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In California, Transit Expansion Meets Shared Mobility

03/18/2015

 

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

 

Union-station-bus-best-500px-WEB

 

Last month, I got a sense of the profound transportation changes underway in California when I attended the Live Ride Share summit in Los Angeles. The focus of the day-long event was how the new "sharing economy" is beginning to reshape the way Californians live and get around. In this context, Live Ride Share brought together people from government, the private sector, nonprofit organizations, and others to discuss collaboratively accelerating the proliferation and use of transportation options in the LA region.

 

There are many reasons to advance transportation options. High on the list for California are ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The expansion of transit—along with car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing—will help the state achieve those goals.

 

In 2006, California enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act, which set a target for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The law established a system of pollution fees and a cap-and-trade auction. The pollution fees are estimated to total over $1 billion in the 2015-2016 program year and an impressive 60 percent of the revenue will be spent on strategies to reduce driving! The following table shows how that funding will be targeted.

 

California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funding Allocation

Percent of Total GHG Funds 2015-2016

High speed rail

25%

Transit and intercity rail capital program

10%

Low carbon transportation options program

5%

Affordable housing & sustainable communities

20%

Combined total

60%

Source: California Air Resources Board

 

 

The expansion of public transit was a priority in California’s major metropolitan regions long before the state made a commitment to address climate change. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system opened in 1972, at a time when the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro region was beginning two decades of stop and go (mostly stop) planning for rail transit. In 1981, San Diego became the first US city to open a modern light rail line. The Los Angeles region, which had no rail in 1980, today has an impressive bus and rail system.

  

Transit-LosAngeles-Region


The weekend I was in LA, I rode nearly every mode of transit—all for purposeful trips to destinations I really needed to reach.

 

The LA region has 70 miles of light rail, one subway line, and 390 miles of regional/commuter rail, plus an extensive bus system. Local voters have approved funding referendums for transit over the past decade. Measure R, which passed in 2008 with a 2/3rd vote in favor, generates about $850 million annually for transit through a half-cent increase in the regional sales tax for transit in LA County. Measure R revenues are paying for the five rail lines under construction in Los Angeles County today.

 

Live Ride Share attendees hope that combining use of this robust public transit system with the innovations that allow for sharing of rides, cars, and will enable the LA region and the state of California to reduce driving and car ownership.

 

“We need shared mobility for an economically viable region.”

Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Council of Governments

 

In addition to expanded public transit, the Live Ride Share summit highlighted recent developments for shared mobility apps, services, and infrastructure. Of interest:

 

  • Lyft and Uber’s ride sharing services continue to expand in California, but controversies about safety training and employment practices continue.
  • Flywheel, a new app, is being used by traditional taxis in San Francisco that are battling with Uber and Lyft for market share.
  • Bike share won’t come to the City of Los Angeles until 2016. The program will be run by LA Metro, the transportation agency, with funding coming from highway express lane toll revenues.
  • The Getaround app connects vehicle owners with people who want to rent their vehicle for an afternoon, week, or weekend. It is available currently in four West Coast cities.

 

It was exciting to hear from others at this event who are passionate about creating an integrated system of multimodal transportation options. Clearly, Los Angeles County is ambitiously moving ahead with transit and bike/walk investments. But they also don’t yet have the bike-sharing or car sharing systems we enjoy here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. That tells me we need to keep taking advantage of the options we do have, while also pushing for more, if we want to keep pace with peer cities around the country.

 

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