Monday, June 22, 2009

Valley Metro Rail: A preview look from the front (part 1)

Prior to the grand opening of the Phoenix Valley Metro Rail system last December, I had been able to take two test train rides. During one of those rides, I shot video from the "railfan" window in the front. During the shuffle of a very busy video shop working on various roller derby related projects, I thought I had lost this video footage.

While starting another project, I discovered which computer I offloaded the video on. Therefore, this video was safe and sound. I have put together a very quick and dirty video of the footage shot going westbound from Van Buren & Central (VBCN) and Osborn and Central (OSCN) stations.

I have video all the way up to Montebello (MO19) and some video coming back east to Van Buren & 1st Avenue (VB1). I will release that later.

This video does not have any sound as there was a lot of in-car conversations taking place and is not necessarily relevant to the video at hand. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Friday, June 19, 2009

SEPTA: Pull down your pants and show me your bus pass...

One of my biggest pet peeves is bad policy. Bad policy is one that while the intention may be good, the overall policy is just downright the wrong way to address a situation. A recent story in the Philadelphia Weekly made aware of a great example of such bad policy.

Apparently, the South East Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) has a huge problem on their hands. The problem, people sharing their monthly passes with other people. Now, we are not talking about a situation where a 35 year old person who does not have disabilities is trying to ride the bus with a reduced fare disabled pass. We are talking about full fare customers sharing a pass.

To combat the problem, SEPTA had a brainstorm idea. Why not print the gender of the customer on the pass? That way, it reduces the chances that the pass would be shared because now 50% of the population can not use that pass. Great policy, right? Well, there is a problem...

What if you don't look like what some would stereotype as what is proper for your gender? In other words, you are a thin build man with some feminine traits who happens to wear brighter clothes? Perhaps you are a lesbian who looks more "butch"? I can definitely tackle about a dozen possibilities for those who are transgender (TS, TG, TV, CD, DQ, whatever...).

The problem with this policy is that it is discriminatory, exclusionary and turns every bus driver and train conductor in Philly into a health professional who now not just responsible for the safe operation of their vehicle but now has to analyze every boarding passenger to make a determination what their gender is.

What makes it worse that according to the information that I have read, that since 9/11 it is next to impossible for a pre-op to get their license changed to show their identified gender in PA. Therefore, let's say a pre-op MTF boards a bus with a female pass, the driver may have some doubts (in other words, the MTF may not be far enough along or is otherwise readable) and the driver asks for ID. The only ID the MTF is able to get has a "male" gender marker on it. Therefore, a scene could be caused putting the passenger in a very uncomfortable situation. In the case of an MTF, a "male" pass (that would match the driver's license) would again raise questions, especially if she is very passable and would pretty much "out" the passenger. Let's also not forget an overall prejudice by the SEPTA employee, especially those who may have intolerance or lack of education of the GLBT community.

With my involvement in both the public transportation and the transgender communities, a story like this hits me from two directions. So let's look at this from the public transit perspective. Other than specialty and entitlement passes (such as reduced fare, employer program, agency employee, etc.), do transit properties across the country experience this type of "pass sharing" problem that SEPTA seems to be facing? I personally don't see an issue with letting a friend borrow my bus pass. The pass only allows one person to board at one time. Who cares if it's me or someone else? I can see if it's an issue if we do the old trick of the passenger boards the bus, they sit down and then give their pass to a friend outside the window. Well, most buses don't have windows you can open (that a pass can be easily passed through) and many agency fareboxes can detect this (yes, even Phoenix).

Apparently, this is also a problem in Brighton, England where their multi-day passes have a gender marker.

Also as a side note, SEPTA's own Equal Empolyment Opportunity Policy states that they will not discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity for their own employees. Why can't they extend these same protections to their passengers?

Myself, I think that both Brighton and SEPTA should abandon this concept. I don't think that pass sharing is such a huge problem that it has to be done at the expense of the civil rights of a considerable group of individuals who brush the gender lines in some way or another.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Michi's first LACMTA GTFS application: Where's the bus??

I have designed a very simple application that is intended to show the next "timepoint" for every bus on a particular route.

It uses a pretty simple SQL statement:

SELECT gtfs_stops.stop_name, gtfs_stops.stop_lat, gtfs_stops.stop_lon,
gtfs_stop_times.departure_time, gtfs_stop_times.trip_id, gtfs_stop_times.stop_headsign,
gtfs_trips.route_id, gtfs_trips.block_id FROM gtfs_trips
LEFT JOIN gtfs_stop_times ON gtfs_trips.trip_id = gtfs_stop_times.trip_id
LEFT JOIN gtfs_stops on gtfs_stops.stop_id = gtfs_stop_times.stop_id
LEFT JOIN gtfs_calendar ON gtfs_trips.service_id = gtfs_calendar.service_id
WHERE route_id = '(route number)'
AND departure_time >= CURTIME()
AND departure_time <= ADDTIME(CURTIME(),'0:05:00') AND gtfs_calendar.(day of the week) = 1 AND start_date <= CURDATE() AND end_date >= CURDATE()
GROUP BY block_id;

This SQL statement will show the next timepoints for (route number) on the the specified (day of the week). Yes, I know it's pretty crude, but it works.

You can play with this toy at:

There is a pull down that shows all of the SFV sector routes (the descriptions were manually entered), an issue that I have with the routes.txt file. But you can send a value of rte and a valid route_id using a GET statement and it will return routes outside the SFV. It does not work for rail (801-805) because the Metro Rail trips are showin without a block_id. Rail will return just a single trip on the route.

I could use an SQL sort to rearrange the headsigns in order so you have an idea what direction the buses are going. I would have preferred if Metro was to include the direction_id in trips.txt which is a simple 0 or 1 value that would indicate a direction. In this case, I could just make two SQL calls and get each direction listed separately. Using direction_id would also make the data compatible with other tools including TriMet's Time Table Maker.

Without the direction_id data, I would have to manually build a table based on headsign readings what direction a bus is going and even with that, there may be a few possibilities that buses going in two different directions can have the same headsign (such as a mid-route terminal).

This little app does take into consideration that some trips only operate certain days of the week (school trippers) but I do not believe that the calendar.txt gives the ranges of the school year. Therefore, there's a possibility that it will display a trip that may not actually be running since it's a school holiday. MTA also has school holiday trips "H", which may be the school trip with some deviation on the schedule. These are very complex, but on some routes with infrequent service and school trippers (645 comes to mind) could cause confusion. Right now, I am not calling to the calendar_dates file to get the exceptions (holiday service). Therefore, transit holidays right now will show just like regular weekdays.

With that said, my wish list for Metro GTFS data improvements include:
  • Having the block_id be the known line-run numbers instead of a distinct number.
  • Include run numbers for the trains in block_id.
  • Use the direction_id field in trips.txt.
  • Move headsign data to trips.txt and only use stop_times.txt when there is a mid-line sign change. (such as the 242/243)
  • At the end of a trip at the last timepoint in stop_times.txt, set drop_off_type to 1. This will indicate the end of the route. It will also prevent apps from identifying that timepoint as a pick-up and showing two times at a particular stop (one for when the bus arrives from the previous trip and the time it departs for the next trip, hence, recovery time).
  • Better descriptions of the routes in routes.txt
As a fan of Metro scheduling (and someone who once got turned down for the Schedule Maker I position), I appreciate the publication of the GTFS data feed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Los Angeles MTA Google Transit: Some first thoughts about the GTFS feed

Just for a means of background, I have never worked for Metro but I have a great knowledge of how they schedule.

The way MTA schedules is very different than other transit properties that I have encountered.

I have been going through the GTFS data and I have noticed what some may consider bugs or disparities in the data but it's a part of the way MTA has been doing scheduling for decades. This is something, as transit developers, we need to get used to.

MTA (and the former SCRTD) uses what they call LINES. A "LINE" is a single schedule that may contain multiple "ROUTES". For example, Line 152 (Fallbrook/Roscoe) contains the schedule information for routes 152 (the main route), 153 (the alternate route via Sun Valley Station) and the 353 (the limited version of the 152). As mentioned already in the documentation, the limiteds (with the exception of 305) are not shown in the routes.txt because they mirror their parent local routes. But also, when a route has an alternate route under a different route number, it will appear under this line. For example, the 153 will appear with the 152. The route_id in the trips.txt will be 152 and the only way you will distinguish this trip as a 153 is by using the stop_headsign in stop_times.txt.

Another scheduling method that MTA uses is to create two different routes that are not branch or alternate routes but are "interlined" where most buses from one route continue via another route. A couple of good examples of this arrangement includes Line 230, which includes Route 230 (Laurel Canyon) and Route 239 (White Oak/Rinaldi) and Line 243 which includes routes 242 (Tampa) and 243 (Winnetka). In these cases, the trips for both streets show under one route_id. Like with the branch route example shown above, the only way you can distinguish the trips is through the use of the stop_headsign in stop_times.txt. Even worse, there is currently text in the stop_headsign field that says "change route to..." for these types of routes. This will drive confusion from both a developer and from a end-user point of view.

Now while this scheduling junkie does not mind the line level of scheduling, I think that for public facing applications, it would be better to put the route data in at the route level.

This is a new project for Metro. I am always available for consultation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

KRXQ: Rob, Arnie and Dawn broadcast on in response to trans youth comments

or download MP3 directly: krxq-20090611.mp3 (17MB, 16/22, mono)

This is an aircheck from KRXQ Sacramento on June 11, 2009. On this 2 hour 30 minute show, the personalities reflect on the events of the past week after a broadcast where those in the GLBT community stated that condoned child abuse and intolerance to the plight of transgender youth.

While the beginning of the show gave the appearance of backpeddling on the show host's part, I feel that overall, the show was very informative and included many guests who have experience with transgender youth.

For me personally, this show brought to closure some recent memories that I had of being abused myself as a child for expressing my femininity.

Just know this, organizations like GLAAD are not out to "change" people but they are out there to educate. Not just the general public but also the corporations who also proudly serve the GLBT community.

Normally, I do not use for making positions on GLBT issues, but since this one directly involved using the mass media to express intolerance towards a minority group, I felt it was appropriate to take action.

I am personally doing OK. I thank you for your thoughts.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Growing up transgender... my perspective on the KRXQ incident

First of all, let me qualify myself to discuss this topic. I am the founder of REC Networks, a 25 year old entity who, for the past 15 or so years has been advocating for the establishment of the Low Power FM (LPFM) radio service, assisted many LPFM applicants through free on-line tools, advocated for the citizen in access to the airwaves issues at the FCC, has come up to bat in situations where questionable applications were filed as well as the operator of one of the leading broadcast database reference tools for the United States and Candada used by broadcasters and hobbyists around the world. Our Canada broadcast suite is the default reference source on Wikipedia. With all of that, I could say that I am definitely a player in the broadcast community.

I am also transgender. You don't need to look any further than some of my old FCC filings to see that. I legally changed my name to Michelle Andrea Eyre in 2006. As a child, I was physically and psychologically abused by my parents for being transgender.

So with that out of the way, I feel highly qualified to speak on the KRXQ broadcast.

As a human being, as a transgender woman, as a godmother and as a fellow broadcaster, I am very appaled by the radio show on KRXQ which advocated abuse such as the throwing of shoes at male children who come out to say that they may be transgender.

I want to say up front that this is not a bash towards men in general, but unfortunately, we continue to live in a day where for some, the male pride of being a father to a boy is a desire by the father of the son to make sure his son grows up to be a man. This would include trying to get his son involved in typical "male" activities (sports, boy's toys, etc.).

Some men have a level of pride where they be embarrased if their son explores their feminine side and acts on that aspect that exists in all humans regardless of the gender. The father may fear that certain types of feminine traits will lead the son to grow up and be homosexual. Many experts have proven time and time again that there is no connection between homosexuality and gender identity. Some fathers may be afraid that they will be humiliated by their other male friends for having a "sissy for a son".

Right now, there are many young boys across this country who are being abused by their fathers (or sometimes even their mothers) for getting caught trying on their sister's clothes, playing with stereotypical female toys, having hobbies that are normally associated with girls or just outright coming out to their parents that they want to be a girl. The abuse could take place on grounds of embarrassment to the family and/or for religious reasons.

In my case, I was physically abused by my father for trying on female clothes as early as 8 years old and I have been verbally abused and intimidated by my mother my entire life. To this day, my parents do not accept my new identity and they deny the abuse that took place early in my life. I had to delay my transition for a long time as a result of this parental intimidation and I had to come to realize that they no longer controlled me. I finally went full time in 2006, 17 years later than I really wanted to.

When it comes to transgendered people, both adults and children, there is always this feel of disgust when the transition is from male to female (MTF), but there is hardly a problem when the transition is the other way. It is socially acceptable for a girl to be a "tomboy" when they are young and many are intrigued by the FTM, the female to male transsexual. FTMs are seen as revolutionaries while MTFs are seen as freaks. Why is that?

I guess what I am trying to say here is that I experienced the type of abuse that was being advocated by Rob and Arnie on the air. What they did is in my opinion, socially unacceptable in this day and age. I can more understand this type of abuse in the 1980's when I was going through my share but in this modern age of tolerance and diversity, it's a shame there are some who still don't get it and even worse, they are allowed to broadcast on a 50,000 watt FM radio station.

I have noticed that there are some who are encouraging members of the community to write the FCC to protest this action. Filing such complaints will not do much as hate speech such as that is technically protected under the First Amendment. Normally, the FCC will not act unless the speech results in a criminal action actually taking place (and we are talking within the Sacramento market here).

I encourage people to continue to contact KRXQ's advertisers as well as the advertisers of Entercom co-owned stations KSSJ, KSEG, KWOD, KDND and KCTC(AM). KRXQ will continue to benefit by revenues brought in by the sister stations in the Entercom Sacramento cluster. These advertisers should be encouraged to withold any advertising on the Entercom stations until significant disciplinary action are placed against Rob Williams and Arnie States for the statements made.

My headband is off to the gutsy national and statewide advertisers such as Snapple, Sonic, AT&T, CKE, and the others who stepped up to suspend their advertising contracts as a result of this broadcast.

If Rob and Arnie was encouraging violence to any specific racial group, I would think that stronger discipline would have taken place. Entercom I must remind you, in California, sexual orientation and gender identity is just as much as a protected group as any other minority group.

Apparently, there will be a show on Thursday morning on KRXQ to discuss this issue. I will be around and I know that I will be listening.

The memories of my years of physical and psychological abuse over my transsexuality will haunt me for the rest of my life. If we can save just one transgender child from this lifelong trauma of parental intolerance, then we are one step ahead.

My message to radio is simple, the plight of transgender children is a real issue and not a "Jerry Springer" freak-show topic. Please address this topic in a professional manner and not make it the butt-end joke of the Morning Zoo.

Michelle is the founder of REC Networks, an entity established in 1984 to "entertain, inform and support". Michelle is also known in amateur flat track roller derby as "Michi-chan" and has been producing video programs and writing articles on the sport as it is played in Arizona. Michelle operates Hardcore J, a 24 hour streaming radio station on which airs Japanese popular music.

WEB LINKS: ~ REC Networks ~ REAL Derby-The Arizona Derby Report ~ Hardcore J

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle A. Eyre -


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Transit: The Scottsdale Way

Last Thursday, I was the witness to the ultimate dog and pony show in the public sector. It was item #5 on the agenda of the Scottsdale Transportation Commission.

With issues looming across the country with our economy, transit agencies nationwide are being forced to look at ways of cutting expenses. This includes canceling capital projects, raising fares and cutting the number of revenue hours of transit service.

Scottsdale, Arizona is no different and is not immune from these budget shortfalls. As a result of a $1.5 million budget shortfall in the transit budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 (which begins July 1, 2009), the city is forced to take measures that will result in cuts made to fixed route transit service.

Proposed changes included:
  • Scottsdale Downtown Trolley: Reduce headway (frequency of service) from 10 to 20 minutes, reduce service span (hours of operation) to end in the 6PM hour with the exception of Thursday night for the Art Walk.
  • 66 Mill/68th St: Reduce service span on Saturday to match Sunday schedule.
  • 76 Miller: Reduce Saturday headway from 30 to 60 minutes and adjust span to match Sunday service.
  • 81 Hayden/McClintock: Reduce Saturday service span to match Sunday.
  • 84 Granite Reef: Eliminate route.
  • 114 Via Linda: Eliminate route.
  • Loloma Station: Reduce operating hours of the pass outlet to split shift peak hours.
The one proposed change that I think would be the most harmful to Scottsdale is the elimination of the 114. Harmful because unlike the other proposed bus changes, there is no substantial alternative service nearby. In public comments, we heard from residents in the area, employees and patients of Mayo Clinic and the most moving were the parents, faculty and students from BASIS Scottsdale, a leading charter school in the area.

In public comments, citizens mentioned the value of the 114 to their neighborhood and that alternate services (106 & 512) that were suggested by Scottsdale (transit) staff were not adequate since the 106/512 does not have granular bus stops and in many cases, trips will involve crossing Shea Blvd., an 8-lane divided arterial roadway.

Transit staff introduced some numbers for the 114 in a Powerpoint presentation. In my public comments, I had stated that the ridership data that they are using fails to show any breakdown of the ridership trends on the different week-parts (Monday-Friday, Saturday and Sunday). I told Scottsdale, I oppose a complete cut-off of this service and feel that instead, "slow burn" measures should be implemented that continues to keep a "lifeline" service in the area while cutting revenue miles where they are extremely low and can be cut without being overly impactive. I had suggested that at first, weekend service should be cut. Local residents even went one step further suggesting that the 114 be cut to peak hour service only.

In response to questioning by the Commission about why cutting just weekend service was not considered as an option, the transit manager gave the biggest cop-out of an answer. He said that quality should prevail over quantity and "like our roads, transit should always be available" (in other words, Scottsdale does not only run their roads Monday through Friday, why should they only run their buses Monday through Friday?) and then suggesting that service should be seven days a week like our roads. They also suggested that transit routes that have less of a demand that does not warrant 30 minute headway should be eliminated. Could this be the same attitude why Scottsdale still does not have any fixed route bus service north of the Loop 101?

The Commission, unpleased by staff's explanation told staff to go back and look at other options including the ones that were discussed by citizens at the hearing. The Commission took the testimony as information only and did not take action. Staff has until early June to get a budget to the City Council.

Where Scottsdale fails is that they do not acknowledge that for some, transit is a lifeline, not a choice. By maintaining a fixed route, even with just 60 minute headway on weedays, you are still providing a community lifeline that does not tax the demand response paratransit system. Scottsdale staff is doing a practice which some of us call "economic redlining" by only maintaining routes with significant ridership and lower subsidies while ignoring higher subsidy routes where essentiality precludes most of the subsidy.

In other words, it's OK to operate a route with 60 minute headway and even just on weekdays.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

My recommendations for some Phoenix service cuts

Here's a brief route by route recommendation for the City of Phoenix for route specific service cuts as a result of the sales tax shortage. Specifically, we need to assure that pre-2000 service levels remain in the core system. I am going mainly after Sunday services, especially those on the half mile streets like Roosevelt, Roeser, 28th Street and even 15th Avenue. Again, these are recommendations only.

0. Shorten peak-hour "shuttle" trips to only operate betwen Central Station and Baseline Rd with a branch and turnaround at Jesse Owens Medical Center. This will reduce equipment requirements and address ongoing neighborhood issues south of Dobbins.

1. No changes recommended.

3. On Sundays, run all eastbound trips on the 48th Street branch. Service west of 48th Street including the zoo discontinued on Sundays. On Sundays, passengers can transfer to Route 1 at 44th Street & Washington to reach the zoo.

3A. Renumber to 4.

7. Discontinue route 7 Limited service. Limited stop services are more needed in other areas of Phoenix.

8. No changes recommended.

10. On Sundays, discontinue service east of Central Station due to 30 minute service duplication a half-mile away on routes 3 & 70. On Sundays, continue to operate hourly service west of Central Station as an interline with Route 27.

12. Discontinue Sunday service. 30 minute half mile duplication on routes 7 and 16.

13. Operate two way service between 67th Avenue and Buckeye and 67th Avenue and Lower Buckeye via 75th Avenue. At 67th Avenue & Lower Buckeye, interline with Route 13. This is intended to improve the service experience and eliminate a 1/3 mile walk from Buckeye and Grant to transfer between 13 and 67 to continue via 67th Avenue.

15. Operate route between Montebello Station and 19th Avenue and Dunlap as limited stop service that emulates light rail service in this area. All stops will be made between 19th & Dunlap and Metrocenter as well as all points south of Montebello Station. Sunday service discontinued south of Montebello due to half mile duplication. Sunday service to Sky Harbor should be examined. If a bus is still warranted, extend hourly Sunday trips on Route 40 to Central Station. On Saturdays and Sundays, improve headway to every 30 minutes north of Montebello Station.

16. Combine with Route 80 to form a single route. Passengers needing to travel north of Northern (to Sunnyslope) can transfer to routes 0, 8 and 12.

17. No changes recommended.

17A. Renumber to 18.

19. No changes recommended.

23. New route number for an Encanto & Thomas (Avondale) service. Replaces route 29A and portions of MARY.

29. Take several peak hour trips and convert them to limited stop service assuring that 20 minute headway is kept on the trunk for local trips.

29A. Extended to Encanto & 51st Avenue replacing portions of MARY. Renumbered 23.

30. No changes recommended.

32. No changes recommended.

35. No changes recommended.

39. On Saturday and Sunday, discontinue service south of Paradise Valley Mall. Connection replaced by Route 44. Weekend short Route 39 trips interlined with Route 186 at Mayo Hospital.

40. On Sundays, extend hourly trips to Central Station replacing portions of Route 15.

41. No changes recommended.

41A. Extend to Campbell & 51st Avenue replacing portions of MARY. Renumber to 46.

43. No changes recommended.

44. No changes recommended.

45. No changes recommended.

50. Extend to Desert Sky Mall via 75th Avenue replacing portions of MARY.

51. No changes recommended.

52. Discontinue service on Sundays, half mile duplication.

56. No changes recommended.

60. On Sundays, shorten east terminal to 24th St. & Camelback. (Old route 60 layover)

61. No changes recommended.

67. Extend south to Lower Buckeye. Interline with Route 13.

70. No changes recommended.

80. Combine with Route 16 to form a single service. Discontinue service to Sunnyslope (see route 16)

90. No changes recommended.

106. No changes recommended.

122. On Sundays, discontinue service south of Metrocenter due to half mile duplication. Interline Sunday service with 15.

138. No changes recommended.

154. No changes recommended.

170. No changes recommended.

186. Interlined with Route 39 on weekends.

400. (SR-51) No changes recommended.

450. (I-10-E) No changes recommended.

460. (I-10-W) Add reverse commute trips timed approximately every 30 to 60 minutes using deadheading resoruces. Reverse commute trips would originate and terminate at Central Station in Downtown.

480. (I-17) Add reverse commute trips between Central Station and Metrocenter approximately every 30 to 60 minutes using deadheading resources of 400 and 480.

581. No changes recommended.

582. No changes recommended.

590. No changes recommended.

ALEX. Eliminate Sunday service.

DASH. No changes recommended.

DART. Reduce weekday and Saturday service to a single direction loop. Eliminate Sunday service.

DEER RUN. Reduce Saturday and Sunday service to every 60 minutes. Review Sunday ridership for eventual elimination.

MARY. Eliminate service. Replaced by portons of routes 23 (29A), 46 (41A) and 50.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A different idea for the fare increase.

I sent my official comments today to Valley Metro regarding the fare increase. I filed comments in support of a fare increase however, I do not support how they are proposing to do the changes.

Specifically, I feel that we should be looking at first targeting the peak hour riders as well as the express riders while lightening the impact on the off-peak transit dependent riders.

Specifically, I am asking that Valley Metro consider the following fare structure:

Local buses and light rail
I support a peak hour fare structure where specific bus trips (those that have 80% of the running time of the trip between 6AM-8:30AM or between 3:30PM-6:00PM) are being ridden. Peak hour fares would also apply to single ride light rail tickets purchased between those hours. In addition, day passes purchased on those trips (or during those times at the light rail fare vending machines (FVM)) would be applied at the peak hour rates. Peak fares would not applied to pre-purchased day passes (from a transit center or retailer), multi-day media, platinum, juror and courtesy passes as well as rural connector service.

Fares would be:
One ride - full fare: 2.00 on peak/1.50 off peak
One ride - reduced fare: 2.00 on peak/0.75 off peak
Day pass purchased on bus/FVM - full fare: 4.00 on peak/3.00 off peak
Day pass purchased on bus/FVM - reduced fare: 4.00 on peak/1.50 off peak
Day pass advance purchase: $3.00 full fare/$1.50 reduced fare
5 day pass: $15.00 full fare/$7.50 reduced fare
31 day pass: $59.00 full fare/$28.00 reduced fare

I would propose to eliminate the 3 and 7 day passes and replace them with a 5 day pass.

Express fares
I would propose that express fares become distance separate using a specific process for measuring mileage. I propose to create 4 express fare zones.

Express fares would be...
Zone 1 (0-8 miles) 2.50 cash/5.00 day/24.00 5-day/96.00 monthly
Zone 2 (8-16 miles) 3.00 cash/6.00 day/28.50 5-day/116.00 monthly
Zone 3 (16-24 miles) 3.50 cash/7.00 day/33.00 5-day/136.00 monthly
Zone 4 (24+ miles) 4.00 cash/8.00 day/37.50 5-day/156.00 monthly

Express zones...
Zone 1: Routes 510, 512, 570 and 582.
Zone 2: All RAPID routes, Routes 520/521, 531, 532, 536, 540, 541, 562, 572, 573, 575, 581 and 590.
Zone 3: 533, 535, 542 & 571
Zone 4: none right now but the regional transportation plan (RTP) calls for routes coming in from Buckeye, Anthem, ASU Polytechnic and near Apache Junction. Once implemented, those services would be in Zone 4.

No matter what they increase the fares to, it is needed to maintain a level of service. Hopefully as the economy recovers, we may see more services come back.

It's a sad day in Arizona.



Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The top 5 mistakes in the introduction of Phoenix light rail

Light rail is new to us here in Phoenix. This is not the first light rail implementation that I have experienced. I have also experienced many of the service changes that took place as a result of the implementation of light rail in Los Angeles. Some implementations such as the Blue Line and especially the Gold Line had some significant bus interface changes.

Several years ago, I had proposed several light rail interface fixed-route bus service changes some were somewhat implemented because they made sense, others were not used at all.

But now, here are the Top-5 issues that I have with the service changes:

5. Route 72 routing around the Tempe Transportation Center.
Tempe did something really nice at the University-Rural station, they placed a mini-transit center at the station for the 72 and two Orbit routes. But, they also kept the 72 going into the Downtown Tempe Transportation Center. I ask why? Downtown Tempe is already loaded up with service and with traffic. The 72 already interfaces at University-Rural and between the light rail and two Orbit routes, there's plenty of capacity between Downtown Tempe Transportation Center and University-Rural. This is also consistent with the changes made to the 81 to take that out of Downtown Tempe (Which I supported). The 72 is already a very very long route and has been very prone to delays. Cutting a little bit of running time will help the route's on-time performance.

4. No changes made to Route 16.
Most of the routes that cross the streets that make up the light rail alignment do so naturally and many of these routes cross the alignment at stations. Some routes, such as the 30, 45, 60, 96 and 104 were modified to serve stations. One of those routes, 104 resulted in a 1.5 mile deviation to the route. While many of these changes were made by Mesa and Phoenix made sense, I still do not understand why no changes were made to the 16. The 16 crosses the alignment at Jefferson/Washington but with the stations at 12th and 24th Streets, the 16 is a half mile from one station and a full mile to another. A simple deviation of the 16 over to the 12th St. Station could have been done to bring this route to the LRT.

3. What Mesa did with the 104.
Now Mesa did several things here. First of all, they put the 104 into the Sycamore Station but they also took the route out of the Senior Center and put it into Mesa Riverview. WHY? Mesa could have prevented the launching of the BUZZ shuttle if they just have kept the 104 on it's current routing. With the 104 going into the Sycamore Station, they did not have to re-route the north terminal to the Riverview. A transfer could have been made at the Station to reach the Riverview on the 96. With the BUZZ not interfacing the light rail, there is no true link between Center Street in the heart of Downtown Mesa and the light rail.

2. Frequency of service north of Montebello on Route 15
The 15 replaced a section of the old Red Line. This is a very very very highly ridden segment, especially since it's a direct link to Metrocenter. When the Red Line was around, it had 15 minute headway (frequency of service) and 30 on the weekends. With extending the 15 along this section, the 15's headway came with it (30 weekdays and 60 weekends). With the 15 being the primary link between the light rail and the city's second largest transit center, why are we causing such a substantial bottleneck (1:3 ratio on weekdays and 1:4 ratio on weekends). I feel that the City of Phoenix could have lightened that load by putting additional service on the 15 north of Montebello only. I feel that north of Montebello, route 15 should provide service every 15 minutes on weekday peak hours, 30 minutes on weekday base and evening hours and every 30 minutes on weekends. South of Montebello, service should continue to be every 30 minutes weekdays and every 60 minutes weekends. There is no need to change the south end of the 15 since a viable method for accessing the airport (44th Street Station to the Airport Shuttle) is available.

and now for what I feel was the biggest mistake....

1. Creation of the Valley Metro Link
I really think this was a really bad idea. The idea of trying to use a limited stop bus on a street that has not been tried or tested with a local route first. Because this alignment has not had service before and there is not a major demand for service in this area yet, the Link only has about a 5-7 minute improvement over the local route 40 along the route between Superstition Springs Mall and the Sycamore Station. Instead of the Main St. Link, express trips from Superstition Springs Park & Ride to Sycamore Station during peak hours should have been established. I feel that there are better candidates for limited stop service, such as reassigning some of the resources that are doing Pima-bound local trips on the 29 and making those Pima-bound limited stop between 67th Avenue and 44th Street with full stops outside that area. Now, they are looking at doing one for Country Club/Arizona Avenue, a street that right now does not have weekday service after 7PM or any weekend service.

If they worried less about marketing and bringing the service to where it is needed, we would have the services where the people need it instead of creating a second class of service.

Opinions are those of my own as a private citizen only. They do not reflect the opinions of the RPTA or any member agency or contractor.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Phoenix Light Rail - One Week Later

Well... we have now had a light rail system in Phoenix for one week now. I have taken several rides on the train (since I work in Downtown PHX and also, I work for transit.. so it would only make sense). Now, while the system was free, people flocked to the train like people flocking to Six Flags' newest coaster. Many people wanted to try it out and ride it because "it was free".

Now that the "free" part has been removed from the equation, let's see where we are now. Before the light rail, I was a frequent rider of the 1-Washington and the Red Line. The 1 buses have always been pretty empty and the Red Line was filled with every walk of life and in some cases, the odors to go wih them. This is why I preferred riding the 1. (Also, because on weekends, the Red Line was operated by a different contractor and I found myself having to guide them through the route).

The people I have been seeing on the light rail are not the same people who have been riding the buses. I am seeing more older folks, more families and more people who have realized that they can either park their car at a station and get on the train or they live near the alignment.

While there are many riders on the trains who are dependent on transit, I am noticing a lot of riders on here who have the option to drive but are using transit. This is more than just your typical express riders.

When I ride a train here, I feel like I am in a more progressive city riding the trains such as San Francisco, Portland or Denver. I have been able to strike up some good conversations, both with and without the lanyard (identifying me as a Valley Metro employee) on. Most of my experiences since I moved back to Arizona 13 years ago is there's a lot of animosity and a lot of people with a "me" attitude. This can be seen in various aspects of Valley life, especially on the freeways.

But for some reason, the people who have been riding the trains do not meet that criteria of animosity. They are getting out, chatting with total strangers and exploring. The way I see it, it's a support group meeting in Phoenix that meets every 10 minutes.

There have been a couple of minor problems. I have noticed stops that are not being called by the automatic annunciator system (especially this early in the game when blind riders may not know all the stations yet to be able to count stops as a contingency). We are supposed to have next train displays and announcements at the stations, those are not working. Also, it would be nice if Valley Metro publishes a more detailed schedule.

There have been a couple of accidents where people have ran the lights and ran in front of railcars.

I have been hearing complaints about the traffic signal coordination and that the train seems to get stuck at red lights even though the train is supposed to have signal priority. I have not seen much of this in Phoenix. I have been noticing it more in Tempe. Perhaps it's just me.

There are many fun opportunities along the rail. In addition to Chase Field and US Airways Arena, the venue for the Renegade Rollergirls, the 5th & Madison Event Center is within walking distance of the trains.

Now that the Red Line is gone, I am more likely to ride the rails on Saturdays (except derby nights) instead of driving in.

This system has given me a new outlook on this city.

Welcome to my light rail sytem.. I am proud of it.
This is your light rail system too... I hope you are proud of it.