Metrolink Ridership Update – March 2015

Time for an update on Metrolink ridership, including FY15Q3 (January – March 2015) data. Here’s the breakdown of data by stations.

stations-20150706

As we discussed last time, while ridership has still been declining, it looks like the trend has started to level out. Hopefully, new Metrolink CEO Art Leahy will be able to get those numbers moving in the right direction. The $2 station to station fare pilot program is certainly a step in the right direction. The Antelope Valley Line is the pilot, so downtown Burbank, which is a reasonably large trip attractor, is included. However, the program started July 1, so we won’t see any results in ridership for at least another 4-5 months, when FY16Q1 data become available.

With that, I’ll let the graphics speak for themselves. Here’s the update of the rolling 12-month averages, broken down by line.

Ventura-20150706 AV-20150706 BG-20150706 SB-20150706 Riverside-20150706 91-20150706 OC-20150706 91OC-20150706 AC-20150706

Here’s a look at the top 10 and bottom 10 stations for ridership gained (or lost) over the period from June 2010 to March 2015 (all based on rolling 12-month averages). The top 10 and bottom 10 are all unchanged. The best trending stations continue to be in Orange County and Riverside County, while the worst trending stations continue to be on the San Bernardino and Antelope Valley lines.

abstop-20150706 absbottom-20150706

LACMTA Bus Ridership Update – San Fernando Valley May 2015

Here’s our second update on ridership on some of the main bus routes in the San Fernando Valley. As a reminder, for north-south corridors, we have San Fernando, Van Nuys, Sepulveda, and Reseda; for east-west, Ventura, Sherman, Roscoe, and Nordhoff.

For more detail on the sausage-making involved in converting routes that cover multiple corridors to a number for a single arterial road, see the first post.

Here’s the raw data. As always, highlighted cells represent top 10 ridership months since January 2009. All routes put up their best months in the 2009-2010 period; this may be due to the recession reducing car ownership.

valley-raw-201505

Here are the 12-month rolling averages for weekdays.

valley-Wk-201505

Saturday and Sunday 12-month rolling averages largely reflect weekday trends, as shown below. The only interesting countertrend is an uptick in Reseda over weekends.

valley-Sa-201505

valley-Su-201505

The only structural change that would be affecting ridership in the Valley is the adjustment of the rapid routes serving Reseda, Ventura, Van Nuys, and Sepulveda in late 2014. Prior to the change, the Van Nuys rapid route extended through Sepulveda Pass to Westwood, and the Sepulveda and Reseda rapid routes ended in Sherman Oaks. This was changed to the Sepulveda rapid route extending through the pass, with the Reseda and shortened Van Nuys rapid routes linked up into a single U-shaped route on Reseda, Ventura, and Van Nuys.

From the point of abstract geometry, it might appear to make more sense for the Sepulveda route to extend through the pass, but Van Nuys is by far the best bus corridor in the Valley. It is impossible to say if the recent sharp decline on Van Nuys is due to the network reconfiguration, but the change does not appear to have helped. Note that it is possible that the decline on Van Nuys has been over-exaggerated by the method of apportioning route ridership to corridors, but no other corridor has seen an anomalous gain in ridership, so some corridor is losing riders even if it’s not Van Nuys.

Stay tuned for Metrolink.

LACMTA Westside Bus Ridership Update – April 2015

Another three months has passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA bus ridership update.

First, the raw data. Highlighted cells represent the top 10 months for that route (since January 2009).

bus-raw-201504

Here are the 12-month rolling averages.

bus-wkdy-12mo-201504

Here’s the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages.

bus-Sat-12mo-201504 bus-Sun-12mo-201504

Saturday and Sunday ridership largely reflects the weekday trends.

Unfortunately, most lines have continued to see slight decreases in ridership. The exception is the Silver Line, where ridership continues to grow. There’s also been a leveling off of ridership on Vermont and Western, so maybe things will start to turn around.

Lastly, here’s the percentage of trips on each arterial being served by the rapid route.

bus-share-201504

The share of riders served by the rapid routes continues to slowly rise on most corridors. Again, I wouldn’t read too much into the spikes in Venice and Santa Monica data, because they were caused by large drops in local route ridership on those streets. However, it is interesting that the rapid routes were more resilient to ridership changes – the ridership losses came disproportionately from local routes.

As always, it’s hard to say what’s causing ridership changes. Possibilities include the improving economy making cars more affordable, cheaper gas, and Metro’s recent fare increase.

Next up, Valley bus ridership, and then Metrolink.

LACMTA Rail Ridership Update – April 2015

Another three months has passed, so it’s time for another LACMTA rail ridership update. As a reminder, bus ridership for the Westside and San Fernando Valley has been broken out into separate posts, which will follow shortly.

First, the raw data. Highlighted cells represent the top 10 months for that line (since January 2009).

rawdata-201504

Last time we looked, we noted that the January 2015 data looked very suspicious, and indeed, ridership data was revised for August 2014, December 2014, and January 2015 for all lines. Some numbers were revised up and some down, but in general they were all revised towards being less outlying data. Recent trends have continued, with the Blue, Green, and Red/Purple Lines continuing to slip a little. The Gold Line and Expo Lines continue to be near, though not at, all-time highs. Expo Line ridership appears to have leveled off, which we can see in the rolling 12-month averages.

Here’s the rolling 12-month average of weekday ridership:

wkdy-12mo-201504

As noted previously, some of the drop in the Blue and Red/Purple Lines may be due to ongoing construction that has increased late-night headways and shut down portions of the Blue Line at times.

Here’s the Saturday and Sunday rolling 12-month averages.

Sat-12mo-201504 Sun-12mo-201504

And lastly, here’s the update for the rolling 12-month average of boardings per mile:

wkdy-bpm-12mo-201504

Again, Expo Line ridership is leveling off. The relative quiet continues while we wait for the Expo Line and Gold Line extensions.

Hollywood – Highland Park Bus

In a city with an established transit system based on an efficient grid design, it’s not often that you come across logical bus routes that don’t already exist. In Los Angeles, they usually relate to jurisdictional boundaries that have ceased to be relevant to most people’s lives: for example, the lack of continuous bus routes on Olympic and Pico between downtown LA and the Westside, or between the Valley and the Westside via Sepulveda Pass.

However, two such potential routes recently popped up in discussions on a better connection between Silver Lake and Los Feliz. The (neighborhood transportation committees) suggested LA Curbed on Dash routes, operated by the City of LA’s DOT, creating a U-shaped route running along Vermont, Fountain, and Hyperion, ending near Griffith Park Blvd.

This route will likely underperform, like the Dash routes it is proposed to replace, because of basic geometry: almost no one wants to travel in a U-shaped path. In fact, the current underperformance of neighborhood Dash routes, in turn, may be due to similar route geometry. Local circulator routes are generally a dubious bet, especially outside of central business districts. An existing LACMTA circulator route here, the 175, gets only 600 riders per day.

If the intent is truly to improve connections to Los Feliz and Silver Lake, there are two options that would improve both connections within the neighborhoods and connections to the rest of the city, increasing mobility and opportunity for transit users. First, let’s have a look at service in the area today.

MetroMap

Something in Los Feliz, Silver Lake, and Echo Park area should jump out at us right away: a significant weakness in the east-west grid. This may be due to leftover historical influence of transit orientation towards downtown LA, or the underlying weakness of the east-west street grid, but whatever the reason, there is an opportunity to strengthen the bus grid, and provide a direct connection between major activity centers around Hollywood and east side neighborhoods like Glassell Park and Highland Park.

The less ambitious route would start at Fountain & Western, run east to Fountain & Hyperion, follow Hyperion to Atwater Village, and end at Brand & San Fernando in Glendale. Since this would a totally new route, there’s no need to follow outdated stop spacing practices, and we can set stops at every quarter to half mile to improve speeds. A westward extension all the way to La Cienega would be nice, but that would depend on a contentious plan to build the missing block of Fountain. Maybe it would be more feasible if it were restricted to buses only?

Hollywood – Atwater Village route in Scribble Maps

A more ambitious route would follow the above from Fountain & Western to Hyperion & Rowena, and then follow Rowena, Glendale, Fletcher, Eagle Rock, and York to Highland Park. The Highland Park end of the route would be tricky, because of the need to provide a transfer to the Gold Line and the absence of an ideally located station for that purpose. Avenue 54 is a logical cutoff from York to Figueroa, but leaves you 4 blocks south of the Highland Park Gold Line station, while taking York right to Figueroa leaves you 3 blocks north. Taking York and Mission to the Gold Line station in South Pasadena would make the route useless for transfers between the Gold Line to the south and the new bus route to the west.

Hollywood – Highland Park route in Scribble Maps

Because of topography, the street grid in this area isn’t great for east-west movements. This results in a longer route with more turns than we’d like, but it’s probably about the best we can do. This route would provide an alternative this route would be competitive with taking the Gold Line to LA Union Station and transferring to the Red Line, and would serve intermediate destinations not served by rail transit or existing east-west bus. While it certainly wouldn’t be one of LA Metro’s top performing routes, it should connect strong enough destinations to generate decent ridership, and is worth taking a look at.

The Minimum Wage & Housing Prices

Thanks to @devin_mb for helpful input on this post.

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour, a major victory for labor advocacy groups. This is a significant increase over the state minimum wage, which will be $10/hour as of January 1, 2016, and in real buying power peaked at $11.22/hour (in 2015 dollars) in 1968. Overall this is a very good thing for LA’s low income workers. Some have kvetched that other options, such as an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), would be better. This is a distraction, because those options only work at the state or even national level, and were not realistically on the table for the city. Like global warming and infrastructure, cities cannot afford to wait while Congress twiddles its thumbs.

In the Twitterverse, or at least the little corner of it focused on housing, there was talk that raising the nominal minimum wage would have no effect on real wages, because California’s ongoing housing crisis will allow landlords to capture all the wage increase through higher rents. In such a case, raising the minimum wage without taking action on housing is futile.

This is wrong. Landlords cannot arbitrarily raise rents to take away whatever wage increase you receive. Despite all the many distortions, rents are set by the market. If landlords could charge you more for your apartment, they would already be doing it. When the minimum wage increases, landlords will only be able to raise rents if households decide they want to spend their additional income on housing. So, if you get a raise, you might decide to spend some of your money on a more expensive apartment closer to your job, or on a larger apartment. Your desire to increase housing consumption is what allows landlords to raise rents.

However, not everyone is going to receive a wage increase from the minimum wage, and not everyone receiving a wage increase is going to want to spend all of it on housing. Some people who are not receiving a wage increase will respond to rising rents by moving to cheaper areas. It is therefore likely that landlords will be able to raise rents a little, because of low-income households’ increased buying power and supply limitations.

We can make a rough estimate of how much rents will increase based on the proportion of workers receiving a wage increase, the size of the wage increase, and the portion of wages those households are willing to put towards housing costs. Considering current conditions in LA, we will take the last parameter to be 50%. For the current distribution of income among full-time workers in LA, we have the following:

laincomedist

We can see why this minimum wage increase is such a big deal: assuming a uniform distribution of workers in the $25,000-$34,999 bracket, about 37% of workers in LA will get a raise.

Since $15/hr equates to roughly $30,000/year, we’ll assume everyone making less than that gets a bump to $30,000/year. For the $25,000-$34,999 bracket, we’ll assume half of those workers are getting a raise. We’ll also collapse the brackets to single assumed values for ease of analysis: $7,500 for the $1-$9,999 bracket, $12,500 for the $10,000-$14,999 bracket, $20,000 for the $15,000-$24,999 bracket, and $27,500 for the half of the workers in the $25,000-$34,999 bracket that we assume are getting a raise. We can then determine the wage increase for each bracket, as the difference between current wages and $30,000. Next we calculate the resulting rent increase due to each bracket’s wage gains, as (percent of city residents in the bracket) x (wage increase) x (portion of wage increase spent on housing), divided by twelve to convert from years to months.

wagestorents

Summing up each bracket’s rent increase, we see that we expect rents to rise $173/month as a result of the hike in the minimum wage. We can then calculate how much of each bracket’s wage increase is captured by higher rents. Note that if your current wages are already close to the new minimum wage, most of your increase will indeed go to rents. However, the portion falls off quickly for people getting a larger raise; if you make the current minimum wage of $10/hour ($20,000/year), only about 20% of your raise will end up going to higher rents. By calculating the weighted average wage increase, we can find the total amount of increased wages going to rents, estimated to be 19.1%.

Now, a $173/month increase in rent is still a big increase! That’s over $2,000/year, which is a lot of money for people only earning $30,000/year. This emphasizes the importance of solving California’s high housing costs, which we will only do if we address the enormous shortage of supply. However, even if we don’t, increasing the minimum wage will still result in an improvement to the lives of low-income households. It’s just that their lives would be improved even more if we do.

Freeway Ramps and Crosswalks

We haven’t had a freeway post in a long time, but a while back we talked about short-term improvements that can improve the interface between freeways and city streets for pedestrians and bicyclists. The principle goal is to reset drivers’ minds for the urban environment by forcing them to slow down or stop when exiting the freeway, so that they don’t hit city streets at freeway speeds. The best designs for this are the tight diamond and the tight four-ramp partial cloverleaf.

Ideally, we’d like to also strengthen pedestrian connections by providing crosswalks on the city street that would run concurrent with the freeway off-ramp. The city street is often a major arterial road where the crosswalk spacing is too large, and a crosswalk at the ramp would help alleviate that problem.

xwalk-ramp

Here are two locations where such crosswalks were actually installed.

First, the 134 and Glendale Ave:

Second, the 134 and Pacific St:

Nice work, Glendale, on getting those tight diamonds, tight four-ramp partial cloverleaves, and extra crosswalks!

However, freeway ramps are not great locations for crosswalks. At most intersections, the majority of traffic goes straight, with smaller turning volumes, making it feasible to have concurrent pedestrian movements without much danger to pedestrians or impact to traffic capacity. At freeway ramps, though, the situation is reversed. Almost all traffic is turning, so concurrent pedestrian movements create danger to pedestrians and significantly reduce traffic capacity. While pedestrian safety can be improved at such intersections with a leading pedestrian interval, the other problems remain.

Fortunately, there’s a way around this issue that improves pedestrian connections, has a low impact on traffic capacity, and serves the goal of forcing drivers to adjust to city driving conditions. We can simply move the ramp crosswalks away from the freeway, and synchronize the traffic lights so that the crosswalk movement is concurrent with the ramps.

xwalk-midblock

This creates space for the traffic exiting the freeway to queue up. Since drivers exiting the freeway will always encounter a red light at the crosswalk, they will be forced to stop and reset their minds. Pedestrians do not have to contend with conflicting traffic, and the location of the crosswalk might better serve them. A crosswalk adjacent to a freeway will be located such that the freeway is occupying much of the nearby street frontage, whereas a crosswalk further away will serve more development.

If there’s an unsignalled minor street nearby, that’s a natural location for a new traffic signal and the crosswalk. Let’s look at a few examples around the county.

The 134 & Pacific in Glendale:

the134-Pacific

The 10 & Normandie in LA:

the10-Normandie

The 405 & Artesia in Torrance:

the405-Artesia

The 405 & Western in Torrance/LA:

the405-Normandie

These improvements obviously require new traffic signals, which is a considerable expense. Therefore, they should be rolled into either freeway improvement projects or arterial corridor improvements. The pedestrian signal is only a simple two-phase signal, and doesn’t need much intelligence since it will be synchronized with the ramp, which will help some with costs, especially if part of a larger job.