Thursday, April 26, 2012

Metro Approves Environmental Documents for Subway to La Cienega

Yes, monumental news for the Subway today. I've been working (on transit-related research of course), and therefore haven't been following the specifics. As usual, Damien at LA Streetsblog has been following the specifics and brings you details and commentary.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Musing on the American Dream

The American Dream has always been about the pursuit of freedom and happiness.  For a time, this could be achieved by purchasing a house with a white picket fence in the suburbs.  However, a combination of traffic congestion, land use policies, and rising automobile operations cost have eroded the freedoms afforded to suburban dwellers.  Now, many young people achieve their American Dream by living in the city and riding a bicycle.  This affords access to friends, recreation, arts, culture, and food not possible with an automobile-based suburban lifestyle.

In the 1950s-1990s, land use and transportation policy acquiesced to the pursuit of the American Dream.  The big challenge now is adjusting land use and transportation policy to support the pursuit of the American Dream.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Change in transit commuting for areas around some LA Metro stations, 2000 to 2005-2009

I was interested in finding change in transit ridership between 2000 and the 2005 to 2009 period captured in the American Community Survey, so I mapped the ACS2009 5-Year data and Census 2000 data at the block group level, then joined it with station areas, using area-weighted allocation for any block groups only partially within a 1/2 mile radius area.

We have a lot of data that is currently being used in research projects, but I wanted to share some of the findings below.

Which station areas experienced the highest growth in total number of transit commuters?

bold denotes a new station

Which station areas experienced the greatest change in the percentage of workers who commuted on transit?
GREEN - I-105 / AVIATION8.24%
GREEN - I-105 / AVALON4.09%
bold denotes a new station

Many of the green line stations in the second table have very few workers in the area, so the numbers are skewed. For instance, the I-105/Aviation station only had 800 workers within 1/2 mile, and 40 of them took transit.

Obviously the new Gold and Orange lines would be expected to create new transit commuters, since they opened in between the two Census surveys.  I think the big success story is the Vermont and Sunset station, which added 743 transit commuters and 2,023 workers between 2000 and 2005-2009.  This likely indicates that many people moved to the Vermont/Sunset station area specifically because they wanted to take transit to work.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CEQA Attorney happy to take NIMBY money

This is the first in what will be a series of humorous articles in transportation and real estate in Los Angeles.  None of the quotes are real.

Neighbors for Smart Rail suffered a setback today when Judge Thomas McKnew gave an intial recommendation to dismiss their lawsuit against phase II of the Expo light rail project.  This is a huge setback for the group, which opposes the light rail line from Downtown LA to Santa Monica, as the group believes it might impact resident's ability to access the freeway to sit in congested traffic to Downtown LA or Santa Monica.

NSFR's Attorney John Bowman was more optimistic about how he would fare in the case: "I'm getting paid either way. Sure, attacking a sustainability transit project based on its impacts to is a bastardization of the spirit and letter of CEQA. Sure, Expo Phase II anticipated lawsuits and knew they had to do a bulletproof analysis of environmental impacts and mitigation measures. I don't think there's necessarily a strong case here, but I'll gladly take their money. Plus, the weaker the case, the more they have to pay me to develop a challenge which won't get laughed out of court."

Regardless of the outcome, Bowman anticipates future business from the NSFR group. "This group has a thirst for lawsuits. They also seem to be very concerned about kids mixing with vehicles in the neighborhood. Any judge will realize that light rail vehicles have professionally trained drivers and can only have pedestrian conflicts within its right-of-way. Automobiles, however, which encompass the vast majority of vehicle traffic in the neighborhood can deviate from the roadway and impact pedestrians in the clear zone.  That seems a lot less safe.  I think I can convince them to launch a case to ban vehicles from the neighborhood using an arcane 19th century California law governing carriageways near schoolhouses. Of course, that would require a lot of legal research and preparation of briefing documents, but I think they're willing to pay me for it.  Work is slow for lawyers right now, and NSFR helps keep my firm in business."

Neighbors for Smart Rail representative Terri Tippet was upset at the setback but took it as a sign that the group needed to raise more money to challenge the project.  "If we throw enough money at it, maybe it will go away," said Tippet.  "We've raised over $65,000 so far and we'll raise whatever we need to take this to the Appellate Court and California Supreme Court."

Reminder: This is the first in what will be a series of humorous articles in transportation and real estate in Los Angeles.  None of the quotes are real.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Email the Metro Board of Directors to express your support for the Wilshire bus-only lane

Want to express your support for the Wilshire BRT project, but too busy or too delayed on the bus to find all of the relevant email addresses?  Below, you will find email links for the Metro Board Members and maps that show the areas they represent.  Sending them an email is as easy as clicking the link, signing the email and clicking send (it will use your default email program).   Gmail users: here are instructions on how to set up Gmail as your default email program.
Subject: I Support the Wilshire Bus-Only Lane INCLUDING Comstock to Selby through Westwood
Supervisor Molina
I support the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project in its entirety.  This project will provide congestion relief for transit riders from all over the region.  Excluding the portion of Wilshire between Comstock and Selby will cause more congestion for myself and other bus riders who create minimal traffic and environmental impacts as we travel around the county.  It will also set a dangerous precedent for future projects which have regional mobility and sustainability benefits.  I urge you to vote yes on Alternative A.
This text will pop up in your email program.  You might want to sign your name at the end of the message.
This will also BCC to keep track of comments.

If you'd like to email all Board Members at once, you can do so here (or Outlook users can click here). 

Metro Board of Directors
LA County Supervisors Representatives
Gloria Molina - First Supervisorial District
Mark Ridley-Thomas - Second Supervisorial District
Zev YaroslavskyThird Supervisorial District
Don Knabe - Board Chair - Fourth Supervisorial District
Michael D. AntonovichSecond Vice Chair - Fifth Supervisorial District

Los Angeles City Representatives
Antonio R. Villaraigosa - First Vice Chair, LACMTA
Mayor, City of Los Angeles
José Huizar - City Council Member, Los Angeles
Richard KatzAppointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles
Rita RobinsonAppointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles

Representatives from other Cities

Diane DuBois
City Council Member, Lakewood

John Fasana
City Council Member, Duarte

Ara Najarian
Mayor, City of Glendale

Pam O’Connor
City Council Member, Santa Monica

Also check out the letter at

Friday, November 26, 2010

Transit Agencies: This is why you should have your data in GTFS format with a license that allows for non-commercial derivatives

Mapnificent from Stefan Wehrmeyer on Vimeo.

Mapnificent now available in Los Angeles.  Transit agencies take notice.  It takes a developer with some specific expertise just a few lines of code to roll such products out to new cities, and they can provide immense value to your users.  Any investment your agency makes in publishing schedule data in GTFS (Google Transit's General Transit Feed Specification) will be leveraged several times over with third party sites like Mapnificent, Walk Score's Transit Score, and of course Google Maps for Mobile (available for all major smartphone operating systems).  Can your web site do that?  How much would it cost you to develop the capability in-house?  Wouldn't it be great to provide this kind of service to your customers with no additional expenditures or contracts?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Metro's Visa+TAP program seems destined to flop

Metro is looking at rolling out Visa cards for use in contactless fare payment, but these cards will only allow pre-existing tap products (day/week/month/quarterly passes) but no new declining balance option?  Perhaps these cards will offer this ability and Metro's staff report is misleading - if this is the case I'd love to be corrected in the comments.

The potential benefits to customers are limited:
  • one fewer piece of plastic to lug around (for a small subset of customers who have Visa ATM cards)
  • as this enables no new fare payment options there are no other benefits.  There are already limited-value debit cards for sale, so that aspect of the product is not new.
The benefits to Visa seem much greater:
  • Metro, a government agency with some trust from riders, markets a Visa Debit card to the unbanked.  Visa (and the issuing bank) earn a service fee for each initial purchase and reload.

The main benefit of enabling contactless payment debit cards for use with a transit system is in offering a declining balance payment option.  New York MTA has figured this out with their integration of Mastercard's PayPass.  This enables PayPass holders to use that card as cash fare, giving occasional riders the same ease of payment as pass-holders.

It seems that Metro has defined the problem as: "How do we offer some sort of branded contactless fare payment system that will allow us to demonstrate technological advancement in fare payment when the Board asks about other system's programs (e.g., New York's) without further troubling the Board with the root political issues surrounding use of declining-balance fare payment with multiple agencies?"  Metro will never be able to move forward with new, innovative, fare products unless it solves that issue, and the Metro Board is the only body with the political to solve it.

I would think that most customers would define the problem as: "How do you make my transit experience more seamless?"  The proposed Visa cards do nothing to address this problem.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can the richest neighborhoods be exempt from bus lanes?

Can the richest neighborhoods be exempt from bus lanes?  Richer cities Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are already not participating in the bus-only lane.  Now, Metro and LA DOT must decide whether the richest section of the City of Los Angeles that the bus lane passes through will also be exempt.

Here's a look at median household income (2004) around the Wilshire Corridor.  Blue = highest incomes, yellow = lowest incomes.

Note that UCLA students are poor... Wilshire Blvd is in red.

And here's a look at traffic along the Westwood to Beverly Glenn segment in question:

Note that there is substantial traffic east of Manning

Residents are worried that subtracting a general purpose traffic lane will lead to more traffic.  However, if residents are worried about neighborhood traffic rather than transit riders, they are misdirecting their concern. I argue that the majority of PM peak traffic congestion  in Westwood and Brentwood is a direct result of the current metering system which restricts access to the 405.  Vehicles arrive at the 405 onramps a rate faster than the meter allows access to the freeway.  This backs up vehicles seeking to enter the freeway, essentially turning Wilshire Blvd into a waiting area, which creates congested traffic through on side streets Westwood and Brentwood even when there is little congestion on the 405.  There is a real trade-off between congestion in these neighborhoods and on the 405 that residents in these areas do not seem to be aware of.  More on this in a future blog entry.