Opinion: The Autonomous Future of Public Transportation

Mirisch asserts that autonomous vehicles can do more than just solve Metro’s first and last mile challenge. Google’s prototype autonomous vehicle – photo by Michael Shick via Wikipedia

Applications within public transportation for driverless vehicle technology should be much more than an afterthought. Yet public transit agencies seem to be slow to recognize the potential of autonomous vehicles (AVs) which could literally revolutionize how we think about and use public transportation.

Fortunately, cities around the U.S. are starting to understand the technology’s potential. At this week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors, the assembled mayors from around the country unanimously adopted a resolution I authored to support the integration of AV technology within public transportation. Transit agencies please take note.

At the beginning of last year I proposed for Beverly Hills to work towards developing a Municipal Autonomous Shuttle System (with the nifty acronym MASS), which the city would own and operate, to address our local transit needs. This April our Council unanimously approved a resolution to move forward, and we are now actively pursuing development of our own AV-based local transportation system. The hyper-local solutions which could work in our city would also have much broader applications in a variety of diverse communities throughout the nation.

Public transportation is generally a second-class form of transportation in the L.A. region. You don’t use it unless you have to, and if you have to, you have to go to great pains to adapt to the system. We propose turning that paradigm on its head and developing a system which adapts to the needs of the commuter. Our aim is to develop a first-choice system of public transportation.

Among various applications within public transportation, autonomous vehicle technology could provide an ideal solution to the “first and last mile challenge,” increasing usage of new and pre-existing rail trunk lines and making public transportation a more effective and convenient option for many residents.

A municipal autonomous shuttle system would provide on-demand, point-to-point service for commuters throughout the city or any defined local area. It would take cars of the streets and in so doing would a) reduce traffic and b) save lives. But just as importantly it would increase mobility and serve the function which transit agencies, with their multi-billion dollar budgets, are actually supposed to fulfill.

A MASS system would also allow almost seamless connectivity to existing rail lines, while making public transportation a particularly attractive option for relatively short, local trips. While investment in our road infrastructure has been heavily criticized by certain transit advocates who would prefer for funding to be spent on fixed (and expensive) rail lines, the ability of an autonomous vehicle shuttle system to take full advantage of our road system in providing increased mobility means that road upgrades have been – perhaps unwittingly – one of the best transportation investments we could ever have made.

Why Beverly Hills?

Not only do we want to continue to be on the cutting edge when it comes to applications of technology within municipal government (our own municipal fiber-to-premises project is scheduled to roll out later this year, providing municipal high-speed connectivity to all of our businesses and residents), but we have our own “first and last mile challenge,” which our countywide transit agency has indicated no interest in helping us solve. 

Beverly Hills is scheduled to get its first subway station within the next 10 years. Unlike numerous other rail stations throughout the Los Angeles area, there are no park-and-ride facilities planned for any of the Beverly Hills stations – or any other station along the new Purple Line Extension, for that matter. Of course, that makes it very difficult for our residents to actually use this multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment.

One would think that the local transit agency, Metro, would understand that access to the shiny new subway station would be important in fulfilling its utilitarian purpose. Unfortunately, sometimes one gets the impression that building shiny new rail lines and raising taxes, rather than mobility itself, is the agency’s main objective.

It should, therefore, be hardly surprising to anyone who is familiar with L.A. County’s Metro that a sales tax increase and extension which will likely be placed before the County’s voters this November. The sales tax measure would raise $130 billion over 50 years includes little or no money for public transportation based on new and evolving technologies like autonomous vehicles.

This singular lack of vision is likely not unique to L.A. County’s public transportation agency. And yet a focus on new technologies and their capacities to increase mobility could ultimately create the paradigm shift which would make public transportation the logical choice for a vast majority of commuters, not just those who can’t afford a car.

And so our own vision for our MASS system goes well beyond solving our own “first/last mile challenge” in connection with the Purple Line station. If we can get commuters from Beverly Hills – or anywhere for that matter — who are not dependent upon it to actively choose public transportation, then this will represent nothing short of the democratization of public transportation.

Other technologies could be layered on to a fleet of municipal autonomous shuttles for additional public benefits. For example, cameras and automatic license plate readers mounted on MASS could help increase local security, while MASS-mounted road sensors could transmit information to our public works department so that paving defects could quickly be repaired.

The potential for AV technology within public transportation is simply too big to ignore, and not just in serving the core function of increasing mobility. As we in Beverly Hills continue to develop policy and best practices to pave the proverbial way for MASS transit, we are excited that other cities are interested in joining us – as evidenced by this week’s unanimous vote at the U.S. Conference of Mayors — in bringing that vision one step closer to a more multi-modal reality.

John A. Mirisch is the Mayor of the city of Beverly Hills.

  • MaxUtil

    Mayor Mirisch should be commended for trying to think about the transportation needs of his city and the region in a comprehensive way. Unfortunately, little of what he proposes achieves his stated goals or makes much sense for either the city or region.

    His main point appears to be that Metro should begin work on a fleet of autonomous vehicles (AVs) that would serve as either point to point or feeder vehicles for other transit in an on-demand fashion. Essentially what he is proposing is Taxis. Why taxis would “take cars of the streets and … reduce traffic” is not clear since taxis (driven by a human or computer) are both “cars” and “create traffic”. Next, he criticizes Metro for failing to invest in new technologies despite the fact that this is not a technology that currently exists in any meaningful way. Even if it made sense to build out a fleet of AV taxis, what exactly should Metro be investing in?

    Mass transit works to serve people who do not own or use their own vehicle. But its main role and advantage is that it allows much higher volume of people to move efficiently than personal vehicles. Regardless of who is driving, personal vehicles take up large amounts of space, resulting in congestion, and large expense for the mobility achieved. Future AV technology may radically change the way we move around, but it will not change fundamental geometric facts of our cities. We can already see the result of building a transportation system that relies on large, inefficient, expensive personal vehicles. AV technology may change some things, but it will not change the fact that we want to give large numbers of people the ability to move freely through our dense and growing region.

    Another of Mr. Mirisch’s complaints is that Metro is not providing parking at new rail stations in his city. While cheap, convenient parking would certainly be appreciated by a small number of people who would be able to use it, there are numerous, well known reason it is not advisable to provide parking around transit. Fist among them is cost (which Mr. Mirisch seems to look down at in other contexts.) Typical costs to build urban parking spots can start from $20,000 per spot and tend to rise dramatically in denser, higher cost areas like Beverly Hills. For this large expense, very few people are given access to transit and that money can virtually always be spent in other ways that would give more access and better service to transit users. Beyond that, using valuable space in and around transit for parking creates areas that are more suited to access by cars, making the transit itself less useful. Parking is a huge subsidy to people who drive over the vast majority of transit users who choose not to.

    Mr. Mirisch criticizes Metro for wasting money on “shiny” things instead of thinking clearly about future needs and solutions. But his proposal seems to be the ultimate in chasing “shiny” objects, advocating for investment in technologies that do not actually exist and would not serve the public need well or efficiently solely because of an assumption that the “new” will somehow make current, known system obsolete.

    I for one am happy to see the Mayor embrace the need for a “vision one step closer to a more multi-modal reality.” I hope that he will work toward actually achieving that goal instead of waving red herrings to obscure his opposition to our region investing in the systems and technologies that will serve everyone even if he views them as “second class”.

  • Matt R

    Very good analysis. My suggested: stop subsidizing cars and have drivers start paying for it, and a bus suddenly looks much more appealing. And Beverly Hills could use better bus stops so taking the bus is more appealing.

  • Jarrett Walker

    Earth to Mayor Mirisch. I’m sorry that the Los Angeles County transit system isn’t designed around your city’s tastes. But that’s not because LA Metro is incompetent. It’s because LA Metro’s job is to deliver a MASS transit system, and that means focusing service where there’s lots of demand. In pursuing that goal, it makes no business sense for LA Metro to focus on the personal tastes of elite communities like yours, because there aren’t that many of you, and you tend to demand things that simply don’t scale to the size and density of the county around you. Transit experts like me are really interested in driverless buses, which will be transformative when they reach the necessary scale. Perhaps we agree on most things. But you gain nothing by heaping such contempt on your transit agency just because it has designed its network around the bottom 99%.

  • Alon Levy

    What you’re asking for is a glorified taxi system. There already are taxis, and thanks to Uber and Lyft, municipal medallion caps aren’t really restricting them. Their actual effect on travel patterns, while noticeable, isn’t large, outside a specific class of high-income professionals who find these services hipper than taking a medallion cab. In New York, for example, overall for-hire vehicle use is about flat, but now Uber and Lyft are a substantial portion of the market, around 15% as of last year if I remember correctly. The irony is that you criticize Metro’s focus on shiny things and then call for a shiny new technology, one that unlike subways doesn’t exist in scores of other cities.

    The lack of a park-and-ride is a feature, not a bug. People in Beverly Hills can get to the future subway the same way people in high-income neighborhood of transit cities like New York and London do: by walking. There are also connecting buses in many cities, but the north-south buses in this part of LA are terrible and don’t really have good streets to go on. Park-and-rides are great if you don’t ever intend on using the transit system except to go to your CBD office job at peak hours, when congestion is worst. If you plan on using the new station as a destination rather than as an origin, or on living nearby and taking the subway for errand trips, then park-and-rides make your experience worse.

    For one example, compare BART, a subway system based predominantly on suburban park-and-rides feeding a trunk line into San Francisco, and SkyTrain, where instead the cities aggressively upzoned near the stations and built towers and shopping centers. The two systems have about the same ridership, 400,000 per weekday. (SkyTrain is even driverless!) Difference is, SkyTrain does it in a metro area that has 2.5 million people and no large historic core (it had 560,000 people in 1950); the five-county San Francisco metro area has 4.7 million, and had 2.1 million in 1950, and San Francisco proper had almost as many people in 1950 as it does today. Vancouver is not just preserving an old transit layout the way New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco are – it’s aggressively growing it, with metro area mode share growing from 13% in 1996 to 20% in 2011; the five-county SF metro area is stuck at 15%. Getting to this level involves a lot of TOD next to stations, and not park-and-rides; in SF and other old cities, the TOD preexists, since the city was built back before everyone owned cars. LA, where the metro area mode share is 6%, needs to learn more from Vancouver and less from the examples of failures like US park-and-rides.

  • dexter

    Most local governments have folks like Mr. Mirisch as elected officials. In my opinion, this is why complete streets are such a struggle. Many area cities, with huge amounts of people who walk, bike, and take transit, have elected officials who continue to drag their feet on anything that isn’t status quo. I’m skeptical much will improve on these fronts until local leaders start to understand or care about cost effective solutions that improve mobility, sustainability, the economy, and travel options. These folks are also generally opposed things like increased density, multi-family housing, reducing parking requirements, and TDM measures.

    After all, we should know by now that this is all a global conspiracy aimed at destroying America. Thanks Obama.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    The potential for AV technology within public transportation is definitely way too big to ignore. But this proposal as written doesn’t seem to be about AV technology *within* public transportation, but rather as AV technology as a *replacement* for public transportation. If Metro implements autonomous driving technology within its usual orange local buses and red rapid buses, it could maintain rush-hour headways all day long, without having to pay for drivers. That would actually give people the option of getting to the subways (which could presumably be made self-driving much sooner than buses and cars) without causing traffic the way that small shuttles on all the local streets would.

  • Gerhard W. Mayer

    Yes, there are way too many people still hoping that new technology will justify maintaining the status quo; lets them pretend for a while longer that we do not need to change.

    But if any such retro attitude is to be expected, I would look to Beverly Hills, or Santa Barbara, to do so. Rich people see no need for change.

    Now, if other cities are taking up this dribble and start repeating it, what is their excuse?

  • This is just Uber without human drivers. I see this being deployed by the private sector eventually, if and when the technology does what it is supposed to and is affordable. I don’t agree with the idea of writing off fixed-route public transit. As others have said, transit serves a dense city well by making efficient use of space. In the future transit vehicles will probably be computer driven, thus potentially reducing transit costs significantly. Beverly Hilly should drop it’s frivolous litigation against Metro and plan for density around the Purple Line.

  • Juan Matute

    If these vehicles are truly autonomous, they might try to leave Beverly Hills.

  • Yet public transit agencies seem to be slow to recognize the potential of autonomous vehicles (AVs) which could literally revolutionize how we think about and use public transportation.

    Probably because while many public agencies are ostensibly about moving people, many are also a significant source of decent-paying jobs, especially in underserved communities. The potential of autonomous vehicles to public transit agencies also necessarily represents a loss of a lot of those jobs.

  • stvr

    This article seems to be about looking progressive while actually being captured by NIMBYs. The fact that his political people thought posting it here would be a boon shows how little they understand.

  • Perhaps the larger issue is what happens to our economy and society when autonomous vehicle technology works well and is affordable. It would have huge implications for the millions of Americans who make a living driving buses, trains, trucks and taxis.

    According to the 2010-2014 American Community Survey about 8.8 million Americans work in transportation or material moving. Presumably a majority of those jobs would be at risk in the robocar future (Table S2401).

    Sure, the new technology creates some new jobs, like highly-skilled programming jobs, but certainly not as many as it destroys. It would make our economy more productive and efficient, freeing up funds to be spent on other things, but one has to wonder what happens to the people who get left behind in the name of “progress.” I don’t share some people’s optimism that these types of structural economic changes benefit everyone.

  • Joe Commuter

    Leave it to Beverly Hills to ignore bicycling, shut down bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd, and put all its faith in a technology that is decades away. Bike lanes should cost $1M per mile and include flashy gizmos, maybe then our politicians would take it seriously and be willing to invest in bicycle infrastructure. Instead, cities like Beverly Hills ignores it because it’s just too simple a solution and not flashy enough.

  • AndreL

    Should we bring back:
    – mechanical phone switch-boards (or telegraphs with messenger boys?)
    – elevators requiring an operator
    – cash withdraw only at actual bank teller booths
    – typographic mechanical printing of newspapers and magazines
    – 3-person cockpit crew airplanes
    – catalog shopping
    – laundry houses with humans doing the laundry
    – manual loading/offloading of ships (and ofc no containers whatsoever)
    – manually operated shaping machines (instead of CNC)

    Technological progress just happens, we ought to make the better of it and deal with side effects if and when necessary.

  • Typical of the prevailing faith that technological advances always make everyone better off. We automated agriculture and went to manufacturing, automated manufacturing and went to services. How will everyone be employed once we automate services? I don’t believe for one second that America actually cares about the people who will be left behind in our glorious tech future.

    Making 9 million American driving jobs obsolete will cause massive social disruption.

  • AndreL

    I’m honestly open to have a discussion about how to deal with a society where technological change makes human work much less needed. Yet, I don’t think forestalling technological for the sake of keeping social order intact with relate to jobs or work life was, or ever will, be a solution.

  • Wanderer

    If the leadership in Beverly Hills actually cared about transit, they’d be welcoming a very effective form of high capacity transit–the Purple Line station. Transit is not about technologies, it’s about effectively moving people from point A to point B. Subways and buses do that a lot more efficiently than cars, whether those cars have drivers or not.

    Probably in April, 1937, anybody who voiced a reservation about dirigibles was derided as a luddite. Then the Hindenberg blew up, killing everybody aboard. My point is not that all new technology is bad, but that it’s not automatically wonderful peaches and cream either. And old technology isn’t necessarily bad technology, the basic technology of the bicycle has been around since the early 20th Century.

    It is true that Beverly Hills has only allowed low density development in most of the city. Given that, some kind of feeder system to the Purple Line and the Wilshire Rapid might be useful, especially for people who have to go into the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and work.

  • John Mirisch

    Falscher Schluß, Herr Mayer. Transforming public transportation from a second-class form of transportation to a first is a fundamental change in the mobility matrix of the County. Forget the false stereotype (more than 55% of BH residents are renters), but the goal must be to get people in BH – or anywhere – to use public transportation because they want to, no because they have to. Providing on demand, point-to-point mobility does just that. Regionally, it will take more than AV’s (though AV-only lanes on major freeways would have the ability to significantly increase capacity), but as a first/last mile solution, it would be a key element in a whole system of multi-modal mobility, something we support.

  • John Mirisch

    Taxi systems and TNC’s are private companies. We are looking at a municipally owned and operated shuttle system in which rides would be shared. AV technology is indeed new, but “shiny new things” (to quote UCLA Professor Brian Taylor) refers to heavy rail. Please feel free to look at his criticism of a reliance on heavy rail rather than a cocktail of mobility. I agree that a MASS system would be better than park-and-rides for a variety of reasons, including land use planning. While it would be great to suggest that everyone walk to heavy rail stations (or bike), even Metro acknowledges that increased distance serves as a hindrance to using public transportation.

    Traditional TOD is not necessarily the solution and transit experts such as the FTA’s Vincent Valdes, the Associate Administrator for Research, Demonstration and Innovation talk about AOD — autonomous oriented development. In other words, the potential for autonomous vehicles goes well beyond mere mobility and into the realm of planning and land use.

  • John Mirisch

    At this stage we are beyond providing parking at subway stations, because there is a better way to provide access to the stations, namely AV shuttles. (Though it should be noted that Metro park-and-rides have been used by Metro executives going to work). AV technology does exist and the horizon for successful deployment will be significantly shorter than Metro’s plans for the bulk of the sales tax increase it is proposing. In building for the next 100 years, it is important not just to look back to the past 100 years, but to look to the future and the ability of future technologies to transform mobility. Clearly, with the pressure of the Infrastructure/Transportation Industrial Complex, it is sometimes politically difficult to look to transformative technologies to break the existing paradigm (“this is how we’ve always done it”).

    We are not talking about taxis, which are private transportation. We are talking about shared shuttles, which will not only take cars off the streets, but will also use the existing roads more efficiently. To refer to public transportation in the LA region as “second class” is not a value-judgement on public transportation per se, but an objective estimation of how public transportation is currently mainly only used by those who have no other choice. That must change and the way to do so is by providing on demand, point to point mobility. Promoting the potential of AV technology within public transportation to achieve that is hardly a “red herring,” but simple acknowledgement of the fact that if we want to build for the next 100 years, as Metro CEO Phil Washington has said, then we can’t just look to the past hundred years; we also need to look to the future.

    To paraphrase Gustavo Petro, mayor of Bogota, Colombia: A developed is not a place where the poor have cars, it’s where those who can afford cars use public transportation.

  • John Mirisch

    It is actually the attempt to incorporate AV technology within public transportation, in our case as a solution to “the first/last mile challenge” and is meant to be a hyperlocal form of public transportation. There are most certainly other applications for broader regional uses, and AV-only lanes on freeways (for both public and private vehicles) could substantially increase capacity. AVs will likely lead to changed paradigms, in which car “ownership” could be replaced with subscription services and car manufacturers transitioning to mobility companies.

  • John Mirisch

    A transit agency should be first and foremost about mobility. Increased and more convenient mobility would allow for residents throughout the County to have better access to jobs over a broader area.

  • John Mirisch

    Some 70% of municipal budgets are salaries and benefits. Even for a City in good financial shape like BH, we simply couldn’t afford to provide the kind of on-demand, point-to-point mobility our MASS system would create. It would be a service we currently can’t and don’t provide and it would leverage technology to do so. That’s a good thing.

  • John Mirisch

    We’re not ignoring bicycling. I personally have said I won’t vote for a SM Blvd. reconstruction that does not include bike lanes, and am committed to including bicycles as part of a multi-modal future. We are among the first cities in the County to have a bike-share program and my goal is to make our City both more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

  • John Mirisch

    Beverly Hills does welcome the Purple Line station; the MASS system described in the article will serve well as a “first/last mile” solution for those not within walking distance of the stations. Transit isn’t just about technology, but it is about mobility. More effective use of the roads through the leveraging of technology will increase mobility. The suggestion was not that all heavy rail trunk lines shouldn’t play a role in a future build out of the mobility network, but that we should look to the development of technology to provide solutions which previously were unavailable.

    My guess is that AV technology (not just within public transportation) will not go the way of the dirigible. But even if it did, air transportation is hardly now stuck in the state it was in way back in 1937. Advances in technology have significantly changed air travel since then. There’s a reason we stopped producing biplanes. We need to future-proof our investments.

    And, yes, old school modes of transportation are still important. Not just bicycles, but also feet. Beverly Hills was ahead of its time in creating pedestrian-friendly diagonal crossings decades ago, and will continue to encourage multi-modal mobility.

  • John Mirisch

    Perhaps you would enlighten us…

  • John Mirisch

    Fixed routes will likely play a role in the future, especially for longer commutes. But on demand, point-to-point mobility should continue to be the gold standard not just for private companies, but also for public transportation.

  • Gerhard W. Mayer

    Na ja, Herr Mirisch, gutes Deutsch ; Aber wenn Sie so gut Deutsch sprechen dann haben Sie ja wahrscheinlich Deutschland besucht? And there you will have seen a very nice first mile last mile feeder system in the form of small buses, that go through affluent neighborhoods and collect people to bring them to the very nice trains? And do so often? And that is befor there was uber and Lyft. And now they have also very nice car sharing…. All of which solves part of the problem.

    There is simply no need for the self driving cars. They solve nothing, except perpetuate the belief that cars need to be in our lives for a little while longer.

    For some reason. Because freedom, or something….I guess.

  • John Mirisch

    Ich kann mich leider nicht an solche Minibusse in Deutschland erinnern, dagegen habe jeden Tag die öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel in Wien, wo ich daheim war, benützt. But the minibuses you are referring to in D-land don’t exist here in any reasonable form; first/last mile solutions are largely restricted to walking/biking (which are great) or waiting for sporadic bus service. TNC’s are fine, but they are not public transportation. We’re proposing something similar to the buses you refer to in Germany (a Municipal Autonomous Shuttle System), with the difference being it would not be fixed route, but would be an on-demand service and provide point-to-point mobility. And, yes, they would be autonomous, which decreases cost while adding to efficiency. That’s a good thing and should motivate more people to use public transportation.

    In fact, German car manufacturers such as Daimler and BMW see themselves transforming from OEMs to mobility companies, as they are actively developing AV technology. This is a good development and the general model will move away from private car ownership to subscription services, car sharing, etc. While in some cases personal AV’s will replace manned autos, we in BH are focusing on the role of AV’s in public transportation.

    Future transportation will likely be a cocktail of various forms of mobility (i.e. multi-modal), including personal AV’s along with public transportation-oriented AV’s. Capacity on existing roads can increase exponentially with 1) more efficient use of the existing infrastructure, and 2) more ride-sharing in more efficient and comfortable forms of public transportation.

  • Gerhard W. Mayer

    Well, I am from Austria as well, and the small buses I refer to are – I believe – still running in the nicer districts, such as the 13th (hietzing) or the 19th (doebling). Or in my hometown Baden bei Wien.

    But what you are doing might be good – I hope you can run an efficient first mile last mile service feeding the trains. I think all the things you are saying are true – except I do not see the self driving thing being necessary for it. But I guess it might inspire Americans to give it a try – and if we can get BH people on the train, then I am ok if it takes self driving cars to do that.

    I am well aware that the euro car companies are trying anything and everything to remain relevant. IMO it will not work. As the say in Vienna – die Zeit der Automobile Ist Schon fast vorbei.

    Auf wiedersehen

  • Gerhard W. Mayer
  • Gerhard W. Mayer
  • Matt R

    I do not understand this talk of gold standard. We have a transportation crisis today. Cycling in much of BH is unsafe. The gold standard should be choice in as many options as the market will carry. Last night I took uber from west LA to the Valley for $6.50. I could have taken the bus and it would have taken 2 hours. This is at 10 pm. The fact that BHs wants to focus their options on one possible option when they lack many others is perplexing. Coming from the mayor, it becomes alarming. Convert parking into affordable housing, take away car lanes and promote bus lanes (which can cheaply change as tech changes) and do it now. There is no shiny technology on a distant hill, we have what we have and it needs to happen now. If BHs won’t, then they need to be prepared why their economy will soon take a dip because profitable businesses move elsewhere because the leadership is staring to the stars at shiny never-ever land solutions and not improving transportation today.

  • John Mirisch
  • John Mirisch

    You evidently disagree, but in my opinion nothing is worse than aiming low and missing. Point-to-point, on demand mobility must be the goal. We are attempting to provide a service which doesn’t currently exist. Your experience yesterday proves we are right to do something: you chose to take private transportation because public transportation in the County – despite all the billions of dollars being spent each year – doesn’t work. We aren’t a transit agency, so our goal is to provide mobility within our own City, since our region transit agency is unable or unwilling to provide first/last mile solutions. In fact, we have added a bike share program, and bike lanes (and I will continue pushing for bike lanes on SM Blvd as I have been doing for years). We are considered to be one of the more walkable cities in the state, having pioneered diagonal crossing in the Southland. None of this is mutually exclusive from not being stuck in the last century and using technology to improve transportation. If you would do a better job of informing yourself, you might discover that AV technology “is no shiny technology on a distant hill.” It’s something which forward-thinking governments and agencies around the world are excited about – and rightly so. And it will be here before you would have a chance to build an unnecessary tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass.

  • Gerhard W. Mayer
  • Matt R

    But everyday my wife drops me off on Sm Blvd and I take a bus to work and back agin (I am at Wilshire and Bedford on the 720 right now). It costs $1.75 and gets me to work fast. At night I took the uber because transit slows down. I have and need multiple choices. What your city needs is choice. If you fail to see that, voters won’t. And that includes a tunnel under the 101/405 on the pass because it has the highest density in the country. A shiny driverless bus won’t eleviate traffic the way an underground rail can.

    One bus stop on SM Blvd is not paved, and a person must walk in wet grass (and it excludes disabled) and few have shelter. Maybe you would get better results by making the bus stops friendlier? As to bike share, I’m afraid to bike in BHs. Choices, sir, is the future.

  • John Mirisch

    Currently, there is no public option within the City of BH. Metro doesn’t provide it. Development of our Municipal Autonomous Shuttle System will offer people a choice they don’t have now and it will, as envisioned, provide on demand, point-to-point mobility publicly. How can you fail to see that we are proposing offering a choice which currently doesn’t exist? (As mentioned, we are proposing this as a hyperlocal solution, which would address the first/last mile challenge. I have said that fixed-route trunk lines will likely still play a role within public transportation for longer distances).

    Santa Monica Blvd. is undergoing a major $20+ million renovation shortly which will completely redo the road, including bio-swales and — if I have anything to say about it — bike lanes. As mentioned, we are already one of the most walkable cities in California, which also represents a choice. When it comes to choices, most people will choose on demand, point-to-point mobility.

    We’ll have to disagree on the Sepulveda Pass tunnel, which is completely unnecessary within the proposed horizon. Would have been a good thing in 1916 maybe, but this is 2016 and it wouldn’t be operational for another 25 years or so. Way, way before then AV-only lanes on the 405 will be able to increase capacity exponentially, with shared ridership hopefully even adding to that. Those transportation dollars can better be spent elsewhere, such as connecting WeHo to the subway network and extending the Green Line to Torrance before 2040. The future may be about choices, but the palette of what we can choose from will be informed by the ability of new technology to provide choices above and beyond what we now have available. As such, it’s important for us to be able to look beyond our noses when planning for the future.

  • John McCready

    If the MTA put as MUCH MONEY INTO EXPANDING BUS LINES (vs. ELIMINATING THEM!) as they do into “rehabilitating” things that DO NOT MOVE, people WOULD RIDE THE BUSES MORE! That and maybe the people who work at the MTA SHOULD RIDE THE TRANSIT SYSTEM DAILY, and see how SLOW, and INEFFICIENT IT ACTUALLY IS!