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Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of Try Transit! Lessons Learned From Metrolink Riders to Incentivize a Post-Pandemic Mode Shift to Commuter Rail

Try Transit! Lessons Learned From Metrolink Riders to Incentivize a Post-Pandemic Mode Shift to Commuter Rail

(2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic has left future travel to work behavior uncertain since most office employees have not yet returned to commuting to five days per week. This uncertainty underscores the precarious future of American commuter rail, with existing rail service narrowly focused on connecting suburbs to downtown employment centers. The goal of this project is to answer the following question: what factors motivate travelers to switch from driving alone to riding commuter rail? The recommendations of this study were informed by a literature review, two surveys conducted with existing and potential Metrolink riders, and a review of other commuter rail agencies’ pandemic ridership and recovery efforts. Research focused on how to incentivize mode shift through a behavioral science perspective has provided ideas that broadly fall into three categories: “try transit” exposure programs; technologies that are either gamification-based apps or trip planning tools that provide information and rewards to people considering transit usage; and targeted marketing campaigns to attract new riders. Survey participants from this study reflected higher engagement and interest in Metrolink amongst low-income households, older riders, lapsed riders, people who have never used Metrolink, and riders mostly interested in using service for leisure trips. The surveys provided insights about the criteria that existing and potential Metrolink riders consider when choosing commuter rail, including feeling secure from crime, convenient train schedules, cleanliness onboard trains, and on-time performance. Metrolink riders expressed the need for increased access to real-time information, more transit connections offered at stations, and more affordable fare options. Other commuter rail agencies such as Caltrain, BART, Long Island Railroad, NJ Transit, and Metra all have found similar ridership trends and offer ideas for service improvement, marketing campaigns, and mode shift incentives that Metrolink should consider.

Cover page of Designing a Carsharing Pilot Program for Los Angeles

Designing a Carsharing Pilot Program for Los Angeles

(2022)

Access to safe, affordable, and reliable vehicle transportation in Los Angeles (LA) is not equitably distributed. Low-income and households of color often have private vehicle access rates far lower than city-wide averages. Carsharing, the practice of users renting cars for short periods of time, has the potential to greatly improve private vehicle transportation equity in LA while also bringing other key benefits to the city.The client for this report, the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, specifically wanted to examine how a peer-to-peer (P2P) carshare pilot program could be designed to maximize the benefits for LA. To research this topic, the authors of this report did an extensive literature review, conducted interviews with key stakeholders, reviewed both public and private documents from carshare companies, and performed a statistical analysis on trip data from carshare operators. The City of LA continue and expand its partnership with the station-based carshare operator BlueLA, while also launching a new carshare pilot program in Hollywood. This neighborhood - with its high density, diverse mix of ethnicity and income levels, high visitation rate from non-residents, and excellent connections to public transit - has many ideal conditions to sustain successful P2P carshare operations. Further, the city should support this pilot program by designating up to 10 parking spaces in high-profile locations around Hollywood exclusively for P2P carshare vehicles. Lastly, the city should leverage the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority advertising infrastructure to promote P2P carshare services from providers like Getaround and Turo.

Cover page of Mobility Hubs: Lessons Learned from Early Adopters

Mobility Hubs: Lessons Learned from Early Adopters

(2022)

As city and regional officials aspire to promote multimodal transportation, meet environmental sustainability goals, and reduce personal vehicle dependence, mobility hubs are gaining in popularity. Mobility hubs are centralized locations where travelers can conveniently access a growing number of public and private mobility options – including shared bicycles, scooters, and cars, and shared rides delivered by ridehailing and microtransit services. These hubs extend the reach of public transportation networks, safely connect people from one travel mode to another, and make it easier to consider options other than driving alone. Featuring people-focused infrastructure design, these hubs can also serve as focal points for accessing goods and services by centering safety and accessibility for vulnerable travelers, including women, people with disabilities, and BIPOC travelers. This report details lessons learned from mobility hub programs in four geographic areas – Columbus, Ohio; Hamburg, Germany; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and San Diego County, California. Applying lessons learned from these early adopters, I recommend principles to guide FASTLinkDTLA’s approach to the mobility hub program design and development in Los Angeles County. These recommendations include: developing public-private sector champions; piloting multiple hub design and operational models; layering digital platforms onto exceptional physical amenities; conducting public engagement throughout design, testing, and operations; and securing local funding for hub network expansion and operations.

Cover page of Take The High (Volume) Road: Analyzing The Safety and Speed Effects of High Traffic Volume Road Diets

Take The High (Volume) Road: Analyzing The Safety and Speed Effects of High Traffic Volume Road Diets

(2022)

Los Angeles has adopted a “Vision Zero” policy to eliminate, or at the very least meaningfully reduce, fatal and severe traffic collisions. A road diet, also known as a “lane reconfiguration”, consists of converting vehicle travel lanes to other uses in order to serve safety or transportation-related goals. It is a tool that can help achieve the Vision Zero policy goal by discouraging speeding and reducing risky lane changes to improve road safety. This report studies the safety impacts of high ADT road diets to determine whether the existing 20,000 ADT threshold should be revisited. I compared collisions and speeds on five high ADT road diet corridors to 16 similar multi-lane, untreated streets segments in Los Angeles. Collision rates in the high ADT road diet corridors were 44% lower than in the comparison corridors. Fatal injuries were 200% lower and severe injuries were 37% lower. The average vehicle travel time for the comparison corridors was only about 11 seconds faster than in the road diet corridors. Thus, I recommend for the city to consider revisiting the ADT threshold guidelines for road diets in order to implement more high ADT road diets though city initiatives to improve road safety.

Cover page of Equity and Mileage-Based User Fees: An Analysis of the Equity Implications of Mileage-Based User Fees Compared to the Gas Tax in the SCAG Region

Equity and Mileage-Based User Fees: An Analysis of the Equity Implications of Mileage-Based User Fees Compared to the Gas Tax in the SCAG Region

(2022)

California has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prompting stakeholders in the transportation sector to research ways to reduce vehicle miles of travel (VMT) through possible pricing strategies to incentivize less driving. The current transportation funding mechanism relies on the state gas tax. This tax is not a sustainable source of revenue since increases in the fuel economy of vehicles—absent an increase in the tax—will reduce revenue generation. One potential strategy for resolving this is a mileage-based user fee, also called a VMT fee. Rather than taxing the use of gasoline, a VMT fee directly taxes driving based on the number of miles driven. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is interested in understanding the equity implications of adopting a VMT tax since one concern that needs to be addressed before introducing a VMT fee is how the program might affect low-income drivers. This study draws on data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey to estimate the effects of a mileage-based user fee compared to the current gas tax system on drivers by income in the SCAG region. Overall, all households would experience a tax cost increase under the 2.5 cents per mile fee tax scheme, but the increase would vary by household location and income group. Higher-income households would experience a greater increase in their total tax, but only a 0.03 percent increase relative to their income. Low-income households on average would pay 0.1 percent more of their income under the VMT tax.

Cover page of A Tale of Two City Streets: Evaluating the Safety, Congestion, and Cut-Through Effects of Road Diets

A Tale of Two City Streets: Evaluating the Safety, Congestion, and Cut-Through Effects of Road Diets

(2022)

Every year, more than 200 people are killed in Los Angeles while walking, bicycling, or driving. In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched a citywide Vision Zero initiative, which set a goal to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025. One key tool the city can use to improve traffic safety on dangerous roads is the road diet, a reconfiguration of lanes that removes vehicle travel lanes. Road diets often face opposition, though. This opposition typically stems from fear of increased traffic congestion and neighborhood cut-through traffic as well as doubt that road diets actually improve traffic safety. My project analyzes crash data, traffic count data, and bluetooth travel data on two similar streets in Northeast Los Angeles to gauge whether road diets have these effects. One of the streets underwent a road diet in 2016 while the other didn’t, making them an effective test case. My analysis of shows no evidence that the road diet caused unacceptable traffic conditions or additional neighborhood cut-through traffic. I also find some evidence that the road diet improved traffic safety outcomes. My review of the literature bolsters my findings that road diets are an effective safety countermeasure and that in most scenarios they do not cause unacceptable increases in traffic congestion. The literature on neighborhood cut-through traffic is much less developed. Based on these findings, I recommend that Los Angeles identify additional opportunities to both research and implement road diets.

Cover page of State Transportation Funding in California: Progressive Targets or Prehistoric Thinking?

State Transportation Funding in California: Progressive Targets or Prehistoric Thinking?

(2022)

Since its passing in 2017, Senate Bill 1 (SB1) has launched thousands of infrastructure projects across the state. Over the next decade, this $54 billion investment will work to achieve safety improvements, reduce traffic delays, improve goods movement, and increase options for transit. Identifying their significant role in transportation, this report posits social equity and climate change response as the main goals and objectives of SB1 projects. After analyzing program data, this report refocuses on the Local Streets and Roads (LSR) program, explaining the role of local roads in individual transportation choices, as well as defining them as a site to advance social equity and climate change goals. This analysis shows that the LSR program largely does not address key components of advancing social equity and climate change responses. This report recommends four actions that Caltrans staff can do to improve the rigor of program evaluation across SB1: (1) Establish Evaluation Criteria across SB1; (2) Align SB1 and its Programs with Caltrans’ Strategic Plan; (3) Establish Social Equity and Climate Change Goals for the Local Streets and Roads Program and; (4) Improve Data Quality Throughout the SB1 Program.

Cover page of Saved by the... Bus? Analyzing Safety Outcomes on Streets with Bus Lanes

Saved by the... Bus? Analyzing Safety Outcomes on Streets with Bus Lanes

(2022)

Bus lanes in Los Angeles have rapidly increased in the past ten years. Bus lanes are lanes designated exclusively for buses on general traffic streets. Understanding if bus lanes make streets safer for all users is imperative, especially in a city like Los Angeles where traffic fatalities are rampant. This study considers if there are differences in severe and fatal traffic collisions among streets with all-day bus lanes, peak hour bus lanes, and no bus lanes. A descriptive statistical analysis of crash data revealed that collisions increased on all studied bus lane corridors except one peak hour bus lane. Collisions became less severe and less fatal on all studied bus lane corridors. Collisions either stayed constant or decreased on corridors with no bus lane, but fatality and severe-injury outcomes were mixed. Site visits to corridors with a decrease and increase in collisions found similarly accommodated bus lanes, but other key differences that may have contributed to their divergent safety outcomes such as block length and left turn availability. Parked cars often obstructed bus lanes on both corridors, specifically near restaurants. Still, bus lanes can enhance street safety if installed in tandem with context-sensitive, complementary design elements such as painting bus lanes red, operating off-set running bus lanes, limiting left turns, and providing short-term parking on nearby streets during operating hours. Bus lanes are an effective tool to increase bus efficiency, but their inclusion in streetscapes must be done thoughtfully and effectively to promote safer streets.

Cover page of Planning Performance Indicators: Access to Opportunity

Planning Performance Indicators: Access to Opportunity

(2022)

Access to opportunity is the idea that people have the means and ability to reach a destination that would in turn benefit them in a positive manner - this can include jobs, education, healthcare, and recreation. The purpose of this report is to inform and advise Los Angeles Metro and their stakeholders on ways in which access to opportunity can be measured and analyzed to improve services to positively impact marginalized communities. The guiding research questions of this project seek to identify how Metro can effectively and practically communicate and implement future programs in Los Angeles County and how Metro programs and projects impact access to social services, economic opportunities, and mobility options for communities throughout Los Angeles County.

Cover page of Transportation Challenges to Healthcare: Evaluating the Transportation Needs of Patients at Saban Community Clinic

Transportation Challenges to Healthcare: Evaluating the Transportation Needs of Patients at Saban Community Clinic

(2022)

People without adequate transportation can often have trouble getting to medical appointments and miss or delay their care (Syed et al., 2013). In 2017, 5.8 million people delayed or missed medical appointments due to a lack of transportation options (Wang 2021; Wolfe et al. 2020). This report evaluates the transportation challenges faced by patients seeking care at one of the Saban Community Clinic (SCC) locations. SCC is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provides healthcare to patients who are underinsured or without insurance to a predominantly Latinx population. This report explored SCC patient transportation needs by examining the spatial patterns of patient residential locations, surveying patient transportation needs, and evaluating an SCC effort to reduce transportation barriers by offering free Lyft rides to patients. Findings reveal that unreliable transportation options in addition to lack of affordability and limited accessibility results in transportation difficulties for patients at SCC. Despite these challenges, many patients continue to seek care at SCC because they value the quality of service. Increasing flexibility around appointments, diversifying transportation funding, expanding care to patients living further away from current SCC sites, and working with local transportation providers are strategies SCC can pursue to address patients’ transportation challenges. The research provides insights into how healthcare and insurance providers and transportation agencies can best improve access to healthcare for patients similar to those served by SCC.