Transit and gentrification, ridership, Olympics in DTLA: HWR, Aug. 30

Art of Transit: 

Crenshaw/LAX Line shows transit cuts both ways in housing crisis (KPCC)

Good article by reporter Meghan McCarty Carino on gentrification concerns along the Crenshaw/LAX Line that is set to open in 2019 and serve the Crenshaw Corridor, Leimert Park, Park Mesa Heights, Inglewood and the LAX area.

As the article notes, Metro CEO Phil Washington is keenly aware of these issues and doesn’t want to see long-time or future riders pushed out of neighborhoods near new transit lines.

So what can Metro do about this? Especially with the vast majority of development expected to take place near the Crenshaw/LAX Line to be on private land.

A few things are in the works:

•On the land that Metro does own and plans to develop, the agency requires a minimum of 35 percent of the units qualify as affordable housing.

•The Metro Board last year approved spending $9 million as seed money on a new affordable housing loan program that will soon launch. The idea is to make loans available for qualified affordable housing developers who want to build within a half-mile of frequent and high-capacity transit lines.

•The agency is also contributing money to a small business loan program to help firms near transit stay in place.

As Meghan notes, there is another layer to this issue: it’s the cities along the Crenshaw/LAX Line that ultimately decide what gets built there and how to fund more affordable housing.

In Los Angeles, for example, elected officials for years have talked about policies that would require a certain percentage of units to be affordable (called inclusionary zoning) or linkage fees that would require all developers to pay into affordable housing funds. Despite all the talk, nothing has happened on that front.

Cities, too, have struggled to update zoning codes that dictate what can be built and where. Zoning codes could, for example, allow taller, bigger buildings with more residential units. Increasing supply doesn’t always mean that prices come down — but most people would say it’s better housing-wise to have more supply than not.

But…again, this has been challenging, especially in the city of L.A. where development outside of downtown can be a very contentious issue.

So it’s tough. At the end of the day, I think it’s certainly better to build good transit than go with the status quo. The challenge is to ensure there’s a lot more winners when this happens.

What do you think readers? How much civil investment do you want? How would you handle gentrification and displacement if you were calling the shots? Comment please.

Metro’s declining ridership, explained (Curbed LA)

Not much new here that hasn’t appeared elsewhere with Curbed blaming buses getting stuck in traffic, service cuts between 2005 and 2010, cheaper gas and gentrification making transit-friendly neighborhoods more affluent — with residents more prone to driving.

Hard to argue with any of those but I’d add: more affordable new and used cars, a strong economy providing employees with money for those cars and cheap door-to-door rides courtesy of Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing firms.

Metro’s ridership estimates are here and are updated every month. The American Public Transportation Assn. also publishes quarterly ridership reports with numbers from large transit agencies across the U.S.

DTLA will have huge role in 2028 Olympics (Downtown News)

Sixteen events will be at Staples Center, the Convention Center, Microsoft Theater and Exposition Park — not to mention the big concentration of DTLA hotel rooms.

By 2028, there will be two rail lines spanning DTLA, the existing Red/Purple Line and the Regional Connector with three new stations.

Should be fun. My three cents: I hope the renovation of Pershing Square is done by then.


7 replies

  1. The RTD not only set up special service for each event on a daily basis with assignments added and deleted as needed. In addition the RTD barrowed buses for agencies across the U.S. and used those buses for normal local service freeing up BADGED RTD buses for Olympic service.

  2. Why is the idea of transit fare increases never seriously mentioned as a driver of ridership decline on public transit in LA? I admit that LA Metro has done a much better job in limiting fare increases compared with other transit agencies in SoCal and beyond. However, every (even small) increase to any service has the affect of lowering usage of that service (i.e. just think of congestion pricing being used to reduce road usage on heavily trafficked roads). The article points out that ridership peaked in 2013, after which it has been steadily declining — please note the fact that Metro increased fares in mid-2014. Also note that gas prices started their precipitous drop around late 2013. Adding another wrinkle to this, Metro started locking their turnstiles around mid-2013 to reduce fare evasion. People who were getting by without always paying their fare on Metro Rail now had to pay every time. The cost-benefit analysis for them may not have worked out in their favor for transit vs. driving. Add to that the fact that real income for the typical transit user has not gone up in a long time (while rent and other expenses have significantly increased), this can all be compounding.

    Maybe its not the largest factor, but one has to look at all these data points and assume there is SOME correlation to all this. I’m no economist, but I would guess that pricing factors play a major role in people’s behaviors when it comes to decisions on driving/carpool vs. transit. Do the other factors (stronger economy, ridesharing, service cuts) also contribute? I’m sure they do. But don’t ignore the most obvious ones because it doesn’t politically work with your agenda.

    • I think you’re right and that’s a very fair point. It probably doesn’t get as mentioned as much these days because it has been almost three years since the last increase. Which, FWIW, was actually a decrease for people who pay by the ride because they got free transfers instead of having to pay full fare to transfer. I thought this was a great move by the agency — to undo a bad transfer policy — but it hasn’t been enough of an incentive to draw more riders. Perhaps because people don’t view it as incentive but rather as the way things should have always been fare-wise.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • Another issue that affects the ridership counts that are widely published: these statistics show transit boardings, not “linked trips”. So, if you use three buses or trains to complete your trip, you’re counted as three trips in the statistics. For example, you may take a local bus to get from your home to the train, and then transfer to a downtown shuttle to complete the trip to your office.
      Emerging technologies (Uber, Lyft, bike share) are making it more feasible for some transit customers to replace some of these transit access segments (e.g. first mile/last mile) with other travel modes, and continue to use transit for a portion of the trip. For example I sometimes ride the bike share to 7th/Metro, and I sometimes use Lyft to get home from the nearest Expo Line station late at night. I’m still making a “transit trip” but I’m only counted as one trip instead of two or three.
      Long story short, lower “ridership counts” don’t always mean that the transit system is losing riders.

  3. The Olympics are a two week event that will be primarily serviced by specialized bus service. More attention needs to be paid to this aspect.

    The Purple line will greatly help shuttling spectators between the westside and downtown events. The athletes, however, will be moved around on buses.

    A Blue line express would definitely help shuttle spectators between downtown and Long Beach. Specialized bus service will be needed from the westside to Long Beach.

  4. Lets hope the MTA can live up to the great and efficient service the RTD provided in 1984. Most if not all of those coordinated and supervised the service are gone. Employees moved up thru the agency and with their vast experience the ’84 Olympics were successful. Now we look at those making decisions have little experience with most of their knowledge is gained thru text book models that seldom work in the real world of public transit.