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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies

There are 359 publications in this collection, published between 2009 and 2024.
Capstone Projects (121)

A Scoot, Skip, and a JUMP Away: Learning from Shared Micromobility Systems in San Francisco

In 2018 electric powered shared scooters and stationless electric bikeshare proliferated throughout the United States. Many cities have begun to experiment with new permitting systems and regulations for these vehicles. To date, there is scant academic literature on how well scooter and stationless bikeshare permits have helped cities achieve their transit, sustainability, and equity goals. San Francisco was one of the first cities in the United States to create permit systems for stationless bikeshare and scooter companies. This research evaluates scooters and stationless bikeshare use as a first/last mile transit option, reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and equity of utilization. The author evaluates these systems using a mixed methods approach and primary data collected by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) as part of its pilot permit programs. Results indicate that the two travel modes substantially support transit usage, both by connecting riders to transit and by replacing automobile trips. Shared e-bikes reduce VMT significantly more than scooters by replacing more and longer auto trips. Scooters are more likely to reduce VMT by connecting riders to transit. Rider demographics for both travel modes do not demonstrate improved equitable utilization as compared to traditional, personally owned bikes at this time.

One Light, Two Light, Red Light, Green Light: An Analysis of Signal Priority on the Metro G Line

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) planning staff, working alongside engineers from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) seek to make improvements to the Metro G Line (Orange) busway to address a number of operational problems with the popular line. The Metro G Line is the backbone of transit in the San Fernando Valley, serving more than 22,000 pre-COVID-19 pandemic weekday boardings. Part of the problem for public transit in a chronically traffic congested place like Los Angeles is that buses typically have to compete for road space with private automobiles. As a result, buses get stuck in traffic. Light rail vehicles, when travelling on surface streets with cars, get stuck in traffic as well. The G line busway thus has a significant advantage, as it runs on its own dedicated route. Efforts to further separate the G line from nearby traffic, such as grade separated over- and under-passes or railroad-style gate arms at street crossings, will require complex planning and take considerable time and resources to implement. However, speeding up the G line with current infrastructure is possible by improving transit signal priority (TSP). TSP prioritizes a direction along a roadway by extending green time at signals so priority vehicles (in this case buses) can pass through an intersection without stopping.This report explores the current signal regime along the G line alignment, some of the history of the TSP system, and draws on case studies to develop applicable lessons to the Metro G line.

School Transportation Equity for Vulnerable Student Populations through Ridehailing: An Analysis of HopSkipDrive and Other Trips to School in Los Angeles County

The Every Student Succeeds Act (2015) gave foster youth additional legal protections in school, including the right to transportation and the right to remain at their school despite any moves, similar to protections already in place for students experiencing homelessness and students with disabilities. Californiaís compliance with this mandate was relatively more difficult than other statesí, as less than ten percent of students in California travel by school bus, compared with 35 percent nationally. Thus, California schools could not simply tap into their existing services to provide transportation for foster youth. Ridehailing offers a solution to this gap. HopSkipDrive, a ridehailing company designed to transport children, engages in contracts with school districts and county governments to provide school transportation for these vulnerable student populations. In 2018ñ2019, HopSkipDrive provided 32,796 trips to school in Los Angeles County, with massive time savings over the logical alterative: transit. Using Googleís Directions API, I determine that HopSkipDrive offers time savings of nearly 70 percent compared with the same trips simulated on transit. HopSkipDriveís trips average 28 minutes in duration, yet on transit only 30 percent would have taken less than 45 minutes. This is despite 90 percent of all origins and destinations being located within a half-mile of a transit stop. This service has important social equity implications beyond just time savings offered to vulnerable student populations, as HopSkipDrive contract trips tend to originate in neighborhoods with high percentages of low-income households and people of color.

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Policy Briefs (164)
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Reports (52)

Falling Transit Ridership: California and Southern California

In the last ten years transit use in Southern California has fallen significantly. This report investigates that falling transit use. We define Southern California as the six counties that participate in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Imperial. We examine patterns of transit service and patronage over time and across the region, and consider an array of explanations for falling transit use: declining transit service levels, eroding transit service quality, rising fares, falling fuel prices, the growth of Lyft and Uber, the migration of frequent transit users to outlying neighborhoods with less transit service, and rising vehicle ownership. While all of these factors probably play some role, we conclude that the most significant factor is increased motor vehicle access, particularly among low-income households that have traditionally supplied the region with its most frequent and reliable transit users.

Transit(ory) Finance: The Past, Present, and Future Fiscal Effects of COVID-19 on Public Transit in Southern California

This study reports on the recent past, present, and immediate future public transit finance in Southern California in light of the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, we draw on transit agency budgets, interviews, preliminary survey results, and other datasets and reports. Initially, the financial situation of transit operators in the region appeared dire, with plummeting ridership and fares and rising subsidies and operating costs. However, the three enormous federal pandemic relief bills brought $4.4 billion to Southern California transit agencies and helped the region weather the fiscal storm, until many of the state and local tax revenue sources on which the region’s transit agencies rely bounced back—and more quickly than most forecasters initially predicted. This is, in other words, the story of successful public policy intervention to the benefit of both the region’s transit riders and workers, though most operators nonetheless cut service and their workforces to varying degrees during the pandemic. The principal dilemma facing the region’s transit operators in 2022 is not a depressed economy, but an overheated one plagued by labor shortages, supply-chain bottlenecks, and inflation—as agencies plan for the end of large-scale federal operating support and an uncertain ridership future.

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Other Work (22)

Transit Blues in the Golden State: Regional transit ridership trends in California

Public investment in transit increased following the Great Recession, yet transit use nationally mostly fell, even prior to the 2020 pandemic. We investigate this troubling disjuncture by comparing transit ridership trends during the 2010s in two of America’s largest regions: Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. While both California regions lost transit riders, we see substantial differences in the scale, timing, geography, and modes of these declines. In the LA area, ridership fell longer and further, spread more across routes, times, and sub-regions and concentrated on the region’s dominant operator. In both regions, increasing auto access appears to have played a central role, albeit in different ways. Greater LA saw increased automobile ownership, particularly among high-propensity transit riders. In the Bay Area, as jobs and housing have dispersed, ridehail services like Lyft and Uber may have eroded non-commute transit use.

A Bus Home: Homelessness in U.S. Transit Environments

More than 500,000 people experience homelessness in the United States, and many turn to transit vehicles, stops, and stations for shelter. We present findings from a survey of 115 U.S. and Canadian transit operators that inquired about homelessness on transit systems. We find that homelessness is broadly present, though more concentrated on central hotspots, and worsened during the pandemic. In response, transit agencies often initiate a combination of punitive and outreach strategies. Based on our findings, we argue for better data collection, establishment of policies and protocols, engagement in outreach strategies, and partnering with service providers.

Who lives in transit-friendly neighborhoods? An analysis of California neighborhoods over time

In this paper we examine social and economic trends in California’s transit-friendly neighborhoods since 2000. In particular, we explore the relationship between high-propensity transit users – who we define here as members of households classified as poor, immigrant, African-American, and without private vehicles – and high-transit-propensity places – which are neighborhoods that regularly host high levels of transit service or use. As housing costs have increased dramatically in California and neighborhoods change, many planners and transit advocates reasonably worry that in transit-friendly neighborhooods, lower-propensey transit users may replace residents who tend to ride transit frequently. Such changes in residential patterns could help to explain sharp transit ridership declines in California in the 2010s ahead of much sharper pandemic-related ridership losses in 2020. Indeed, we find that California’s most transit-friendly neighborhoods have changedin ways that do not bode well for transit use. The state's shares of poor, immigrant, African American, and zero-vehicle households have all declined modestly to substantially since 2000. Collectively, these trends point to changes in California’s most transit-friendly neighborhoods that are not very, well, transit-friendly.

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