Transit is a critical piece of overall mobility in any urban environment. But, it is still just that – a piece of a much larger transportation picture. Across L.A. County, about six to seven percent of commuters use transit to reach work. This means that there many opportunities to capture new transit trips, as well as a lot of reasons to expand the options we provide.
L.A. County’s unique transportation goals and needs demand solutions that increase and integrate mobility, improve commutes and provide realistic alternatives to sitting in traffic. With so much to achieve and cover, especially in a place so large and diverse, there must be more than one method.
In other words, achieving different outcomes for L.A. County requires a different – as we say extraordinary – approach. Transforming Los Angeles County will require self-transformation on the part of Metro.
This process has already begun. Measure M was a huge first step. It is more diverse and comprehensive than Measure R, with funds for first and last mile, state of good repair, regional rail, innovation and ExpressLanes. And the toolbox doesn’t stop there –- Metro’s work in bike share, joint development programs, goods movement and intelligent transportation systems all reflect a new attitude that to improve lives, we need to expand transit and connect it to more job centers and destinations. We need to make transit more customer friendly. And we need to think beyond transit.
Metro is working to implement an Uber-like service through our upcoming request for proposals (RFP) for a MicroTransit Pilot (MTP) project. The MTP will explore whether and how a more demand responsive local service may be able to better meet travel demand than a traditional fixed bus route. The MTP will likely utilize smaller vehicles that carry fewer passengers and may be a good way to offer services in lower density areas.
An upcoming pilot will test whether mobile tolling technology could work on our Express Lanes instead of fixed tolling structures. This might make it easier and cheaper to expand the ExpressLanes and offer more mobility to more communities in L.A. County.
These two projects are directly related to providing more and better services, but there is also a lot of connective tissue that is needed to make our services seamless and integrated. Metro is working on projects like connecting buses to cellular networks, providing customers more ways to pay for more services, improving real time customer information and connecting vehicles to the surrounding infrastructure and traffic lights. These aren’t transportation modes, but they raise the performance and usefulness of the system as a whole.
By focusing on efforts that impact local mobility even if they may not directly increase transit ridership, Metro is rethinking the future of transportation. We do and must care deeply about ridership on buses and trains! But what we’re really after — and it’s something harder to measure — is improving overall mobility in our region.
In this way, our actions are closer to the actual outcomes we care about, rather than our ways of measuring them, than they have ever been before.