Ethan Elkind writes a provocative blog post in response to the LA Times front page story on falling transit ridership in LA County: Pointing out that it is not exactly fair to calculate the decline by comparing ridership now to ridership at its peak in the early '80s -- when fares were subsidized by the Prop A sales tax measure for 5 years and cost only 25 cents. Neither is it telling the whole story, he points out, to say that Metro is spending billions of dollars even as ridership decline: Yes the region is spending a lot of money, but the rail lines that are being built with this money (there are 5 rai lines under construction right now) haven't opened, with the exception of the first segments of the Expo and Gold Lines. "I'm certainly glad the Times is highlighting this important issue" so that we can address it, he adds, and concludes: "We shouldn't let reports like this undermine the case for finishing the job of building out LA's rail system. The region is only halfway done, and with these new projects under construction . . . ridership numbers will surely increase." Elkind is Associate Director of the University of California's Climate Change and Business Program, with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. He is also author of Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the Future of the City, published in 2014.
Here’s version #52 of our Straw Man proposal, the product of one year of conversations with Move LA's coalition — business, labor, environmentalists, faith-based groups, seniors, the disabled, students, community-based organizations, elected officials, and others — about the priorities they would like to see funded in the next round of LA County transportation investments. Our Straw Men are framed largely by Measure R, which allocates funding by category (Rail, Local Return, Transit Operations, etc.). We’ve added program areas that were not in Measure R, however, to call out investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, in goods movement technology and infrastructure, in major arterials and boulevards, and in enhanced services for seniors, those with disabilities and students. We want your feedback! Email Gloria@movela.org with Straw Man #52 in the subject line!
The LAX Automated People Mover (APM) and Regional Connector were described in such detail at the LA Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation and Goods Movement Committee last week that both projects began to seem really real, even though the APM won’t open until 2023 (construction begins in 2017) and the Regional Connector (construction underway now) until 2020. But still: A rail connection to LAX that could also resolve congestion issues? An underground light rail line serving so many DTLA neighborhoods? These really are world-class projects for lack of a better word, even if it’s hard to imagine what the construction period will be like, especially at LAX, 2nd busiest airport in the US (5th busiest in the world), where half of all travelers arrive by car to catch 700 flights a day.Read more
This could very possibly be the year we win funding to implement a universal student transit pass program at LA Metro as a way to build transit ridership even as we build out the transit system in LA County. The photo above is of just a few of the students who showed up at the Metro board meeting in December, due in part to interest in this issue stirred up by the involvement of the LA Community College District Student Affairs Council, the Region VII Student Senate for California Community Colleges, and the Community College League of California.Read more
On CityLab: You can now work out exactly how much it costs to rent a Berlin apartment, subway station by subway station. This new map, put together by property portal Immobilienscout24.de, details the monthly rent for an average one-bedroom apartment for each U-Bahn and S-Bahn stop in the German capital. The map, available in a zoom-friendly version here, is an interesting portal into just how much the city’s wealth map has shifted in recent decades. But this being Berlin, the property tool is combined with something that does a whole lot more than that. It also allows you to work out if your landlord is illegally hiking your rent. Read more here.
An analysis by Joshua Stark from Transform: In his January budget proposal for fiscal year 2016-17, Governor Brown reintroduced his plan for addressing the state’s dwindling transportation revenues and its crumbling infrastructure. When it comes to creating real transportation choices, the proposal is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the Governor’s proposal finally increases transportation funding, and directs that funding largely into sorely needed road maintenance and new public transportation. On the other hand, it fails to include a fix for our oversubscribed walking and biking fund, the Active Transportation Program (ATP). It also diverts climate funds to so-called “Low Carbon Roads” that may have dubious uses. Let me take you for a tour of the Governor’s plan, starting with the revenues.
Excellent interview on the Smart Cities Insider blog with former LA Metro Transportation Planning Manager Tim Papandreou, now Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at Muni in San Francisco. He says Metro has done a better job of unifying the transit network with one brand and one transit pass, in being innovative with its fare policy, Metro Rapid, passing sales taxes to create a strong funding base, and check this: About Metro's brand he says: "It's a very happy and upbeat brand . . . It says 'Try transit, it's fun, you're cool, [transit is] sexy.' LA Metro looks and feels like the Apple of transit." But San Francisco wins, he says, in terms of bikes, parking, TOD, pedestrian safety, shared mobility and overall transit network coverage: "There are only a few places in [San Francisco]," he says, "where you are more than a couple of blocks away from the transit network, and [transit is] also more frequent than in Los Angeles." Read it.
CityLab's Eric Jaffe writes: Under existing rules employees who ride public transit can get as much as $130/month in IRS commuter benefits, but people who drive to work and park can get up to $250. Beginning next year this playing field levels out. (Finally!! I worked on this issue way back in 1996 when I first became a transit advocate!) But, Jaffe writes, the lure of free or cheap parking is so great, especially when paired with the convenience of driving, that the benefits alone are not enough to make commuters give up driving. The better way, obviously, is to offer transit benefits but charge market rate for parking . . . Read it on CityLab.
A quick sum-up: Yes this is the largest transit expansion in the USA, with 5 lines under construction and 2 milestones coming up this spring with the opening of the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line to Azusa, deep in the San Gabriel Valley. The Crenshaw Line to LAX is 50% done and the Regional Connector (which connects existing lines downtown to provide one-seat rides -- no transfers required -- from Pasadena to Santa Monica, for example, or Culver City to Long Beach) is almost 20% of the way toward completion. Still to come: the build-out of Union Station, which Joel likens to "a second downtown in DTLA," rail linkages to the rest of the state with high-speed rail and, of course, the possibility of a sequel to the Measure R sales tax for transportation on the 2016 ballot. Read it on the Huffington Post.