Mass Transit

Southern Californians Prefer Driving, Not Trains—News at Eleven

Mass transit use steadily dropping in greater Los Angeles area.

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But they're so photogenic!
Credit: JulieAndSteve / photo on flickr

City planners in Los Angeles who think (albeit very incorrectly) that they have control over how residents live are famously pushing for general plan to "get people out of their cars" in this massive city and onto bikes or into mass transit and creating communities nestled around transit hubs. It's called their Mobility Plan 2035. It would recast the city with a heavy emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle traffic, possibly at the expense of supporting motor vehicles.

There's a slight problem with such a plan: This does not appear to be how the citizens of Los Angeles actually want to live. Use of mass transit in Los Angeles and Orange County continues to decline even as more and more money is thrown at it. To the extent that residents rely on mass transit, they seem to prefer buses to light rail, and when the costs of riding buses goes up and the availability or quality of service goes down, riders take a hike. From the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the region's largest carrier, lost more than 10% of its boardings from 2006 to 2015, a decline that appears to be accelerating. Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail and subway lines, Metro now has fewer boardings than it did three decades ago, when buses were the county's only transit option.

Most other agencies fare no better. In Orange County, bus ridership plummeted 30% in the last seven years, while some smaller bus operators across the region have experienced declines approaching 25%. In the last two years alone, a Metro study found that 16 transit providers in Los Angeles County saw average quarterly declines of 4% to 5%.

Officials say they think ridership will improve once everybody starts living according to their master plan of "walkable neighborhoods near transit stops." Mind you, "walkable neighborhoods near transit stops" has been the urban design holy grail since forever, but this time they really mean it! Others have doubts:

[S]ome experts say the downturn could represent a permanent shift in how people get around, propelled by a changing job market, falling gas prices, fare increases, declining immigration and the growing popularity of other transportation options, including bicycling and ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

"I don't know if this is long-term, but it doesn't feel like it's temporary when we've been dealing with 36 straight months of declining ridership," said Darrell Johnson, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Call it the "libertarian moment" of transportation. People are choosing transportation models that work for them, not because it's what city planners would like for them to use. Light rail is one of the least flexible manifestations of mass transit, but look at the priorities of Los Angeles:

Although buses account for about 75% of Metro's ridership, rail operations and construction receive more money than buses do from Measure R, the county's most recent half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Metro has worked to speed up some bus routes, including giving buses their own lanes during rush hour on Wilshire Boulevard, the most traveled corridor in the county. The majority of buses, however, crawl through the streets at rush hour, and passengers often complain about long travel times.

"There's been lots of focus by transit agencies on shiny new things, sometimes at the expense of bus routes which serve the primary constituencies of transit agencies: low-wage workers," said Brian Taylor, the director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. "Lots of resources are being put into a few high-profile lines that often carry a smaller number of riders compared to bus routes."

Even poorer immigrants rely on mass transportation less and less the longer they live in the Los Angeles area. In addition, Metro has cut bus service by hundreds of thousands of hours and raised rates. Transit services in the region are now trying to figure out how to reverse this behavior and improve bus service, lower costs, and maybe even partner with ride-sharing services to bridge gaps in physical distance.

And of course, we love our cars. The amount of miles being driven in the area has returned to pre-recession levels. The Times story ends on the anecdote of a woman who moved to Los Angeles, used light rail for a few years, got robbed recently outside the city's newest light rail station in Culver City, got a car, and is much happier.

The aspiring actor said that getting a car resulted in "opening up her experiences in L.A." which must feel like a kick in the crotch of Los Angeles city planners. The demographics of their mobility plan start off by stating the exact opposite of what this trend is showing, stating that more people are looking for alternatives to driving.

The numbers the report show to justify this emphasis on walking and biking are kind of hilarious. They note that 64,000 people walk to work and 16,000 people bicycle to work. That's a 56 percent increase between 2000 and 2010. But the population of city of Los Angeles (just the city, not the surrounding county) is close to 4 million. Work commutes only account for 5 percent of all walking trips and 16 percent of all biking trips. But that means the city calculates about 100,000 people biking, less than one three percent of the city's population, over which they're considering making massive changes to streets.

There's one statistic reference in the plan that's particularly worth highlighting, because it demonstrates a particular mindset that shows the gap between planners and citizens. The report notes that 47 percent of all trips in greater Los Angeles are less than three miles, which they classify as "within walking/biking distance." It notes that 84 percent of these trips are currently made by car. This is clearly data being used to push the "get them out of the cars" mentality forward.

Let's talk about the privilege of the well-heeled urban elite for a moment. Time is a cost. These planners absolutely know that. They actually hope that traffic congestion will prompt more people to seek alternatives to driving because of how it affects their time. They recognize that losing time can be a significant inconvenience.

But when you're poor, unskilled labor, your time is almost all you have as a bargaining tool. Succeeding in low-level service jobs is often dependent on reliability, availability, and punctuality. Your time is what your employer needs from you and it is generally what he or she is paying you for. "Time is money" is not a metaphor.

The idea that people can just substitute a five-minute drive to travel three miles with a much longer bicycle ride or an extremely long walk is an example of privilege in action. Those who have to turn to mass transit as a necessity already lose a significant amount of time out of their "budget" waiting and transferring and dealing with the inconveniences. There is a sort of willfully blind absurdity in the idea that a significant number of Angelinos can just throw away an hour or so of their time for a three-mile trip. Maybe the type of people who come up with these goals can, but they seem fairly removed from the considerations of the average citizenry.

As for the city's efforts to force development over to planned transit hubs, they've hit a bit of a snag: Existing residents don't like the idea of giant, dense projects bulking up their neighborhoods. And in Los Angeles in particular (and California in general), NIMBY types (often wealthy urbanites) are able to use the courts to block projects. Right now there's an effort to put a measure on the ballot to force a moratorium on large new development projects that bypass existing zoning rules. It recently got the support of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

For a transportation plan that accommodates both drivers and the more popular bus transit for the needy in Los Angeles, check out the Reason Foundation's Increasing Mobility in Southern California: A New Approach. And watch below for an explanation why Los Angeles should stop trying to be like New York when it comes to transportation planning:

Oh, and one last thing to point out: The buses in Los Angeles operate on compressed natural gas (CNG), which burns more cleanly than gasoline. So when Los Angeles spends all its money on trains and cuts back on buses, prompting citizens to turn back to cars for transportation, this actually increases air pollution in the city. Something to keep in mind.

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175 responses to “Southern Californians Prefer Driving, Not Trains—News at Eleven

  1. I wonder how much of that is due to safety concerns? I haven’t been to LA in a long time but I hear it has changed a lot since I lived there, and not for the better. Here in Baltimore, outside of the Metro, which really goes nowhere except in a straight line from somewhere north to the harbor, public transit is unsafe and downright scary. Most people I know won’t go near the buses or the light rail out of fear for their own safety.

    1. LA is a lot safer now than it used to be. Their homicide rate is like 6 per 100,000 which is higher than the US average, but not by so much that LA stands out as being all that dangerous.

      1. Most of those murders are concentrated in certain areas. LA is fine.

        1. Well, the same can be said of Baltimore, or any other major city.

        2. I was surprised at the woman getting robbed by the Culver City Expo station. That’s hardly a dangerous place.

    2. If you’re in Baltimore you’ve got bigger things to worry about than the safety of buses in LA. Hell, you’ve probably been shot twice since making this post.

      1. I live in a safe neighborhood. The only way you would even know this is Baltimore, is if you know. There’s very little crime here, pretty much none. Most crime in Baltimore is in certain neighborhoods that you don’t even drive through, let alone live there.

        1. I know. But stereotypes are fun. Most big cities get to be known primarily by their least reputable neighborhoods thanks to the media’s unhealthy focus on violence.

          1. Very true.

          2. I know. Albany is renown for its corruption, but I’ve never gotten a single bribe offer.

            1. You work in the Ministry of Silly Walks, don’t you?

              1. That’s down the hall – he works at the Office of Verbal Abuse

                1. Shut up you vacuous, toffee nosed tit. Your kind make me want to puke, you malodorous collection of parrot droppings.

        2. Hey, Hyperion, I’ll be near the Baltimore Convention Center next month. Should I pack my swordcane to stab a bitch?

          1. You should ALWAYS pack your sword cane to stab a bitch, no matter what.

            Don’t you know nothin’ ’bout pimpin’?

          2. Unless you’re planning on skewering an Orioles fan (NTTAWWT), you probably won’t need it.

    3. The metro goes straight through west Baltimore, also scary. When I used to ride, I clenched my ass at the Penn-North stop.

      1. Between Mondawmin and Lexington Market is the worst. Still not nearly as scary as the buses or Light Rail. I don’t ride it, but I know people who do.

        1. Light rail also blows because it is incredibly slow.

  2. There’s a slight problem with such a plan: This does not appear to be how the citizens of Los Angeles actually want to live.

    If it was, they, uh, wouldn’t be living in Los Angeles.

    1. Or they just need to have their minds changed… forcibly.

  3. How dare the people act in their own best interest! Their betters have decided otherwise!

    1. These people are clearly smart enough to choose the right leaders, but too stupid to know what’s best for them!

      \elected politician

  4. I considered using state-subsidized mass transit.

    After I did the cost/benefit analysis, it didn’t pay off. Even after factoring in a parking permit, gas, depreciation, it was about break even…. Until you realize that, with mass transit, you spend hours waiting on buses to get to your stops, on their schedule.

    At that point, it’s a no-brainer: drive.

    Sorry, but I’m too busy enjoying the state-subsidized ROADZ.

    1. In Chicago, I always use mass transit because it’s actually pretty convenient here and driving can be a nightmare in any of the parts of town you’d actually want to live in. I used to live in the suburbs and the Amtrak line ended about 3 blocks from my job so I could just sit there and read on the train instead of dealing with the absolute traffic snarl you’d run into if you tried to drive into the Loop during rush hour.

      1. I’ve driven in downtown Chicago more than a few times. It’s pretty awful. Northern Virginia is worse though.

        1. I try to avoid driving Downtown Chicago because I become a raged filled person. Anyway, I had a friend who stayed at a hotel in Streeterville and was coming to stay with me for the weekend. He thought I was using my car to pick him up but it was fucking 5:30 on a Friday afternoon so I got on the train and met him at the hotel and Uber’d it back to Lakeview.

        2. NOVA + snow for the ultimate driving experience.

      2. I live on the far northwest side. The bus used to run til 1AM and I used public transit at least once a week to go to concerts, games, etc. Now the bus service has been cut to 11PM and I never use it anymore. I’d have been happy to pay a late-night premium but central planners don’t want to be bothered with complicated systems and political fallout – and you can tell they never actually use the service for which they are responsible.

        1. We need an initiative that says any politician who votes for mass transit has to use it exclusively while they’re in office.

        2. I used to train daily, but it got to the point where Metra cost significantly more than driving. Now my office has moved, so doing public transit means going all the way to Union Station from my far northwest location, then taking another train out to the western burbs, then transferring between two buses. Six hours.

          Public transit blows in general if you live in one suburb and work in another.

          1. I have a suburban job – commute is 6 miles. Takes 15 minutes by car or 45 minutes by bus-train-bus. It’s an OK alternative unless I have to work late, then it’s useless. Uber and Lyft are great for suburban commuting.

            1. 6 miles? I hate you. Hate, hate, hate. With my current job location, it’s two hours each way to go 40 miles.

              1. At some point you have to consider changing either jobs or residences. I can do two hours each way if I sleep the whole time. In a car? Oh hell no.

                1. It sucks, but we can’t afford to move. And at my age, jobs in tech are not trivial to find.

          2. Dear God in Heaven! Why would you even think of using mass transit for a commute like that?

            I live in the far North(ish) western suburbs and have had jobs both in the suburbs and in the Loop. Metra is fine for a job in the loop and CTA is fine if you work and live in the city, but suburb to suburb? A car is the only sane way to go.

    2. Having lived a bit in college towns, and riding the DART park and ride trains, mass transit kind of works when there are ton of people trying to get from point A to point B. If I have to sit through traffic, and then pay for parking at point B, then it makes sense to just spend the same amount of money taking mass transit.

      Once you’re trying to go from point K to point Q, then the appeal of mass transportation breaks down, and you really want to have a car handy.

      1. I have the choice of driving 9 or 10 miles and parking in a city garage, or driving 5 miles to get to the metro and then riding 9 or 10 miles, plus doubling my commute time. Easy choice for me.

    3. I use the train because I get a free pass through school and I don’t have to screw with downtown Dallas parking if I park on campus. It adds 15 minutes to my commute, but saves me $10-$20/day

  5. It would recast the city with a heavy emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle traffic, possibly at the expense of supporting motor vehicles.

    Of course it will come at the expense of automobiles. Have you seen the roads around LA? There already is no room for additional travel lanes without knocking down peoples’ homes.

    1. There already is no room for additional travel lanes without knocking down peoples’ homes.

      LA is too dense to easily continue the care-free “drive everywhere” lifestyle but not dense enough for NYC-style rapid transit (i.e. anything better than pokey buses).

      1. LA didn’t have the foresight to build upward instead of outward. Now they will probably never have the density necessary for rail to even come close to breaking even. Thinking they can make the whole city into a bunch of walk-able communities is even more laughable. They’re stuck with cars and traffic for the foreseeable future, whether they like it or not.

        1. Would you have built upward in an earthquake prone region with, at one time, enormous amounts of relativley cheap land to build outward?

          Kevin R

  6. Good writing Scott. Another aspect to this story is that all those jobs at Metro are union jobs. Many of those jobs seem to be filled by minorities. It’s a jobs program for political constituencies.

    1. And the fact that they are unionized will make the system needlessly expensive and unreliable. Most of these systems can’t break even with the government subsidies. No matter how much money the government sends over, they still blow it and are left broke and with a mass transit system that still blows.

      1. No matter how much money the government sends over, they still blow it and are left broke and with a mass transit system that still blows.

        …and occasionally kills a couple dozen customers.

        1. …which, they’ll say, proves that they need more money!

    2. This. When you look at the decision-making and panning that goes into mass transit systems, it’s usually not about reducing traffic. It’s not about an alternative to driving.

      It’s a jobs program.

      1. …As was the water in Flint.

        It seems these “Jobs Programs” have a track record of making conditions such that they cost more jobs elsewhere via second order effects on the region/economy.

        1. Do plumbers ripping lead pipes out of old homes for residents scared of their own public water count as stimulus?

          1. Of course. /Kruggernuts

          2. If alien invasions and world wars count, then yes.

      2. Um… except when it isn’t. Where I grew up a lot of people couldn’t afford a car. Yes the unions cause all sorts of problems but let’s not pretend that transit is not needed in many places.

    3. It’s a jobs program for political constituencies.

      You could be describing any local government employment, minority employees or not.

      1. Yeah. I didn’t write that very clearly.

      2. Not just local. Fed and state too. Take my word for it. I work in local government, supported by federal, state and local funding. Public transit no less!

        If I wasn’t white, I’d be getting every job I interviewed for. If I were non-white and female, I’d be running METRA or something.

    4. This is pretty much how it is in DC, WMATA is a fucking dumpster fire of incompetence.

      1. Compared to SEPTA (Philly), WMATA is a shining beacon of customer service, cost containment and efficiency.

        1. Which has the higher kill ratio?

    5. There’s a racial angle to the urban jobs programs known as being a city employee: if those surly god-bricking bastards weren’t “working” for the city, where do you suppose they would be working and what would the job entail? There’s a thinly-veiled argument that if we don’t spend more money hiring these people to work for the government they’ll just be collecting a welfare check and breaking into your house and stealing your TV for the crack money. Don’t think of it as paying somebody to work, think of it as paying somebody not to steal your TV. That’s not quite how they connect the dots between no jobs = poverty = crime, but they try real hard to make sure you connect the dots that way. And then they get to call you a racist when they see you connecting the dots they laid out in front of you.

      1. That line of reasoning, that poverty breeds crime, insults the millions of “poor people”‘ who do not resort to crime and keeps government in power.

  7. They note that 64,000 people walk to work and 16,000 people bicycle to work. That’s a 56 percent increase between 2000 and 2010. But the population of city of Los Angeles (just the city, not the surrounding county) is close to 4 million. Work commutes only account for 5 percent of all walking trips and 16 percent of all biking trips. But that means the city calculates about 100,000 people biking, less than one percent of the city’s population, over which they’re considering making massive changes to streets.

    1% of 4 million is 40,000. 100,000 is 2.5% of the city’s population.

    While this doesn’t invalidate your argument, you may want to check your math.

      1. You don’t need to be good at math, or double check your numbers when writing for Reason. If you make an error, just wait, some nerd in the comments will correct it.

  8. I took the expo line this summer. It fucking sucks. Everything about it. The ticket machines were fucked up, the trains were late, they didn’t have enough cars for the crowd at the colosseum, etc etc.

    Worst of all, it took A LOT longer than driving.

    1. The time part really makes it a deal breaker for me.

      Gas really isn’t expensive enough to sit around waiting for a $3 ride.

    2. Since you mention “the crowds at the Colosseum”, I assume you went to a game or concert there. If I am not mistaken the traffic at the LA Colosseum is pretty notorious. And you are telling me this system is so bad that it was quicker to drive? Wow. And just think, it only cost how many billions of tax dollars to build it?

      1. In this particular case, it was the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics. Sellout crowd.

        Yes, the system is that bad. In the worse case scenario, I’ve been delayed 15 minutes getting on to the freeway. Worst case.

        The lines to get on the train were 45 minutes, not including buying tickets. And I left early.

        1. That is not surprising but still amazing that they could be that incompetent.

  9. The urban planning mania is really taking off, because the politicians are, at this point, pretty heavily disconnected from any reality or consequences. If their grand schemes make traffic way worse, why the fuck do they care? They won’t be voted out, the voting is too monolithic and usually dominated by a single party. So they’d rather be able to brag at a conference that they put in shitloads of bike lanes than worry about how their constituents are doing.

    Remember: politics and government incentivizes sociopathy in politicians and other government employees. It’s like sociopath flypaper. And it will only get worse the bigger government gets.

    1. It really has gotten out of hand, especially at a time when it seems more and more people are against these schemes.

      1. They don’t care. That’s why it’s just getting more insane. They are, more and more, completely disconnected from their constituents. And it’s only going to get worse.

        1. One of my favorite thoughts while sitting at meetings the involve regional urban and transportation planning schemes is, “If they only knew!”.

          The disconnect between government where I work and the population at large is huge. Just huge.

    2. I watched a film last night named ‘Still Mine’. It’s based on a true story and gives a good sense of just how out of touch and out of control parasitic bureaucracy has grown over the last century.

      1. Not that I needed a reminder.

      2. Did James Cromwell have an epiphany? I thought he was a hard-core progressive, yet he played Andrew Mellon in Boardwalk Empire and now a victim of government?

    3. Urban planners are the worst sorts of totalitarian leftists. Joe from Lowell was an urban planner or claimed to be. They hate freedom more than anything. They don’t want people having their own cars and living tacky uncontrolled lifestyles. They want people living in planned and controlled communities taking mass transit at scheduled and controlled times in a controlled manner.

      Where a normal person sees the suburbs and the car culture as an expression of preferences and freedom. Urban planners see it as a horror; all of these people running around doing objectionable things and worse doing it in a chaotic and uncontrolled manner.

      1. +1 Robert Moses

        1. ?

          Moses was all about cars and suburbs.

      2. Ahhh… Joe.

        I wonder what ever happened to him after he left this blog in a snit.

        1. His handle is JackandAce now

  10. People just need to be nudged a little harder, that’s all. They’ll come around when not doing so results in loss of money and freedom.

    1. Nudged straight into the ditch… and then shot. That’s where progressive policies lead.

  11. The planners might be “right”. But until we privatize transit ( buses, trains, and roadz!), we wont know. And other infrastructure too.

    1. Oh, and eliminating zoning.

    2. Nearly every pubic transit system was private to start with. Then city governments forced them to charge government-set prices which bankrupted all of them.

      1. Then they took them over and prices skyrocketed.

  12. Well, clearly this “proves” that gas prices are too low and we need to pump up the gasoline tax. For Gaia… /progtard

    1. The urban planning types at the SF Bay Area Metropolitan Planning Commission proposed almost exactly that in their first attempt at Plan Bay Area a few years back. The consultants doing studies about auto use and how to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled to comply with the draconian state bills for greenhouse gas reductions that had just been passed, found the the demand for gasoline was inelastic (really? economists have known that for decades.) and that it would take prices near $6/gal to incentivize people to leave their cars behind and use mass transit.

      But, they didn’t propose directly that gas be taxed such to create this pricing structure. No, they came up with new, government double speak. They said that gasoline was “underpriced”. 🙁

      Alice in Wonderland is not a fairy tale. It’s alive in kicking in government offices near you.

  13. Urban planners deliberately screwing over poor people? Well, now I’ve heard everything!

    The idea that people can just substitute a five-minute drive to travel three miles with a much longer bicycle ride or an extremely long walk is an example of privilege in action. Those who have to turn to mass transit as a necessity already lose a significant amount of time out of their “budget” waiting and transferring and dealing with the inconveniences. There is a sort of willfully blind absurdity in the idea that a significant number of Angelinos can just throw away an hour or so of their time for a three-mile trip. Maybe the type of people who come up with these goals can, but they seem fairly removed from the considerations of the average citizenry.

    Nice, Scott. Hit ’em where it hurts.

    1. If you work a 9 to 5 job at a social justice non profit, what is the big deal? If you work three part time jobs at different places all over town as your way of paying the bills, the train is not really an option. But those people just have unsustainable lifestyles Jordan.

    2. Yeah, unlike his namesake, Robert Moses really didn’t like the “Schwarzers”.

    3. Public transit is privilege in action. Why do we make a farmer in Minnesota pay federal taxes that are transferred to BART so that 450,000 people per day, in a region with a population of 7.5M, can get to and from their jobs conveniently? Where is the connection?

      I worked on a study in college in 1975 that was demonstrating that the opening of the BART tube under the bay set Oakland’s economic development back by at least ten years. It allowed an additional 100,000 people a day to travel to jobs in San Francisco while the road limitations had been pushing employers out to Oakland for years. It allowed employers to continue concentrating jobs in SF without having to figure in the cost of access.

      No one thinks of these kinds of things when they come up with utopian, urban planning ideas.

  14. Public transit really only makes much sense as the dominant form of transportation if you’re a city that was developed before the automobile. Those cities are much more likely to have a defined central business district you can use as the center for a hub-and-spoke system.

    1. Or you could be like my city, which did have a defined business district… and then the businesses left to the suburbs because of onerous taxes and limited area to grow. That, and a parking lot monopoly. By the time the 70s/80s rolled around, the downtown was an empty wasteland. It’s coming back in a strong way but it’s mostly smaller, dare I say artisanal, businesses. Parking is still a bitch though.

      1. then the businesses left to the suburbs because of onerous taxes and limited area to grow

        The free highways leading them and their customers there probably helped.

        1. Free? No one paid for them? No taxes?

          OK then.

      2. Even out west, most cities have huge areas of decrepit residential areas that were abandoned by the middle class in the 60s and 70s as the Progressives destroyed the schools and the city services while simultaneously raising taxes. Even in western cities the first suburbs were built before cars were that affordable and were built around trolley and street car lines.

        Those neighborhoods would come back and mass transit more practical or at least commutes much shorter if the Progressives would give up their control of the governments there and stop making center cities uninhabitable for all but those too poor to leave or too rich to care.

      3. Okay. Perhaps I should have said, unless. Yes, a defined business district isn’t enough to make it work. But, it won’t work if you don’t have one.

    1. Between this story and the miracle win at Wake Forest last night, us Hoos are having a pretty good 24 hours.

    2. Next development: “Judge blamed for ‘Jackie’ suicide”

      1. One man’s “blamed” is another man’s “credited”.

  15. smaller bus operators across the region

    WTF? There are still private bus operators running defined routes with numerous stops at prices not set by government?

    I need to see examples or I am not buying it.

    1. Until a couple years ago when they got bought out, NYC had some private bus companies doing exactly that. Long Island still does. But then again this is not a region where only the most desperate use a bus.

      1. Can you name them so I can look them up?

        1. http://www.coachusa.com/shortline/ss.commuter.asp

          Apparently Short Line was taken over by a larger company but it serves commuters on the west side of the Hudson that have worse or no train options, unlike those on Long Island or the east side of the Hudson

        2. Nassau County

          In Queens there used to be “Green Bus Lines” and “Triborough Coach Corporation” among others.

          1. Thanks, but not quite the same thing as the private bus line I took in the 70’s. Those stopped on marked intersections or points of interest and took anyone willing to pay the fare upon boarding, routes usually ran every 30 minutes 5am to midnight.

            I’m talking about a bus service like this, operating just like a typical city bus does today, only privately.

            http://www.chicagorailfan.com/stgsss.html

            1. Not sure I follow. My examples are exactly like city-run bus systems but they are/were privately run. There may be some regulation from the city re: fares and such – is the degree of regulation the difference?

              1. NICE isn’t private. If it was, it no longer is because of government. Nice’s fares are set by government fiat and federal dollars fund part of its operation.

                1. Fair enough. Wikipedia states that NICE is run by a “private operator” but you’re right that there’s gummint interference.

                  How about the so-called “jitneys” that run express service between Manhattan and the outer boroughs or NJ? Those are private – which explains why the city keeps trying to kill them.

              2. Restora’s links are all limited-run, reservation-required coaches; that isn’t mass transit in my mind. And, a la Fung Wah, government is trying to interfere with those as much as possible.

      2. Recently, we had Leap in San Francisco. You surely all know how that was killed?

        No different than the Google or Apple buses.

        Damn elitists. Get down with the trash or get out.

  16. Nobody walks in LA.

  17. A lot of people who do support trains do not intend to use them themselves. They want all the other people clogging their commute to use the trains.

    1. Re: Mickey Rat,

      A lot of people who do support trains do not intend to use them themselves.

      Marxians have this penchant of turning their pet projects into moral imperatives everybody must abide by.

      In case you haven’t figured it out, Marxians are narcissists.

    2. Yes, everybody does win when there is a variety of modes.

    3. Not just trains. All public transit basically.

      This comes out in every public outreach or polling we do (I work in public transit). Thousands of people support it but, they don’t plan to use it. They think everyone else should and that will clear the roadways for the non-user supporters.

      It’s sad how stupid people really are.

      1. Well of course. The other people in their big SUVs should stop clogging up the roadz I pay for, and let me travel freely at all times.

  18. Southern Californians Prefer Driving, Not Trains

    “But we’ll continue giving them trains, the ungrateful bastards!”

  19. They need to have that train infrastructure in place for when they make cars effectively illegal, or effectively unaffordable to operate.

    1. Tonio do you read these peoples’ mail? Because that is exactly what they want.

      1. Eliminating cars is the unspoken goal of many of the urbanists and greens.

        It’s not unlike the gun control freaks that outwardly support registration and limitation schemes hiding their real goal of complete confiscation.

        Hey, it’s all for our own good you know. Otherwise, think of what would happen.

  20. Let’s talk about the privilege of the well-heeled urban elite for a moment.

    NIMBY types (often wealthy urbanites) are able to use the courts to block projects.

    The irony is that a lot of those well-heeled urban elites who are always screeching about “getting people out of their cars” are also the very same NIMBY assholes. They want more mass transit hubs and “walkable communities”… just not anywhere near them. They also mostly want to get OTHER people out of their cars, not themselves. They want fewer cars on the road – because that would make THEIR drives better, and they want the hoi-polloi to take mass transit – so long as the transit hubs aren’t anywhere near them.

    IOW, all their talk of “walkable communities” and “getting people out of their cars” are just to make their lives easier/ more convenient. They could give two shits about anyone else. The fact that they also get to smugly assert that their utopian transportation schemes would fight global warming because “fewer cars” is just icing on the cake.

    1. Megan McArdle wrote a piece a few years ago noticing how the things demanded by gentrifyers like her in her DC neighborhood were so different than what the poor and lower middle class people there wanted. McArdle and the rest of the hipsters were forever pushing for zoning for more “bars and restaurants” and objecting to big tacky box stores and super market. The normal people were of course the exact opposite. They didn’t care about bars and restaurants they couldn’t afford to frequent and just wanted a decent super market and a WalMart.

      McArdle basically told the story of a bunch of privileged and self centered assholes moving into a neighborhood and making life appreciably worse for the people who already lived there as they demanded it be altered to suit their tastes. These are the same people who think mass transit is great for everyone else.

      1. McArdle basically told the story of a bunch of privileged and self centered assholes moving into a neighborhood and making life appreciably worse for the people who already lived there as they demanded it be altered to suit their tastes.

        That’s pretty much all these “well-heeled urban elites” – aka hipsters – ever do. Everywhere they choose to infest, they make far worse for everyone else.

      2. One of those “Neighborhood Markets” Wal-Mart just shut down was on the ground floor of a senior-focused apartment building in LA’s Chinatown.

        The usual suspects FREAKED OUT when it moved in (especially because they’d been asleep at the wheel and missed out that Wal-Mart had gotten all the proper approvals, leaving them no chance to stop it). Meanwhile, the aging population living in the immediate vicinity was actually pretty happy, because instead of spending all day going to seven different stores in the neighborhood and spending their entire day running errands, they could go to one store downstairs and take care of 90% of it in one stop (including, importantly, their pharmacy needs, as the closest one wasn’t close if you’re 85 and walking everywhere).

      3. Which, come to think of it, was the whole point of Sodosopa on South Park this season, wasn’t it?

  21. “Time is money” is not a metaphor.

    Well, *tax* it, then!

  22. I heard something on NPR a week ago or so where they did some bit on driving trends in the US. The commentator and pundit on the segment closed out by shrugging that some… some people still like to drive. Emphasis on “some”. It’s hard to impart tone here, but they really did emphasize the ‘some’ as if this small minority were an odd curiosity.

    1. I LOVE driving – especially if its some kind of road trip. I know a great route to southern VT with no traffic and gorgeous views. With tunes going it is a great way to spend 7 hours round trip.

  23. This, to me, is the key line from the LA Times article:

    Although buses account for about 75% of Metro’s ridership, rail operations and construction receive more money than buses do from Measure R, the county’s most recent half-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

    Granted, most of why rail receives more money is because they have to build out lines, while busing is a comparatively smaller “maintenance of current service” cost. But the push for rail–instead of beefing up LA’s bus service, which actually is one of the best in the country–is all a pie-in-the-sky bunch of BS to cater to the perceived needs of white westsiders who don’t want to use transit in the first place at the expense of working-class (and largely Latino) people who rely on it daily.

    1. Meanwhile, on the east coast, dense old cities like NYC and Boston tore down perfectly usable elevated rail lines and replaced them with… nothing, because of feelz. Then the agencies spent next to nothing on maintenance of what was left until the systems nearly collapsed in the 70s. At the same time, spending on suburban rail for white people started to ramp up.

      The history of transit in this country is one long political clusterfuck.

      1. Progressives were against private mass transit until, after fighting against it until it vanished, they then started supporting government mass transit.

        1. Yes. One of the reasons the private NYC subway companies folded was because the city wouldn’t allow them to raise the fare above a nickel for something like 50 years.

    2. The elites don’t want to see the unwashed masses waiting on street corners. They’re fine if the unwashed are waiting at train stations because they are out of view that way.

  24. Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others

    http://www.theonion.com/articl…..c-tra-1434

    1. What’s funny is you don’t need the Onion to make the point. Seattle has shown voter trends on transportation projects that literally contradict themselves.

      Q: Would you vote for expanded public transportation?

      A: Yes!

      Q: How ofen would you use that public transportation?

      A: Never!

      1. Parallel universe:

        I went to a Catholic high school. In one of our freshman theology classes the teacher – a Christian Brother – has us fill out a survey with twenty or so questions.

        Two of the questions, but not posted together:

        1) Do you believe in premarital sex?
        2) Do you expect to marry a virgin?

        Yep. You guessed it. 70% of the guys (this was an all boys class) said they believed in pre-marital sex and 70% of the guys said they expected to marry a virgin.

        Houston, we’ve got a problem. At least with this cohort of 12/14 year olds.

    2. The Onion is great. Pointing out the obvious and “inconvenient truths.”

  25. “Hey Max. A guy gets on the MTA here in LA and dies. Think anybody’ll notice?”

    1. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit.

  26. Why is REASON.COM so anti-public trans?

    I’m glad when your voices were drowned out when they built the NYC Subways.
    I’m sure the libertarians/conservatives then weren’t interested in a public transportation system for the regular guy either.

    1. Try reading the posts more closely. If you think they are “anti public transit” instead of anti forced subsidizing of inefficient transit, you are not understanding what you are reading.

      1. I understand John. But every public project is riddled with VIGs inefficiencies, corruption, etc.
        I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath-water.

        Since we want to live with financial privacy we can’t really monitor the corruption and all of the other crap.
        If we do what Sweden did and eliminate physical paper/coin cash and went totally electronic, we would have more accountability of where the Money went. But this is America. We want to privately rob the government and other people with impunity.

        1. If the system can’t make a profit on its own, it is by definition inefficient and should not be built. It is really that simple. I don’t owe you tax dollars to support your train fetish.

          1. The airplane, the railways, and many other things are (or were) publicly subsidized to get off the ground.

            I can’t imagine a rail system up-and-down the west coast between Frisco, the Valley, LA, etc. will go to waste. It requires a huge initial investment and a very long recovery period. This is why “the free market” doesn’t build these things. These larger projects are almost always government funded.

            Look at going to the Moon. And look at your iPhone. Is Steve Jobs a genius for writing an application like iOS and all of the goodies that come with the iPhone? Or, is the real hero the tax payer that funded the space-age technology that made it possible in the 1st place?

            1. I can’t imagine a rail system up-and-down the west coast between Frisco, the Valley, LA, etc. will go to waste.

              It will go to waste because not enough people in California will use it.

              Ask yourself why they’re not building high-speed rail in an area that would actually use it (hint: where the rail network is already at capacity)? Or why established subway systems in older cities are groaning under record ridership but can barely be kept in a state of half-way decent repair, while billions are spent on shiny new systems to the suburbs that will never recover the cost?

              The answer is that this money is spent purely based on politics, not need. Even IF you support public money being spent on this stuff, it’s being spent in the WORST way possible.

            2. Re: David Bowie (RIP),

              I understand John. But every public project is riddled with VIGs inefficiencies, corruption, etc. I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath-water.

              You would if the baby is dead.

              The airplane, the railways, and many other things are (or were) publicly subsidized to get off the ground.

              That’s actually a lie. It’s not even a good lie. Railroads started and thrived in England completely and 100% as private affairs. Even the first contest between locomotive designs was entirely private. it was the same in the U.S. by the way until cronies started to beg Congress for money. As for the airplane, while the Wright brothers were trying to get a government contract while resting on their laurels, private individuals in Europe were already developing new designs and even hosting air races – all entirely private.

            3. Re: David Bowie (RIP)

              It [a rail system up-and-down the West Coast] requires a huge initial investment and a very long recovery period. This is why “the free market” doesn’t build these things.

              The free market doesn’t build those things because people don’t want them. You produce in order to consume. You don’t produce just for the sake of production. Stop showcasing your ignorance in economics like that. It is pathetic.

            4. It requires a huge initial investment and a very long recovery period.

              A huge initial investment that never (a much more accurate assessment given realistic ridership projections and operating cost estimates) pay for itself is kind of the definition of a project that is a waste.

            5. were? They still are! That’s the problem.

    2. Why is REASON.COM so anti-public trans?

      You must be stupid.

      Reason is against PUBLIC trans because it is paid by taxation and controlled (badly) by government.

      Reason is all in favor of PRIVATE mass transit. You should be asking why government is anti-private transit.

    3. Actually, the NYC subways were private initiatives that were later regulated into unprofitability and then socialized since their lack of profitability made them a threat of closure.

      In cities like NYC, it makes sense to have public transit. The bulk of the workforce is commuting into the roughly 24 square miles that is Manhattan South of 96th street. It lends itself to a hub and spoke structure. Somewhere like LA that is organized as a broad network of locations and destinations means you run out of money very quickly or leave the poor schmucks using it screwed.

      Try sticking with singing. You do it better than economic analysis.

      1. http://tinyurl.com/humquvp

        http://tinyurl.com/hhbyke5

        Pop quiz. Who knows why the SF cable car system was built?

        Honorable mention on the Reason forums if you get it right!

    4. It was the capitalists that built the subways in New York and it was largely seen as a greedy, dangerous profiteering stunt.

  27. “There’s a slight problem with such a plan: This does not appear to be how the citizens of Los Angeles actually want to live. ”

    That’s not a bug it’s a feature.

    Subjugating people and forcing them to live in ways they don’t want is the whole point of progressivism.

    1. Subjugating people and forcing them to live in ways they don’t want is the whole point of progressivism.

      I’d argue that conservatives are bigger fans of segregation and keep those that “can’t afford the neighborhood” out.

      1. And you’d be wrong.

      2. Re: David Bowie (RIP)

        I’d argue that conservatives are bigger fans of segregation

        You can argue all you want. Reality shows that it is in Democratic enclaves where the poor are ghettoed or displaced because of zoning rules and licensing laws.

        1. It’s like France – anything progressives don’t like is because of conservatives, even if the conservatives are socialists too.

      3. You’ve been drinking the Kool Aid.

        Liberal = cares for the poor, elderly, sick, children and the environment.
        Conservative = rich SOB who doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

    2. What’s the point of power if the people you have power over don’t know that you have power over them? And what’s the most recognizable form of power? The ability to *hurt* someone.

  28. “walkable neighborhoods near transit stops”

    It also means having to go out *every day* to shop for dinner. It means walking a mile to the transit stop with anything you buy. It means traveling across the city is a multi-hour ordeal requiring planning rather than something that can be accomplished at will in less than one. It means *less* mobility (Very Herbertian of them – control of the people’s movements helps the tyranny) and a poorer population as the diffusion of the population means that you can’t take advantage of the economies of scale that we have now.

    There’s a reason these little picturesque neighborhoods with their own bar and grocery shop look good on postcard but are rare in the US – they’re more common in the EU where regulations force this upon people – because those are great places to *visit*, even great places to *retire* to, they suck as places to live. I know – I lived in a picturesque little Italian town for over three years.

    1. In the meantime, let’s look at China and India. Countries where economic freedoms are gaining footholds. What is that? Those newly successful people want cars and roads and planes. Not TOD. Really.

  29. “Southern Californians Prefer Driving, Not Trains?News at Eleven
    Mass transit use steadily dropping in greater Los Angeles area.”

    Of course it is, with the tax base shrinking as fast as it is the traffic must be getting better.

  30. Concentrating on a couple lower cost enablers would help cyclists w/out completely destroying existing auto access and routes.
    Since last fall I’ve started riding my the last 5 (congested) miles of a 26 mile commute in San Diego as well as making shopping runs often on my bike. I was so out of shape it wasn’t really possible until I installed an electric drive assist on my bike. Distances became possible and also practical due to the higher average speed I can maintain with a drive assisting my pedaling. A few months of spinning with assist and now I can ride that route unassisted (but the electric helps to shorten commute to a practical amount of time).

    There are some disincentives to riders like a) parking and b) geographic islands I’ve encountered first hand these past months that should be relatively easy and inexpensive to address (at least compared to the grand urban plan fantasies some want foist on an unwilling majority). Some simpler things would (may) get more people onto bikes and ease the traffic.

    1. Some states, such as New York, have outlawed motor-assisted bicycles. Now, I see them chained up outside every Chinese restaurant I pass when I visit Manhattan, so people are ignoring that law, but I’ve also watched “investigative reporting” on NY TV stations about this “menace.” They are legal here in Connecticut.

      I take Metro North, and the subway, and even the Roosevelt Island tram when I visit The City.* I’d drive, but my
      car is old and feeble, and no way I’m paying a Willet’s Point mechanic the ransom it would take to fix it if it broke down. Said WP mechanics are being ousted and sent to the Bronx due to eminent domain threats involving “revitalizing” the neighborhoods around Citi Field. It makes me ashamed to be a Mets fan.

      Kevin R

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