To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ride-sharing companies targeted by authorities in L.A., S.F.


By Ryan Parker, September 25, 2014

Uber protest
Uber drivers, supporters protest at Uber offices in Santa Monica. The group reached out to the Teamsters Local 986 to help form an association for app-based drivers, including those who utilize the Uber, Lyft and Sidecar technology platforms.

Ride-sharing companies have been targeted in Los Angeles and San Francisco by authorities for conducting businesses improperly, even dangerously, San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón confirmed to The Times late Thursday.

Although Gascón would not specify which companies were under investigation, he did say that it is more than one and that authorities had been working the case for the past few months.

“We support new economy and technology, but we have an obligation to make sure the public is protected,” Gascón said.

According to Bloomberg News, the ride-share companies under investigation are Lyft Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Sidecar Technologies Inc.

Gascón sent letters to all three companies, Bloomberg reported.

A “conversation” between authorities and the companies is going to occur within the next few days, Gascón said. Depending on the outcome of the talks, legal action may take place, he said.

“We want to make sure their behavior is corrected quickly,” Gascón said.

According to a letter sent from Gascón's office to Sunil Paul, chief executive of Sidecar, the company is accused of misleading customers about how thoroughly criminal background and driving record checks are conducted, and must remove all claims related to this matter on the company app and website.

Also, the company is accused of violating the law by offering the "shared ride" option, which allows strangers to split a single fare in order for the car to use the HOV lane, according to the letter. Sidecar was ordered to halt offering the option.

Ride-share companies offer quick access to transportation through smartphone apps. There have been criminal complaints about driver misconduct.

Gascón declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.  

Sepulveda Pass Transit, Part 3: Mode and Alignment Through the Pass


September 25, 2014

For an overview of transit between the Westside and the Valley, see Part 1. For a close-up look at LAX, see Part 2.

The most critical part of a north-south transit line between the Westside and the Valley is Sepulveda Pass – the section that roughly parallels the 405 between Wilshire and Ventura Boulevards. Services on the Westside and in the Valley will probably end up having several branches using the pass, in order to maximize the usefulness of the pass segment. Due to the distance (about 7 miles) and engineering challenges, we’re probably only going to get one line through Sepulveda Pass in the foreseeable future. It’s critical that we get this segment right, get the most capacity for our money, and set it up to flexible enough to accommodate many services on both sides.

The two planning questions that must be answered are:
  1. What modes should the project serve? This will determine who can use the project, be it cars, buses, or trains.
  2. What should the project alignment be? This will determine what service patterns can be operated on either side of the pass and how they will relate to each other.
Question 1 comes first, because the mode choice will affect the design criteria for the project alignment, such as curvature, grades, and ventilation.

A Multi-Modal Tunnel?

The concepts that have been floated publicly are all variations on a theme. They propose building a toll auto tunnel that would also provide lanes, perhaps dedicated, for transit. The project is often pitched as a candidate for a public-private partnership.

If the alternative includes a tunnel, I don’t think auto lanes should be part of the plan, for reasons explained here. If HOT lanes are going to be part of the project, they should be converted from existing HOV lanes (or, if you insist on new lanes, new at-grade or elevated lanes, but there’s no spare capacity on the 405, the 10, and the 101 for new lanes to connect to anyway). That leaves bus and rail.

The primary trade-off between bus and rail is implementation timeline versus capacity and operating costs. If the corridor is for buses, it can be used immediately by many bus services connecting all parts of the Valley and the Westside, while a rail link from Wilshire/Westwood to Sherman Oaks would be of limited use in isolation. Choosing rail would delay the usefulness of the project until feeder lines were built on both sides. However, as passenger volumes increase, which we would expect for a useful Sepulveda Pass project, rail offers higher capacity and lower operating costs.
Four options come to mind:
  • A guideway exclusively for buses
  • A guideway exclusively for rail
  • A hybrid guideway running both buses and trains (not as crazy as it sounds; Seattle is running a tunnel like this right now)
  • A larger guideway with four lanes, two for rail and two for bus (or hybrid)
The first two options just seem underwhelming for the context. We’re not talking about the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont or an improvement to an arterial corridor that’s got parallel arterials to be upgraded a mile away on either side. This is it – the one big project between the Westside and the Valley that we need to facilitate more growth between Sylmar and Long Beach. You don’t want it to end up like the MBTA Green Line, right?

Capacity Counts

Some more serious numbers: in the post on capacity, we estimated about 5,000 pax/hr per direction for bus (standing load, 60 second headways) and 15,000-20,000 pax/hr per direction for LRT (standing load, 2 minute headways, 3 or 4 car trains). For comparison, the five lanes of the 405 (we’re ignoring the climbing lane and auxiliary lanes) have a capacity of about 12,000 veh/hr per direction. Obviously, the passenger capacity depends on how many people are in each car; assuming 1.2 pax/veh (not unreasonable for commuting), that’s 14,400 pax/hr per direction.

That gives you an idea of the magnitudes of how many people can be moved by each mode. You can vary the assumptions as you like (double articulated buses, longer trains, higher occupancy in cars). Bus headways below 60 seconds are probably beyond the point where rail offers higher reliability and lower operating costs. The inclusion of bus would be mainly motivated by the desire to put the facility to use immediately, without waiting for long branch rail lines to be built.

That puts a transit option with one lane in each direction in the same league as the existing 405, so maybe that’s enough. On the other hand, the relentless congestion on the 405 suggests there’s a crap ton of latent demand – in other words, a lot more people would be traveling through Sepulveda Pass if it were easier to do. We want this project to relieve the 405, but also to facilitate economic growth on the Westside and in the Valley. With that in mind, a large diameter tunnel with four tracks may be the way to go.

To see why we might want a tunnel with two lanes or tracks in each direction, consider the effect of branching. Since Sepulveda Pass is a natural bottleneck, we should be serving several parallel north-south transit lines, bringing them together for a trunk through the pass and allowing transfers. In the opening post, we identified up to four corridors on each side to be served. With an operational headway of 2 minutes and one track in each direction, that’s 8 minute headways on the branches. This is short of Metro’s design criteria, which calls for operational headways of 5 minutes on LRT branches. With a large diameter tunnel and two tracks in each direction, operational headways of 4 minutes would be achievable on the branches.

In the introduct
ory post, I defaulted to the assumption of a tunnel the whole way from Westwood to Sherman Oaks. Alon Levy rightly called that assumption out in the comments, prompting a look at some elevated and hybrid options.


An elevated option is self-evidently going to follow the 405. This is both the best horizontal alignment and the best vertical alignment that does not involve a tunnel.


From a technical standpoint, the critical section of the alignment is the approximately 1.5-mile long 5.5% grade on the north side of the pass. Light rail vehicles (LRVs) can handle short 5%-6% grades without issue; in fact, there are 5%-6% grades in many places on the new Expo Line for grade separations. However, I’m not sure if vehicle braking performance would suffer on such a long downgrade, and it might be difficult to support the required headways.

Let’s assume 2 minute operational headway and 90 second design headway (Metro’s current design criteria for a trunk LRT line is 2.5 minutes operational and 100 seconds design). Safe braking distance, for signal design, must include (a) distance traveled during reaction time, (b) braking distance, and (c) a buffer between vehicles. If you’re using fixed signal blocks, the buffer might be the vehicle overhang; for Communications Based Train Control (CBTC), let’s use an assumed imprecision in the system’s knowledge of where the vehicle is located.

Metro’s current design criteria specifies 9.8 seconds of reaction time. This might seem like a lot, but it has to cover equipment reaction time, operator reaction time, and brake build up. This value isn’t atypical in US practice. For braking, Metro specifies a distance of 0.733*S2/(B+0.2G), where S is speed, B is the braking rate (assumed to be 2.0 mphps), and G is the profile grade. Let’s assume 200’ for vehicle location imprecision (more precisely, 100’ for each train, with the worst possible combination of errors.

For a design speed, let’s assume 60 mph. For safe braking, you need to assume the entry speed when braking starts is higher due to a combination of speedometer error and equipment tolerance. To keep things simple, let’s assume 65 mph. That yields a reaction distance of 934’ and a braking distance of 3441’, for a total of 4575’ (including the 200’ CBTC buffer). Using 0.2G underestimates the effect of gravity a little; if you calculate the braking distance based on a 2.0 mphps braking rate adjusted by the laws of motion, you’ll get 5029’.

Okay, so that’s the separation you need from the rear of one train to the front of the train behind it. If you want the theoretical headway, you need the distance from the front of the train to the front of the train behind it. In other words, you have to add the length of the train. In this case, that’s four 90’ LRVs for 360’. If you have fixed signal blocks, you also need to add the length of one clear block of track, as shown below, but since we’re assuming CBTC, we’ll ignore that distance.


That gives a total distance, based on Metro criteria, of 5389’. At 60 mph, that’s 61 seconds of travel time, essentially a 1 minute theoretical headway. Even if you assumed fixed signal blocks and added a clear signal block distance, it would seem that a 2 minute operational headway is within the realm of possibility.

Note that this is still a simplification; the headway impact of having a station, presumably at Ventura Blvd, at the bottom of the grade would have to be determined by simulation. This analysis also ignores other potential physical constraints, for example the ability of the LRV to continually put out maximum braking force for that long or the impact of wet rails, that wouldn’t be an issue on shorter grades. Premature rail wear, such as rail corrugation, might occur. These issues are well beyond my experience. (Hint, hint, technically inclined commenters.)

From a route planning perspective, the elevated alignment is not ideal at either end. At the south end, you end up at the 405 and Wilshire, west of the proposed Wilshire/Westwood station on the Westside Subway. It wouldn’t be too hard to deviate west to the Veterans Hospital; however, this is bound to be a low demand station. Wilshire/Westwood is a much better location for the transfer, because it will eliminate the need for many people on the north-south transit lines to transfer in the first place. It wouldn’t be too hard to get over to Veteran Av by crossing the cemetery (they’re the abutters least likely to complain). That makes the transfer reasonable, but still puts the stop at the very margin of UCLA and Westwood. From there, the line would probably head back towards Sepulveda, but more on that another time.


At the north end, the first stop would naturally fall at Sepulveda/Ventura. North of there, the line could hop over to Sepulveda Blvd at the 101 or at Burbank, and follow Sepulveda north through the Valley. Sepulveda is good corridor, and deserves a high quality transit service, but most of the interest in the Valley seems to prioritize Van Nuys over Sepulveda. Getting from Sepulveda to Van Nuys would require a one mile jog to the east, and the resulting zigzag would be bad route planning. However, Sepulveda/Ventura is a decent node in its own right.



A hybrid alignment would follow the same route as the elevated alignment from Wilshire to the 405 just north of the Sepulveda Blvd ramps. This would require about 3.5 miles of tunneling, just a little more than half of what the full tunnel would require.


This alternative would save some money over the full tunnel alignment, because elevated construction is usually cheaper than tunneling. It would also allow the northern approach to be constructed at a much gentler grade, around 1.0%, than the 5.5% grade required by the elevated option, and greatly reduce the length of the 3.0% grade on the southern approach.

From a route planning perspective, this alternative is also somewhere in between the elevated option and the full tunnel option. The southern end would suffer the same drawbacks as the elevated option, but the northern end would be in a better location, as described under the full tunnel option.


The tunnel alignment would follow the approximate route of the tunnel that has been proposed publicly, from Wilshire/Westwood to Ventura/Van Nuys. This route would be in tunnel the whole way. It might be possible to build some of the route at-grade through UCLA’s campus, but it’s probably not worth the effort to bring the line to the surface for such a short distance.

This alternative would cost the most, but it would have the best track geometry, with a ruling grade of 1.0%.


From a route planning perspective, it’s also the best option at both ends of the alignment. At the south end, it puts the Wilshire/Westwood stop in the right place for both transfers to the Purple Line and for local destinations at UCLA and Westwood.


At the north end, it lines up perfectly with Van Nuys, the highest priority north-south corridor in the Valley, and yields reasonable geometry for additional branches to the west towards Sepulveda, Reseda, and Balboa.


Boring Questions

Assuming a tunnel is going to be part of the selected alternative, the cross section of the tunnel is the next question. With the exception of the Blue/Expo Line tunnel on Flower Street, all of the transit tunnels in LA were constructed with the same cross section, consisting of two single-track tunnel bores, connected every so often by emergency cross passages. The stations are center platforms located between the two bores.

For Sepulveda Pass, you’d have a few options:
  • Four single-track bores, built in pairs either simultaneously or sequentially. In this option, you would probably build two tracks at the outset, leaving the next two tracks as a future project.
  • Two two-track bores, again likely leaving the second set of tracks as a future project.
  • One four-track bore.
Alon Levy pitched large diameter tunnel boring machines (TBMs) as money-savers because the station platforms can be located inside the bore; I’m not sure how much they’d save for an LA-type station, relative to the costs of the additional excavation.

However, I think a large diameter TBM might make sense for the Sepulveda Pass project for different reasons. For one thing, when you do two single-track tunnels, you have to make a decision about how many TBMs to buy. Do you buy two TBMs, at considerable up-front capital expense, and allow both bores to proceed simultaneously? Or do you buy one TBM, and bore each tunnel sequentially, paying the price of a longer construction schedule? Using a larger diameter tunnel means buying fewer TBMs and a shorter construction process.

Personally, I like the idea of one four-track bore with two tracks on each level. One level could be used for rail right from the outset, with the other level used for express bus services between the Valley and the Westside. In the future, the bus level could be converted to rail if needed for capacity. 

The advantages in time and cost are many: construction of launching pits is only needed once, the full capacity is available after completing one bore, working near an active transit line is avoided, and labor costs are reduced by minimizing complexity and shortening the duration of construction. This approach also avoids the tendency of future capacity improvements to remain forever in the future.

Some recent examples of large diameter tunnels include the M30 freeway in Madrid (inner diameter 44.13’), Line 9 in Barcelona (inner diameter 35.8’), and the Alaskan Way tunnel in Seattle (diameter 56’). The TBM in Seattle is, of course, currently broken down, but don’t let their crummy execution sour you on the concept of a TBM that large. Barcelona Line 9 was apparently built to be just large enough for a four-track section, to allow crossovers between stations, but that seems like a really tight section for four tracks. On the other hand, 56’ would probably overdo it and result in high costs for the launching pits and excavation.

A 45’ diameter tunnel would allow four tracks, along with space for breathing room to fit in mechanical and electrical equipment. In particular, with a long tunnel like Sepulveda Pass, it might make more sense to set up the ventilation like a freeway tunnel, with continuous clean air and polluted air levels below and above the travel ways, respectively. In contrast with most transit tunnels, which depend on the piston effect, this design would hopefully allow the ventilation system to meet the requirements of NFPA 130 without restricting the system to one train per direction in the tunnel between stations. Such a restriction would cripple a long tunnel’s capacity to the point that building it would be almost pointless. (The NFPA 130 requirement is actually one train per tunnel vent zone; relying on the piston effect means that each length of tunnel between consecutive stations is operated as one vent zone.)


The space to the sides of the tracks would accommodate electrical and mechanical systems, emergency egress, and ventilation as needed.

For an overview of large diameter tunnel costs, see this post on long freeway tunnels.


There are several feasible alignments and mode alternatives through Sepulveda Pass. While an elevated facility following the 405 is theoretically cheaper, it may be less so in this case because it would have to be constructed over and around an active freeway. The hybrid and full tunnel options offer better routes, and might be worth the trouble, especially if a high capacity tunnel can be built in one bore (and we can reign in US tunneling costs a little). An option that has provisions for both bus and rail will allow higher utilization of the tunnel from the beginning, without needing to wait for all the branch rail lines to be finished.

Opinion: The Valley deserves to be part of L.A.'s public transportation revolution


After Controversial Initial Bid, Long Beach Transit Aims (Once Again) for Electric Bus Fleet


By Brian Addison, September 24, 2014

After a tumultuous attempt at procuring a mini-fleet of electric, zero-emission buses (ZEBs), which ultimately resulted in failure, Long Beach Transit (LBT) has restarted the Request for Proposal (RFP) process to build 10 ZEBs.

The LBT board unanimously agreed yesterday that Kenneth McDonald, LBT’s President and CEO, will solicit the proposals beginning today. The bid will be paid for partially through the Department of Transportation’s Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant, which was awarded to LBT nearly three years ago.

“Staff has developed a detailed document that will allow for an alternate fuel concept, whereby a proposer is able to include innovative ideas in their response to the RFP,” Kenneth McDonald, LBT President and CEO, said. “Such innovative ideas may reduce costs or provide other efficiencies, subject to LBT’s review and acceptance. LBT is committed to build a 100% alternative fuel fleet.”
According to McDonald, the FTA has not altered the grant that it awarded to LBT; questions were previously raised as to whether LBT would still receive the funds due to deadlines related to the grant.

RFP responses will be due back at the beginning of the year.

“I think we’re all very familiar with this item because we’ve been down this road before,” said Board Chair Freda Hinsche Otto I want to personally say how excited I am about this project… I am very much looking forward to having alternative fuel vehicles on the streets of Long Beach. I think it’s a great asset to our city… I know that we have a really excellent due diligence process and I am confident that we can come up with a great project.”

Now that BYD’s buses have passed Altoona testing, following issues with their quality coming into play during testing, the company is eligible to re-bid on the LBT contract, though questions still remain in regard to how LBT will go about procuring the ZEB fleet with “excellent due diligence.” Given that BYD’s original bid was riddled with bogus numbers that LBT claimed to have vetted, special care will need to be given as to how the transit company approaches its next bidder.

Controversy surrounded LBT’s previous decision to go with China-based bus manufacturer BYD for its initial ZEB procurement back in March of 2013. Once news hit that BYD was ineligible for the federal funding it received for LBT’s proposed electric bus fleet, records revealed multiple inconsistencies in customer profile numbers provided on the company’s original bid for the contract—numbers that LBT claimed to have vetted at the time.

In a February 25, 2013 staff presentation to LBT Boardmembers, LBT staff listed the customers BYD has done business with, along with the number of buses sold and the number delivered. According to LBT, the numbers provided to the Board were those BYD submitted with their RFP bid to LBT in late 2012, which followed LBT receiving the $9.1M federal TIGGER grant in 2011.

According to the report, BYD’s largest customer is the Shenzhen Bus Group, which is listed as having 742 busses sold and 502 delivered to the massive city in southern China’s Guangdong province. However, according to the company’s own annual report in 2012, only 200 had been delivered by the end of 2012—shortly before LBT staff recommended BYD to the LBT board. By 2013, that number had climbed to 220, still 282 shy of the number claimed on the bid.

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 11.36.12 AMKevin Lee of LBT told the Long Beach Business Journal on March 25, 2013 that LBT conducted “company reference checks with some of the larger purchasers of BYD vehicles, such as those in China and Milan” to vet the numbers BYD claimed in their bid.

“When Long Beach Transit was researching the information in BYD’s proposal, we contacted organizations that had BYD buses in service/on the road,” Lee told the Post this year. “The main organization we contacted, with the most BYD buses at the time, was Shenzhen Transit.”

While BYD’s own annual report has revealed some discrepancies in the company’s LBT bid claims, news organizations from around the world—in covering local transit developments—eventually brought to light further inconsistencies.
BYD’s second-largest customer according to the bid, Hunan Transit in Changsha, was reported to have ordered 101 buses with all 101 delivered by December 2012; however, come July of 2013, one outlet reported that only 30 buses had been delivered.

Additionally, the customer listed as the bus manufacturer’s fourth-largest, KMB of Kowloon, Hong Kong, was reported by BYD to have ordered 29 buses with 15 delivered by the end of 2012; yet news sources claim KMB didn’t receive their first electric bus until September of 2013, when a single BYD bus was being tested on multiple KMB routes. At the time, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing of Hong Kong said the government is planning on spending US$23M on procuring 36 electric buses, of which KMB plans to acquire 18.

Another customer listed on the LBT bid, Barcelona’s Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), was reported by BYD to have purchased 20 buses, with six being delivered. According to TMB, however, the transit authority received its first and only bus on loan from BYD on August 30, 2013. The two-year rental agreement entered into at the time between TMB and BYD states that the bus will be on trial with the option to buy it following the rental.

Bogotá, the capital of Columbia, was also listed as having been sold 10 buses with eight delivered by the end of 2012. Though there was a test of BYD’s buses through the partnership between Clinton Climate Initiative and the InterAmerican Development Bank in order to compare CNG/hybrid buses to electric buses in 2012, no orders were placed to be put into actual fleets by the deadline for LBT’s RFP. In fact, Bogotá did not complete its first trial run of a single BYD bus until September of 2013.

ATM, the transit agency for Milan, Italy, has not responded to requests for confirmation of the numbers BYD claimed on its RFP bid, but BYD posted on their Facebook in January of 2013 that trial runs had not even begun yet in Milan, despite stating on its submitted customer profile that two buses had been sold and delivered.

BYD Motors did not return multiple requests for proof of the numbers it submitted on its bid for Long Beach’s electric bus fleet.

These inconsistencies follow several snags the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese company BYD has experienced since winning the LBT contract in March 2013.

In addition to issues with the Chinese buses the company sent to the U.S. for Altoona testing, the company also spent 2012 battling several now-resolved issues with the California Labor Commission (BYD was fined $37,803 for failing to provide proper breaks; another charge of wage violations was dropped) and the Federal Transit Administration discovered that BYD did not comply with Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirements and was ineligible for the federal funds LBT received through the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant and Clean Fuels program. BYD has said that both the labor and DBE violations were “good faith mistakes.”

Without BYD being eligible for the $6.7M from the TIGGER grant and the $2M from the Clean Fuels program, LBT was left with two choices: stick with BYD and come up with $9.7M of the $12.1M contract itself, or cancel the contract and re-bid. LBT ultimately decided on the latter.

A Universal Lesson in Breaking the Habit of Car Commuting

How one U.K. company got its employees to stop driving to work.


By  Eric Jaffe, 26, 2014


Last fall, the World Wildlife Fund moved its U.K. headquarters from Godalming to Woking. One of the main reasons given for the move was the desire for a more sustainable work environment. To that end, the company encouraged employees to trade their car commute for the train; Woking had much better rail connection anyway, and for six months after the move WWF-UK paid the fare difference for workers whose rail costs rose or who switched from driving.

Getting people to change their commute mode is extremely difficult for companies and cities alike. Decades of transit improvements have made only a tiny dent in car commuting (at least in the United States). Charging drivers higher road and gas prices would increase the dent, but that's politically tricky. Beneath it all is the fact that over time a commute choice becomes so habitual that it's not a choice at all, but rather the response to daily cues that occur more or less without any thought.

Behavioral scientists who study habits in general, and commute habits in particular, know this routine is vulnerable to change after major life events. Moving homes, having a child, starting a new job—these are sort of commute mode Kryptonite. At these moments, the normal cues that automate commute habits get disrupted, transit options and price incentives come back into play, and people can establish new behavioral patterns.

Which brings us back to WWF-UK and its office relocation. A group of psychologists at the University of Bath led by Ian Walker recognized this move as a major life event and saw the chance at a great real-world experiment on commuter habits. Walker and colleagues surveyed company employees on their commute behavior about a year before the move to Woking, then twice more afterward—a week later, and a month down the line.

In a word, the decline in car commuting, and related rise in train use, was remarkable. The share of employees driving to work fell from 55 percent, when the office had been in Godalming, to roughly 23 percent a week after the move to Woking (and 29 percent a month later). The share using the train, meanwhile, did just the reverse: rising from 18.5 percent before to 56 percent after the move. The use of other modes, including cycling, walking, car-share, and bus, remained pretty steady, all under 10 percent.


The chart fails to reveal perhaps the most striking finding of all: only a single employee in the study switched from taking the train to driving a car. The office relocation had disrupted commute habits, and the new transit options and incentives had been attractive enough for commute choices to change.
Walker and company also found that old commute habits had not been broken after the move, per se, but merely weakened. Before the move, workers rated the strength of their commute habit at around a 5 on a 7-point scale. A week after the move that rating was half as strong, and a month later it was even weaker. Still, it hadn't disappeared entirely. The new habits, meanwhile, gained strength after the move, reaching a 4 on the scale after a month at the new office—strong, yes, but not yet as strong as the old habit had once been.

Walker et al (2014), Environment and Behavior
In simple terms, that finding merely echoes what we all know: old habits die hard. But in terms of encouraging new commute behavior, it's a critical insight, because it establishes a timeline for intervention. If a commuter mode-shift program isn't sustained for long enough, there's a real possibility of relapse, since the old habits tend to linger even after the new one starts to form, and since the new one doesn't reach the power of the old even after a month.
Walker and his collaborators say it better in a recent issue of Environment and Behavior:
The implication is that as well as a "window of opportunity for change," a discontinuity also introduces a "window of vulnerability to relapse"—a certain amount of time during which the new habit is not fully established and the old habit is not fully extinguished, meaning people might easily revert to their old behavior in the presence of appropriate contextual cues.
Some might consider WWF-UK a best-case commute-shift scenario. These are environmentally conscious workers, after all, and the new transit option was much more appealing (the train station at Woking was a 7-minute walk from the office, compared with 25 minutes at Godalming). Then again, driving wasn't exactly a huge hassle here: the new office sits right on top of a parking lot, and WWF-UK subsidized employee parking for six months after the move.

But even if this scenario prompted more change than others would have, it still teaches companies and cities a universal lesson about how to change commuter habits. You can't just provide the right options and incentives. You need to hit people at the right time, and even after the first sign of a shift, you can't let up.