Future of public transit is the bus, not the train, says USC professor

By Madeleine Brand: kcrw – excerpt

Many Angelenos aren’t driving or taking public transportation as much anymore during the coronavirus pandemic. Ridership on LA trains and buses has dropped about 65%. LA has reduced service, closed entrances to stations, and started sanitizing vehicles and public spaces a lot more.

But once this is all over, will riders come back? What will public transportation look like then?

KCRW speaks with James Moore, engineering and public policy professor at USC who studies public transportation.

He says transit revenue will drop due to lower tax and sales revenue, which heavily fund public transit in LA.

But he says LA’s drop in ridership is lower than in New York and the Bay Area. Ridership has dropped some 85% there.

“It’s a testament to the fact of how important transit is to the low-income households. … That number says to me that transit in Los Angeles really is a very essential service.”…

What should LA build less of?

Moore suggests LA should stop building more trains, and that’s key to a successful public transit agency here. He says LA County has spent $26 billion on new construction, but total ridership has dropped since 1985.…(more)

Looks like Mr. Moore is suggesting the cheapest most flexible system. I agree and would limit the number and types of buses to cut maintenance costs. Paving the streets solves a lot of problems for everyone under all conditions and is a lot cheaper than working on rails and complicated digital controls for trains. Once the buses are working, and the economy improves, consider investing in more expensive transpiration systems. how many buses and drivers could be on the road now if the Central Subway funds had gone into improving the bus system?

Muni Switching to Bus Intervals Rather than a Fixed Schedule

By Roger Rudick : streetsblog – excerpt (includes video)

All it took was a global catastrophe to get Muni thinking about serving customers instead of moving vehicles

When someone goes to catch a bus or train, they probably don’t care if it’s on schedule per se–they just don’t want to end up waiting longer than they have to at the stop. And as anyone who has waited for forty minutes for an N Judah (or any train or bus) only to have three arrive nose-to-tail can attest, this basic fact seems lost on Muni.

Until now. SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin explained in a tweet that Muni is making the switch away from fixed schedules to making buses arrive at reliably fixed intervals, an approach known in transit parlance as “headway management”:…

“It is unfortunate that it’s taken a global pandemic to get Muni to take a chance on headway management, but I absolutely applaud them for being nimble enough to give it a try,” wrote the San Francisco Transit Riders’ Cat Carter in an email to Streetsblog. “Riders have been asking about it for years, because Muni schedules seem so far removed from reality.”


A change in personnel and major complaints and pressure from City Hall should help push through some big improvements, headway management being one of them.

Rearranged seats and personal hand straps: BART reveals 15-step plan to getting service back on track

abc7news – excerpt (includes video)

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — As more of the Bay Area’s economy reopens, more people are going to head back to work. BART says it has a plan to accommodate the anticipated surge in riders – and it’s a long one.

The agency laid out 15 steps it’s taking to maintain social distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as more riders return to the transit system:… (more)

Golden Gate Bridge District Receives $30.2M Grant from CARES Act

By Bay City News : nbcbayarea – excerpt

The funding will support the district’s transit and ferry services during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act included a $30.2 million grant for the Golden Gate Bridge, Transportation District, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Friday.

The funding will support the district’s transit and ferry services during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The grant is part of roughly $25 billion in CARES Act grants allocated to public transit agencies across the country.

“This historic $25 billion in grant funding will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who continue to depend on them,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said…(more)

30 million dollars to support a few months work of ferry service that is running limited service? “Until further notice, Golden Gate Ferry will operate reduced weekday services and NO weekend services.” There is not much traffic on the bridge these days. How much does it cost to operate this service each month?

SFMTA Essential Trip Card


The SFMTA COVID-19 page has the latest service and citation information.

Muni is making necessary service reductions during the order to shelter-in-place. We know that for many people with disabilities and seniors, walking farther to an alternate bus — or paying for other transportation — isn’t possible. To serve this need, the SFMTA is announcing the Essential Trip Card (ETC) – a discount program to help seniors and people with disabilities make essential trips in taxis during this crisis.

The ETC will subsidize about two to three round trips by taxi per month for older adults (persons 65 and older) and people with disabilities. Eligible participants will pay 20% of the cost of a regular cab ride fare for essential trips.  The program uses taxis to take people on essential trips like going to the grocery store, pharmacy or another necessary medical trip during the shelter-in-place period. Customers who pay $12 will receive $60 value for taxi trips on a debit card.

We ask riders to do their part by wearing a face covering as required, except when allowed by the April 17th Health Order, making only essential trips, washing their hands thoroughly or using hand sanitizer before and after taxi trips, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or elbow and not touching their faces. We also encourage riders to clean their debit card, child seat, or any items that the driver or anyone else may help to carry or load with a sanitizing cleaner, before and after your trip… (more)


Catching up on Muni Drivers

Notes from a zoom meeting:

We sat in on part of the SaveMuni zoom meeting yesterday where Roger Marenco, Muni Drivers’ Union President, joined for a short conversation about the health of the drivers. He informed us that twelve Muni employees were sickened by COVID-19 as of last month and that no new cases have been reported since.

We asked what he attributed this to. He feels that implementing the new social distancing standards, installing plastic shields around the drivers, requiring masks, entering the back of the bus, forgoing cash payments, and deep cleaning has been beneficial and hopes this experience will not be forgotten.

Trouble-plagued Transbay Center votes to extend, augment contract for longtime program manager

By : misisonlocal – exxcerpt

The $2.2 billion Transbay Transit Center has long been envisioned as the Grand Central Station of the west — but is presently referred to derisively as San Francisco’s billion-dollar bus stop after structural problems shut it down shortly after its 2018 opening. This morning, its board voted to extend and increase the contract for its longtime program manager, URS Corporation.

By a 6-1 vote of the Transbay Joint Power Authority Board of Directors, with only Matt Haney dissenting, the board picked up an option to extend URS’ present agreement through June of 2024, and to increase its budget by $14.6 million to a max of $50.6 million.

“They’ve been working on this project for a while, and some things have not gone well,” Haney noted prior to the vote… (more)

That is an understatement. The SF Board of Supervisors is sticking to a plan to do something about the failed transit system that is misspending tax-payer dollars and the Trans Bay Terminal is a poster child for that. No surprise that the district supervisor would not support a business as usual model in his district.

Supes send message to transit agency board by ousting director

By Jerrold Chinn : sfbayca – excerpt

Supervisors say they are sending a message to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors by ousting Director Cristina Rubke.

The board voted 6-5 Tuesday against Rubke’s reappointment — Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Sandra Fewer, Matt Haney, Dean Preston, Shamann Walton and Aaron Peskin voted in dissent…

Peskin, who plans to introduce a charter amendment next week that would restrict the SFMTA board authority, said:

“The only check and balance that we have really comes through the nomination and confirmation process and I think that sending a message not only to the MTA commission… but to other commissions, that when the duly elected Board of Supervisors comes up with a policy urgence, that policy urgence really must be heeded.”…(more)

With No Way ‘Back to Normal,’ Transit Focuses on Public Good

By Skip Descant : govtech – excerpt

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency slashed 75 percent of its service over a weekend, as the agency reacted to across-the-board service adjustments brought on by the coronavirus crisis…

In early April, transit operators in San Francisco slashed 75 percent of service over the course of a weekend. It was possibly the most significant step a transit system in a major city took as part of a larger effort to protect frontline workers from COVID-19, clean vehicles and respond to a rapid reduction in ridership.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) pulled streetcars and cable cars from service. It also shuttered the network’s subway system.

The redesign was completed on a Monday. The schedule and implementation of Phase I happened on Tuesday.

“That is two years’ worth of work that we did in four days,” marveled Jeffrey Tumlin, executive director of SFMTA, speaking during a panel discussion at the National Shared Mobility Summit, a virtual conference.

The redesign strategy zeroed in on high-traffic routes, ensuring service to critical areas like hospitals and other institutions.

“Now, we’re in the very fortunate position where our workforce is stabilizing and we’re making decisions about what lines to bring back. And I don’t think we’re going to bring the system back exactly as it was in February,” said Tumlin.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to question all of the historic, political decisions that created the transit system, in the form that it was when we inherited it,” he added.

The rapid redesign of a system that ordinarily serves more than 100,000 riders a day is the sort of large, foundational shift around transportation and urban life the coronavirus crisis has put in motion in cities across the country.…(more)