, which means that they’re actually worse than buses because they can’t maneuver and can get shut down more easily. These type of streetcar projects should not qualify for transportation money because they are not for transportation; they’re for a “feel-good” environment.

          • Nothing wrong with that; it just shouldn’t be eligible for scarce transportation dollars. Also, the red cars et al went under primarily because they increasingly conflicted with traffic virtually everywhere, leading to delays, accidents, and a clear indication that cars were more attractive.

  7. If you want your driver personally vetted by someone behind a desk, why not take a taxi instead? I appreciate the low cost of ride hail services and probably part of keeping the costs down involves allowing anyone who meets the basic qualifications and maintains a decent user rating to drive for the service.

    • Fair point. I do think to be successful in the long run, though, the ride hailing services are going to have to raise fares and find ways to weed out the bad eggs.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • I’ve done the math with my recent rideshare driving and, when IRS rate and deadheading are included, I am losing money driving for rideshare. I only break even when I count the sign on bonus.