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Thread: Free public transportation

  1. #26
    Cyburbian planr's avatar
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    Arizona State University partnered Valley Metro a few years ago here in the Tempe/Phoenix to provide a "U-Pass" which provides free access to all of Valley Metro's routes for ASU students and faculty. Unfortunately I'm not quite sure how it is funded, but both parties consider it a huge success, I believe there were over 1 million boardings in 2006

  2. #27
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    the market will solve the problem of people driving everywhere but what happens if/when we get to a crisis stage and our alternatives are limited? war? famine? global economic depression?

    electric cars are quaint but peak oil not a transportation problem, it's an energy problem. Making electricity for cars with coal and uranium, even if those cars use 1/4 the power of conventional autos it's still an incredible waste of energy that would be better spent on heating, cooking, lighting and the essential parts of our economy that currently rely on petroleum.

    It's also an enormous amount of CO2 to produce just so people can live a faux-rural lifestyle.

    I'll back up NJM and add that, for most americans, there's no choice between taking the bus to pick up your kids from daycare or driving. Taking the bus involves a 10-15minute walk, a 15 minute ride, a poorly timed transfer, and another 10 minute ride. For what could be a 10 minute drive. In the post-war suburbs you'll never make transit competitve with driving. With the exception of our biggest cities the only suburbs that exist are post-war suburbs.

    I wouldn't be so quick to throw stones WRE some of us have read into this a little more than you might think. Trying to stay on topic doesn't mean we're not concerned with factors influencing the topic.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  3. #28
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    If you study the premise of the free market, it depends on free information. A street vegetable market works because everyone can see all the vegetables and argue all the prices. Today we have the "age of information"... which is also the age of "disinformation". The free market doesn't exist today. 1. because of manipulation of information (the public in general does not know that the oil/coal/auto axis is dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an alarming rate and not paying any fee to the public treasury to mitigate it). 2. the oil/coal/auto axis has undue influence on governments, especially the U.S. government.

    The electric car uses electricity. Electricity is generated mostly with fossil and nuclear fuel. Demand for electricity is expected to rise 50% in the next 30 years. Solar and wind will not make a dent. Use of coal will increase. The electric car will just exacerbate this.

    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    some of us have read into this a little more than you might think.
    Don't worry, I respect you. I was just trying to draw a clear line between personal anecdotal experience and public policy. Here is some reading you might find interesting.

    A research group is looking into whether providing free public transportation would help solve Denmark's traffic problems
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 21 Apr 2007 at 11:55 PM. Reason: double reply

  4. #29
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Ahem. Denmark is not the US. The urban design is such that transportation service can easily be concentrated along a few specific corridors.

    Replying to your statement about increased service drawing more people, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree and go back to a point I made earlier. As long as the cost of automobile transportation is low, people will not change. As I alluded to, there are some bus routes here (Stockholm) on 10-15 minute headways where you consistently see busses with a half-dozen people (or fewer) on it. The frequency is there, and it still hasn't made that many beleivers. And again, this is a country where driving costs twice as much and urban density is significantly higher than the majority of American cities.

    The other thing about increasing density and mixed-use is that these actions actually enable people to do more walking (or eliminate the trip entirely is services are in the same building/block.) So maybe the TODs of the future will decrease car usage, but they might not increase transit ridership proportionally.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  5. #30
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    Cost auto is low because it is subsidized.

    The auto is cheap because it is heavily subsidized. No fee is currently being charged for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is NOT the market working. This is profit being made from destroying the biosphere.

  6. #31
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    Ahem. Denmark is not the US. The urban design is such that transportation service can easily be concentrated along a few specific corridors.

    Replying to your statement about increased service drawing more people, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree and go back to a point I made earlier. As long as the cost of automobile transportation is low, people will not change. As I alluded to, there are some bus routes here (Stockholm) on 10-15 minute headways where you consistently see busses with a half-dozen people (or fewer) on it. The frequency is there, and it still hasn't made that many beleivers. And again, this is a country where driving costs twice as much and urban density is significantly higher than the majority of American cities.

    The other thing about increasing density and mixed-use is that these actions actually enable people to do more walking (or eliminate the trip entirely is services are in the same building/block.) So maybe the TODs of the future will decrease car usage, but they might not increase transit ridership proportionally.
    In terms of market share, the park n' ride programs are by far the most successful. Light rail lines with more parking are also more viable than those which consciously limit parking.

    Walkability has a finite diameter, and as the population ages, a low market share.

    Quote Originally posted by wre1027 View post
    The auto is cheap because it is heavily subsidized. No fee is currently being charged for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is NOT the market working. This is profit being made from destroying the biosphere.
    Which is why congestion pricing is the only regressive tax or fee that I lobby for and support.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 22 Apr 2007 at 1:29 PM. Reason: double reply
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
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  7. #32
    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wre1027 View post
    The auto is cheap because it is heavily subsidized. No fee is currently being charged for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is NOT the market working. This is profit being made from destroying the biosphere.
    How is that any different than what I said? Including all the externalities that are currently absorbed elsewhere & lowering subsidies = raising the price. I just don't care how it's done...

    Quote Originally posted by safege View post
    In terms of market share, the park n' ride programs are by far the most successful. Light rail lines with more parking are also more viable than those which consciously limit parking.

    Walkability has a finite diameter, and as the population ages, a low market share.
    I was posing that as more of a question than making a statement; aging population is a good point.
    What luck! A random assemblage of words never sounded less intelligent.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    Taking the bus involves a 10-15minute walk, a 15 minute ride, a poorly timed transfer, and another 10 minute ride. For what could be a 10 minute drive. In the post-war suburbs you'll never make transit competitve with driving. With the exception of our biggest cities the only suburbs that exist are post-war suburbs.
    Transit can work quite adequately in a "post-war suburb" structure. A walk, a 6 minute drive on a dedicated right of way, 3-6 minutes for a transfer, and another 6 minute drive on a dedicated ROW, all in exchange for the equivalent of a $800/month raise. You just have to ACTUALLY PUT THE STUFF DOWN. Look at Vancouver and Zurich, neither of which are paragons of high density development through and through, look at a few other places, then quit throwing up your hands in defeat. Paul Mees did a good job of debunking the myth of the impossibility of transit in the 'low density' suburb; it is in fact a myth brought about by a lot of faulty assumptions.
    Frankly, it is equally if not more "impossible" that we could possibly provide roads and cars for all the trips people might want to take. I expect blind fatalism from people who think a TOD is a fancy british drink, not planning professionals.

    Quote Originally posted by njm View post
    aging population is a good point.
    And a reason to make the transit system work. Many of the elderly cannot drive; they can use a walker or a wheelchair, and getting out would extend their life, but there is no way for them to go anywhere because there is no transit and nobody wants to go visit them. Would you rather they tried driving around town legally blind?
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 23 Apr 2007 at 9:18 AM. Reason: double reply

  9. #34
    Quote Originally posted by wre1027 View post
    The auto is cheap because it is heavily subsidized. No fee is currently being charged for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is NOT the market working. This is profit being made from destroying the biosphere.
    It is true that there isn't an externality charge on auto emissions, just as it is true that there isn't an externality charge on carbon emissions produced by mass transit or any other source. However, it is very inaccurate to say that the auto is heavily subsidized. This subsidy works out to less than a penny per passenger-mile. Although statistics on this matter aren't particularly reliable, transit subsidies per passenger-mile are more than a hundred-fold greater.

    I don't own a car and use transit for all my trips. I'm a big fan of mass transit and think we need to invest more into it. So I'm "on your side." But we can't be effective advocates if we deceive ourselves about our position. Transit is not a magic bullet, nor are autos completely evil. Auto travel is just not heavily subsidized. It is successful today mainly because the market has made it successful. Transit is expensive and must be heavily subsidized. Transit in some cities contributes more carbon per passenger-mile than car travel. These are things we need to accept.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    Although statistics on this matter aren't particularly reliable, transit subsidies per passenger-mile are more than a hundred-fold greater.
    no offense but that's a ridiculous sleight-of-hand. Even in the winter months when i use transit exclusively I rarely travel further than 2 miles. Scattered development and high VMT go hand-in-hand.

    Taxing and spending is the definition of subsidizing.

    How many times have automakers been bailed out? To the tune of how many $billions ?

    While users might be paying for the cost of infrastructure through user fees that's all they're paying for. A car costs $7000 a year to keep on the road. You could quadruple the cost of transit fare (making transit completely self-sufficient in the process) and it would still be less than half the price of owning a car. That's not to mention all of the other secondary subsidies that go along with it.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  11. #36
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    Transit can work quite adequately in a "post-war suburb" structure. A walk, a 6 minute drive on a dedicated right of way, 3-6 minutes for a transfer, and another 6 minute drive on a dedicated ROW
    I live at 42 du per acre which, in your language, is about 30,000 people per square kilometer. We do just fine with 12 minute headways off-peak

    Here we have 1du per acre and you want 6 minute headways? Only one transfer?
    What's that going to cost per household?
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  12. #37
    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    no offense but that's a ridiculous sleight-of-hand.
    I disagree. You're right that taxing and spending can be a subsidy, but this is only true if the taxes encumbers one group and the spending benefits another group. Although the government does spend money on automobile infrastructure, it gets this money directly from the people who use it. We don't call that a subsidy, we call it a user fee.

    People who believe cars are popular because of "massive subsidies" are just engaged in delusional thinking. Any direct subsidies to auto manufacturers that may have happened in the past are just a drop in the bucket (and of course, weren't really auto subsidies--they were corporate/labor subsidies). Indirect subsidies today are virtually non-existent.

    Transit is heavily subsidized. As I said, statistics comparing the subsidy between mass transit and automobile transportation "aren't particularly reliable." Among the reasons, as you noted, is that transit and autos serve different needs. Transit is good for only a very limited set of options, whereas cars are used for trips of varying lengths and to/from various points. Another problem of the comparison is that streets, highways, and the like would still have to be maintained even if we completely eliminated private automobiles. But the point I was getting at is completely valid--if you're worried about subsidies, transit is a bigger villain. Not only are car user fees paying for just about all automobile infrastructure, they are also significantly raided to fund mass transit. Then mass transit freerides on automobile infrastructure (buses and streetcars use road, commuter rail relies on park n ride, etc.). Of course, all those "negative externalities" of cars also apply to transit. Transit has comparable injuries per passenger mile. It is often just as polluting per passenger mile. It can cut off and degrade neighborhoods just like highways.

    If we raised gas prices to about $5-$6/gallon, you would completely internalize all external impacts--including social, environmental, and indirect costs. Although I think we should raise the price of gas to that level, I firmly believe that most people would still choose to drive at that price.

    I've rambled on. But here's my main point:
    • Automobiles are popular not because of subsidies, but because they are simply the preference of most people
    • Although "worth it" overall, replacing automobiles with mass transit will not be cheap and will not save money. Nor will it necessarily help the environment. Of course, it's more-or-less impossible to completely displace autos.
    • Those who (like me) wish to increase mass transit and displace automobile use, need to acknowledge the real reason for the automobile's success and the costs which would come with its demise. If you don't understand the problem that you want to address, you won't get anywhere.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Oh yeah....

    Free bus service is the only way to go at:

    Vail
    Breckenridge
    Mesa Verde National Park
    Yosemite now?
    Grand Canyon South Rim Drive?
    other examples of ski areas and National Parks....?
    Note: These aren't the 1c sales tax or hike in park fees your looking for....Jedi Mind Tricks Rule.....
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  14. #39
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    I disagree. You're right that taxing and spending can be a subsidy, but this is only true if the taxes encumbers one group and the spending benefits another group. Although the government does spend money on automobile infrastructure, it gets this money directly from the people who use it. We don't call that a subsidy, we call it a user fee.
    So property taxes and sales taxes are also user fees. OK. semantics?

    People who believe cars are popular because of "massive subsidies" are just engaged in delusional thinking. Any direct subsidies to auto manufacturers that may have happened in the past are just a drop in the bucket (and of course, weren't really auto subsidies--they were corporate/labor subsidies). Indirect subsidies today are virtually non-existent.
    If buyers were made to pay the full cost of cars in the purchase price, rather than having those costs subsidized through government bailouts you don't think it would cause the slightest shift in consumer behavior? Including modal shift?

    Transit is heavily subsidized. As I said, statistics comparing the subsidy between mass transit and automobile transportation "aren't particularly reliable." Among the reasons, as you noted, is that transit and autos serve different needs. Transit is good for only a very limited set of options, whereas cars are used for trips of varying lengths and to/from various points.
    No one is saying that transit isn't heavily subsidized. We're saying that auto infrastructure is. Call it what you want but if consumers were made to pay the full costs people would drive less and/or move to places where they suffered fewer consequences of driving less.

    Another problem of the comparison is that streets, highways, and the like would still have to be maintained even if we completely eliminated private automobiles.
    This was the case before cars came on the scene. Roads with traffic counts in the tens of thousands take much more of a beating than a road with 400 buses a day.

    But the point I was getting at is completely valid--if you're worried about subsidies, transit is a bigger villain. Not only are car user fees paying for just about all automobile infrastructure, they are also significantly raided to fund mass transit.
    This may be true in localized cases but it's certainly not true here. Transit is funded through a series of state and local taxes that have nothing to do with a gas tax. Federal money makes up for just under 50% of the capital budget or less than 1/4 of the total budget. Which doesn't bother me at all considering the infrastructure money the federal government shells out for airports, seaports, the Army Corps of Engineers, etc, etc.

    Then mass transit freerides on automobile infrastructure (buses and streetcars use road, commuter rail relies on park n ride, etc.). Of course, all those "negative externalities" of cars also apply to transit. Transit has comparable injuries per passenger mile. It is often just as polluting per passenger mile. It can cut off and degrade neighborhoods just like highways.
    Wrong again. The bus routes and their infrastructure in this city and most others with functioning transit systems predate the automobile. The city pays to maintain that infrastructure. Neighborhoods were built around stations and other transit infrastructure and there are enough modern examples to show that it can be done right.

    The emissions produced in moving 500,000 people per day (and much more on bigger systems) on an electric system doesn't even come close to moving all of those people by auto - and if you think we have even 1/10 that many park&ride spaces, that's what's delusional.

    Again, your equation only pretends to make sense when you compare apples to oranges. People who use transit don't have to travel nearly as far as people who use cars and they're also likely to be in an environment where they can satisfy most of their trips with their two feet - making a dozen trips per day but perhaps only using transit for two or three of those trips.

    You're also forgetting that most transit related injuries or fatalities are caused either by cars or crumbling infrastructure.

    If we raised gas prices to about $5-$6/gallon, you would completely internalize all external impacts--including social, environmental, and indirect costs. Although I think we should raise the price of gas to that level, I firmly believe that most people would still choose to drive at that price.
    $6 a gallon is the extreme low of estimates that range from $6.05 per gallon to over $15 a gallon. Gas hit $3 a gallon for a few months and it was enough to cause a dip in VMT. American household budgets can handle $6 a gallon gas unless the gas mileage of the cars they're driving doubles.

    I've rambled on. But here's my main point:
    • Automobiles are popular not because of subsidies, but because they are simply the preference of most people
    • Although "worth it" overall, replacing automobiles with mass transit will not be cheap and will not save money. Nor will it necessarily help the environment. Of course, it's more-or-less impossible to completely displace autos.
    • Those who (like me) wish to increase mass transit and displace automobile use, need to acknowledge the real reason for the automobile's success and the costs which would come with its demise. If you don't understand the problem that you want to address, you won't get anywhere.
    That's a logical fallacy. Everyone's doing it! It must be great! Is it preference or lack of reasonable alternatives.

    Let's do the math on that second one. My transit agency recovers 25% of its total budget at the farebox. If i used only transit i would pay $70 a month for a pass. At a 100% scenario that's $280 a month or $3360 a year. Roughly half of what AAA says it costs to run a car for a year. Except, assuming that we have a sudden boom in ridership it wouldn't be necessary to quadruple the cost to riders because the costs would be distributed over a wider population. Either way it's a lot cheaper than driving.

    There's also no comparison between burning half a gallon of gas to get to work in your own car and burning 1/30th of a gallon because you're splitting it with the rest of your fellow passengers on the bus or burning the equivalent of 1/60th of a gallon of gas because you're riding an electric bus or subway with regenerative braking (yes, we have those and yes, as more people use transit we'll have more).
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  15. #40
    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    So property taxes and sales taxes are also user fees. OK. semantics?
    You're right, I wasn't specific enough there. User fees--i.e. gas tax, license fees, automobile-related sales taxes, vehicle taxes, parking fees, tolls, etc. fund the vast majority of all automobile costs. You're right--at the local level, non-dedicated revenue is usually used to fund road construction. But this is mostly a wash, since roads were around long before cars and would be necessary even if we banned private automobiles. Also, the user fees are raided for a variety of other uses. In fact, about 25% of federal highway user fees are raided for mass transit subsidies (that's right, the 50% of your travel expenses subsidized by the feds is paid for by auto drivers).

    If buyers were made to pay the full cost of cars in the purchase price, rather than having those costs subsidized through government bailouts you don't think it would cause the slightest shift in consumer behavior? Including modal shift?
    Here's what I'm saying: the vast majority of reliable data say that buyers *are* made to pay the full cost of cars (or at least close to it)--not necessarily in the purchase price, but in the various costs of driving. These "government bailouts" you allude to are, for the most part, imaginary.

    [quote]No one is saying that transit isn't heavily subsidized. We're saying that auto infrastructure is. Call it what you want but if consumers were made to pay the full costs people would drive less and/or move to places where they suffered fewer consequences of driving less.





    This may be true in localized cases but it's certainly not true here. Transit is funded through a series of state and local taxes that have nothing to do with a gas tax. Federal money makes up for just under 50% of the capital budget or less than 1/4 of the total budget. Which doesn't bother me at all considering the infrastructure money the federal government shells out for airports, seaports, the Army Corps of Engineers, etc, etc.
    As I mentioned above, the federal money comes from the gas tax.



    Wrong again. The bus routes and their infrastructure in this city and most others with functioning transit systems predate the automobile. The city pays to maintain that infrastructure. Neighborhoods were built around stations and other transit infrastructure and there are enough modern examples to show that it can be done right.
    I'm not saying that streets predate automobiles. What I'm saying is that the money you call an "automobile subsidy" is just as much a pedestrian and mass transit subsidy. You seem to be claiming that cities "subsidize" autos by building streets, but don't count this as part of the transit capital costs. It's a double standard of sorts.

    The emissions produced in moving 500,000 people per day (and much more on bigger systems) on an electric system doesn't even come close to moving all of those people by auto - and if you think we have even 1/10 that many park&ride spaces, that's what's delusional.
    I agree that mass transit, when it reaches the right "economy of scale," can be more environmentally sound. The Pittsburgh light rail system uses almost twice as much energy PER PASSENGER MILE than autos. The national rail average uses about as much energy per passenger mile as a car. Buses use significantly more energy, again on a per passenger mile basis, than autos. (U.S. D.O.E.)

    Again, your equation only pretends to make sense when you compare apples to oranges. People who use transit don't have to travel nearly as far as people who use cars and they're also likely to be in an environment where they can satisfy most of their trips with their two feet - making a dozen trips per day but perhaps only using transit for two or three of those trips.
    It doesn't make sense to confuse mass transit and dense, pedestrian-oriented development. Obviously, transit and dense, pedestrian-oriented development often work together in a symbiotic relationship. But you can't just put rail lines in the Orlando suburbs, ban cars, and think the world will be a better place. We need a fundamental change in development before transit can really become affordable or feasible.

    You're also forgetting that most transit related injuries or fatalities are caused either by cars or crumbling infrastructure.
    Simply not true. Trips and falls are the leading cause of injuries here in NYC. Whether your foot is caught on a gap in the train, you slip on a puddle left by another customer, or you trip walking up the steps of the bus--injuries can and do happen quite frequently with transit.

    $6 a gallon is the extreme low of estimates that range from $6.05 per gallon to over $15 a gallon. Gas hit $3 a gallon for a few months and it was enough to cause a dip in VMT. American household budgets can handle $6 a gallon gas unless the gas mileage of the cars they're driving doubles.
    I've heard pie-in-the-sky figures for the true cost of automobiles. Most of them are thinly veiled attempts at inflating the figure as much as possible. They create ethereal or non-existent externalities and make up a figure. Seriously, have you read the studies in detail? Anyway, a UC economist analyzed the most popular studies, found that they systematically overstated the true cost of driving, and arrived at less than 5 cents per passenger mile as an accurate measure of external costs. If gas prices were jacked up, people would walk more and buy more efficient cars... .but there would still be plenty of people to drive.

    That's a logical fallacy. Everyone's doing it! It must be great! Is it preference or lack of reasonable alternatives.
    There is no logical fallacy. I don't base my opinion on the fact that everyone is doing it. Although I do consider the fact that most people who have a choice between automobiles and efficient mass transit still choose automobiles. Of course, there's also the fact that people will tell you they prefer cars to trains and buses (in polls, only 10% of people who say transit is a "reasonable alternative" use it often). Sure, just about everyone would give up private automobiles for a "reasonable alternative." Unfortunately, most people define reasonable alternatives as cheap, fast, private, door-to-door service available at any time and without any waiting. Unless PRT becomes a reality, people will continue prefer cars.

    Let's do the math on that second one. My transit agency recovers 25% of its total budget at the farebox. If i used only transit i would pay $70 a month for a pass. At a 100% scenario that's $280 a month or $3360 a year. Roughly half of what AAA says it costs to run a car for a year. Except, assuming that we have a sudden boom in ridership it wouldn't be necessary to quadruple the cost to riders because the costs would be distributed over a wider population. Either way it's a lot cheaper than driving.
    If you had a dramatic increase in ridership, the system's costs would rapidly increased. Historically, transit costs have increased much faster than the rate of inflation. More traffic contributes to more wear and tear. If you want people to really give up cars, you have to extend service 24-hours. To create a transit system that completely compete with cars, you'd need to massively expand it. Considering that, your fare would have to do a lot more than quadruple. Of course, without the mobility afforded by a car, one incurs further expenses. If you shop near your home, you're severely limited to select retailers. Having a relatively captive audience, the prices are higher.

    There's also no comparison between burning half a gallon of gas to get to work in your own car and burning 1/30th of a gallon because you're splitting it with the rest of your fellow passengers on the bus or burning the equivalent of 1/60th of a gallon of gas because you're riding an electric bus or subway with regenerative braking (yes, we have those and yes, as more people use transit we'll have more).
    You erroneously assume that riding the bus saves gas. Across the country, buses use more energy per passenger mile than cars. It's funny--by riding a typical bus, people actually contributing more to air pollution and carbon emissions.

    You also ignore the benefits of automobiles. While autos DO have a cost, they enable people to save money at supermarkets and discount warehouses. They enable the masses to travel to diverse recreational sites. Since the mass-production of the automobile, American home ownership rates have increased by half. Of course, transit-dependency killed over a thousand people in New Orleans, while those with cars drove to safety in air-conditioned comfort. And while many will knock sprawl, parks and green spaces are accessible today because of the densities automobiles allow.

    I want to be clear. I am a big FAN of mass transit. I don't own a car. Most of my travel is on foot, the rest by bus and rail. But I refuse to be so fanatical and blind to reality that I think transit is a magic elixir, or that cars are the demonic carriages of satan. I don't think we realistically can or should completely eliminate automobiles. Nor do I think transit can easily be adopted to our current patterns of land use. I do believe that transit should be expanded where it would work, and future development should be transit-oriented. I believe that automobiles should not only be made to bear their full cost (i.e. internalize externalities), but they should also be taxed additionally as a further disincentive. I know that these changes will not eliminate the need for private automobiles, so I think we need to focus on accomodating cars in the way that least interferes with pedestrians and transit. We also need to improve automobile safety and reduce the environmental impact of cars. I think car-sharing programs can be an excellent solution both to affordability and to parking problems (perhaps MIT's future car).

    Just because we like transit and see problems with autos doesn't mean we should be blind to the facts or fall victim to kneejerk reactions. On the contrary, we won't convince people away from cars with made-up and easily debunked statistics about the true cost of automobiles, exaggerated claims of the environmental benefits of transit, or hallucinations about how cheap transit is.
    Last edited by brandonmason; 23 Apr 2007 at 7:14 PM.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    Although the government does spend money on automobile infrastructure, it gets this money directly from the people who use it. We don't call that a subsidy, we call it a user fee.
    It pays for explicit costs, but it creates a lot of problems it doesn't pay for. Health damage, massive increases in land scarcity (because cars use such a huge portion of surface area), and massive equity problems faced by people who can't drive, either because they don't have an extra $700-1500/month for a car, or because they're young/elderly/disabled.
    Transit is good for only a very limited set of options, whereas cars are used for trips of varying lengths and to/from various points.
    Transit networks can and are used by upper class citizens for fast and reliable trips of varying lengths and to/from various points in a number of cities worldwide.
    • Automobiles are popular not because of subsidies, but because they are simply the preference of most people
    Most people I know actually hate driving. They hate transit more because the only transit systems they've seen are underfunded, of horrific quality, and marketed to/used by scary dregs of society. Give them a good system and they'd switch.
    • Although "worth it" overall, replacing automobiles with mass transit will not be cheap and will not save money. Nor will it necessarily help the environment. Of course, it's more-or-less impossible to completely displace autos.
    It will help the environment because a fuller transit carrier generates lower per capita pollution. While trains hooked to coal power plants may generate substantial pollution, that pollution is not concentrated in a population centre, so it will be a lower health risk. Transit deaths equal to auto deaths? Source, please. Automobiles are mindblowingly dangerous.

    Also, no-one is claiming that switching to transit will save lots of money. It will cost quite a bit.
    However, we're already used to shelling out obscene amounts of funding for transportation without blinking, as long as it's freeways. A few billion for a spare section of freeway to relieve congestion for a couple weeks? Sure, no trouble. A few million - well under 10% of the freeway that just flew past without a comment - for improved transit? ZOMG big govvermint boondoggle fortune awOOOgah! AwOOGah! Danger! Danger!
    • Those who (like me) wish to increase mass transit and displace automobile use, need to acknowledge the real reason for the automobile's success and the costs which would come with its demise. If you don't understand the problem that you want to address, you won't get anywhere.
    We have no transit because we didn't support our trains and expected them to continue to pay their way in the face of shifts in the market and labor costs, switched them over to buses which we assumed that because they COULD operate in mixed traffic that they SHOULD (which is simply false) and allowed the idea of transit as the mode of travel for the underpriviledged to take hold.
    Then we had the Chicago Area Transit Study look at the funding boundaries of where Chicago was no longer getting moneys to pay for extending their bus service, interpret it as "Transit doesn't function at low population densities", put it in a mathematical model, and gave it to the engineers to replicate and calculate with worldwide as the "state of the art".
    Then we added it all up, threw up our hands and said "Hyuk hyuk, it's impossible to put transit out there so why bother trying?" and let the whole thing atrophy while pumping massive funds into supporting car based development and numbing ourselves to the numbers involved to the point that using relatively tiny fractions of our road funding for transit looks like absurdly huge numbers to us.

  17. #42
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    We have no transit because we didn't support our trains and expected them to continue to pay their way in the face of shifts in the market and labor costs, switched them over to buses which we assumed that because they COULD operate in mixed traffic that they SHOULD (which is simply false) and allowed the idea of transit as the mode of travel for the underpriviledged to take hold.
    - Expand the use of flexcar and car-sharing programs. I think it would really be worthwhile to investigate MIT's Smart Car proposal, rather than sticking inside the box.
    Then we had the Chicago Area Transit Study look at the funding boundaries of where Chicago was no longer getting moneys to pay for extending their bus service, interpret it as "Transit doesn't function at low population densities", put it in a mathematical model, and gave it to the engineers to replicate and calculate with worldwide as the "state of the art".
    Then we added it all up, threw up our hands and said "Hyuk hyuk, it's impossible to put transit out there so why bother trying?" and let the whole thing atrophy while pumping massive funds into supporting car based development and numbing ourselves to the numbers involved to the point that using relatively tiny fractions of our road funding for transit looks like absurdly huge numbers to us.
    I think you've identified what I'm talking about. Transit isn't as successful in America as it should be in large part because of erroneous, disappointed expectations. Whether it is the changing labor/market conditions affecting trains, unworkability and inefficiency of buses mixed with other transit. Then there's "state of the art" models with outcomes predetermined by politics, rather than science. I fear that transit advocates today are setting us up for further failure and disappointment. It is NOT a matter of "if you build it they will come." Even if they do come, transit is not some magic elixir or silver bullet for all our social ills. If we want to effectively advocate for transit and truly figure out how to get people out of cars and into transit, we need to be realistic. We need to analyze WHY people choose automobiles without blaming it on some massive conspiracy and an erroneous subsidy thesis.

    I think we need to do some radically rethinking of the way we do things. Here are some ideas:
    - Create a series of high-speed rail links to make trains the fastest, most comfortable, and most ideal means for medium length city-to-city trips. (Something like the proposed UK Ultraspeed)
    - Investigate PRT. Right now, Personal Rapid Transit is unproven. It might not be workable and it has some serious drawbacks. However, if it could be made to work it could seriously change the public perception of public transit. People don't use transit because they don't want to be around "those people." They don't like to walk long distances to transit stops. They like peace, quiet, privacy, and security provided by private automobiles. PRT could address all these concerns, and potentially do it quickly.
    - Raise the price of driving. Although I don't buy into the subsidy thesis or conspiracy theories, I think that higher prices would be an appropriate disincentive. In particular, congestion charging, parking fees, parking/traffic tickets, and gas prices should be implemented.
    - Ensure that future development incorporates new urbanism and is transit oriented. This can be ideal for weening people off cars. As auto prices rise, they can transition to transit.
    - Promote bike use. Provide bike lanes separated from vehicles and pedestrians. Modify building codes so that property owners must provide not only sufficient bike parking, but showers for employees.
    - Focus on the rider experience. In most places, mass transit is an utterly unpleasant experience. Stations are run-down and often dangerous. Riders are constantly assailed by pan-handlers. Advertising permeates the space. Vehicles are crowded and dirty. One of the biggest reasons people don't use transit is because they don't want to be with "those people" or they are worried about security.

    These are just some ideas, which of course would be subject to considerations of efficacy and cost-benefit balancing. Nothing should be done unless it can be shown to make things better.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian safege's avatar
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    PRT has more problems than solutions. First the Americans with Disablities Act guy looks at the plans. Nope, not big enough, the stairs are not going to be enough either. Then the Fire department comes to the door, as they did with the Las Vegas monorail. Nope, emergency egress means just that, never mind that elevated light rail has few options for elevated portions, just build an ADA compliant catwalk.

    The Fire chief and the ADA guy go to lunch, the PRT guy rips up his plan, the end.

    I know this senario all too well, I advocate the full-size version, ADA compliant, and with a catwalk. High speed too, I think 80 mph. must be high speed since I've never heard of anything called medium speed, have you ?
    Psychotics are consistently inconsistent. The essence of sanity is to be inconsistently inconsistent.
    -Larry Wall

  19. #44
    Cyburbian
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    Hey guys, I've got this great idea to improve the PRT concept. Instead of an elevated track, we can put them on the ground - that solves the elevated safety issue and cuts costs. Then we can have each person control where their PRT vehicle goes. Instead of charging a fare, the public can just subsidize the roads, and the riders can purchase their own PRT vehicles. This allows for all kinds of customization options. We can built an all-encompassing network of ground PRT track so that people can ride their PRT vehicle all the way to work, or to the store, and even park it in a specially-built addition to their house.

    Sound familiar?

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
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    yeah, PRT is silly, the point is to reduce the number of vehicles involved and the accompanying space issues. But a lot of the "we can't have transit because' excuses are no more than that - excuses. Also, every proposal comes back 'we can't do that because we haven't improved everything else yet!' If you need A+B+C+D for perfection, then if someone wants to put in A or B or C or D, and you can only put in one at a time, don't whinge that the other three aren't in and so it's pointless.

  21. #46
    Quote Originally posted by safege View post
    PRT has more problems than solutions.
    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    Hey guys, I've got this great idea to improve the PRT concept.
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    yeah, PRT is silly
    Wow, a lot of PRT animosity! I think that it has a lot of problems, but I don't think we should count it out until it has been seriously investigated and researched.

    PRT can easiliy be made ADA-compliant. In fact, most of the proposals are wheelchair accessible. Local, state, and federal governments can make the necessary code and regulation changes to enable it to be constructed.

    Those of you who compare PRT to cars are also missing the point. What are the biggest problems with cars? PRT, if it could be made to work, will mitigate them.
    • Accidents -- Automated driving and grade separation would dramatically reduce the danger of driving.
    • Pollution-- Electric power which could be provided from clean sources (or at least sources that don't pollute the population centers). Of course, the PRT vehicles would also use less energy than a typical car.
    • Space consumption-- Some of you mentioned parking. That's the point. One of the biggest problems of private automobiles is that our land is being taken over by parking. If we eliminate private automobiles, we eliminate the need to store a vehicle for every person.
    • Vehicle-pedestrian conflicts-- Cars make walking (or biking, or playing in the street, or sitting on the sidewalk, or whatever) unpleasant, dangerous, and complicated. Grade separation solves that.
    • Cost-- Again, PRT is little more than an unproven fantasy right now. But if it could be made to work, it has the potential to be cost-competitive with automobiles without subsidies.

    I don't know if PRT will work. But I think it is worth giving it a serious look and doing the testing and research necessary.

    Of course, it goes without saying that the need for transit is independent of whether or not PRT can be made to work. Rail, buses, and other options have been serving transit needs for more than a century and will always have a role. We should expand these options. But we also need to try to think outside the box. There is a reason that less than 2% of travel is done using transit. That reason isn't a vast oil-rubber-auto-government conspiracy, or a massive automobile subsidy, or even a lack of availability. The reasons are things like speed, convenience, time, safety, security, cleanliness, comfort, and flexibility. We need to work on as many of these as we can to get people to make the switch.
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    But a lot of the "we can't have transit because' excuses are no more than that - excuses.
    Just to be perfectly clear, my belief that we should investigate PRT doesn't mean I think we can't have transit unless it is PRT. This is no excuse, nor a "we can't have transit because..." argument. This is not an either-or proposition.I don't even know if PRT will work. We need lots of transit of many kinds. It's the 21st century, and many transit advocates hate anything that isn't 19th century technology. It's time to at least take a look.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    There is a reason that less than 2% of travel is done using transit. The reasons are things like speed, convenience, time, safety, security, cleanliness, comfort, and flexibility.
    And these are generally EASY TO FIX. Speed? The main thing slowing it down is the "need" to mix it with automobiles. Convenience? Yeah, if you don't offer the service at more than a token level, it's pretty inconvenient. Security? Cleanliness? Comfort? Well, that's the fault of the people who think that transit is there for captive markets. Kick the scary people off, clean the things up, put people at the stations, market them as a viable alternative to the car instead of "If you're a loser who can't afford a car like the beautiful people, hop on board!" Flexibility? That's mostly the fault of the thinking of the "transfer penalty". People don't like transferring, sure. If you make the headways fast and reliable with well designed transfer points then it will be a minor annoyance, and drop as low as a 4m penalty. People don't like not being able to get there because the bus winds around through every little spaghetti side street trying to get to every possible nook and cranny even more than they hate transferring.

    I hate driving. My family hates driving. My friends hate driving. Most of them aren't amazing converts of transit.
    I hear lots of "Oh, the transit system is so confusing" within hours of "Take the Cryptically Named Highway and get off at the Wrong Street exit, pass the Right Street exit because it's one way and won't go where you want to go, then cut back through Lower Nowheresville, take the Alphabet highway north and get off at the next exit then go under it in the opposite direction so you can catch the..." so that argument is a joke.
    Driving a car isn't comfortable or pleasant. It's not that much faster than transit as a rule, because you have to add parking time and fighting with traffic and such. Quit trying to claim that transit isn't workable because sitting in a traffic jam dodging suicidal cars waiting for a light to change is such a blissful nirvana of pleasure that nobody could possibly want anything else.

  23. #48
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    And these are generally EASY TO FIX.
    I agree with you that all of the things that deter people from using transit (or draw people to using autos) are fixable. They're not easy to fix, however.

    Too often transit advocates have an exaggerated sense of moral or intellectual superiority. Rather than thinking about how transit can be made attractive to auto users, they think "Well, of course transit is better. Drivers are just stupid and need to get with the program." Unless your plan is to implement a totalitarian state, you can't just tell people what is best for them. You need to make them realize it's best for them, and do it by accommodating their priorities.

    I think some of your suggestions are on point. But I also think you underestimate the difficulties involved. For instance, the transfer aversion has only little to do with time. It has to do more with inertia. Even if another vehicle arrives immediately, the process of unloading and loading is enough to turn many people off. You seem to blame cars for transit taking more time. But even in places where there are completely grade separated systems, transit is usually slower (thanks to the walking time to/from stops, waiting for vehicles, and the dwell time at each station). As a rule, driving IS much faster than transit (which is why commutes are much shorter in LA or Atlanta than in NYC). You're right that expanded service, more stops, more attendants, more patrols, less waiting time, and better maintained trains and stations could help make transit more palatable. But you're talking about a huge amount of money for a system which is already heavily subsidized. And of course, if you're kicking undesirables off the train you become a police state prone to race and class discrimination. And as you provide service to more areas, you're adding more stops, and thus increasing the trip time and creating even more winding stops.

    We can't delude ourselves into thinking transit is unpopular because of mass stupidity or a lack of availability. It's unpopular because of personal preferences. There are ways we can tailor mass transit to personal preferences. They aren't cheap and they aren't easy. Awareness and acceptance of the hurdles only makes overcoming them easier.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    Too often transit advocates have an exaggerated sense of moral or intellectual superiority.
    Only over the people who think that because it takes effort to make a transit system work, that we shouldn't bother to try.. 'Oh it would be nice, but X and Y and Z and P and Q and..'
    I think some of your suggestions are on point. But I also think you underestimate the difficulties involved. For instance, the transfer aversion has only little to do with time. It has to do more with inertia. Even if another vehicle arrives immediately, the process of unloading and loading is enough to turn many people off.
    Yes, there is a transfer penalty. If you coordinate services and take an effort to accomodate transferring passengers, however, that penalty drops dramatically, until it is only a minor blip of four minutes modelled.
    even in places where there are completely grade separated systems, transit is usually slower (thanks to the walking time to/from stops, waiting for vehicles, and the dwell time at each station).
    And cars are slower than people think because of walking to the car, getting it out of the garage, warming it up, navigating confusing road systems, traffic, searching for a parking place, locking up, walking to the destination from the parking place.. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
    you're talking about a huge amount of money for a system which is already heavily subsidized.
    We do not even blink at spending billions of dollars on freeways and the like. Why should we blink at spending money to improve our transit system? "We tried computerizing our offices, we gave them all commodore 64's. They don't get much work done on them. Why should we bother upgrading to newer computers running the office suite?"
    And of course, if you're kicking undesirables off the train you become a police state prone to race and class discrimination.
    Somehow, restauraunts, businesses, public swimming pools and recreation facilities, and the like manage to remove frightening people from their premises without becoming a police state or being mired in accusations of racism. Put up one of those signs that the bus driver may refuse service. Put a conductor on the bus too, to take care of fares and keep order. That's been done before, it worked fine.
    And as you provide service to more areas, you're adding more stops, and thus increasing the trip time and creating even more winding stops.
    No, each route is close to linear in a random access grid. When you want to add service you do it by increasing the number of lines. You run plenty of straight shot X routes and plenty of straight shot Y routes; maybe you have feeders into the grid where appropriate.
    We can't delude ourselves into thinking transit is unpopular because of mass stupidity or a lack of availability. It's unpopular because of personal preferences.
    Which is not what you've been saying; it's closer to agreeing with me than supporting what you've been saying.
    There are ways we can tailor mass transit to personal preferences. They aren't cheap and they aren't easy. Awareness and acceptance of the hurdles only makes overcoming them easier.
    Which is *exactly* what i've been saying, but you've been disagreeing with me and trying to tell me how it's impossible.

  25. #50
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    We can't delude ourselves into thinking transit is unpopular because of mass stupidity or a lack of availability. It's unpopular because of personal preferences.
    Which is not what you've been saying; it's closer to agreeing with me than supporting what you've been saying.

    There are ways we can tailor mass transit to personal preferences. They aren't cheap and they aren't easy. Awareness and acceptance of the hurdles only makes overcoming them easier.
    Which is *exactly* what i've been saying, but you've been disagreeing with me and trying to tell me how it's impossible.
    These quotes from my earlier posts are EXACTLY what I've been saying from the beginning. You just seemed to have ignored what I said and argued past me at some sort of straw man. But I think you're coming to understand me. I have never said "it would be nice to have transit, but..." I think we agree but you just are having trouble believing it! As I've said from the beginning, I believe transit is worthwhile and that we need to massively invest in and develop it. That is not a conditional statement. There are no "buts" to it. It isn't contingent on anything. I honestly don't know where you got the idea that I'm opposed to transit, or that my support for transit is somehow qualified.

    What I've also said is that it takes a LOT of effort to make a transit system work. I think we need our best minds working on it and need to start thinking outside the box. More money and more routes alone won't do it (although we need more of both). Even eliminating fares, as suggested in this thread, won't lure most people away from autos. People's personal preferences (not massive subsidies or oil cartel conspiracies) give automobiles a serious advantage because of the various reasons we've discussed (time, comfort, privacy, security, convenience). Like you, I've tried suggesting some ideas above to address those (higher gas tax, focusing on rider experience by cleaning up stations and trains, expand flexcar programs to make not-owning-a-car easier, investigate innovative additions to a mass transit network like PRT and high-speed inter-city rail).

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