Native Angeleno who has worked in public, academic and special libraries, as well as museums and college instruction. I am responsible for maintaining the Metro Transportation Library website, all of our social media properties, and digitization efforts to bring more of our resources to our users whenever they need them. For more information, visit The Metro Library website.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Subway Wraps: Innovative Transit Revenue Streams (Not Sandwiches)...

Image via NYC The Blog

We've written before about the financial crunch facing most transit operators in the current economy, but many agencies are countering difficult decisions with new ways to supplement revenue beyond the usual raising of fares and cutting staff and service.

Last year, the Transit Cooperative Research Program issued a report titled Practical Measures To Increase Transit Advertising Revenues (107p. PDF). It states that

The overarching conclusion is that transit advertising is well positioned to grow, assuming that the overall economy cooperates and the advertising business as a whole keeps growing. The outlook from organizations that track media trends is that the shifting of dollars out of traditional media and into non-traditional formats will continue.

The research team also recommended that the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) form or endorse formation of an independent transit advertising trade association and that transit agencies "introduce digital and interactive (experiential) technologies to transit advertising."

An article this month in Metro Magazine discusses transit business development efforts through creative advertising, and highlights success stories in Oceanside (CA) and Purcellville (VA), as well as the Florida Legislature's interest in allowing school buses in the state to sell ads on the sides of buses.

This week, a much larger agency made a huge splash: The New York MTA broke new ground by unveiling the first-ever subway wrapped in advertising. The ads for Target (opening in East Harlem in July) will run for six weeks and are expected to bring in $250,000 in additional revenue for the cash-strapped agency.

A photo collection of the campaign can be viewed here, and here's some video footage of the rolling advertisement in action:

As you can see, the wrapping is just on the outside, as opposed to the Holland Times Square Shuttle which saw several visually arresting interiors during its installation, in addition to external wrapping.

Images via NYC The Blog

We've seen buses wrapped in advertising for a long time now, and light rail as well. However, this is believed to be the first time an entire subway train has been covered with revenue-generating advertising.

This Toronto Transit Commission streetcar is decked out with a full-body wrap of advertising for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2008.

Given the challenges of providing great service in the current economic climate as well as the embrace of new advertising and revenue models, expect to see more outside-the-box partnerships in the future. Whether people support public transportation through economic necessity, "greening" their lives, or personal preference, the TCRP Report states that transit advertising must find a way to counter the lack of credibility, relevance and distinctiveness in today's advertising marketplace.

Meanwhile, sooner rather than later, we may not be far off from seeing even more unusual ventures coming our way, such as this IKEA installation in a Paris Metro Station earlier this year.

Images via Freshome

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sustainability In Transportation: A New International Exhibit And Metro Library's Up-To-The-Minute Resources

An international exhibit on sustainable transportation opens today in New York titled "Our Cities Ourselves," a joint program of the Institute for Transportation and Development policy and the AIA Center for Architecture.

Sustainability has become a wide-ranging term inclusive of many concepts related to the ability to endure, whether pertaining to ecosystems, consumption of natural resources and energy, urban planning, and other topics and disciplines.

This new exhibit is noteworthy because it pertains to the planning for economic, environmental, and social sustainability of transportation in ten of the most fascinating cities around the world which have already proven to be leaders in innovation in sustainable transport.

The exhibit includes images and 3-D models of urban neighborhoods as they are envisioned in 2030 alongside photos of how they look today.

Even more exciting, ten of the world's leading architects have been working for the past year to demonstrate how each city is "fertile ground" for further transformation in large-scale sustainability.

The proposed projects are as different from each other as the cities are themselves. By 2030, 60% of the global population (5 billion people) will be living in urban areas, mostly in developing nations. It is fascinating to see how various architects have envisioned sustainable transport in Ahmedabad, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam, Guangzhou, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Mexico City, New York, and Rio de Janeiro.

Want to learn more?

The Metro Library provides appropriate resources on timely topics such as sustainability. Our website features up-to-the-minute dynamic bibliographies of selected transportation topics, including sustainability in transportation, from a variety of sources, including:

The U.S. National Transportation Library: The NTL maintains and facilitates access to statistical and other information needed for transportation decision-making at the Federal, State and local levels. In 2008, the NTL was re-launched through a merger with the U.S. Department of Transportation Library, serving both government agencies and the general public

The WorldCat database: The world's largest network of library content and services, allowing you to search the collections of libraries in your area and thousands more around the world for relevant information in every imaginable format, including books, audiovisual materials, scholarly articles, and digital resources

Metro's Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library Catalog: Our own online catalog containing records for our extensive holdings which include over 45,000 books, reports, studies, conference proceedings, plans, maps, drawings, and other items
We are committed to providing the most appropriate resources within the scope of our collection areas, as well as improving both access and "findability." We will continue to develop our current bibliographies for selected transportation topics resources as the field of transportation research evolves and as we move forward with our own related Measure R projects.

Responding appropriately to the needs of our staff and public users is a measure of sustainability in and of itself.

Back in New York, architect Michael Sorkin says that the streets were laid out by the Dutch in a fundamentally "Medieval" pattern...not made for cars." His vision is for many more pedestrians and bicycles, and very few cars. He proposes tearing down the lower part of FDR Drive, which runs along the east side of Manhattan. Sound implausible? He states "A year ago, nobody thought you could close Broadway, but suddenly it's closed, and everyone loves it."

An all-day symposium titled "Architects, Developers, and Transport Planners on the Future of the City" will be held Saturday, June 26 to continue to discussion of this important and timely topic. The exhibit is on display through September 11, 2010 at the Center for Architecture Gallery before moving on to other cities around the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost Parkways Of Los Angeles: The 1946 Proposed Interregional, Regional And Metropolitan Plan

In the long history of transit planning in Los Angeles, early documents focused on relieving congestion with new street plans. Shortly after phenomenal growth in both area and population before World War II, various studies and reports outlined ambitious plans for moving people greater distances in a shorter amount of time.

In 1946, the Interregional, Regional, Metropolitan Parkways report proposed an extensive system of highways and parkways criss-crossing the entire county. It explained that
While parkway construction is often more expensive per mile than a substantial widening of a business thoroughfare, it is much cheaper in results. A single lane of parkway roadway will carry 1,500 cars per hour at average speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour, compared with 500 to 700 cars per hour at average speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour for the surface street traffic lane.
The report went on to propose that
The parkways of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area are proposed to provide the major elements of a rapid transit bus system. The use of the parkways by express buses will more than double the passenger carrying capacity of the parkways, thus doubling their economic value to the area. They will provide rapid transit service for the area at a small fraction of the cost of any type of separate rapid transit system.
The report implies that bus transit would logically replace fixed-rail streetcars as the most practical method of moving people farther distances in shorter amounts of time as the population continued to embrace the automobile.

The report recommends construction of no fewer than 43 highways and parkways for Los Angeles County! Several of these were constructed as the same-named familiar freeways of today, while others were eventually constructed under new names.

However, many more never came to pass, and the bucolic-sounding parkways concept was eventually abandoned. Here are just a few eye-opening proposals for parkways, many of which would have replaced major street-traffic arteries:

Allesandro Parkway: an original proposal for the Glendale Freeway
Normandie Parkway: a Midtown north-south connector along Normandie
La Brea (Crenshaw) Parkway: to replace La Brea Boulevard between Hollywood and Inglewood
Appian Parkway: from Long Beach to the Orange County line
Manhattan Parkway: connecting Manhattan Beach to the Sepulveda Parkway (now I-405)
Whitnall Parkway: across the San Fernando Valley from Burbank to Chatsworth

The report contains several maps as well as the complete list of highways and parkways, their length in miles, and their estimated cost of construction. The entire project for Los Angeles County was estimated at 289.9 miles at a cost of $463,302,000.

We mentioned Los Angeles County's phenomenal growth in population and area before World War II. Now consider post-War growth: Today, Los Angeles County's freeway and highway system has mushroomed to over three times the size of the 1946 proposal (915 freeway and highway miles), while the population has exploded to such an extent that the County still ranks only 32st in lane-miles per capita amongst metropolitan areas in the United States (0.419 lane-miles per 1,000 people).

It's a much different world now than in 1946 - clearly illustrated by this photo from the parkways report, captioned "Heavy Traffic Flowing Smoothly On Parkway":

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who Let The Data Out?: Comparing Transit Systems' Open Data Elements

Washington D.C. is the latest transit agency of note to open its data to the public - and they are going all out to take the lead in this area in order to improve service. The agency is creating a comprehensive system for web, mobile, and other software applications to access a wide variety of transit information.

This week, the WMATA Customer Services, Operations, And Safety Committee released a report on Transparent Metro Data Sets which included a handy chart with side-by-side comparisons of data types for several transit agencies (including L.A. Metro) relating to both bus and rail.

The chart shows some categories of information that WMATA will make publicly accessible that many other transit agencies do not, including bus positions, bus route shapes, rail elevator and escalator incidents, rail station prediction, and rail system incidents.

Last year, Metro launched a developer site for individuals and entities to access transportation and multi-modal data such as routes, stops, schedules, and geographical information. To date, at least 14 new transit applications have been developed, and there are surely many more to come.

We wanted to take a closer look at open data and how this fast-growing trend lends transparency and public participation to the collection, consumption and dissemination of information.

Numerous governmental institutions, including transit agencies, have jumped on the bandwagon to open up their data collections to the public so that information can be repurposed for the greater good.

City-Go-Round helps you find useful transit applications around the country, and encourages public transit agencies to open their data to software developers. While many agencies now provide open data, many others do not. City-Go-Round lists 690 agencies that are not providing open data, including several large ones such as MARTA (Atlanta), Miami-Dade Transit, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Calif.) and AC Transit (Alameda & Contra Costa Counties, Calif.).

Software developers using open data take advantage of citizens' specialized or expert skills, local knowledge, community-based needs, and other "professional amateurs." Applications such as FixMyStreet and SeeClickFix have broad appeal and been embraced by more than one locale.

Even something as mundane as the bus stop can be redesigned with data-friendly enhancements that support interactive maps and trip planning.

According to a Fleet Beat White Paper on open transit data:

The only negative some agencies see in providing their data to the public is the elimination of potential revenue from selling the data to developers. However, because the data is generated by taxpayer-funded agencies, the general consensus is that agencies should not profit from this data. Agencies that kept their data closed in hopes of selling it, such as New York City's MTA - who recently released their data - have experienced extensive backlash from both the developer community and transit passengers.

Furthermore, The Washington Post featured a story this week reporting that Freedom Of Information Act requests dropped substantially in 2009. It should be noted that proactively pushing data into the public sphere for applications development saves government agencies (and in turn, taxpayers) the cost of responding to public records requests.

Image via Flickr

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Transit Agency Cooperation In Mid-Century L.A. (Or Lack Thereof)...

How do we increase the appeal of public transit ridership in Los Angeles? Recent Los Angeles Times columns (here, here, and here) suggest that streamlining transfers and passes within and across agencies could go a long way to make transit more accommodating, flexible and desirable.

Last week, LACMTA's Board of Directors met to discuss related topics: having Metro develop a daily and weekly EZ Pass, develop a regional trip planner, and look into distance and time-based fares.

This issue is not new despite the long history of myriad agencies that have operated in the Los Angeles area over the last many years. We wanted to take a look back at the Transportation In The Los Angeles Area final report from 1957.

This unique document was the result of a citizens advisory panel. The Citizens Traffic And Transportation Committee For The Extended Los Angeles Area authored the report, and its Executive Committee roster lists no fewer than 54 names.

The Committee made several recommendations regarding surface streets, freeways, parking and terminal facilities, and mass transit service.

They found that:

Within a 20 mile radius of downtown Los Angeles, 31 separate carriers provide mass transit service through 178 carrier connections and 1400 points of interchange.

Ten basic rate structures apply, ranging from 10 to 20 cents; and 21 carriers provide for zone increments ranging from 3 to 10 cents per zone.

Joint fares with transfer privileges are in limited effect, involving only 11 of the transit companies. Except for one carrier which maintains joint fare agreements with three other carriers each of the agreements is between two or three of these eleven companies.

Only 11 of 31 transit carriers within a 20-mile radius of downtown cooperated on fares and transfers. No wonder the freeways looked so appealing for traveling long distances! They were new, moved quickly, and as people moved farther from work, public transit looked more complicated if one needed to use more than one transit provider.

Meanwhile, the report touted the benefits of freeways, even explaining that "Smaller communities, especially, have not recognized the need for or desirability of a freeway passing through their jurisdictions and have not planned their streets accordingly."

Because the master plan was not completed all at once (and in fact, never completed as outlined in this report), the report attributed congestion to people traveling out of their way to use the completed sections. It concludes that "it is essential that adequate financing be found to permit the expeditious completion of the freeway system."

Our freeway system as built is sometimes not a faster route than traveling via surface streets. We will never know if the network of freeways as envisioned in 1957 would necessarily move people more quickly today, but we will take a closer look at that proposal in our next post.

The covers of the report have been reproduced here. Note the inclusion of just about every type of transportation in these photo montages (click each image twice to enlarge).

Emphasis is placed on cars, freeways and buses, with freeway interchanges featured prominently. While Los Angeles' streetcars were still operating in 1957, they are noticeably omitted.