Two months a bus rider, dogs on transit, things to read: HWR, March 8

Things to read whilst transiting: Overlooked, a New York Times project to add obituaries for remarkable women who the paper overlooked when they died.

Things to read 2: NYT tech columnist Farhad Manjoo got all his news from print  newspapers for two months and turned off news alerts. How’d it go? He felt better informed, less anxious and gained time to read more books, take up pottery and give more attention to his wife and kids.

Art of Transit: 


Riding the bus: the good, the bad and the ugly (UrbDeZine Los Angeles)

It has been two months since Clement Lau began riding the bus from the DTLA area to his job in Alhambra.

The positives: time to relax and catch up on emails/texts, being able to thank the bus operator, seeing familiar faces, witnessing random acts of kindness and hearing Cantonese spoken.

The not-quite-as positive: buses are too late too often, riders taking up two seats, bus bunching and the fact that buses are not as fast as driving.

The really not-quite-as-positive: homelessness along the route and on the bus (“we simply cannot neglect the shelter, health, and other basic needs of our fellow Angelenos,” Lau writes) and the inability of the Go Metro app to always correctly predict bus arrival times.

He concludes:

…the bus is never a dull experience.  Each bus ride is literally a journey that is filled with things that are good, bad, and/or ugly.  There have already been times when I want to quit riding the bus because of its inconsistencies and instead seriously consider the possibility of getting a second vehicle for my family.  But for the time being, I can still appreciate the benefits of taking the bus, and I am just stubborn, patient, and committed enough to maintain my status as a proud TAP card-holding public transit user.

Give it a read, folks. What do you think? How would you improve the bus system?

Two things related to this worth noting: 

•The Metro Board just approved an equity platform to reaffirm that equity is front and center of the agency’s mission. One thing that means: buses are as important as other transit service.

•Metro is presently working on its NextGen study to restructure and reimagine Metro’s vast bus network, which still carries about 70 percent of the agency’s riders on any given day. The goal is to adopt a service concept this summer, roll out line-by-line proposals next winter and spring and then begin implementing changes in fall 2019.

Can your dog take a seat on King County Metro buses? Yes, but there are rules (Seattle Times) 

In Seattle, dogs are allowed although the bus operator can say “no” if they believe the dog will cause problems. Lap dogs ride for free, larger dogs are expected to pay the base fare.

Metro is a larger and busier system than King County Metro and, thus, the rules on dogs are more restrictive:

The entire Code of Conduct is here, btw.

If your Uber ride cost an cxtra $50, would you still take it? (NYT)

A transpo expert says a proposed $2 to $5 surcharge on Uber/Lift/etc isn’t enough to help unclog Gotham traffic. Instead, he said a surcharge from $20 to $50 per hour would result in 11 percent fewer Uber/Lyft rides.

Meaning: If the expert is correct, then Uber/Lyft/etc is like other popular products in which customers will tolerate some pretty hefty price hikes.

As subway crisis takes up ‘so much oxygen,’ the buses drag along (NYT)

Fun fact: just 11 of 317 bus lines in New York have the technology to turn red lights green or keep a green light from turning red. With $836 million going into an emergency plan to improve the subway, transit advocates are calling for more attention paid to improving Metropolis’ bus lines.

And the issue of equity surfaces again:


Advocates say failing bus service is not just an issue of commuting, but also of equity — bus riders earn about 30 percent less than their subway counterparts, according to the city comptroller’s office, and tend to be primarily immigrants and minorities. Buses are also fully accessible to the disabled, unlike the subway, where less than a fourth of the stations are accessible.

Bend, Oregon, is becoming a commuter town for Silicon Valley despite the 10-hour drive (CNBC)

The real estate in Bend is pricey but at least the kayaking, hiking and fishing are cheap. Photo by Steve Hymon.

I’m including this article because I think it highlights the way that tech money flowing from the Bay Area — and increasingly our region — is changing parts of the western U.S.

We hear a lot about the housing crisis in our neck of the woods, but housing prices are going up pretty everywhere — including remote places like Bend that have seen tremendous growth in recent years. For the folks in tech, this is pretty great. For the folks not in tech, it’s a total drag.

I’ll also say this: one reason tech folks know so much about Bend is that the town has cleverly marketed itself as an outdoorsy place. Internet-fueled tourism is doing much the same to other places that were once cheap and are now crazy popular and not-so-cheap. See: Mammoth Lakes, California.

From Twitter:

Metro has been studying major upgrades to the Blue Line along Flower Street and Washington Boulevard. Finding funding for something like undergrounding tracks or separating the Washington-Flower junction is another matter. But as Scott recently reported, the city is looking at tax increment financing district as a possible way to pay for it.

Julia works for Metro but point well taken.


7 replies

  1. “Advocates say failing bus service is not just an issue of commuting, but also of equity — bus riders earn about 30 percent less than their subway counterparts, according to the city comptroller’s office, and tend to be primarily immigrants and minorities…”

    We have to be careful of statistics. One thing that may be missing from the equation is the number of discretionary riders from the mix. What percent of Subway riders and Bus riders could drive themselves instead of taking public transit?

    Also, besides Metro, we have to make it easy for people to ride with one standard fare with an integrated system (as well as a no strike clause like police and fire) so that people can rely on the system. Do we need all these agencies that makes an occasional traveler back away from taking transit and a tourist lost?

    As long as we micro manage public transportation and overkill in planning (although it is not Metro’s fault), The Los Angeles extended region will continue to be gridlock.

  2. I’m guessing Julia took the Culver City #3 bus from Century City to the Westwood station – I did the exact same thing when I was up there last week. While that Expo station may be less popular than most, it’s probably the quietest one on that line, with more of a suburban feel to its surroundings. I remember last year there was a Source post mentioning biophilic architecture as being soothing to riders, but it’s even better in this case when a station is surrounded by all sorts of plants and palm trees.

    • Regular trees, I meant. This is actually one of the few without palm trees nearby.

    • I’d bet that Rancho Park station is primarily used by transfer riders (a lot from UCLA). Once the Purple Line gets to Century City and Westwood, the Rancho Park Station will probably see usage drop significantly.

      • I have to agree actually, as personally the only time I caught a train from that station was when I was coming from the Westwood village area.

  3. Mr Hymon- With your Cincinnati roots, how about a future story about the Cincinnati subway? I think us Southern Cal people could benefit from learning about about that fascinating and confusing story. Thanks, and enjoy your features-best transit column around

    • Hey Oceanside Dave;

      First, thank you very much for the kind words! I really appreciate it.

      I’ve mentioned the Cincy subway in the past but never devoted a whole post to it. I was kind of hoping to one day finally get down there for a tour but I’ve never been able to arrange that.

      I agree with you that it’s a good cautionary tale. They planned it, started to build it and then just stopped when the going got tough money-wise. If my current exile here persists, maybe I can put something together.

      Again, thanks for reading, etc. Check this video out from last year: One thing: there is adult language in the video, so don’t watch if that offends you. And as the video clearly states, you are not supposed to enter the Cincinnati subway and those who do may be arrested. That said, in this video the doors to the underground were unlocked.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source