UCLA car study, subway lawsuit, NYT ON LA; How We Roll, Feb. 2

Attentive Source readers may have noticed I’m not writing quite as much recently. The reason: some other duties, including a photo project that had me out in the field a lot. Of course, the news has been happening at a steady clip and I’m way behind.

I’ll start with some things that have been in the news lately that I want to discuss. There was one thing in the news recently that I’m not going to discuss because the videotape of the incident was not complete and others have discussed it adequately, in my view.

Art of Transit: 


Art of New York Transit Delays: 


Beverly Hills school district files new lawsuit against Purple Line subway (Streetsblog LA)

The Beverly Hills Unified School District last week filed a federal lawsuit against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration alleging that the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Section Two of the Purple Line Extension is flawed. The lawsuit seeks to stop federal funding for the project, move the subway construction staging area farther from the school and seeks to have the route for the subway “slightly changed,” according to the BHUSD news release.

Metro’s statement in response:

Metro is confident that the supplemental environmental work for the tunnel alignment in Beverly Hills and the Century City/Constellation station meets all legal requirements. This additional analysis confirms that Metro can safely build the project, including the portion beneath Beverly Hills High School. Metro is committed to delivering the project on time and on budget. Construction of the first subway section between Koreatown and La Cienega in Beverly Hills is well underway. Metro is already conducting design and pre-construction work for Section 2 through Beverly Hills and Century City. We anticipate breaking ground this spring. Metro is working cooperatively with the City of Beverly Hills on a weekly basis to deliver this critically important transit project to all taxpayers of Los Angeles County.

Brief history, if that’s helpful: The BHUSD and city of Beverly Hills filed state and federal lawsuits against Metro in 2012 and 2013 alleging the environmental studies for the project were flawed. The state lawsuit was decided in Metro’s favor. In 2016, a federal judge upheld the federal approval of the project — allowing federal funding of the project’s second section to go forward. The judge also required Metro to perform additional environmental studies on the project’s second section, and that study has sparked the latest round of litigation.

New UCLA Study Examines Transit Ridership Decline, Blames Increased Car Ownership (Streetsblog LA)

Why is L.A. expanding transit and losing riders? (Citylab)

The UCLA study on behalf of SCAG — our region’s planning agency — burped forth late last year but has been getting more attention from media in the last few days.

The nut of it: car ownership has soared in our region in this century. At the same time, transit ridership has been sliding since 2014.

Both the Streetsblog and Citylab articles make new recommendations in their final graphs, respectively. First Streetsblog:

Even though some media point to “free-falling” ridership that is in a “slump,” Metro’s bus and rail still deliver more than 1.2 million passenger rides on a typical weekday. The UCLA ITS report quantifies a decline that appears to be spiraling. It is up to Metro leadership to take ridership, and especially the bus system, more seriously. The Metro board can use the new study to create urgency to speed improvements to ensure effective transit service that serves mobility, equity, health, and the future of the region.


That doesn’t just mean expanding rail and rapid bus connections, as L.A. County is working to do, with billions of dollars in new sales tax revenue. It would also mean, the report suggests, making it less easy and cheap to use a car—which inevitably means charging more for driving and parking. No one said it’d be easy.

As Streetsblog mentions, Metro’s bus restructuring study is underway but there won’t be changes until late 2019 at the earliest.

As for Citylab’s point about making driving and parking more expensive…good luck! There is a reason this is politically tough. We’re an extremely large area and I suspect many residents here feel — with justification — that driving is essential. Sure, taking the stick to drivers could work. But I don’t feel it’s likely to work until there’s a great carrot, too — by which I mean an expanded and restructured transit system.

On ridership….

There has been no shortage of articles about declining Metro ridership in the past couple of weeks–once the LAT wrote about it, the media floodgates opened. I thought this Twitter thread had some interesting comments about the challenges of transit in sprawling So Cal.

A paper tears apart in a city that never quite came together (New York Times) 

I’m one of the few people around these parts who wasn’t bothered by this story, which works in very broad strokes but, I think, delivers on its main point. We’re a big, sprawling area with many different levels of government. And having a diminished print media is not helping improve civic government.

I do get some of the pushback given that on the civic front, a lot of good things have happened. The local economy is doing well, there are new parks and museums around the area and DTLA has been revived — and CicLAvia and other open streets events are great civic events.

All that is great. I’d still rather have a robust local media asking the tough questions and attending the government meetings across the Southland — boring as they may be — where so many big issues are decided, punted or swept under the rug.

Things to read whilst transiting:I’m the wife of a former NFL player. Football destroyed his mind.” A first-person account. Scary and I hope articles such as these propel the NFL to make the sport safer even if it means major changes to emphasize the athleticism over the violence.




12 replies

  1. Concerning the MTA stating that a bus or train being five minutes late is on time, this must not be coming from Transportation since a Bus Operator is deemed late if he or she arrives more than 30 seconds late to sign on to their assignment.

    The MTA was created by the merger of the RTD, the operating agency, and the LACTC, the funding agency. Unfortunately after the merger it became evident which former agency was in charge, the former LACTC employees which were anti RTD operations. Bus subsidies are based on ridership. The more riders, the less they have to spend on their pet projects. Around 1982 a tax measure was passed that lowered the bus fare from 85 cents to 50 cents. In order to avoid sever over crowding with the new passenger the RTD increased service. This outraged those at the LACTC and they threatened to withhold all subsidies unless the RTD cut back on the extra service.

    As a former RTD/MTA employee, I retired after thirty years most of which was in a middle management position, I was privy to many outrageous decisions after the merger. The change from DAY PASS’s to TAP Cards was nearly a complete disaster. The person in charge of the change over had no idea how many DAY PASS’s were issued each day by Bus Operators during their eight hour shift. His proposal was to issue each Bus Operator twenty TAP Card’s to be sold to the bus passengers. I along with other managers pointed out at the meeting on the Friday before the change over that Bus Operators on heavy lines issued forty plus DAY PASS’s per trip. So in a eight hour day they may issue, sell, one hundred of sixty DAY PASS’s. The MTA had not planned to sell that many and a emergency order for more TAP Cards had to be placed. But because the plan only called for twenty TAP Card’s to be issued to Operators the road Supervisors would be equipped with extra TAP Card’s to provide the Bus Operators with additional TAP Card’s to sell. The Supervisors I was over issued over one thousand TAP Card’s the first day. The scramble to assemble enough TAP Card’s almost resulted the program would have been a complete failure initially.

    Santa Monica Bl. and Sunset Bl. suffer complete grid lock in the morning westbound and eastbound in the PM. Santa Monica Bl. has much of the old Pacific Electric right of way in tact or partially in tact. Yes there is no plan to build a Light Rail Line along this busy traffic corridor. In addition much of the Westside was developed with the promise that the Glendale Freeway, State Route 2, would extend to the west from it’s current terminus in the Echo Park area. As far back as post WW2 the plans were in place, the 101 freeway at Vermont was built with the interchange in mind. The land was purchased and construction was about to commence when Governor Jerry Brown killed it. Some say Beverly Hills would never had let it be built but if it terminated in West Hollywood or Los Angeles south of Beverly Bl. some relief would have taken place.

    Instead we have total grid lock in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and West L.A. I have observed emergency vehicles proceeding down Santa Monica Bl. on the wrong side of the divided roadway and at times on the sidewalk.

    But the MTA has decided to build a new line approximately a half mile east of the Blue Line or along the same right of way but not using the same tracks. The Gold Line is proposed and in the design phase to extend it into San Bernardino County although San Bernardino has not approved the funds to it’s portion. This extension will run along the same right of way as the METRO Link and necessitate the METRO Link tracks having to be moved.

  2. The 5 bus lines with the greatest losses are:
    4 Santa Monica Blvd
    18 6th & Western, downtown LA, Whittier Blvd
    30 Pico Blvd, downtown LA, E 1st St (the old P streetcar)
    40 downtown LA, M L King Blvd (formerly Santa Barbara Ave), Crenshaw Blvd, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Hawthorne Blvd, Redondo Beach (the old 5 streetcar)
    720 Wilshire limited. —

    — while 28 (Eagle Rock,downtown LA, Olympic Blvd) significantly gained riders.

    4, 18, 30, and 720 travel thru heavily-immigrant areas where residents have likely gotten drivers’ licenses recently, but I wonder why 40 has lost riders while 28, which also serves a heavily-immigrant area, has gained.

  3. Increase in car ownership?? Well, does Metro and everyone else believe that’s the only reason?? Does daytime maintenance, 20 min service frequency after 8pm and overpromise/under-delivery have nothing to do with it as well.

    On weekend mornings, this is my commute travel time from Silver Lake to Santa Monica:

    Car: 28 min (avg)
    Bus: 1 hour (avg)
    Train: 1hr 21min

    Yeah, that’s not a joke. On the weekends it actually takes longer for me to take the train to work than the bus. I know I’m pretty much beating on a dead horse here but Metro did a crappy job handling the Expo Line where it was most critical: Downtown LA, and that’s just one example. I believe that going forward, if money is the main reason for why these projects can’t be built right, then stop over-promising and only built it when the time AND money is right, then maybe then, along with the security, people will become more confident to ride again.

    It’s only during weekday rush hour that the Expo Line seems like an “okay” alternative but even then:

    Car: 55-90min (so normally about 75min avg)
    Train: 1hr 10min-1hr 21min

    • Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to add: a Train being 5 minutes late DOES NOT make it on time. If one is 5 minutes late often, they’ll start to get an earful from their employer. Sorry, you can blame it on accidents, traffic, drivers playing chicken all you want. If a train arrives within 5 minutes after it’s scheduled arrival it’s LATE, period, end of story.

  4. Transit ridership is falling? I got on the subway this week and thought, “Did gas prices rise?” Maybe its my rush hour commute, and being used to 7th & Metro not being a zoo for many years, but OH EM GEE its gnarly down there at times. So much that I wish metro would invest in caging and funneling people for exits/entrances.

    This could be possible along the other lines. Personally I am in the densest part of the city; atop the red and purple zone, and commute to 7th & Metro every morning.

    I’ve ridden the gold line much more in recent weeks, and that ride is not as packed as it used to be.

    My hypothesis: Transit etiquette. Radios are still blasting, dancers are still dancing, and people are smoking cigarettes on the train (rolling up is fine in my opinion). The homeless are still crashing out on the trains and at the stations, and for some reason people think Metro is a great place to let their children run free; on platforms AND trains AND buses.

    My second hypothesis: The new Metro App SUCKS, and the arrival data is very very inaccurate. I too have recently thought of getting a drivers license and saying “You know what, nothing works down there anymore like it used to. Im getting a car” Its a seven minute walk to the subway station from my couch, so I give myself nine minutes on the app in case of a red light to cross the street, Guess what? My train will be pulling off when the app says theres still two minutes for an arrival. Furthermore, the overhead display will say something crazy like 18 minutes. Its 8:45 in the morning, how is this happening? If you follow MTA on social media, it appears there are always bus shortages (REALLY!?), or some type of problem. When trains are on time and running smoothly, announce it. Or is that an announcement that they cannot make?

    Love Metro, dislike waiting, dislike delays, dislike the poor etiquette that runs people away.

    It could be car sales though.

  5. The glaring lack of “go to” options for local news is alarming with the turmoil going on at the LA Times. We can’t rely on the local tv stations and KNX can’t do deep investigative reporting. Another choice needs to emerge somehow.

  6. Nice job to whoever took the time-lapse photo above, and managed to get the neon blue “WILD” sign right in between the light trails. That’s just plain clever.

    Ridership may be down for now, but you guys have a few things happening in the next few years to make the system much more usable. In addition to the bus restructuring, there’s the Crenshaw line (with the new stadium nearby), the regional connector, and eventually the first segment(s) of the purple line construction. There is demand, and there will be induced demand. If you build it, they will come – right?

  7. Beverly Hills needs to look in the mirror, be grateful of all the wealth they have, and donate to worthy civic causes such as homeless, affordable housing, etc. Instead they make wealthy law firms like Joe Lieberman’s richer. Shame on all of the elected officials in that city.

  8. Hi Steve,

    Metro has unfortunately lost its way. Last year, in one of the board meetings one of the board members (unfortunately I don’t recall the specifics) mentioned in the course of approving a procurement policy change that the Board should stop and think hard about the cost implications of all decisions it makes. Yet, for almost every other procurement policy change since then (I’m not talking about specific project decisions, where cost is obviously discussed), the Board fails to ask what the cost of approving the measure will be. One example is the USEP policy change at the last board meeting that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of the policy. Yet the board discussion did not once talk about the cost implications, just about the social change it would bring. Regardless of whether this is a good or a bad policy, Metro’s priority should not be to enact social change. Voters decided to raise money for the construction and delivery of transportation projects, not to raise minimum wage, etc. While I personally think that the minimum wage should be increased, that should be a statewide or countywide effort, NOT an effort from a transportation agency. Why should transportation workers be paid any more than any of the County’s other workers? Metro’s 8 core business goals on Metro’s website do not discuss social change.

    The problem is that after enacting these expensive changes, Metro says that they can’t build out the system because of limited funds. “We can’t build the Purple Line past the VA because of a lack of funds”; “we can’t build the Crenshaw North line until the 2040s because we don’t have the dollars in Measure M”; “we can’t provide more security because the police contracts are so expensive”. The biggest contribution Metro could make to those less fortunate in our community would be to build a system that is efficient and comprehensive so that those cannot afford cars can still thrive.

    The Board’s leadership should be focused on running Metro efficiently and trimming the fat so that an efficient, comprehensive transportation system can be built. That should be Metro’s goal and it’s failure in achieving that goal is why you don’t see ridership expanding, despite unprecedented funding levels. When Metro wants to explain away low ridership they constantly point the finger at other causes (ride share, gas prices, etc.). Certainly those other causes can have an effect. But I’ve yet to see Metro look in the mirror and take responsibility for failing to deliver its core purpose. And that is disappointing. The projects in Measure M and Measure R are a bare minimum. If Metro can operate more efficiently, those project lists can grow exponentially.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Andrew! METRO was created to run and improve upon the transportation system here in Los Angeles, and NOT to make social change. METRO is a transportation agency and NOT a social service agency. The “agency” needs to make more rapid improvements in it’s service and NOT study for 10 or even 5 years before taking action.