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Old 03-31-2014, 09:16 PM
 
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In L.A. the Bus Riders' Union has been a thorn in the MTA's side ever since they started putting rail lines. I'm not saying they don't offer some valid arguments in the debate, or that they haven't been validated by at least some court decisions. What's more, I think these arguments carried even more weight when the operational part of the rail system was very limited and few people rode it. Compared to the total area served by the MTA and local municipal bus companies, the rail system still is quite limited, but does reach a lot more places these days. And a lot more people ride it as well; collectively with about the same ethnic composition as bus passengers. Regardless, though, the BRU's answer to transit problem is always and only more buses. Get people out of their cars? Add more buses. Improve transit efficiency and throughput? Add more buses. Reduce congestion? more buses. And so on. I should mention, for those who don't know, that on the MTA trains and buses all carry the same fare of $1.50, the same passes work on both, and there is, as yet, no zoning. In the future zoning may be needed at least for some of the longer rail lines.

Progressive bloggers and writers have usually taken the BRU line when it comes to L.A. transit. Rail projects are as injust--because some of the money to build them has to be reallocated from somewhere else, namely bus operations, they are physically massive, and possibly because they smack of 19th-Century rail baron hubris. Just as with the intercity railroads that snaked across the landscape in the 19th century, a new urban transit line has the potential to attract residents and businesses to the places it goes to. Railroads usually aren't anyone's ideal of "small is beautiful" or block-by-block popular empowerment--the latter notwithstanding the fact that many local neighborhoods have advocated for stations to be placed in their areas. We hear from Tom Wetzel of some charming Victorian structures torn down to build the Pershing Square Red Line station. For the most part, I like Wetzel's website, and I agree that the buildings in question were a sad loss for historic preservation, but I think it's a bit much to say they had to be demolished in order for the subway to be built. Again, for those who don't know, L.A.'s subway is mostly deep bore tunneled; the use of cut-and-cover digging has been limited.

Mike Davis's views in the 2006 edition of City of Quartz are similar, pointing out that the bus system lost about 71M total fares between 1991 and 1997. Reduced to a monthly estimate this works out to some 800K-odd boardings, and Davis doesn't bother to mention that, by 2006, rail system usage had grown exponentially. In December 2006 there were about 6.6M rail system boardings which, if extrapolated over a similar seven-year span, would amount to many times the decrease in bus trips in the 1990s. Davis also claims that each subway passenger is subsidized to the tune of $27, which is hard to reconcile with the MTA's claim that farebox recovery is somewhere around 35%. Undoubtedly neither figure is unequivocally true, but $27 per passenger trip? I don't think so.

Implying, like the others, that the only just mode of public transit runs on rubber tires in the midst of street traffic, Robert Garcia cites the fact that the rail system has, so to speak, "stolen" riders from the buses. The graph accompanying his article bears this out, but my opinion this is only to be expected. All things being equal, I can't imagine why anyone would prefer to ride a bus if he or she could make the same trip entirely or mostly by train. Nobody's going to ride a bus from NoHo to downtown L.A. because the subway makes the same trip much faster than would be possible by bus. The difference in terms of speed and other aspects of the passenger experience is so stark that, over the long term, the availability of rail transit in or through a given area is bound to influence people's choices of where they seek housing, employment, and entertainment. It's not necessarily a good thing if the bus system loses riders, but if it comes as a result of a better transit alternative being available, it's hardly fair to call it a failure of the system overall. Neither should it be a civil outrage if the rail lines do attract a handful more Anglo passengers who probably wouldn't otherwise be using transit at all, because it's with them that the system is beginning succeed in getting people out of their cars. In any case, just as with the buses, the ridership aboard the trains is overwhelmingly working class and overwhelmingly non-Anglo.

I'm curious if the mass transit debate is framed the same way elsewhere. I wouldn't expect it in cities like NYC and Boston, where rail transit has long been the backbone of their systems, but what about other places where systems are being planned or expanded? Is it always a given that advocating for the working class means rejecting expensive metro projects when that same money could be used to roll out more buses immediately?

To my way of thinking, it was socially regressive to dismantle existing rail systems in the last century, and it's just as regressive to oppose them now.

Last edited by Those Who Squirm; 03-31-2014 at 09:57 PM..
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:22 PM
 
Location: southern california
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mexico runs on buses not rails. it would make sense that LA second largest mexican city in the world would do the same.
i approve.
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:34 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Mexico City's subway system is well used
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Old 03-31-2014, 09:59 PM
 
905 posts, read 798,174 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huckleberry3911948 View Post
mexico runs on buses not rails. it would make sense that LA second largest mexican city in the world would do the same.
i approve.
We're talking about urban transit here, not intercity passenger service. Mexico City has an extensive subway system which does run, now that I think of it, on rubber tires within its tunnels.

And that was 6.6 million boardings for 12/2006, not 6.6 as I'm sure everyone assumed anyway. Original post corrected.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:46 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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The thing is, not that rail isn't useful, in the rush to get rail riders (read this as wealthy white people) the people who need the system most lose service.

This is an interesting article about the Transbay center construction in SF. There was talk the project should be cancelled since the connecting rail projects are iffy.

The leader commented, it is like it isn't important for buses to have nice infrastructure. FYI the original terminal, after the streetcars died, serves lots of regional bus lines.

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancis...nt?oid=2747715
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Old 04-01-2014, 12:18 AM
 
905 posts, read 798,174 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
The thing is, not that rail isn't useful, in the rush to get rail riders (read this as wealthy white people) the people who need the system most lose service.
Rail opponents want you to read it as "rich white people", but it isn't very accurate for urban transit. For more suburban oriented systems, e.g. most of BART, or Metrolink in greater L.A. it might ring a littler more true. To make the argument work you have to conflate urban and suburban transit systems. Commonly accepted "wisdom" about rail projects often takes a long time to fade away even if untrue; the L.A. Times and the BRU insisted for years that nobody was riding the trains, even as ridership began to soar; now at least the LAT has finally stopped dishing that out. I guess they finally sent a reporter down the block to take a train ride...
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Old 04-01-2014, 01:11 AM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
27,171 posts, read 29,733,004 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Those Who Squirm View Post
Rail opponents want you to read it as "rich white people", but it isn't very accurate for urban transit. For more suburban oriented systems, e.g. most of BART, or Metrolink in greater L.A. it might ring a littler more true. To make the argument work you have to conflate urban and suburban transit systems. Commonly accepted "wisdom" about rail projects often takes a long time to fade away even if untrue; the L.A. Times and the BRU insisted for years that nobody was riding the trains, even as ridership began to soar; now at least the LAT has finally stopped dishing that out. I guess they finally sent a reporter down the block to take a train ride...
It depends. Even in urban areas, the favored quarters (aka the more affluent places) tend to get rail first. And expansion first. And better service first. In NYC, Manhattan gets the most rail, the other boroughs are kinda dissed. In Chicago, the south side is dissed for tail, while the north side has better coverage.....

In San Francisco, the subway to Geary is blocked, as is BRT, even though it is a heavily used corridor, while the mini CentralmSubway gets built. Or let's talk about the T-line in SF, going to Hunters Point. As soon as it opened, they cut frequency on the corridor. It is also the only rail serving predominately black hunters point and took decades to get approved.
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Old 04-01-2014, 04:09 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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The so-called Bus Riders Union does not represent the majority of people who ride the bus. I grew up taking the bus and still take it. Plenty of my relatives, especially the older ones, take it as well. I would consider myself pretty progressive. Buses can be horrible. HORRIBLE. They show up late, or they don't show up at all, without warning, even if you're using the app that lets you know when the bus is about to arrive, leaving you stranded late at night in a questionable area (in my case with a small child in tow). The app will tell you when the bus is about to show up to your stop, but neglects to to tell you the bus has been rerouted and is therefore skipping your stop. And, when you contact MTA about this, they simply ignore your inquiry and don't bother to respond. BRU glosses over the fact that buses are miserable way to travel when you've got to be somewhere (like work, school, or a meeting) on time. I've taken the bus clear across the city, and while it did ultimately get me to my destination, the entire trip leaves much to be desired, to say the least.

Buses don't have to be that way, but some (not all) lines in L.A. are. It's true; the BRU usually responds to all things by insisting on more buses. That is not the answer for poor people, people of color, and anybody, for that matter. Trains have their place in the overall transit system. Trains must work together with buses. Trains separated from street traffic move you quickly across large expanses of the city, particularly within denser areas ,as well as from outlying population centers into denser areas. Buses, which are slower and also get caught up in car traffic, are supposed to connect to these train lines and take people farther out from those main arteries. That's how a real city with real public transit is supposed to work. You can't expect buses to do the work of a train, just as you can't expect trains to do the work of a bus. It's not supposed to be all just about buses, no matter what the misguided (and frankly misnamed BRU) claims.
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Old 04-01-2014, 07:11 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,992 posts, read 42,080,368 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
It depends. Even in urban areas, the favored quarters (aka the more affluent places) tend to get rail first. And expansion first. And better service first. In NYC, Manhattan gets the most rail, the other boroughs are kinda dissed. In Chicago, the south side is dissed for tail, while the north side has better coverage.....
Rail was mostly built in the first few decades of the 20th century in NYC, it has nothing to do with wealth. The system reflected the city's population distribution 80 or 90 years ago. And Manhattan wasn't wealthier than the rest of the city back then. Many poorer outer borough areas aren't exactly lacking in coverage, except compared to Manhattan which is expected for a radial system. Though NW Brooklyn has nearly as good coverage as Manhattan itself, partly from geography and partly because Downtown Brooklyn was more important back then. Today, wealth plays a big role. The Upper East Side gets another subway, and deservably since it has the highest ridership route. There's not funds, but poor areas of Brooklyn haven't got even serious proposals.

Quote:
In San Francisco, the subway to Geary is blocked, as is BRT, even though it is a heavily used corridor, while the mini CentralmSubway gets built.
The Richmond District is wealthier than Chinatown, it just gets less attention.
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Old 04-01-2014, 07:15 AM
 
2,388 posts, read 2,960,847 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jade408 View Post
It depends. Even in urban areas, the favored quarters (aka the more affluent places) tend to get rail first. And expansion first. And better service first.
Ridership estimates are triple vetted before rail projects get funded . . . and since every city is competing for the same small pot of federal funding cities put their best projects forward. If there's a correlation between people with money and proximity to downtown job centers then that's what it is.

Quote:
In NYC, Manhattan gets the most rail, the other boroughs are kinda dissed.
Manhattan? Seriously? NYC has a legacy system that was built when there were two main subway companies competing for riders. That's when all of this stuff was private and market based. And back then - as now - most of the jobs were in Manhattan so that's where the lines went. Still, Brooklyn and Bronx don't wont for subway lines. Manhattan is simply the nexus. If anything it's middle-class Queens and Staten Island that get short-changed . . . but then again Queens is lower density and yet still dotted with LIRR stations.

Quote:
In Chicago, the south side is dissed for tail, while the north side has better coverage.....
again, no. The south side has the same amount of rail as the north side and the south side has the additional benefit of the Metra Electric routes that don't exist on the north side.

Quote:
In San Francisco, the subway to Geary is blocked, as is BRT, even though it is a heavily used corridor, while the mini CentralmSubway gets built.
You can't expand Muni without the Central Subway. It has to get built first. You can't feed a Geary line into the Market St. subway - as it is now the capacity doesn't exist at peak periods. If you're still confused about this read up on the 1998 Muni Meltdown - ridership has only grown since then. Geary will feed into the Central Subway . . . once it gets built.

Quote:
Or let's talk about the T-line in SF, going to Hunters Point. As soon as it opened, they cut frequency on the corridor. It is also the only rail serving predominately black hunters point and took decades to get approved.
Yes, Muni spent $800 million on a light rail line to HP just so they could cut service because it's the only black neighborhood in SF. Wait . . . what? It wouldn't have anything to do with Caltrain moving the Bayside Station? Or the fact that ridership on the line was dismal in its first few years . . . mostly because it opened as the GFC was unfolding?

I think the axe is gone and you're down to the handle.

Last edited by drive carephilly; 04-01-2014 at 07:29 AM..
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