Main

February 7, 2010

Bus ridership drops amid lost jobs, lower gas prices

From Strib: Bus ridership drops amid lost jobs, lower gas prices

After hitting nearly 95 million in 2008, including a 27-year high for Metro Transit, the region's main bus system, ridership throughout the various regional transit systems is expected to sink below 90 million when the final numbers are in, according to figures released as part of Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell's "State of the Region" address last week.

December 17, 2009

Washington Avenue Bridge to receive $56 million re-decking

From Finance and Commerce Washington Avenue Bridge to receive $56 million re-decking to prepare it for Central Corridor LRT.

A major question remains unanswered. Why is it being kept open to traffic while construction is underway? Construction would be shorter, safer, and probably cheaper if the whole thing were closed. No traffic catastrophe would ensue, as the unexpected closure of the I-35W bridge and the planned closure of Mn36 showed, and it would be a good test of whether it could be permanently shut to auto traffic after Central Corridor opens on Washington Mall.

At least they are designing for 3 car trains, which the rest of the corridor seems not to be, lest the cost effectiveness index somehow slip.

October 20, 2009

Is green U.S. mass transit a big myth?

From PG: A blogpost by Brad Templeton: Is green U.S. mass transit a big myth?

... These studies express transit energy efficiency in terms of BTUs per passenger-mile. The BTU is the English system unit of energy, and it's equal to 1055 joules. On pure conversion, there are 3413 BTUs in a kw/h. To turn BTUs/mile into miles per gallon, you divide into 125,000, the number of BTUs you get from burning a gallon of gas. ... The DoE figures describe the average car as using 5500 BTUs/mile (23mpg) or 3,500 BTUs/passenger mile with an average load of 1.57 passengers. This is a "fuel to wheels" number based on burning the gasoline.

Putting the car at 3,500 I was disturbed to learn that city diesel buses and electric trolley buses are both mildly worse than the car in energy efficiency. Light rail systems are also slightly worse, on average, though it varies a lot from city to city. Commuter rail and subway (heavy rail) trains tend to be a bit better, but not a lot better. (Non-hybrid cars are also better at long haul than they are short haul.)

Templeton is basically right, I have seen this data before, and we make basically the same argument in The Transportation Experience (Chapter 19). (A car with 4 passengers would be much much better, since the metal per person in a car is much less than on transit, of course cars generally have less than 4 persons most of the time).

-- dml

August 27, 2009

Legibility vs. efficiency

Michael Lewyn on < a href="http://www.planetizen.com/node/40339">Legibility vs. efficiency

A nice piece on something I have been arguing for a few years.

One reason why buses are less popular than trains is buses' lack of "legibility": the ability of an occasional passenger to figure out how to get somewhere by bus.
...

(For example, the bus stopped running to my workplace because speed bumps slowed the commute by a few minutes).

A few minutes? That's a lot of speed bumps. More importantly, why are speed bumps being used on roads served by buses?

*Of course, this problem could be alleviated by placing bus schedules at bus stops, as is frequently done in Toronto and New York City. But I realize that weaker bus systems such as Jacksonville's may lack the resources for such visionary steps.

Sarcasm appreciated.

London Bus iPhone and iPod Touch Application

I wish I had this when living in London: London Bus iPhone and iPod Touch Application London Transport with augmented reality.

August 26, 2009

New UK high-speed rail plan unveiled

From the BBC New UK high-speed rail plan unveiled

The line would serve Birmingham and Manchester, getting passengers from Glasgow to London in just two hours and 16 minutes, the rail firm said. It rejected several alternative routes, including the east of England.

Judging from the map (linked below), the architecture of the line is clearly to feed London, all of the ancillary cities are as if on a tree with the xylem and phloem oriented to London, it would not be terribly good for say Manchester to Edinburgh or Manchester to Birmingham.

"The firm said that the line would account for 43.7 million journeys per year by 2030, which would result in 3.8 million fewer vehicle journeys and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.".
In other words, more 90% of the trips are switching from rail or air to HSR. Providing better rail service to existing rail passengers is a good thing, but CO2 is hardly a rationale (as more CO2 has to be used going faster than going slower if the electricity is from the same place ... diesel to electric conversion is a separate matter).

Finally, the cost is esimated at $55B for 1500 miles of rail (presumably including triple or quadruple tracking in some sections. Planning will take 5 more years. It is hoped by the promoters the first section (London to Birmingham) will open in 2020. Speeds will max at 200 mph.


rail plan

Birmingham: 45mins, down from 1h 22mins

Liverpool: 1hr 23mins, down from 2hrs 8mins

Manchester: 1hr 6mins, down from 2hrs 7mins

Edinburgh: 2hrs 9mins, down from 4hrs 23mins

Glasgow: 2hrs 16mins, down from 4hrs 10 mins


Also see: London to Glasgow in five minutes, a video showing the West Coast Main Line (which this proposal seems to duplicate) and was recently modernized for 9 billion pounds.

August 21, 2009

NY Transportation Authority Cites Schedules as Copyrighted Material

From ReadWriteWeb NY Transportation Authority Cites Schedules as Copyrighted Material

The NY MTA is trying to take-down an iPhone application that delivers train schedules. Another example of appalling over-reach on copyright. Presumably they will lose if this goes to court, buy why do they even bother?

All transit schedules (and traffic counts, and traffic signal timings, and any other transportation data you can imagine) should be free, open, and in a standard, documented, machine-readable format.

August 4, 2009

Bus vs. LRT Crash Externality

From Strib 1 critically hurt in LRT crash Coverage here as well.

"In the five years of the Hiawatha light-rail line, five people have died in crashes, with none of the deaths on a train.

The only one to involve a car was in September 2004, when an 87-year-old man who drove under the crossing arms at E. 42nd Street died after his sedan was struck by a train.

The most recent was in November 2007, when a man on foot was hit and killed at the 46th Street station.

That time without a death "shows that people are becoming more accustomed to coexisting with the light-rail line," Gibbons said.

In 2007, the most recent year with available information, the Hiawatha line reported 52 accidents per 10 million miles traveled. Nationally, 149 accidents were reported for every 10 million miles traveled."

It should be noted buses seem to have fewer fatal crashes. Buses serve about 8 times as many passenger trips than LRT in the Twin Cities (64 million vs. 8 million according to Metro Transit. This snippet appeared earlier in the year:

Metro Transit bus hits, kills woman in Minneapolis Woman hit, killed by Metro Transit bus.

Last update: February 25, 2009 - 11:01 PM


A Metro Transit bus struck and killed a pedestrian Wednesday night in Minneapolis, and the driver was unaware of the accident until the bus was a mile away, authorities said.

The unidentified woman was struck and killed at 46th Street and Minnehaha Avenue about 6:35 p.m., a witness told Minneapolis police.

Transit authorities were notified and determined that the most likely bus involved was one on northbound Route 24.

The driver was notified and stopped 20 minutes later about a mile away at 42nd Avenue and 35th Street, said MTC spokesman Bob Gibbons.

Gibbons said the driver, who was placed on paid administrative leave pending standard drug and alcohol testing, was unaware that the bus had hit anyone. A lone passenger on the bus backed up the driver's account, Gibbons said.

An autopsy is being performed by the Hennepin County medical examiner.

The accident was the third pedestrian fatality involving a bus in the past nine years. Gibbons said the last such incident was in October 2006. Before that, the last one was in January 2000.

HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA

July 10, 2009

Nearest Tube

This looks like the coolest iPhone app yet: Nearest Tube, an augmented reality application to find London Underground stations. by acrossair. I have not yet played with it.

Update: from Venture BeatAugmented reality subway app comes to NY, SF

July 7, 2009

Low Quality vs. High Quality Transit Services

Imagine there are two transit services in an area, a low quality system (L) that is pervasive (everyone is within 400 m of a low quality stop) and a high quality system (H) that is skeletal (only a small fraction are within 400 m of a high quality stop).

Imagine there are two classes of potential users, poor people (P) who will use either system, and rich people (R) who will use only the H routes.

Poor people perceive the system as larger (both L and H) and get more network externalities from the system. They can go anywhere in town on transit. Rich people see a small system, and perceive few network externalities. They can only go places on the H system.

As a consequence, poor people are more likely to use the system than rich people.

There are several solutions to this problem. The expensive solution is to build high quality services everywhere to attract the fraction of R that would not otherwise take transit. The less expensive solution is to change the perception (and reality) of the low quality system so it appears higher quality. Give it as many of the same features of H as possible, starting with information (e.g. what bus stops at the bus stop, when does it stop, what hours does it operate, where does it go, what does the local neighborhood look like, is the bus ontime, how much does it cost) and navigability.

Why do we never consider the less expensive solution?

July 6, 2009

Monorail Crash Kills Driver Stuns Passengers At Disney World - MiceChat

More on the monorail crash and how it might have happened, (Via Daring Fireball) from some postings on Micechat It is possibly a user interface problem, possibly a central control problem ...

July 1, 2009

Reflections on the Streetcar of Portland

Riding for a conference from the Portland airport to Portland State University on Light Rail Transit (LRT) and then streetcar gave me time to reflect on the Elysian Fields of transportation engineering, the Nirvana of networks and nexi.

Portland, Oregon is one of the major battlegrounds in the mode wars (car vs. transit and the internecine rail vs. bus). It has since the 1980s been held up by planners as the exemplar American city that does almost everything right. The foremost thing they do right in the view of the planning establishment is promoting LRT and bicycling.

The fascination with rail transit in particular (especially as compared with bus) was something I have never quite grokked. As a rational observer with formal training in transportation, I have had a hard time understanding the emotional relationship people have with rail. Why do people like LRT more than bus? Is it simply how we operate them, or that it is modern capital, or is there a psychological benefit associated with deterministic tracks vs. widely diverging roads? There are lots of theories on the matter, I will identify a few below.

1. Ride quality. The quality of the ride on an LRT is smoother and less herky-jerky than a bus, and passengers have a nicer facility.

2. Navigability. It is hard to navigate current US bus systems, while the fewer number of rail lines are fairly easy to figure out. Because trains cannot steer, they cannot get lost the way a bus can.

3. Speed. Trains are faster than local buses, especially if they have their own right of way and few stations.

4. Permanence. I can make a permanent investment decision based on the location of rail lines, as the transit system is committed to this line, while a bus line may be temporary.

5. Nostalgia. People who like LRT recall (or wish they could recall) the immediately post-World War II America when streetcars were at a maximum. 1946 was a magical period in US history, a boom following the long depression, when streetcar networks if not at a maximum were really close. (Coupled with a conspiracy theory about their removal)

6. Sexuality. This is part of the theory presented by Jonathan Richmond's in his book Transport of Delight and earlier paper The Mythical Conception of Rail Transit in Los Angeles. The image of the train entering the tunnel clearly evokes a primal response.


There are logical rejoinders for the first four (though not the nostalgia or sexuality argument I suppose), the most obvious is that if you spent the kind of money you are spending on rail on buses instead, and operated them better, buses would be quite nice. Navigability could be improved with a bit of thought (and trains can divert), while permanence of the last generation of streetcars (1887-1954) clearly was temporary.


The theory I have now adopted comes from my recent trip from Minneapolis to Portland accessing the airport at both ends via LRT, and then riding the Portland streetcar almost full circle. Rail transit forms an urban superstructure. Guideway transit, esp. LRT makes the city more like a single structure, and makes everything seem closer. The LRT vehicle is continuously running, and if activities are along the path of the vehicle, everything seems quite coordinated. In a way by organizing activities linearly (or multi-linearly), it simplifies the city. Hopping on a train is much like getting on an elevator.


LRT, like walking indoors, keeps you enveloped within civilization, while walking, biking, or driving is a frontier experience, you alone in the wilderness. (And bus falls in-between). We can posit that distances within buildings seem shorter than distances between buildings (Some literature along the notions of this idea exist, see Tversky, but it is not directly on point). Distances connected by the urban superstructure will likely feel closer than those which are not so connected. Walking through a modern airport, or the Minneapolis Skyway, will tell you enveloped distances can be quite large, but still not feel as large as leaving one building into nature for another.

Preferences for civilization or frontier-crossing (or degree of each) vary across individuals. Driving of course places you in a machine, but you, not civilization, are operating the machine, so just as driving is freedom, not everyone wants that freedom to drive, they may prefer freedom from driving. The extent to which you believe in the importance of community over individuals (or vice versa) will affect your perception of the issue.

( LRT may also be more popular than traditional underground subway (Metro) systems. People of course like being able to walk out the door and step onto a train more than having to descend through the gates of hell, Metro to get to the underground subterranean system. There are many reasons, not least of which is the extra time and energy required to so descend. The advantages in principle are faster point to point travel time, but that depends on the access cost vs. the in-motion speed. )

Transit invokes further passions because of the positive feedback loop between ridership, revenue, and route frequency, especially where transit is weak as in much of the US. My riding transit creates a positive externality for you (more riders, shorter headways, and more routes), so of course if you ride transit, you want to impose your preference on me. It is only selfishly rational. Further cars use scarce roadspace. While similar feedback loops may exist on the highway side (more drivers means more closely spaced roads), congestion mitigates that and the network is largely built out, so drivers do not feel the same need to impose their modal preference on the transit riding minority. Finally, drivers may benefit in the short term if other drivers take transit. (Where transit is already congested and frequent, additional riders produce few positive externalities as diminishing returns set in).

Value Capture for Transportation Finance

Our Value Capture for Transportation Finance study is now out.

Detailed reports will be placed online soon.

About the Study

Large public investments in state transportation infrastructure--such as new freeway interchanges, highways, or transit stations--can increase the value of adjacent private land, sometimes substantially. Capturing the value of this benefit through various tools is gaining interest as a finance mechanism for infrastructure investments. But many questions remain: Does "value capture" promote or hinder economic development? How high should the tax rate be? How stable is the revenue?

To answer these and other questions, the state legislature appropriated funding to CTS to study the public policy implications of value capture.

Researchers reviewed the relationship between transportation and land values, including the measurement of benefits from a transportation improvement, as well as the legal and economic frameworks for capturing the value gains. They explored the major financing techniques associated with value capture--such as joint development of infrastructure and adjacent private parcels, rezoning and reselling, impact fees, special assessment districts, and tax increment financing--and some examples of their implementation. They then evaluated several of the proposed policies and their suitability for implementation locally, based on the criteria of economic efficiency, social equity, adequacy as a revenue source, and feasibility.

June 30, 2009

It's one thing to get your ticket punched

Via MPR news, It's one thing to get your ticket punched a response by LRT Muggee Chuck Laszewski.

June 27, 2009

Light-rail mugging suspects are charged in string of attacks

Light-rail mugging suspects are charged in string of attacks

following up on Ex-transit reporter mugged at light-rail stop

June 23, 2009

Ex-transit reporter mugged at light-rail stop

From Strib: Ex-transit reporter mugged at light-rail stop

Chuck Laszewski and a friend where attacked at the Lake Street stop as they bought tickets to head downtown.

(at 12:45 pm (PM!, broad daylight) on Sunday afternoon, strangely enough, just about the time I was on the Hiawatha line going the other direction)

Fix It First: Old Questions About Crashworthiness of Metro Cars - City Desk - Washington City Paper

From Washington City Paper, Old Questions About Crashworthiness of Metro Cars

Following the terrible crash on the Washington Metrorail Red Line (which I have taken many times) some blame game begins:

UPDATE, 6/23, 8:15 A.M.: NTSB's Debbie Hersman this morning confirms that the the striking train was a 1000-series car and that the struck train was a mix of 3000- and 5000-series. She notes that the NTSB has "long been on record" about the crashworthiness of the 1000 series. "We recommended to WMATA to either retrofit those cars or phase them out of service," she says. "Those concerns were not addressed."

Perhaps we need to apply the environmental movement's Fix It First logic to public transport systems as well as roads and bridges.

We let our politicians get away with ribbon cuttings while core infrastructure fails.

June 11, 2009

Muni pulls out the stops

From SF Gate Muni floats plan to pull hundreds of S.F. stops

To improve efficiency, Muni wants to eliminate stops. Customers complain.

June 5, 2009

The Bus Stop of the Future?

EyeStop from MIT
01.jpg.jpeg

(source Senseable City Lab http://senseable.mit.edu/eyestop/)

vs.

Bus Stop.jpg.jpeg

(source Evening Telegraph http://eveningtelegraph.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html)

Surely there is some middle ground.

May 10, 2009

New York transit ridership

Via Kottke, from Frumination: New York Subway ridership trends, graphically and spatially, by station

May 8, 2009

Photos on transit systems

Via BoingBoing: on WHAT IM SEEING dot com What Is Muni’s Photography Policy??

Another photographer harassed by another transit cop.

See previous story on Amtrak

April 9, 2009

Too good to ride the buses

Anti-transit (especially anti-bus bias) North of the Border (from Montreal Gazette):
Too good to ride the buses

April 2, 2009

Build your high capacity system

Now in Portland, so reading the Portland news"paper", the Portland Oregonian: Metro maps out MAX's future across Portland

There is a nice website by Portland Metro: Build your high capacity system allowing users to select lines and see the costs. This is an interesting step in public involvement. It would be cooler if people could draw new lines rather than just selecting from potential lines.

March 3, 2009

Subway Map Porn

From HuffPo via KH (safe for work despite the title) Subway Map Porn For The Mass Transit Freak (SLIDESHOW)

February 6, 2009

What is wrong with this picture

From WaPo Reduced Rail Hours Among Possible Cuts

And, from December 2008,

New Ridership Record Shows U.S. Still Lured to Mass Transit

More demand and a large fixed cost, low variable cost operation should lead to low marginal costs per additional rider and more revenue. External factors (more demand, declining petroleum costs) should make the deal even easier. WMATA raised fares last year.

Why can't WMATA make the math work? Is there a management problem?

February 4, 2009

The Stupidest Lawsuit Since the World Began

Okay, the article from Groklaw (via Clay Shirky) The Stupidest Lawsuit Since the World Began is over 3 years old, but I didn't see it before, and I don't know how it resolved ...

The women, who live in Moselle and work five days a week at European Union offices in Luxembourg, are being sued by Transports Schiocchet Excursions, which runs a service along the route. It wants the women fined and their cars confiscated.

Two years ago a business tribunal threw out the company's case. It is now pursuing the women in a higher court, saying their action has cost it €2 million ($3.2 million).

The women explained that for many years cleaners used the company line for the 40-minute ride across the border, which cost them €110 a month.

"Using our cars is quicker and at least twice as cheap. And on the bus we didn't have the right to eat or even to speak," said Martine Bourguignon.

Yes, they were sued for carpooling rather than paying to ride the bus.

While absurd, it is not so absurd as to be unknown.

Bus monopolies in the US generally prohibit competitive for hire jitney and shared taxi services, as well as competing bus routes. See Curb Rights by Daniel Klein, Adrian Moore, and Binyam Reja for further discussion.

December 24, 2008

The cost of park and ride

From Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal: Metro Transit cuts two park and rides

One was a 288-stall lot, from the article "Metro Transit, a metropolitan-wide government agency, expects to save $17,000 in plowing and $16,000 in lighting expense for the surface lot per year, Gibbons said." So $33,000 per 288 spaces, assuming all were occupied, amounts to a subsidy of $114.58 per parked car per year. (Divide by load factor for the actual subsidy which is higher), or at least $0.45 per day per car. This adds to the cross-subsidy from people who walk-to-transit to people who drive-to-transit. Given transit fares are $2.25 (local) in rush (or $4.50 per day round trip), this is at least 10% of total trip fares.

November 18, 2008

Double Decker buses on the Mean Streets of Minneapolis

From the Strib: Double-deckers coming to Twin Cities?

It looks like a cool test by SW Transit this week.

And the article doesn't even mention the fear that a double-decker will knock down (or be decapitated by) a skyway (presumably this was tested and measured).


November 17, 2008

Fix Chicago's Transit and win $5000

Via PG: InnoCentive - Virtual Project Room, Challenge 7520002

Registration is required, but here is the gist of the contest:

DELETED AT REQUEST OF INNOCENTIVE, YOU WILL NEED TO LOG IN TO FIND OUT

"DEADLINE: Dec 05, 2008

Let me know if you win.

November 2, 2008

Welcome to Amerika

From Phil G (shagbark): Welcome to Amerika

"DC Metro is going to start randomly inspecting bags:

http://www.wmata.com/faqs/preview.cfm?faqID=50 "

Why are public transit systems not like streets?

This seems far worse than the tracking that takes place with Farecards or the potential associated with road user charges.

October 23, 2008

Beck is Back

The Confabulum Urban Rail + Graphic Design has a link to a nice BBC documentary on Harry Beck's map of the London Underground, which was an extremely important achievement in establishing how we communicate transit information and is now emblematic of London. If only buses could be expressed as clearly (though TfL is trying).

October 22, 2008

Godless buses

From the Guardian, "Comment is Free" Ariane Sherine: All aboard the atheist bus campaign

"The atheist bus campaign launches today thanks to Comment is free readers. Because of your enthusiastic response to the idea of a reassuring God-free advert being used to counter religious advertising, the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" could now become an ad campaign on London buses – and leading secularists have jumped on board to help us raise the money.

The British Humanist Association will be administering all donations to the campaign, and Professor Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The God Delusion, has generously agreed to match all contributions up to a maximum of £5,500, giving us a total of £11,000 if we raise the full amount. This will be enough to fund two sets of atheist adverts on 30 London buses for four weeks"

Note, unlike the buses in the UK, the trains of Sodor celebrate Christmas. I don't know if Jesus died for their sins too.

October 18, 2008

Jumpstarting the Transit Space Race

ReconnectingAmerica.org is proposing to jumpstart the transit space race, suggesting that all proposed transit lines could be built in the US for a mere $248 billion. They provide a nice comprehensive list You know, this is less than $1000 per person (and annualized, less than $100 per person per year, less than $0.30 per day for the option of using transit if I am in a city with transit).

(And half that if we retained a federal 50% matching requirement).

(Of course, it is closer to $100,000 for every current regular transit user)

If the transit advocates promised never to advocate another line, and go away for something like 20 or 30 years, and I never had to think about this issue again, it would be well worth it to me personally.

Somehow, I think every proposed line in the US would cost more than $248 billion, (and certainly if the spigot were open, many more proposals would surface) but this includes selected intercity High Speed Rail (Milwaukee to Madison) and not others (California HSR).

Nevertheless, a nice piece of policy advocacy work in front of the coming reauthorization.

August 22, 2008

Will it draw hot chicks?

"Will it draw hot chicks?" is the opening line from the Strib article (via Greater Greater Washington) For new rapid bus lines, much is riding on image

The article contains a good discussion of branding BRT vs. LRT, and the "attractive young female" factor. The key of course is investing enough in buses that people (attractive and ugly, female and male, young and old) have some confidence in the system, like for instance, knowing which buses stop (and when, and where they are going, and how much it costs) at a bus stop (still a mystery in the Twin Cities if you don't have a printed schedule with you or internet access).

No one will try transit without some introductory information. Bus stops are ideal places to provide that information, but the transit agency does not prioritize this. The example of London's buses should be reviewed.

August 14, 2008

robot guides subway rider in London

From (1933) (via Boing Boing) ROBOT GUIDES SUBWAY RIDER IN LONDON

A pre-computer machine to help underground patrons find their destination.

July 25, 2008

Police: Man Stole Miami-Dade Buses, Drove Them On RoutesPolice: Teen Dressed As Bus Driver, Returned Buses At End Of DayPolice: Teen Dressed As Bus Driver, Returned Buses At End Of Day

Via Boing-Boing: From News4Jax: Police: Man Stole Miami-Dade Buses, Drove Them On Routes

No reason was given why.

Buses can increase property values

Buses can increase property values, so says this article in SFGate The Google Effect: How the company's shuttle line affects San Francisco real estate

Apparently Googlers will pay a premium to live in San Francisco and elsewhere near the Google Transit system. Will these rent price increases be capitalized in land is an outstanding question. (Anyone with Bay Area data want to run a Hedonic model?)

June 23, 2008

Public transport in Brisbane

An Op-Ed in the Courier Mail by Chris Hale on public transport in the Queensland, Australia city of Brisbane (population 1.8 million according to wikipedia)Kevin Rudd on right track with push for public transport l

The article notably discusses the importance of ticketing and signing, which are far too neglected in consideration of public transport use.

Whether the combination of density and energy prices is sufficient to support rail is an empirical question.

June 17, 2008

ICFTI 3

UPDATED August 27, 2009.

I am leaving today for Paris, where I will be presenting a paper at The 3rd International Conference on Funding Transport Infrastructure. We hope to have the 4th conference in Minnesota next summer.

The paper is:

Levinson, David and Andrew Odlyzko (2008) Too Expensive to Meter: The influence of transaction costs in transportation and communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 366(1872) pp 2033-2046 [doi]



Abstract. Technology appears to be making fine-scale charging (as in tolls on roads that depend on time of day or even on current and anticipated levels of congestion) increasingly feasible. And such charging appears to be increasingly desirable, as traffic on roads continues to grow, and costs and public opposition limit new construction. Similar incentives towards fine-scale charging also appear to be operating in communications and other areas, such as electricity usage. Standard economic theory supports such measures, and technology is being developed and deployed to implement them. But their spread is not very rapid, and prospects for the future are uncertain. This paper presents a collection of sketches, some from ancient history, some from current developments, that illustrate the costs that charging imposes. Some of those costs are explicit (in terms of the monetary costs to users, and the costs of implementing the charging mechanisms). Others are implicit, such as the time or the mental processing costs of users. These argue that the case for fine-scale charging is not unambiguous, and that in many cases may be inappropriate.

June 15, 2008

Memo to the Next President of the United States on Transportation Policy

I have drafted a Memo to the Next President of the United States on Transportation Policy.

The memo outlines ten visions, which are summarized here, for fuller discussion, see the full memo:

  1. Within eight years more cars sold in the United States will be powered primarily by electricity and bio-fuels than by fossil fuels. All buses and passenger trains will use electricity or bio-fuels.
  2. Within eight years Americans will be able to ride autonomous smart cars that drive themselves in mixed traffic.
  3. Within a year, an independent federally-funded Bridge Inspection Service will begin to inspect and publicly report on the quality of all bridges on the National Highway System.
  4. After thorough evaluation, within eight years, bridges and pavements on the US Interstate Highway System will be upgraded to handle trucks carrying up to 100,000 pounds, increasing the efficiency of the trucking industry and by reducing the number of vehicle trips, increasing safety for other road users. These improvements will be paid for by the trucking industry, which directly benefits from the improved system. In heavily traveled corridors, a system of truck-only toll lanes will be constructed.
  5. Within eight years American travelers can choose to travel congestion-free by car or bus through America's largest metropolitan areas.
  6. Within four years American travelers will enter airports and transit, and train stations and cross borders, passing both security and immigration controls without delay while ensuring security.
  7. Within eight years a new source of transportation revenue based on time and place of use will be deployed, replacing the federal and state gas tax. This funding will support highway and transit networks.
  8. Returning to the vision of Democratic President Andrew Jackson, items in federal transportation legislation that do not serve a national purpose will be vetoed.
  9. Extending the bipartisan efforts of transportation deregulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, within four years, highway and transit services and infrastructure will begin to be competitively provided by independent (public, private, or non-profit) organizations under appropriate local or federal oversight. Infrastructure will be provided under a public utility model, ensuring quality of service in exchange for earning a rate of return.
  10. Within one year, the United States federal government will establish separate capital and operating budgets. This will be coupled with a federal program to guarantee loans and bonds for highway and transit infrastructure projects.

  11. Full memo after the jump

    Continue reading "Memo to the Next President of the United States on Transportation Policy" »

June 12, 2008

U changes direction on light-rail trains

From the Strib: U changes direction on light-rail trains The U will now support LRT on Washington Avenue at-grade with appropriate traffic mitigations, eliminating cars from a section of the roadway.

The official statement is here.

June 6, 2008

Comments on the Central Corridor

I have written a memo for the University of Minnesota administration outlining my views on the proposed Central Corridor, in particular its course through campus. This is based on my thoughts and a number of meetings with University of Minnesota staff, but reflects solely my own judgment. The download is about 10 MB in .pdf (it includes images).

Download file

Text after the jump (for figures, see the .pdf file above)

Continue reading "Comments on the Central Corridor" »

May 13, 2008

A Transit Ridership Paradox?

In the paper Urban Structure and Transit Ridership: A Reexamination of the Relationship in the United States,
Brown and Neog have a table (#5) which shows that for metropolitan areas of various sizes, transit passenger km traveled per person increased for 3 of 4 categories,

Population N 1990 2000
--------------------------------
Over 10,000,000 2 741.05 819.23
5,000,000 - 10,000,000 8 450.44 528.84
1,000,000 - 5,000,000 43 91.15 87.97
500,000 - 1,000,000 29 37.00 43.64

yet overall in this period transit ridership per capita declined (it of course depends on how you look at it, but e.g. total public transport journey to work trips in the US dropped from 6.069 million to 6.067 million from 1990 to 2000 according to Census Journey-to-Work numbers, so at a minimum transit did not outperform growth of the market). So while (e.g.) three out of four classes of cities saw an increase, the US as a whole saw a decrease. What could explain this?

The answer might be migration and population patterns, as people moved from larger to smaller metropolitan areas, they became less likely to use transit. This could be for a variety of reasons, transit service is worse in smaller cities because of the positive feedback system at work.

This suggests we need look not only at individual cities to understand trends, but the types of cities people are choosing. If transit is to become important, it needs to do better than getting a larger share of shrinking market.

April 16, 2008

Impatient Subway Riders Revolt in Chicago

From the NYT:
Impatient Subway Riders Revolt in Chicago

"Impatient Subway Riders Revolt in Chicago

By CATRIN EINHORN
CHICAGO — The packed rush-hour subway train had been stopped for about an hour Tuesday morning, held up by a malfunctioning train ahead. In air hot and stuffy, the passengers had turned nervous and impatient. Ignoring pleas of transit workers, they decided to leave the train and walk through the dimly lighted tunnel toward freedom.

The unauthorized evacuation, transit officials said, caused a bigger problem. Fearing that passengers could be electrocuted by the third rail, officials cut off power to part of the Blue Line, which travels a large U-shaped route between the West Side and O’Hare International Airport. Service was disrupted for about four hours, and more than a thousand passengers had to be helped off several trains.

“If those particular passengers had not self-evacuated, we could have gotten people out on trains and restored service much sooner,? said Ron Huberman, president of the Chicago Transit Authority. ...
"

I wonder how common this is. I remember reading about this happening in London's Underground early in the last century. Would certainty about how long the delay would be have calmed the riders?

April 10, 2008

IKEA Train

On Gizmodo: Comfy IKEA Train Makes Me Want to Move to the Subway

April 8, 2008

Pawlenty vetoes Central Corridor

From Strib: Legislators, local officials toss Central Corridor ball back to Pawlenty

March 21, 2008

Transit Ridership and Observation Bias

One of the problems that afflicts any public service as widely used as transportation is that everyone has an opinion. In fact, everyone *is* an expert on their own commute. The problem is the generalization from anecdote to data (data is not the plural of anecdote). Just because someone understands their own travel patterns doesn't mean that individual understands everyone else's.

An assumption, satirized in The Onion, is that transit is a solution to transportation problems, because other people will take transit.

While evidence is thatPublic transit ridership up in U.S., by 32% since 1995 (to the highest levels since 1957), which is explained in part by high gas prices, and in part by the huge investment in rail transit in the past three decades, this number is still overall quite small. It should be noted that Vehicle Miles Traveled grew 24% in the same period (and has been flat the past several years, so the increase is slightly faster than overall demand (of course, comparing trips to miles isn't really right, since distances change. Total transit mode share in the US is on the order of 5% for work trips (depending on how you measure) according to this article A Closer Look at Public Transportation Mode Share Trends by Polzin and Chu, but that it only carries about 1% of total passenger miles traveled in the US.

If you tell people, even transportation professionals, that transit carries only 1% of travel in the US, they are usually surprised. Why?

The answer in part lies in an observation bias. To illustrate: imagine there are two buses, one carries 49 people, one carries 1 rider. The average ridership is 25 passengers per bus. (49+1)/2 = 25.

However, the perceived average from riders would be (i.e. the rider-weighted average) is (49*49 + 1*1)/50 = 48.04 passengers per bus. The mis-estimate by using an on-board observer weighting rather than a systems weighting is nearly 100%. (Lest you think this is a straw man example, consider dead-heading commuter trains, with 500 passengers inbound in the morning and very few or none (if the agency truly deadheads) outbound)

The same mis-estimate occurs on highways, where congestion is over-estimated because more people experience congestion than its absence. No one is there to observe a truly empty road.

December 6, 2007

Management of Subways to Be Split

From the NYT: Management of Subways to Be Split

"The goal, Mr. Roberts said, is to have 24 subway lines operating in many ways as 24 self-contained railroads. (The number may vary, depending on how the lines are counted.) They will compete against one another and be rated on service, cleanliness, on-time performance and other measures."

This is interesting. They are starting with lines that are isolated, which is smart. How they will deal with lines that interact (share track and platforms) will be interesting, and may be a true test of whether this kind of decentralization of responsibility can be made to work in such an integrated system.

November 22, 2007

Hiawatha takes another life.

Light-rail train hits, kills man in south Minneapolis

"It was the second death at the 46th Street Station, and the fifth along the full line since light rail started running in 2004. In August 2006, a bicyclist was killed after crossing diagonally through the rail arms and flashing lights."

Nationally reported fatalities on (rail?) transit systems range from 26 in 2002 to 57 in 2004, averaging 40.67. So of those, about 2 per year are on the Hiawatha line alone, and are about 5% of national transit deaths on rail. That seems way too high.

In Minneapolis, Hiawatha serves about 10% of transit trips.


The National Transit Database (which is buried pretty deeply, perhaps so prying eyes can't easily find the data) does not report fatalities. Nationally there are about 285 fatalities per year (2002 numbers) on all transit according to the TSAR.

I suppose system specific bus safety is data not meant to be easily accessed (fatalities by bus systems), because I can't find it at the Metro Transit website either. The Metro Transit Transportation Audit e.g. does not mention safety.

NHTSA seems to bury transit bus safety data as well, perhaps leaving it to FTA.

The net of this is if bus carries 10x rail in terms of number of passengers in the Twin Cities, and they were equally safe, we would expect 50 fatalities in the past 3 years. I don't believe that is the case (even counting on-board violence). So LRT far is more dangerous than bus, and at this rate, perhaps more dangerous that private vehicles.

At what point do enough individual anecdotes become a policy problem?

October 20, 2007

Houston's Greatest Light Railway Hits


May 23, 2007

Knock-on effects

Why I couldn't get off the train at Victoria station tonight: London fire causes commuter chaos

"A fire in southeast London has resulted in the closure of a mainline and underground stations, causing chaos for commuters.

London Bridge station was closed following fears that gas cylinders could explode in railway arches in Bermondsey.

Firefighters threw a 200 metre exclusion zone around the workshop where a blaze broke out in the morning.

Even though the fire had been put out, a London Fire Brigade spokesman said the tracks could remain closed overnight if acetylene gas cylinders were found at the workshop.

The closure of London Bridge station - used by thousands of workers in the City - had a knock-on effect elsewhere, with Victoria underground station temporarily shutting because of overcrowding.

Rail services are also affected at Cannon Street, Charing Cross and Waterloo East."

So the train I am on tonight (Victoria line), while returning from a seminar at UCL, does not stop at Victoria (where I want it to stop, to transfer to the District Line), and where given the name of the line, it is implied it will stop, and proceeds past. I got off at Pimlico, and found a bus #360 to Sloane Square, and transferred to my favorite #22, though it took 15 minutes before it arrived and the bus was packed to the gills with people sitting on the steps.

Had I known it was not going to stop, I would have gotten off earlier (Green Park) and transferred. That would have required at most 5 minutes advance warning given to the driver to inform the passengers. Perhaps I was just unfortunate and the decision to close Victoria station was made while I was on the train between Green Park and Victoria.

At any rate there were lots of peeved and confused passengers exiting at Pimlico.

And all of this occurred because gas canister "might" explode. Somehow I would feel more comfortable with my inconvenience if they actually exploded. (I understand logically that is probably a risk authorities should not take).

May 19, 2007

FasTracks are Expensive Tracks

According to this article : Transportation project more than a billion dollars over budget The FasTracks project in Denver will cost $6.1 Billion instead of $4.7 Billion, or 30% over the budget promised to voters as recently as November 2004.

Are officials constitutionally incapable of making accurate cost estimates, or was the misestimate intentional?

May 13, 2007

Transit mode share and the four-footed

Briefly noted: Mystery cat takes regular bus to the shops | the Daily Mail (via Memepool).

Apparently he doesn't pay full fare, but perhaps because he is under 14, he is free and doesn't require an Oyster card.

April 24, 2007

U.S. Employees Selling Transit Passes Illegally, Investigators Say

From today's New York Times: U.S. Employees Selling Transit Passes Illegally, Investigators Say .

The federal government, to provide incentives for its employees to take transit, has given them a subsidy of transit passes. Instead of paying their employees more dollars (a currency in fact produced by the US government) and letting them make their own transportation decisions, or charging more for alternatives (on parking generally owned by the US government), it attempted to impose an alternative currency, and is outraged, outraged I say, that people have attempted to perform currency exchange, economic arbitrage between the subsidy and money for them that is more useful.

This is what you get for trying to direct human behavior .. performing "social engineering" as the term is used in Minnesota.

The report was apparently requested by Republican Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who is apparently upset at government employees using the market system.

Coleman should instead be pleased at how well the federal employees understand markets and are willing to cut through red tape.

March 11, 2007

Google transit

In addition to owning the search market, Google is also a private mass transit operator: from the New York Times: Google%u2019s Buses Help Its Workers Beat the Rush "The company now ferries about 1,200 employees to and from Google daily — nearly one-fourth of its local work force — aboard 32 shuttle buses equipped with comfortable leather seats and wireless Internet access. Bicycles are allowed on exterior racks, and dogs on forward seats, or on their owners’ laps if the buses run full."

Note: Google is not operating a light rail system.

March 3, 2007

Could you walk it quicker?

I was going to write about this, but someone beat me to it: London Underground Tube Diary - Going Underground's Blog. There is a new ad campaign from Flora "Could you walk it quicker?" which suggests people should walk between locations that are close together for their heart. Of course, it would also relieve transit congestion, if taken up, as many stations are really quite close, especially after you consider the underground access costs, the closeness is shown on the maps at Shortwalk.blog. It points out the great distortions caused by the standard tube map based on the design by Harry Beck, which makes some close things seem far and some far things seem close.

January 2, 2007

Word on the Street about Streetcars

Downtown Journal Online has a follow-up to their article on streetcars in Minneapolis. Seems opinion is mixed. Of course the person from the streetcar museum was in favor.

December 26, 2006

Bus route centennial and why buses in London are red

According to Wikipedia, London Buses route 22 was introduced on May 17, 1909. By 1911 it had evolved into the route that serve as the link between my current home near Putney Commons and Piccadilly Circus. (It was extended from Putney Bridge to Putney Commons in 1916). The route has evolved some since that time mainly being split into two pieces, the northern branch "shortworkings" designeated 22A, 22B, and 22C and later 242. The 22 was later stopped at Piccadilly and the Northern shortworkings were fully separate routes.

Why is this of interest?
Not only is continuous service provided on the same route, a continuously numbered bus route has managed to last nearly 100 years on largely the same route, longer than most rail services.
One could attribute this to bureaucratic intertia, but it also helps locals at least retain knowledge about their transport geography.

While consistent bus numbering was a positive aspect to come out of the reorganization of the London buses through the twentieth century, much was lost in term of information by the use of red for all city buses.

The distinction between the red city buses and green country buses is well known (the green buses have lost their distinction with privatization). However, prior to that, buses along certain services in fact had their own colors (based on which Association was operating the service (Reed p. 10). The "General" was red, and since they were the survivors of consolidation, buses in London are today red. This is clearly much less useful for navigation than one color for each route, but if the companies each operated only one route (or several very similar routes) they would be equivalent.

Having all buses be red might help branding, on the other hand, buses are pretty easy to distinguish based on shape, and don't really need to have a single color for branding at the expense of wasting that parameter for passenger information.

Reference: Reed, J. (2000) London Buses: A Brief History. Capital Transport.

December 19, 2006

VMS: Variably-reliable Misinformation Signs

Variable Message Signs (VMS) are intended to provided information to travelers on roads (how long to nearby destinations, warning of an accident, there is an Amber Alert, please run a car with license plate XXX YYY off the road). In London they are used on underground and National Rail trains and at selected bus stops with the Countdown system installed.

I wish they were accurate.

Continue reading "VMS: Variably-reliable Misinformation Signs" »

November 30, 2006

On "A Streetcar Named Development", Streetcars, Buses, and Signs

In this week's Downtown Journal Online, an article "A Streetcar Named Development" discusses the potential for streetcars for Minneapolis.

Streetcars would be the third distinct rail technology that the Twin Cities would have introduced in the course of a decade, following LRT and commuter rail, and of course bus remains. This technology proliferation is one of several issues that has been inadequately addressed. The greater the number of distinct technologies used, the lower the economies of scale that can be achieved with any one of them. While they serve somewhat different markets, they also serve overlapping markets, yet no consideration was given to using technology A in market B.

The more important concern is revealed by the closing quote from Teresa Wernecke, director of the Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization. '“With rail, you know where you’re going,? Wernecke said.' The implication is that with bus you don't. Why should that be?

The answer is the under-investment in buses over the past 50 years, in particular the lack of signage. Staff I have spoken with at the Metropolitan Council seem to think it would be too expensive to have simple signs which actually told you what bus stopped where and when (since the schedules apparently change). But it is not too expensive to deploy 3 new rail systems to make up for the institutional inadequecies of Metro Transit's bus operations.

To illustrate, compare this typical bus stop sign from Minneapolis
Minneapolis Bus Stop

With this one from London
London Bus Stop

While this sign certainly does not solely explain London's higher transit ridership, it helps considerably. The F helps orient you from which stop (among many), which are all shown on a map. The sign tells you where you are and where the buses go, and which buses go there. The schedule shows you the frequency (or schedule) of buses. Further there are maps at every stop, along with schedules.

It might surprise people to know, but bus mode share in London (18%) is as high as Underground and Surface Rail combined (17%) according to Transport for London.

Other factors include traveler information, designated bus lanes, frequent shelters, etc. But underlying this is the attitude that buses should be given full support as a transit mode.

It is too bad Minneapolis is choosing to throw money at streetcars at $30 million per mile and provide no additional service rather than using those scarce resources to create a world-class bus system.

-- dml

November 26, 2006

The World is Your Oyster

A prospective visitor asks: "What do you use for public transit--oyster card? bus/train passes? Are you zone 2 or 3? we are thinking 7 day pass"

The Oyster card is a marvel of technology.

We use the Oyster card with cash (not Travelcard) and automatically top-it-up with cash when it falls below £5.00 (it is automagically debited from our bank account).

We are Zone 2 (Putney Bridge is the nearest tube stop, Putney railway station is the nearest train stop). The buses are flat fare throughout the city. The national rail system is inconsistently on Oyster, but all of the buses and tubes are, and it works well, and is guaranteed to be as cheap as the one-day Travelcard alternative (it has automatic price capping so if your total one day travel exceeds what a day travelcard would be, you only pay that) assuming you don't use national rail. Also there is bus price-capping, so if you spend more than £3 on bus travel, the rest of your bus travel is free that day. The buses work very well now in the central city with the congestion charge taking out most of the private vehicles. They are still slowed by excess traffic in Kensington and Chelsea (and other areas), but the congestion charge is expanding to Kensington next year. The bus frequency is high and the signage excellent (especially compared to the Twin Cities).

Apparently the three day Travelcard might be slightly cheaper depending on your usage if you stay in zones 1-2. If you are planning on going beyond that, the three day travel card price = 3 * the one day travel card price. (Heathrow is in Zone 6, Gatwick is not Oyster-compliant, you still need special tickets for the Gatwick Express). The Travelcard is also useful if you are using National rail within the city (we seldom do), as National rail is not fully Oysterized.

The seven-day travel card for Zones 1-6 is £41, for Zones 1-2 it is £22.20. In principle this is a discount over the maximum daily (as it should be). However, on my daily travels throughout the city, I wind up spending a little over £20 per week (but not every day involves travel by tube, and some of the travel is off-peak). As tourists you may spend more (say up to £6.00 per day for 2 tube and 2 bus segments per day, in which case a Travelcard is much cheaper) I stay mostly within zones 1-2 (except for Heathrow). (Note travel originating and destined for Zone 2 may be cheaper than Zone 1 to Zone 2, even if you pass through zone 1 to get there, depending on the presence of alternative routes). You can always get the seven-day travel card on Oyster and add cash for travel outside Zones 1-6, it is supposed to be smart enough to charge the right amount (I have not tested this particular claim).

It does cost £3 to get the card itself, but it pays for itself in 4 bus segments or 2 underground segments compared to cash tickets typically. You can put the electronic Travelcard on the Oyster card, or just top the Oyster card up with cash.

Oyster cards are sold at most (all?) tube stations and many convenience stores.

Oyster also has some associated coupons (which we have yet to exploit), and you can get refunded the cash balance when you leave if you want.

My suggestion is get an Oyster card and put a seven-day zone 1-2 travel card on it along with some cash if you plan to take the Piccadilly Line from/to Heathrow. If you wind up spending more, you can top up while you are here. It will still be good when you leave (my guess is the technology is stable for about a decade ... this is London so there will probably be Oyster readers a century from now, however your particular card may deteriorate somehow), so you can bring it when you return to London

While the technology is clear, the fare structure is still quite complicated, as befits a system this large and convoluted.

The details are here

-- dml

September 20, 2006

Transit in Phoenix

A reader writes
Our AZ Senate candidate is very big on light rail and says in debates that it is a good option for our District - NW Phoenix. He thinks 'commuter rail' has been effective in Chicago and wants to make a case for light or commuter rail here.

From your perspective, are either methods successful in cities in the US? One measure of success is in terms of reducing some measurable amount of automobile traffic [probably 5% or more] or a different measure is in terms of public investment - such as making the system pay for itself after some period of initial investment.

Commuter and light rail are completely different beasts, like comparing taxis and buses, they both move people, but they move different numbers of people at different speeds for different distances.

Defining success in terms of reducing auto traffic is also a mistake, recalling the Onion headline Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others (November 29, 2000 | Issue 36•43)

We don't define airplanes in how many rail passengers they take off the train, or the success of typewriters in how many word processing users avoid computers.

So there are a few measures we might consider. A private firm would ask: Do the marginal private benefits (profit) outweigh the marginal private costs? This is how transit projects were judged back in the day (the late 1800s and early 1900s) when they were private. By marginal we mean does the next dollar invested have benefits that outweigh the cost of one dollar.

Alternatively, does rail provide transportation for their users at a cost they pay for? The answer is clearly no in every US city.

As far as I know, passenger rail now only makes money in Hong Kong. It probably could break even with appropriate management in a few other cities (e.g. New York, London, Paris), but everywhere else it is heavily subsidized (100% of capital costs and two-thirds of operating costs is typical subsidy for rail transit in the US).

We might distinguish "does pay for" and "would be willing to pay for" and consider the notion of subsidies, but I doubt any system (outside New York and a few select routes elsewhere) could break even at their existing costs.

The public asks do the marginal social benefits (MSB) outweigh the marginal social costs. Marginal social benefits in theory might include non-user benefits like congestion reduction, pollution reduction, crash reduction, noise reduction, increased accessibility for non-users, and so on (to the extent these can be accurately measured and monetized) but MSB would primarily be comprised of user benefits (those accruing to the transit riders themselves). The marginal social costs (MSC) are the "private" costs of paying for the infrastructure and service, and any externalities that are created (delay during construction, pollution caused, crashes caused, delay to non-users during operation, etc.).

The monetization of some of these costs depends on personal values, value of time, value of life, value of health, value of quiet, and so on, though economists and engineers have assigned values to these (value of time =$10/hour, value of life =$3 million, ...) based on individual choices when making real decisions.

However, we also need to consider the alternative use of resources, the opportunity cost. If we spend money on X we no longer have it to spend on Y. So even if X is good, Y might be better, and resources are scarce.

Again I believe the answer is no, the marginal social benefits seldom outweigh the marginal social costs in fixed-rail transit investments. I have not seen any benefit cost analysis that I believe that has a rail project with marginal social benefits exceeding marginal social costs.

Rail advocates then claim there are non-monetizable factors, civic pride or image, etc. I remain unconvinced.

Alternatively, they may suggest that the values of things are underestimated (e.g. economic development, land use changes), but usually this double-counts benefits that are in the analysis. (land values plus user time, e.g., by and large are representing the same thing, the reason land values are high is because the land is located in a place with better access (less time to more things)).

A final argument concerns environmental benefits. In general cars pollute more than electric trains (though this depends in large part where the electricity for your light rail comes from). But the value of this can be monetized w health expenses. (Or worse, diesel for your trains may be more damaging than auto emissions.) The cost of global warming is another matter which is highly speculative.

Phoenix's current transit (bus + rail) work trip mode share is 1.9% according to the 2000 Census Transportation Planning Package data. To take 5% more cars off the road, transit mode share would need to be more than 7% (since some of those travelers would come out of carpools, walking, and biking, and non-work mode-share is less than work trip mode share). The problem is compounded by the idea of induced demand, by reducing congestion, some people who previously avoided traveling at peak times would now travel then again (for every 100 trips removed because of transit, maybe 50 or so would then be made, changing time of day or day of week, making longer trips, switching from carpool to drive alone, or switching from other routes, or making trips previously avoided).

The only large US Cities with a 7% or higher transit work trip mode share: New York, Chicago, Washington DC/Baltimore, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston. Large portions of these cities were built in the transit era and they have all had long-standing transit systems. Phoenix is not likely to quadruple transit usage without a very large investment (transit service as extensive or more than the cities identified above ... I say more because the land use pattern in Phoenix is much less conducive to transit than the cities above) ... unless there is a large external shock (e.g. very high gas prices, maybe on the order of $10 gallon).

Phoenix on the other hand has one of the highest carpool share in the US. This may be due to HOV network, but is more likely because of a high number of working class individuals who are sharing cars to get to work. Exploiting this predisposition to carpool seems more promising than trying to jump-start a new mode.

If you want to reduce congestion, you have to increase prices, ideally prices that are targeted by time of day and location, to give people the appropriate signals about the real cost of their travel. If you are unwilling to do this, your congestion is not bad enough.

-- dml

September 10, 2006

Why People Don't Use Mass Transit

An interesting article describing Why People Don't Use Mass Transit. Of course, none of this is new to transportation professionals, but it is worth repeating as agencies consider spending more money on new transit infrastructure. Individuals have preferences, one of which is to save time, one is to be in comfort. When transit systems save time and are more comfortable they will attract "choice" passengers, those who can afford other modes, otherwise they will be left with "captive" passengers, those without better choices.

Transit works in some places, not in others. Cars work in some places, not in others. If we can match the modes to the environment, we will be successful.

July 8, 2006

BART ridership to airport fails to take off

From SFGate SFO / BART ridership to airport fails to take off.

This is consistent with a lot of research on megaprojects. See e.g. Pickrell “A Desire Named Streetcar: Fantasy and Fact in Rail Transit Planning". Journal of the American Planning Association 58(2):159-176,
and Flyvbjerg Megaprojects and Risk

June 28, 2006

Met Council endorse University Corridor LRT

From today's Strib: Met Council vote embraces light rail for St. Paul central corridor.

Is the Central Corridor Light Rail a good or bad investment?

Continue reading "Met Council endorse University Corridor LRT" »

June 18, 2006

Dispersing jobs: good or bad?

This article: Region's Job Growth a Centrifugal Force starts badly "As a consensus builds that the Washington region needs to concentrate job growth, there are signs that the exact opposite is happening." and gets worse.

Continue reading "Dispersing jobs: good or bad?" »