Thursday, October 28, 2010

SF vs. LA Transit

So the SF Giants have managed to make it all the way to the World Series, take down the un-hittable Cliff Lee and win the first of four games to be crowned Champions of Baseball. But how does the Bay Area's transit system match up to LA's?

1. The airport: SF's rail line picks you up at the airport. LA makes you take a shuttle that can be confusing and time consuming. 1 point SF.

2. Price: This is tough, because it depends what system you are using in SF. There are two main transit operators: BART- the Bay Area Rapid Transit and Muni which is the local bus and light rail provider within SF proper. BART's prices are based on geographical distance with a heavy premium for the airport. It cost $8.10 from SFO to Civic Center station (approximately 25 minute trip). The Metro line is $1.50 per ride with no transfers, so if you happened to only take the Green Line to the LAX shuttle it would only cost $1.50. If you had to transfer a day pass might save you some money and runs $5.00, still cheaper than BART. Muni though can be significantly cheaper than Metro, because it allows on and off privileges for 90 minutes for $2 and we managed to go from brunch, to Golden Gate park and to lunch all on one fare. Metro does not allow transfers and taking four buses would have cost $6.00 at a $1.50 per ride. 1 point for SF for Muni's transfers, 1 point for Metro for non-geography based fares.

3. Convenience: Now here's where SF really stands out from LA. First, BART has a paper fare card that can be reused, reducing the number of times you have to visit the fare machine. Times for when the next BART or Muni will arrive are available online and via the iPhone. In the station, times are listed for the next arrival of a train (soon to be available in LA, but should have been around for awhile now). Metro only recently created an iPhone app, but it still does not provide real-time updates for bus/rail arrivals and there is no mobile version of bus/rail schedules (only a painfully slow-loading PDF version). 1 point for SF

4. Style: Now I know this is not as important, but I do want to at least give props to LA for not putting carpet and fully upholstered seats on their rail like BART. I always worry about the number of germs and nastiness that must be living in them. Also, MUNI has weird seat set-ups in their buses with seats facing each other that seem like space wasters. Plus, the public service ads in MUNI paled in comparison to the beautiful Metro ad campaigns.
1 point for LA

Final tally: SF, 3 vs. LA, 2. Looks a lot like our baseball season, they're better than us, but not by much. And with today's approval of the expansion to the Westside, we'll start being able to build a system in the near future that can compete with our Northern neighbors.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

L.A. ranked #4 among workers using transit

A recent release from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey listed the LA Metro region #4 in terms of the number of workers using transit, but the percentage of workers using transit LA is still lagging behind at 6.2%. I think there may be several reasons for the lack of more transit riders, but here's a few:

1. Employers are more willing to subsidize parking rather than transit. Until parking becomes a scarcity it is a difficult sell. Metro has already put in place reduced transit fares for employers through its B-Tap program. Unfortunately, Metrolink's sizable expense results in employer reimbursements' accounting for a very small portion of the cost. In other cities such as SF, DC and NY the cost of a monthly parking spot can equal rent on a small studio.

2. Many of public transit riders in LA are not workers, but rather students, elderly and of course those people who don't ride i.e. the unemployed. Not that other Metropolitan areas don't have the same types of riders, but I think LA has a disproportionate amount of non-working riders. I would be interested to see how LA matches up against other areas when all transit riders are considered.

3. LA has several areas where the majority of workers are headed. Traveling to DTLA via transit is very doable, but other city centers: Century City, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Westwood, Burbank, etc. are so spread apart that having reliable, frequent trips for workers is difficult.

The reasons I ride transit have a lot to do with the fact that my transit is subsidized by my employer; I work in DTLA at a transit hub, i.e. Union Station; and I learned how to ride transit from my time at USC where parking costs over $300/semester (parking scarcity). Take away one of those and I might be with the other 93.8% of workers in the LA Metro area- stuck in traffic, in a car by myself, listening to NPR and cursing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A New Topic for a Bit

As much as I love writing about transit, it's been getting a little tedious. Mostly because I tend to travel the same route 5 days a week and except for the occasional rant or transit-related news item there isn't much for me to write about. But I have been ditching my usual reading of transit and policy blogs/articles for a much different topic- Weddings.

The bearded man and I got engaged a couple days after our 4 year anniversary. He couldn't do it on the actual anniversary date, because I'd be "expecting it and it wouldn't be a surprise." So instead he chose to wait to a random rainy Saturday after coming home from brunch with his Dad. There was no grand gesture, but it made me laugh and I started cursing once I realized what was actually happening. So fast forward 7 months and we are now 6 months away from our wedding date- 04.02.11. And interestingly enough my dependency on public transit has affected some of my wedding planning decisions- so this blog won't totally lose its feel. But since I've managed to already change it once, I thought why not one more time? This will be a whirlwind of activity and I thought that it might be fun to invite the internets in on the fun/chaos.

Thanks for putting up with me!