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Smart Mobility: Crowd-Sourcing a Transportation System

Last week’s "Innovations in Mobility" public policy summit in Washington DC evidenced the extent to which smart phones, technology and open source data are beginning to bring dramatic change to the transportation arena — as they already have to communications and media. “Smart mobility” is -- for lack of a better definition – the new set of transportation options that can be accessed and paid for using apps downloaded onto your smartphone. These options range from peer-to-peer car-sharing to bike-sharing to formal and informal carpooling to the host of new TCNs or “transportation network companies” coming on the market monthly — from Lyft to Car2go to Getaround, RelayRides and Carpooling.com. (We’ll leave Uber out of the discussion given their recent bad behavior with the taxi industry).

TCNs are part of the new “sharing economy” — though there are those who ask, like one recent Huff Post blogger, whether this “sharing” is really “communism” or whether it’s “hyper capitalism.” The goal, however, is very real: to make it feasible for people to not own cars because, of course, they’re so expensive (and too many young people have crushing school debt), they’re too damaging to the environment and climate, and dependence on the internal combustion engine is necessitating prolonged military engagement in the Middle East.

Take, for example, RideScout — an app launched last November, and now available in 69 cities (including LA and San Bernardino) — that provides “the reliability and flexibility of car ownership” by offering access to information about bus and rail, bike- and car-share, taxi, carpools, walking, biking, driving and parking. CEO Joseph Kopser told the conference audience he was inspired to create this app during 2 tours of duty in Iraq, when he realized the extent to which American soldiers were dying just to protect oil supplies. If an environmentalist had said that it wouldn’t have had the same resonance.

At the conference it was widely acknowledged that this is a fledgling industry — poised for explosive growth in 2014 — that cities haven’t yet figured out how to regulate like they do the taxi industry. Moreover, there are oh-so-many unanswered questions, like: Is shared mobility a complement to transit or competitor? Can it be a ladder to opportunity for those who can’t afford a car, or is it merely a new Lexus lane? Will it really result in reduced car ownership and VMT?

Nonetheless, shared mobility holds out tremendous promise as a new transportation solution in a city like Los Angeles that’s characterized by too many single-family neighborhoods that may never be served by frequent transit. It could be a solution to traffic congestion. And a first-mile last-mile solution. And most impressively, it offers an alternative to owning 1, 2 or 3 of the 1 billion cars on the planet today — a number that is expected to double in a decade.

The conference was hosted by the Association of Commuter Transportation, UC-Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center, Mobility Lab, the Transit Center, and the Shared Use Mobility Center. Here are some of the interesting things said at this 2-day conference attended by some 500 people, including staff from transit agencies and cities, and many other transportation professionals:

Padden Murphy, Getaround
“There are 250 million cars in the U.S. – and these are very expensive assets that if shared [using TCNs like Getaround] can each earn $6,000 a year.”

Luana Huber, the Walt Disney Company
“The point of shared mobility is to improve transportation using the infrastructure we already have by encouraging people to share.”

David Bragdon, the Transit Center
“Think how much the world has changed for consumers because of technology: You can do your banking in your basement at 3 a.m., for example, and have instant access to new music without having to go to a store during business hours. Do you really think these changes aren’t also coming to the transportation industry?”

Paul Steinberg, Carma
“We are crowd-sourcing a new transportation network!”

Kari Watson, Georgia Tech
“When you have real-time information about arrivals and departures it completely changes your perception of the safety of a transit trip.”

Tim Papandreou, San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency
[Showing a slide of a jam-packed freeway] “Here’s what our roads look like with a fleet of combustion-engine vehicles.” [Showing a slide of another jam-packed freeway] “And here’s what our roads will look like with an all-electric fleet."

Peter Torrelas, Optym
“We have a tendency to think that shared mobility is solving the transportation problem. But it isn’t – unless we dramatically scale this up. We need a SWAT team to provide technical assistance to cities.”

Emily Castor, Lyft
“The issue at the crux of it is what does it mean to rideshare? Our transportation assets are not designed for quasi-public use.”

Bibiana McHue, TriMet in Portland, OR
“TriMet has 59 apps [created by third party app developers using the agency’s open source data] and an open trip planner that together make it possible for people to get from point A to point B via the quickest route, the flattest route and/or the safest route.” (And with real time information as well as other info about neighborhoods surrounding stops.)

Sue Zielinski, SMART at the University of Michigan
“Smart mobility is a paradigm change that is moving us from a single [transportation] product to an industry cluster, from making decisions ‘between’ to decisions ‘among,’ and from single policies to policy suites.” [Because we are moving toward multi-modal in the broadest sense.]

Great Job Opportunity: Lead ClimatePlan's Powerful Statewide Network

ClimatePlan is a statewide coalition that proved a powerful partner for Move LA during negotiations over the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy, and Move LA sits on the Steering Committee. We are looking for a new director to replace Autumn Bernstein, who’s leaving after 6 years of successful organizing to travel the world. This is an important job that needs, in the words of the job description, “a proven convener and bridge-builder, an innovative leader who can balance priority-setting with collaborative leadership, an exceptional communicator who can connect with multiple audiences, and a seasoned policy advocate." It’s a deeply meaningful and really important job and the search is national. You can find out more about it if you click on this link:

USC's Manuel Pastor Offers Webinar on His "Framework for Building a Just Transportation System in LA County"

Los Angeles County is being reinvented -- in large part because of Measure R -- moving from "sprawl to community development, from car dependence to transit orientation, from municipal fiefdoms to functional realism, from inequality to equity," to use the words of Dr. Manuel Pastor. Research shows that regions with more equitable development result in more sustainable economic growth but realizing this vision, which Dr. Pastor calls "Just Growth," in Los Angeles requires collaboration on new policies that help move us from vision to reality. Dr. Pastor, director of USC's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, will discuss his new report "An Agenda for Equity: A Framework for Building a Just Transportation System in Los Angeles County" online June 24 at noon. Click here to register, and then join the webinar at www.scanph.org/webinar.

Cap & Trade Deal Reached, Almost, Ensuring Money for Transit, Affordable Homes, Sustainable Communities

Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature reached a budget agreement yesterday that includes a breakdown on how to spend Cap & Trade dollars and that ensures funding for public transit, affordable homes and sustainable communities (defined as within a quarter mile of transit). The Legislature will make the decision final on Sunday -- though the breakdown will probably be fine-tuned between now and then. Here's how the agreement would spend the $872 million in Cap & Trade revenues available this year (read more on the blog of the Oakland-based nonprofit organization Transform):
*  $250M for high-speed rail
*  $25M for transit and intercity rail capital
*  $25M for low-carbon transit operations
*  $65M for affordable housing
*  $65M for sustainable communities
*  $200M for low-carbon transportation

Beginning in 2015, 35% of Cap & Trade revenues -- expected to rise to $3-$5B by 2020 -- will be spent on sustainable communities according to this breakdown:
*  10% for transit and intercity rail capital
*  5% for low-carbon transit operations
*  20% for affordable housing and sustainable communities

The remaining 65% would be distributed this way:
*  25% for high-speed rail on an annual basis
*  40% for a variety of projects with specific amounts to be decided each year, including: low-carbon transportation, energy efficiency, urban forestry, forestry, water, waste.

Again, read more on Transform's blog.

Cap & Trade: Gov. Brown vs. CA Senate vs. CA Assembly

Here are the 3 different proposals for slicing the Cap & Trade pie. Next week during state budget negotiations legislators will choose 1 or mix and match. From LA Streetsblog.

Which Metrolink Stations Generate The Most Ridership?

Check out the chart below from the Let's Go LA blog: Metrolink stations with the highest ridership are on lines in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, also in Glendale, Burbank, Irvine, Tustin, and the City of Industry! The Ventura and Antelope Valley lines perform poorly, as do stations in Van Nuys and Sun Valley. Overall, ridership is trending downward, though only slightly.

Median Rent By Neighborhood: South Central & Glassell Park Are Still Bargains at $900 and $993

From Curbed LA: The rents keep rising and in this map of rents for 1-bedrooms in April 2014, the darker the pink, the higher the rent -- with Marina del Rey the highest at $2,456 and Venice nudging out Santa Monica with $2,320. Historic South Central is cheapest at $900 followed by Glassell Park at $993. For 2-bedrooms, Bel Air ($4,250) and Santa Monica ($4,051) are tops while MacArthur Park is a bargain at $1,325. Full story here as well as map of rents for 2-bedrooms.

Mayor Garcetti Picks15 New "Great Streets" Projects In Los Angeles

The goal of his Great Streets program is to make streets more pedestrian friendly and prosperous. Here are the first 15 (full story in LA Times here), with 1 in each council district:
District 1: North Figueroa Street between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60
District 2: Lankershim Boulevard between Chandler and Victory boulevards
District 3: Sherman Way between Wilbur and Lindley avenues
District 4: Western Avenue between Melrose Avenue and 3rd Street
District 5: Westwood Boulevard between Le Conte Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard
District 6: Van Nuys Boulevard between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street
District 7: Van Nuys Boulevard between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and San Fernando Road
District 8: Crenshaw Boulevard between 78th Street and Florence Avenue
District 9: Central Avenue between MLK Boulevard and Vernon Avenue
District 10: Pico Boulevard between Hauser Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue
District 11: Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard
District 12: Reseda Boulevard between Plummer Street and Parthenia Avenue
District 13: Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue & Gower Street
District 14: Cesar Chavez Avenue between Evergreen Avenue and St. Louis Street
District 15: Gaffey Street between 15th Street & the 110 Freeway

Bill Fulton Is Back in SoCal -- But Without A Car!

Planning guru Bill Fulton is back in SoCal after a brief stint in Washington DC. He's now planning director in San Diego, and he's come back to the land of the car without one in order to experiment with shared-use options. He says he's widely pitied by friends and colleagues, who wonder how he manages without a car. But he says they just don't get it because they're making a fundamental mistake: "They are equating owning a car with using a car."

And he writes (in the California Planning & Development Report -- link to article is at the bottom of this post):

"Cars? I have more cars than I know what to do with. I use cars all the time, in order to go all kinds of places, and I am never without access to a car. My overall automobile cost is probably less than half of what it was when I owned a car – because I usually pay for a car only when I am traveling in it, not when it is just parked somewhere.

"I’m well aware that I am on the leading edge of this on, at least in modern urban neighborhoods: Our complete reliance on a “monoculture” of owner-occupied automobiles is being augmented with a much more varied ecosystem that includes not just alternatives to driving, but many whole “car-sharing” thing and that the vast majority of people don’t have the same options because of where they live and work. But the fact that I am doing just fine without owning a car in a traditionally suburban place like San Diego suggests that something important is going different ways to use a car.

Read the whole essay here.

Federal New Starts Funding Per Capita In U.S., Before And After Grant Announcement For Subway This Week

This week Metro received $1.25 billion for the Purple Line Subway extension under Wilshire Boulevard as well as an $856 million low-interest loan. Metro has gotten more New Starts funding recently than at any time during the past two decades. Download Hi-Rez PDF

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