Posts

Public Transit Ridership Declines in Bay Area, ITS Study Finds

A study by the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin was featured in a Mercury News article on declining public transportation ridership in the Bay Area. Researchers found that transit ridership in the area fell 5.2% between 2016 and 2018. “Compared to the rest of the country, the Bay Area is doing better, but it is on the decline,” senior research manager Jacob Wasserman noted. The study found that ridership has declined on transit lines that do not serve major job hubs but remains strong in locations such as downtown San Francisco. Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps may be contributing to the decline, but the impact is difficult to determine because these companies do not share detailed ridership data, the researchers found. The forthcoming study, which was also featured on ABC and NBC television affiliates in the Bay Area, proposes lowering ticket prices during off-peak hours and building more housing near transit hubs to increase ridership.


 

Taylor on Proposal to Offer Free Rides on Trains and Buses

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Curbed LA about a proposal to eliminate fares for public transportation in Los Angeles County. Offering free rides on buses and trains would get cars off the road, build ridership and reduce carbon emissions, proponents say. Taylor noted that it would be difficult to predict how the program would impact the whole system — particularly its capacity to handle increased rush-hour ridership — without trying it out. Curbed LA also cited research on free fares conducted by urban planning doctoral student Teo Wickland, who worked on the California Statewide Transit Strategic Plan. Wickland noted that eliminating fares would speed up bus service, where the boarding process is slowed every time riders struggle to find their fare card or come up with exact change.

The Game Is Rigged, Manville Says

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Denver Post about the challenges facing the next general manager of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which serves Denver, Boulder and surrounding areas in Colorado. The current general manager recently announced that he will step down, and the agency’s board of directors is looking for a replacement who will be able to reverse RTD’s declining ridership. Despite the addition of new commuter rail lines and bus rapid transit services, ridership has dropped nearly 5 percent over the last four years. According to Manville, the greatest challenge will be operating in a “metropolitan area that favors those who drive themselves around.” He warns, “The game is rigged. This is what your next director will face, no matter who he or she is.”


Image of bus only lane in Portland, Oregon

Bus Lanes Can Lead to Systemic Changes, Matute Says

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Curbed LA about the benefits of creating bus lanes. New York City recently created a bus-only street, which resulted in less traffic congestion. Matute said giving every bus in the United States a dedicated bus lane could lead to systemic changes. The public demand for more buses would outweigh the supply by the third week if this initiative were to be implemented, he said. “If the bus lanes were, in fact, permanent, in 10 weeks you’d see GM coming to a labor agreement and retooling factories to make buses,” he said.


 

Taylor on Bay Area’s Mega-Plan to Coordinate Transit

Urban Planning Professor Brian Taylor spoke with the Mercury News about a proposed “mega-measure” to turn the Bay Area’s extensive network of rail, buses and ferries into a coordinated transportation network. A $100-billion-plus transportation sales tax that could go before voters in nine counties as early as 2020 would fund the plan. The reforms under consideration include coordinating timetables, standardizing ticket prices and adopting the same maps. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, said the individual agencies were created to serve local, rather than regional, customers, adding that smaller bureaucracies tend to be more accessible and cost-effective. However, he said, “right now we have a system, and a tradition, where each transit agency has its own map, its own color scheme, its own way to organize fares, its own way to describe its services.”

Matute on E-Scooters Hitting an Invisible Fence

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the emergence of electronic geofences that slow down or shut down e-scooters to enforce rules of the road. Cities across California are testing the technology, which erects invisible fences to enforce speed and parking restrictions and, in some places, create dead zones. The rules change from neighborhood to neighborhood and have caused confusion and frustration among riders whose rented e-scooters come to a halt. Cities and scooter companies negotiate the restrictions, but “these aren’t on the books,” Matute said. “Given that what the companies are asked to do changes week to week, it can be hard for an individual to keep up with what’s permitted and what each company’s restrictions are.”

Matute on Monetization of Google Maps

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Fox Business about reports that Google Maps will soon launch advertising on the app — to the tune of $11 billion in annual revenues within four years, according to some estimates. The app has become so popular that its users are not expected to strongly object to the ads. “Google has developed a high-quality mapping product with a significant user base over the past two decades. That they haven’t fully monetized it sooner is the anomaly,” Matute said. Linking people with information about nearby businesses, services and events is a useful service, he added. Google has also announced plans to integrate bike riding, ridesharing and transit information into their maps. “Google Maps helps transit and commuters,” Matute said. “It provides them with easy-to-understand, actionable information in context, which can help them make informed travel decisions.”


 

Taylor on ‘America’s Worst Freeway’

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Mashable about the prospects for relief on “America’s worst freeway” — Los Angeles’ congested 405. Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for a transportation revolution that encourages ridesharing and emission-free cars and expands the system of rail, subways and electrified buses — all by the time the 2028 Olympics come to town. The plan includes a new public transit system through the 405 corridor. However, Taylor cautioned, “if that freeway becomes free flowing, it is an invitation to use it.” Los Angeles has built an enormous commuter rail system, yet public transit use is plummeting and auto ownership is rising, he said. Though it has been met with suspicion and hostility, his solution to fixing the 405 — charging motorists to use it — is the surest way to change ingrained driving habits, said Taylor, a professor of urban planning. He concluded, “There must be consequences to driving.”


 

Taylor and De León on the Challenge of Giving Up Cars

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke with CalMatters about ways to change the habits of Californians who are reluctant to give up their cars. “If we can create environments where traveling by other means becomes easier and easier, people will drive less,” Taylor said. “The challenge is the transition.” He added that increasing housing density could help create pedestrian-friendly cities that render automobiles such a hassle that they become an undesirable accessory. CalMatters also spoke to Kevin de León, UCLA Luskin senior analyst and policymaker-in-residence, about the dual challenge of taking on the fossil fuel industry and convincing consumers to change their ways. “You are talking about persuading [millions of] individual car drivers in the largest state in the union to drive zero-emission vehicles, or take public transportation, or ride a bike, or walk, or rideshare,” de León said. “We drive internal-combustion cars in part because they are easy.”

Matute on the Next ‘Micro-Mobility’ Wave

Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the Twin Cities’ love-hate relationship with electric scooters. Transportation experts say the scooters are just the beginning of a wave of shared “micro-mobility” devices. “As the scooter market gets saturated, we’ll see different devices with this business model,” Matute predicted. “Companies are working on new and niche products like electric tricycles and three-wheeled scooters. They will be more accessible and appealing to people who are over 30 and want more stability than a scooter.” He added that a two-passenger electric bike is also in the works, and Los Angeles riders are currently testing non-pedal e-bikes, a sort of bike-and-scooter hybrid that has a seat and a throttle.