In the news…
•Kansas City is moving toward free bus and streetcar service instead of charging fares — the norm in the transit industry. From a K.C. Star editorial:
Those cities will confirm what Kansas Citians are realizing: Free bus service is more environmentally friendly, and it provides a transformative advantage for low-income residents who need a ride to work or school.
Eliminating fares will be politically popular, too. A 2018 survey showed Kansas Citians consider public transportation the third most important service in the city, behind only street maintenance and police. Yet less than half of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the current service.
A few facts worth munching upon. The transit agency in Kansas City has about 1.1 million boardings per month and about two percent of commuters in Jackson County (which includes K.C.) use transit to commute. The cost of free fares is $8 million. By comparison, LA Metro averages more than 30 million boardings per month and almost six percent of commuters use transit here. In FY 20, fare revenues here are projected to total about $326 million.
So, K.C. is a different animal. That said, Metro CEO Phil Washington has certainly mentioned his interest in using congestion pricing tolls here to potentially expand transit and offer free fares here one day (Metro is launching a congestion pricing feasibility study). The notion of free fares has also bubbled up in other big cities, although K.C. would be the first to take action.
Stay tuned. My hunch is that the fare conversation will be happening more frequently in the 2020s.
•Curbed LA looks at Metro’s rail ridership for November and contemplates why it fell from about 350,000 average weekday boardings to about 301,000. Metro’s response:
Metro spokesperson Jose Ubaldo says the recent drop in rail ridership is about more than service shakeups.
“The Metro network covers a vast area of LA County and the decline of ridership cannot be attributed to simply one reason,” he writes in a statement. “With the closure of the Blue Line for 10 months a ripple effect was felt on the other rail lines.”
Ubaldo says recent technical issues and delays may have affected Gold Line ridership, while concerns about security and “social/economic challenges” may be driving rail passengers toward other modes of travel—like Uber and Lyft.
Members of Metro’s Board of Directors suggested last week that, given issues on the A Line and other routes, it might be necessary to better manage the expectations of new riders when opening new train lines, like the Crenshaw/LAX Line.
I’d also reiterate a point made by Curbed — we know car ownership is up in L.A. County and I’m guessing a lot of people who bought cars are using them.
•Virgin Trains is saying they could begin construction in late 2020 on the 170-mile high-speed train between Las Vegas and Victorville and that their funding picture is coming together, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The goal is to open the line in 2023.
Categories: Transportation Headlines