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Cities with the best public trans

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Another reason not to compare the Metro or any heavy rail to commuter rail is because they don't serve the same purpose.

even, though, in my opinion metro doesn't do a good job at being a subway because, as a pedestrian the stations are just too far apart to comfortably walk between. I don't think it does a good job as a commuter rail service either because the travel times are ridiculously long considering the length of the routes.

Metro has some gigantic park&rides by most standards and certainly for the philadelphia region where most stations have fewer than 100 spaces and perhaps 3 have more than 1,000 spaces. But then again, Metro is a system planned and built from scratch from a single entity when many of the areas it reaches now were, for the most part, undeveloped when planning started. By contrast nearly all of Philadelphia's sytem (with the exception of the airport line) was built before 1930.

Aside from that Metrorail can't take you from Trenton to Wilmington or from Doylestown to Atlantic City. You can go from Fredricksburg to Baltimore on commuter rail but can you do it on the weekend? What's it like trying to travel off-peak? How long would that trip take? How much would it cost? And perhaps as a cause and an effect, how easy is it to make that trip by car?

two other things - as far as implementing POP on buses.
NJTransit runs a dozen bus routes down Market St. in center city. All of the fareboxes print out a receipt after you put in the appropriate fare.

Since the percentage of SEPTA riders using passes is usually between 60 and 70%. There's nothing to stop SEPTA from opening both doors on the buses and telling the folks with cash that they have to board in the front and get a receipt. You're still cutting the boarding time in half.

As far as your passenger counts of 400 - we have plenty on the cusp so i would rather see some marketing (which SEPTA is terrible at) and daypasses (that you can buy BEFORE you get to center city) before i saw station closings. If after both ran for a year and the BOARDINGS weren't over 200 then we could close them. So here they are all the way down to 150 boardings. Again, the reason SEPTA has the market share that it does, and the reason we still have so many households with one or no cars is because of the area it covers and the destinations it serves.


MFL Torresdale 974
Warminster 934
BSS Pattison 916
Glenside 908
Ardmore 866
Lansdale 863
Fern Rock 854
Wayne Junction 854
Ambler 806
Ft. Washington 806
Overbrook 801
Strafford 800
MFL Berks 769
North Wales 748
Wayne 741
Norristown 738
Somerton 691
Wynnewood 625
Wilmington 618
Narberth 595
Villanova 589
Philmont 578
Wyndmoor 577
Church 568
Swarthmore 565
Bethayres 545
Devon 539
Chestnut Hill West 537
Chelten Ave. 535
Langhorne 532
Levittown 527
Radnor 525
Conshohocken 516
Morton 504
Malvern 498
Media 488
Holmesburg Jct. 477
East Falls 472
Lansdowne 472
Exton 450
Stenton 448
Secane 436
Queen Lane 424
Hatboro 420
Willow Grove 416
Claymont 414
Elkins Park 413
Haverford 412
Pennbrook 404
Upsal 404
Airport C&D 403
Doylestown 387
Marcus Hook 384
Carpenter 379
Elwyn 379
Rosemont 360
Clifton-Aldan 357
Merion 355
Melrose Park 353
Croydon 350
Forest Hills 343
Ivy Ridge 343
Ryers 332
Yardley 320
Airport B 319
Berwyn 315
Bristol 311
Lawndale 306
Newark 303
Allen Lane 300
Primos 300
Woodbourne 297
Airport A 289
Elm St. Norristown 289
Cheltenham 288
North Broad 284
Colmar 282
Spring Mill 278
Chester 276
Downingtown 275
Moylan-Rose Valley 275
St. David's 275
Manayunk 274
Miquon 270
Neshaminy Falls 269
Gwynedd Valley 260
Wissahickon 260
Trevose 258
Mount Airy 254
Whitford 253
Sedgwick 250
St. Martin's 249
Thorndale 241
Chestnut Hill East 240
Ridley Park 239
Glenolden 238
Eastwick 237
Norwood 233
Wallingford 230
North Philly 224
Roslyn 213
Daylesford 207
Olney 203
Oreland 203
Main St. Norristown 200
Prospect Park 195
Tulpehocken 190
West Trenton 189
North Hills 178
Gladstone 170
Noble 165
Tacony 161
Airport E 158
Pennllyn 155
Bridesburg 150
 
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Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:


First of all you're comparing commuter rail with heavy rail. Second you're comparing a 130 year old system with a 30 year old system that was built with federal gov't largesse.
Third you're giving me urban metro stations (with the exception of Fall's Church - which is still pretty dense compared to most Philly suburbs) and you're asking me to compare them to suburban regional rail stations.

Let's see the numbers for MARC and VRE and then we'll have a fair comparison . . . but that's OK we can compare them anyway.
These numbers are station boardings. MFL is the Market-Frankford BSS is the Broad St. Subway and RR is regional rail.

A couple of points. Ridership on the Orange Line stations in Arlington (excluding East Falls Church) has doubled since the Orange line opened because of TOD. Arlington County and the Commonwealth of Virgnia paid to have the Orange Line moved from it's planned alignment in the median I-66 to under Wilson Blvd. to spur redevelopment. So it's urban, but Arlington is a SUBURB of Washington DC not a central city so comparing ridership at central city stops is a little off base. Similarily signficant development happened in Pentagon City after the Metro opened (and their is still room for more), and Crystal City was mostly built out when the Metro opened. National Airport's main terminal was relocated to be at the Metro station about 5 years ago leading to increased ridership. A new moderately dense development is coming up on the old RF&P yards and will have a dedicated transitway running between Braddock Road and Crystal City.

My point is that Septa Regional rail as operated is too labor and capital intensive for the level of ridership it generates. The Paoli/Downington line ALONE generates over 1/3 of all SEPTA regional rail boardings. Yet, SEPTA doesn't even have the resources to fix the catenary and jointed rail on their HEAVIEST regional rail line. Plus, with the exception of one or two station on the R5, they can't even put up high level platforms. Yet, they have money to operate Regional Rail lines that generate operating losses like there is no tomorrow.

I believe that the Regional Rail system in Philadelphia is on life support and needs to be put on triage. That involves shutting down stations/lines and concentrating limited resources into bringing it up to a good state of repair. You could mothball the other lines, until sufficient funding is available to rationalize them.
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:
Another reason not to compare the Metro or any heavy rail to commuter rail is because they don't serve the same purpose.

even, though, in my opinion metro doesn't do a good job at being a subway because, as a pedestrian the stations are just too far apart to comfortably walk between. I don't think it does a good job as a commuter rail service either because the travel times are ridiculously long considering the length of the routes.


Metro does an excellent job of serving the region because BUS and RAIL service are integrated for service purposes. For example, the Pentagon station serves something like 17,000 bus trips (a good portion are destined for the Pentagon and dont' transfer to rail). Stations are not DESIGNED to be close enough apart to walk! Those withing walking distance do walk and all but Prince Georges and Fairfax County have done a good job promoting TOD so many can walk to their stations. The rest either drive, take a bus or are driven to the station (all but urban stations have dedicated kiss & ride drop off/pick up areas).

Also, while travel times may be long the Park & Ride lots are PACKED at terminal stations (where the trip times are longest) with lots filling up as early as 7AM in some cases.

The commuter rail systems here are designed to take people to/from work. They go very far out from DC and have stations spaced about every 5 miles with anywhere from small to large parking lots (in some cases parking garages). The also interchange with Metro at Franconia/Springfield, King Street - Alexandia, Crystal City, L'EnFant Plaza, Union Staton, Silver Spring, New Carrolton, College Park, Greenbelt, and Rockville making trips to the inner suburbs possible. Since with the exception of the MARC Penn line, all trains operate on freight tracks operating during off peak won't happen until major $$ are invested in track upgrades (and we are talking new track, not signals and interlockings they've done most of the cheap stuff already).

By the way, you can go from Baltimore to Washington (or BWI Airport far more popular weekend destination/origin) during off peak on Amtrak it will just cost you about 2.5 times the MARC fare.

As for prepayment in London, it's done with machines on the sidewalk (and that's what their thinking of in Los Angeles). Drivers still CHECK for tickets it's just not possible to pay for your fare onboard the bus. If demand is high enough, you can go for proof of payment with roving inspectors but only a handful of lines probably have those volumes, and if they do they should get a dedicated lane and traffic light preemption during peak periods.

I'm not arguing about SEPTA's market share and that it serves a purpose. However, the question is does the region have the resources (or even want) to maintain the current system? Given the amount of deferred maintenance and constant defecits my guess is the answer is NO. If that's the case, then you need to ask how best to rationalize the system, and cutting rail routes saves you a lot more in capital costs than downsizing "redundant" bus routes.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
SEPTA doesn't own the main line tracks out to Downingtown (the R5), Amtrak does. It's not that SEPTA can't afford platforms in future budget cycles, it's as usual, they don't want to pay for them and they don't want the responsibility of maintenance. Accountability is perhaps their biggest problem.

The R5 Downingtown doesn't generate or even carry half of RR trips. It has 11,000 daily boardings. The RR system carries over 77,000. The reason it does is because of the destinations it serves. Compare SEPTA with NJTransit. NJT serves an employment and tourist destination orders of magnitude greater than center city while serving a geographic area 50% larger and a population base twice that of SEPTA's, not to mention that it has direct connections to LIRR, the largest subway network in the western hemisphere, the busiest ferry network in the country, and the 5th largest bus system . . . and the best ridership numbers NJT rail can produce is twice that of SEPTA.

The city and the counties have no problem coughing up their fare share of funding every year and are actively pursuing (and funding) studies and engineering for new rail service (Rt. 100 extension to King of Prussia, RR restoration to Wawa and Quakertown, signal priority on Rt. 101 & 102.) The state on the other hand has frozen it's contribution - and actually has only come through with half of their money this year (so far).

My point is, we've had plenty of experience here with mothballing service. Mothballing doesn't make your capital costs disappear and it doesn't make your operating costs disappear. It causes a drop in ridership and a corresponding drop in farebox collection. The Girard Ave. trolley for instance - a 9 mile trolley line that was shut down in '92. 10 years later they began restoring it for $140 million. All the while they were running buses on the route with 12 minute headways. In terms of labor a bus and a trolley cost the same to run. All they did was defer the cost of maintenance while incurring the capital and maintenance cost of 20 buses.

SEPTA needs to work on speeding up service and they need to work on making their system more user friendly (fares included). A 5% bump in ridership with present LOS would make their budget troubles disappear with or without state help.

I finally realized what you might be getting at - and don't worry, SEPTA management is working dilligently at busting the union. That's the waste of money called the Schuylkill Valley Metro.
$2 billion, at last count, to run a glorified light rail line 70 miles from Suburban Station to Reading, PA. It won't be any faster or cheaper (per ticket) than regional rail - the main difference being 15 minute headways rather than 30 minute headways.

We all know that the final price tag of the SVM is going to come in at over $2b. But let's just pretend it won't. Let's also pretend that the SVM will have zero operating costs. With that $2b you could restore service to Quakertown and to Reading with diesel shuttles running on the existing freight ROW. You could have hour headways with some extra peak service and run them through Norristown (Rt. 100 light rail, bus, and R6 connections) and turn them at Conshohocken (employment center). You could build out the Rt. 100 to King of Prussia/Port Kennedy and have the "Y" branch to Norristown. Finally, you could pay for these "extra" operating costs (over what the SVM would cost to run) and run 15 minute headways on the R6 and R5 and at the end of 30 years you'd still have money left. You'd serve a much broader population and geographic area, revenue service would start in 3 years rather than 8 and your ridership would be the same.

Saving on labor costs doesn't justify incurring enormous capital expenses when you already have a system in place that serves its purpose. That's especially so when, after factoring in the interest on bond payments, the savings take 35 years to materialize. Especially when we could save on labor costs tomorrow with no new construction simply by eliminating cash fare on trains - for less than half the cost of restoring service on the Girard Ave. trolley.

As far as building ridership is concerned - well it's what i've been after all along - SEPTA has a serious customer service problem and when we get people who are interested in having a user friendly system that problem will change.
 
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Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:
SEPTA doesn't own the main line tracks out to Downingtown (the R5), Amtrak does. It's not that SEPTA can't afford platforms in future budget cycles, it's as usual, they don't want to pay for them and they don't want the responsibility of maintenance. Accountability is perhaps their biggest problem.

First of all I agree with you 100% on the Schuykill Vally Metro. Although, I consider that a Red Herring because it is unlikely to be built. Even if the state and local match is "found" (and a whopping 50%) it is unlikely the full project will ever meet the FTA's minimum user benefit standard unless it's cut back signifcantly.

As for the tracks, I know about that in detail. Under the law and applicable ICC interpretation (now administered by the STB) Amtrak can only charge commuters the marginal costs of opearting on its facilities. That doesn't mean Amtrak has to actually do the required work on the tracks. What this means is that SEPTA can and does pay a track access charge below the full cost, but Amtrak doesn't do much more than minimal work on the Harrisburg line. This can only go on until the infrastructure fails.. SEPTA's management and Board knows this, but would rather not deal with it because it would mean robbing Peter to Pay Paul.

Other commuter operators are more responsible, EVERY SINGLE major commuter operator on the NEC save SEPTA entered into joint benefit agreements with Amtrak. These multi-year agreements, covered projects that were of benefit to the commuter operator and sometimes Amtrak. These agreements specify projects and cost sharing between Amtrak and the commuter operators. That's why NJ Transit has concrete ties and heavy rail on it's local tracks of the NEC and SEPTA has slow orders. Amtrak has approached SEPTA several times about needed improvements to the Harrisburg line and SEPTA has not responded claiming lack of resources. I don't know about you, but I see that as non feasance bordering on mal feasance by SEPTA management and a complete abdication of responsibility (where does the buck stop) by the Board.
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:


SEPTA needs to work on speeding up service and they need to work on making their system more user friendly (fares included). A 5% bump in ridership with present LOS would make their budget troubles disappear with or without state help.

I

Okay, so that would solve your problem for THIS year. How about the future?

Metro here in DC avoided fare increases for FIVE years because they saw above 5% average annual growth durign that period of time. The problem is that isn't sustainable for a long time. When growth leveled off, Metro was faced with increasing costs of employee and retiree medical insurance and pensions. When added to employee COLA's (for both management and agreement employees) operating costs continued to go up while revenues didn't keep up. Fare increases and budget cuts helped to maintain current service levels THIS YEAR. However, next year Metro is facing a $80 million defecit and service cuts are on the horizon. The rail system is busting at the seams during peak periods so even if the economy picks up ridership growth can't be sustained, and future projections show the defecit widening to over $150 million under some scenarios several years out.

The point is major service cuts and fare increases will have to considered, unless additional subsidies from state/local governments are forthcoming. My guess is SEPTA is probably facing a similar problem, and the only difference is that the probability fo subsidies rising to meet needs is much smaller than in DC. That's why SEPTA has some hard decisions ahead.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
we're not really off-topic - we're talking about the best transit systems and dharmster is saying that SEPTA is the worst.

as for that -

SEPTA's budget actually looks better a few years out than it does this year because they've been retiring a lot of debt. If the state's contribution kept up with inflation (it has been the same alotment for 10 years now) there would be no problem and i would expect, and i don't think riders would be that concerned, that fares kept up with inflation as well. And again it's the state contribution that is of perenial concern, not the local funding. And again, it's not that SEPTA doesn't spend money. Their capital program is by no means small - the problem is that they're still playing catch up after 40 years of neglect and they're making some bad choices along the way about what to spend money on where and what to spend it on first.

They know they have to be frugal because they know that the rest of PA really does not like Philadelphia specifically and the region in general. They are completely rebuilding the MFL. They are replacing catenary on the entire trunk line (which they just finished rebuilding). They built new stations, new park&rides, and are rehabbing the subway stops. They are in the process of replacing the bus fleet. They just rebuilt the 15 trolley and refurbished 20 something PCC cars. They're restoring R3 service out to Wawa, Rt. 100 service to KOP, etc. etc.

The problems you bring up with health care costs and pensions - what industry doesn't have these problems? These are national problems not specific to any public entity, much less specific to SEPTA or WMATA.

To me those issues are the red herring, which by the way means "something that draws attention away from the central issue." Your central issue being that the RR is not cost-effective and should therefore be converted to light or heavy rail, but it can't be, so you suggest that it should be mothballed (which doesn't eliminate capital or operating costs). The SVM is the alternative. It's a gigantic waste of money that would cost way more than the alternative i presented. It doesn't matter if the SVM ever gets built, it's just an example of how trying to rebuild or retool an existing system, in this case, is more expensive than the higher operating costs and therefore doesn't make any sense.

Transit doesn't turn a profit. Surprise!
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
I won't argue that SEPTA has a problem with accountability, that's their biggest problem no doubt, in terms of the harrisburg line or anything else for that matter but when you have the capital costs of restoring infrastructure that belongs to other entities weighing against the cost of restoring your own infrastructure you fix your own stuff first, especially when some of those assets carry 7 of your 13 rail lines.

So in that regard i think they're doing what they have to do.

i sort of took it for granted that what you were saying was true and now i'm glad i looked into it. The heavy rail capital funding here is high b/c as a said, they're replacing the El (70+ years old) and many stations on the subway (also 70+ years). What's the excuse in DC ? And why the high operating costs? And for VRE's capital costs? VRE's operating expenses are low but they run a very limited diesel service and are a very new and small transit provider. Give them a little time, when people start retiring, and watch the numbers creep up.

SEPTA takes the cake for operating expenses even when compared to its neighbors but I don't think labor is the issue here. Compare the numbers between SEPTA and Boston and things square up pretty well. The systems in most regards are about the same size. MBTA's labor costs, system wide are about the same, and even though Boston has a RR system of a similar size, with a similar amount of vehicles they are carrying twice as many people. In that regard MBTA should have half the cost per revenue mile that SEPTA does and indeed they come in at $.23 to SEPTA's $.42 Their cost per revenue hour is about 6% higher in Philly but cost per revenue mile jumps up to 20% -

- So it's not that SEPTA, or commuter rail, is labor intensive per se because much of it, your own VRE included, is much more efficient than the Metro in that regard. It's that SEPTA isn't hauling enough people per run - and indeed that's an issue here - that ridership disappears after 6:30 as well as on the weekends but there is still a one hour minimum level of service on all lines well into the PM and on the weekends . . . and people have been arguing ad infinitum over whether there's no ridership b/c there's no service or vice versa. Personally i think that's a cultural issue here, comedians have been joking for years about how "i went to philadelphia on sunday. it was closed."

Put in the changes that i already mentioned - high level platforms and TVM's and even if you only save 15 seconds per station you've saved 890 hours a day in dwell time. That easily brings SEPTA on par with NJT even if only 1/4 of the time savings is worked into the schedule.

The other changes involve the way SEPTA schedules it's runs - once an hour (or every other hour) to the end of the line. And once every half hour (or every hour) to an intermediate point.


SEPTA
Commuter Rail
Operating Expense $163,164,760 ($.42)
Capital Funding $60,969,430 ($.16)
Annual Passenger Miles 388,882,662

Heavy Rail
Operating Expense $112,923,435 ($.29)
Capital Funding $126,947,190 ($.32)
Annual Passenger Miles 392,693,383

DC
VRE
Operating Expense $21,339,791 ($.29)
Capital Funding $22,212,177 ($.29)
Annual Passenger Miles 74,695,105

Heavy Rail
Operating Expense $453,017,452 ($.33)
Capital Funding $362,505,471 ($.27)
Annual Passenger Miles 1,362,866,338

LIRR ($.36)
NJT ($.31)
MBTA($.23)
 

Big Easy King

Cyburbian
Messages
1,358
Points
23
New Orleans is far from having the best public transportation system, but it functions somewhat efficiently considering that we basically only have mass transit (buses) along with limited-area streetcar (cablecar for all non-New Orleanians) routes currently. However, the situation will improve with the extension of those current streetcar routes and the addition of new ones, which will be effectuated in February 2003.

In addition, a light-rail transit system is being assessed currently and could become a reality for this area in the near future. Hopefully, local and state officials and politicians will realize the overall, long-term benefits and effectuate a LRT.
 

octa girl

Member
Messages
20
Points
2
morgantown, WV

i had to skim all that septa/philly talk for the sake of my own time. I spent some time in the philly suburbs - the transit to the city was acceptable. I was never in enough of a rush to bother with transit within the city I just walked.

but I want to go back to transplanner's original question which a bunch of people touched on - what is good transit? defined by: who ti moves (commuters, residents, tourists), how many it moves, efficiency, service rates, number of linkage points, percent of market captured (which is really just a proxy for all of the possible measures - or is it?)?

anecdotal evidence is interesting, but . . . lacks sufficient perspective.

that said - my favorite transit city is morgantown, WV. That is the smallest town I know of with a monorail. If anyone has had the pleasure of riding on that hysterical electric box they would surely agree.
 

nuovorecord

Cyburbian
Messages
444
Points
13
I'd have to give props to my burg, Portland. We started our light rail system 20 years ago using Federal Highway dollars shifted from a freeway project the citizens killed. The fourth phase of it opens next spring, four months ahead of schedule, and within budget (I believe). TriMet still needs to do a better job of tying suburban communities together and providing better circulation in certain areas. But the service is reliable, clean, and considered one of America's best transit systems.
 

biscuit

Cyburbian
Messages
3,899
Points
25
Re: morgantown, WV

octa girl said:
...that said - my favorite transit city is morgantown, WV. That is the smallest town I know of with a monorail. If anyone has had the pleasure of riding on that hysterical electric box they would surely agree.
You mean this puppy

morg61.jpg

The Morgantown Group Rapit Transit. Students still use it to get to the various parts of WVU's spread out campus, especially in the winter. I rode it once while hanging out there one weekend just for the novelty of it but found that in a city of only 30,000 residents and 25,000 or so students it's just easier to drive from place to place.
 

sammy_sf

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
bocian said:
Best: Moscow (Russia), NYC and Chicago tied as US winners (the only 2 cities with all night service - and that's a must!!).
Worst: Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis (the last one might change after light rail starts operating in the spring of 2004).

Agreed on the best cities. I would also add SF, despite its problems. However, I disagree with the claim that LA belongs in the category of worst public transit in the country. True, it is a big sprawling mess with many problems. But when you compare it to places like Houston, Phoenix and other large sunbelt cities, transit in LA is very good. When MTA isn't on strike, buses run frequently, they're progressing with a decent rail system and the Metro Rapid routes are great. No, it doesn't come close to NY, Boston, DC or Chicago, but if you're going to dismiss LA, do it for other reasons.

About Minneapolis: true - terrible transit. And it's over-priced. When parking downtown is nearly as cheap as a round-trip bus fare, you've got problems. The new light rail line, however, won't make the situation better. First, it's the WRONG alignment. I don't think you should choose an alignment because it is the cheapest alternative along an existing (undesirable) rail corridor. Second, even if you did take it to downtown Mpls from the Airport or Mall of America (sigh!), there are no good timed-transfer locations that allow you to easily travel throughout downtown (and beyond). They are proposing a "circulating shuttle" but it's going to be a one-way LOOP... a bad design.
 

Niyojak

Member
Messages
18
Points
1
Public tranport

I've read that bus based public transport system in Curitiba, Brazil is an example in it self. Never been there.
 

bocian

Cyburbian
Messages
212
Points
9
Re: Public tranport

Niyojak said:
I've read that bus based public transport system in Curitiba, Brazil is an example in it self. Never been there.

And the one in Ottawa sounds awesome - anyone has experienced it there?

ps. now ottawa has diesel LR in addition to its excellent busway system..
 

bocian

Cyburbian
Messages
212
Points
9
sammy_sf said:
Agreed on the best cities. I would also add SF, despite its problems.




SF's system is really overpriced for what it offers + it needs upgrading and line extensions....
 

bocian

Cyburbian
Messages
212
Points
9
sammy_sf said:
However, I disagree with the claim that LA belongs in the category of worst public transit in the country. True, it is a big sprawling mess with many problems. But when you compare it to places like Houston, Phoenix and other large sunbelt cities, transit in LA is very good.

LA used to have the BEST regional rail system in the world not that long ago .... Maybe I just added it to the list for the sheer fact that they dismantled it so quick and are now spending billions to rebuild little portions of it...

Ha, ha, plus LA has a rival in Houston since light rail opened there on Jan 1st 2004. And Phoenix, Dallas, have light rail and extensions are in the works. LA must invest in public transit or it will truly become a third world city..
 

bocian

Cyburbian
Messages
212
Points
9
sammy_sf said:

About Minneapolis: true - terrible transit.

I talked to some of my friends in Minneapolis about light rail there - it seems that not many of them will use it considering its coverage will be limited and the highway system in the Twin Cities area is so good (check out the map of that area to check out the highway abundance there).

What's disappointing is the fact that with the new Republican governor in office, any dreams of adding more light rail lines in Minneapolis will remain just that, dreams. What a shame considering Minneapolis is such a large city with somewhat progressive population..
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
The issue of pension and healthcare and pension costs is important. Systems that contract out for service (and newer systems) often have lower costs in these areas. In a era, where only about 1/4 of employers let employees take health insurance into retirement, why isn't it a issue at the bargaining table? Also, most non unionized employees pay upwards of 1/3 of their health insurance premium costs. My guess is that it's nowhere near that for SEPTA unionized employees, and yes that's an issue.

Transit doesn't turn a profit but it should be more efficient. SEPTA's fares are already at the high end of the spectrum. I think they should look to more aggressively cut costs.



jresta said:
we're not really off-topic - we're talking about the best transit systems and dharmster is saying that SEPTA is the worst.

The problems you bring up with health care costs and pensions - what industry doesn't have these problems? These are national problems not specific to any public entity, much less specific to SEPTA or WMATA.



Transit doesn't turn a profit. Surprise!
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:


SEPTA takes the cake for operating expenses even when compared to its neighbors but I don't think labor is the issue here. Compare the numbers between SEPTA and Boston and things square up pretty well. The systems in most regards are about the same size. MBTA's labor costs, system wide are about the same, and even though Boston has a RR system of a similar size, with a similar amount of vehicles they are carrying twice as many people. In that regard MBTA should have half the cost per revenue mile that SEPTA does and indeed they come in at $.23 to SEPTA's $.42 Their cost per revenue hour is about 6% higher in Philly but cost per revenue mile jumps up to 20% -

-

Ah, but SEPTA's labor costs are lower than both MBTA and Washington Metro. Remember, Boston and Washington have much higher costs of living and thus both management and agreement labor costs are higher.

VRE is a low cost provider because it does not own any track. It relies upon CSX/NS/Amtrak for track and Amtrak to operate the service. Capital costs are high because they used fare backed bonds to finance the startup costs. Basically most of the fares go straight towards repaying the bonds and local subsidies pay for the operating costs.

One thing your statistics didn't show was revenue per passenger mile. I'm sure Washington Metro's revenue per passenger mile is much higher than SEPTA commuter rail. SEPTA base fares may be higher, but remember WMATA offers very few passes. So the cost recovery ratio on Metrorail is somewhere around the 80% range. They could probably recover 100% of operating costs, but that would result in a drop in ridership.
 

sammy_sf

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
bocian said:
I talked to some of my friends in Minneapolis about light rail there - it seems that not many of them will use it considering its coverage will be limited and the highway system in the Twin Cities area is so good (check out the map of that area to check out the highway abundance there).

What's disappointing is the fact that with the new Republican governor in office, any dreams of adding more light rail lines in Minneapolis will remain just that, dreams. What a shame considering Minneapolis is such a large city with somewhat progressive population..

Yes, I currently live in Minneapolis (temporarily) and have heard a similar response from people about the new light rail line. It simply doesn't serve the right corridor. It's similar to a lot of things in Minnesota - it's more about trying to convince the rest of the country that indeed Minneapolis IS a big city too! (By the way, not sure I agree that Mpls is SUCH a large city - it's mostly suburban sprawl, among the worst in the nation). About the highway system, yes, it's ridiculous how many freeways there are here. In addition to the devistating effect they have had on the urban core, they also encourage people to drive. Parking, too, is relatively cheap and abundant in both downtown Mpls and St. Paul. I heard an interesting explanation about the freeways here... apparently back in the day when funding for the interstate system was being handed out like candy, Minneapolis and St. Paul apparently got TWICE the federal money since they were technically TWO cities. Not sure if that's true or not, but it sure makes sense.

About the new republican governer, you're right - additional rail lines will remain a dream (for the time being). His latest "solution" to the transportation problem is to build toll roads... that's great if you have plenty of money to pay and you live in the burbs...
 

sammy_sf

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
bocian said:
SF's system is really overpriced for what it offers + it needs upgrading and line extensions....

True, but if you live in SF proper, the price is very reasonable - I think it's gone up a bit, but when I lived there last year, a monthly pass was only $35 - that included unlimited BART, MUNI and Caltrain within the city limits.

If you're talking about the Bay ARea, yes, I'd say it's relatively expensive but not unreasonable. The problem lies in the geography of the area. All BART lines, for example, have to traverse the bay every day - I believe that's about 7 miles (10 minutes) across with no passengers. Multiply that by however many trains they operate in a day and that's a lot of "down" time. I commuted from the East Bay to SF for about six months and it cost me about $110 a month on BART. AC Transit buses from the East Bay are cheaper, just not as comfortable.
 

sammy_sf

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
bocian said:
LA used to have the BEST regional rail system in the world not that long ago .... Maybe I just added it to the list for the sheer fact that they dismantled it so quick and are now spending billions to rebuild little portions of it...

Ha, ha, plus LA has a rival in Houston since light rail opened there on Jan 1st 2004. And Phoenix, Dallas, have light rail and extensions are in the works. LA must invest in public transit or it will truly become a third world city..

Ha - Most third world cities have far better public transit than LA already! But there has been huge investments in public transit in LA over the past 10 years! It is very sad that the world's largest streetcar system was dismantled in a matter of years, but that happened in nearly every city in the country (except a few like NY, Chicago, etc..). LA was easy prey for General Motors because it was already so spread out (a result of the streetcars, not automobiles). Still, they have built in the past 15 years one of the most extensive light rail systems in the country, a new subway (Red Line) and don't forget about Metrolink (four or five commuter rail lines I believe). They've also reused their old Union Station, which is a beautiful building. If they could just get the Red Line out to Santa Monica it would be great. Dallas is the only sunbelt city that has come close to LA in terms of building a new light rail system, but it's not nearly as extensive (Atlanta doesn't count). Houston is just now getting started and Phoenix hasn't laid a single track yet. LA is much further ahead of most comparable cities.
 

passdoubt

Cyburbian
Messages
407
Points
13
On paper it may look like a good system, but SEPTA is ridiculously poorly managed, has so many complex problems, and makes so many poor decisions that I tend to agree that it is one of the worst in the country.

I don't think that the fierce distinction between regional rail and subway is a good thing. What DC did makes perfect sense in the twenty-first century. SEPTA is stuck in the past. What results from a city subway/suburban rail system is a stark class distinction. This is a lot less evident in South Philly/University City, but coming from the northern suburbs is very striking. Rich, white suburbanites ride into Center City on the rails while the poor huddled masses of North Philly take the decrepit Orange line. The problem isn't exactly that the regional rails are for trips from the suburbs while the subways are for trips within the city. The problem's that, in practice, the regional rails are for people from the suburbs while the subways are for people who live in the city. They might as well have a sign above Suburban Station that says "WHITES ONLY" pointing to the trains and a "COLORED FOLK" banner above the BSL/MFL connector. For the most part, the two services don't interface.

That's why there's no night time or weekend ridership. It's not simply the lack of service. It's that the regional rail lines are for men in business suits to commute. It's for a daily routine, not a night on the town. SEPTA aggressively targets a demographic group for regional rail: the habitual commuter. They provide those super saving monthly passes to make the daily commute cost effective, while the base fare is sky-high to keep suburban couples from having a sporadic night on the town. The three Center City stations are all in easy walking distance to most of the high paying employers. Nightlife is not. South Street isn't close to anything. Delaware Avenue isn't close to anything. The sports complex is on the Orange line, but as I mentioned before, Joe Shmoe from Cheltenham will never get on the Orange line. He thinks it's dirty and old and he fears that he'll get mugged. SEPTA confirms his fears by closing off the crossovers in half the stations because of crime concerns and stopping service at midnight.

I guess my final conclusion is that SEPTA should be awarded a special honor for mismanagement of the most resources. When I bash SEPTA I always mention the fact that the PATCO line is cheaper, faster, cleaner, and runs 24 hours a day. You guys seem to be well-versed in the economics of it, so I ask you: why? Is it just that SEPTA, having a large and unruly system, has more operating costs so it has to charge more for ****tier service? If this is so, why not break each SEPTA division into its own entity so they can manage to run more smoothly?
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
passdoubt said:
On paper it may look like a good system, but SEPTA is ridiculously poorly managed, has so many complex problems, and makes so many poor decisions . . .

agreed, agreed, agreed

I don't think that the fierce distinction between regional rail and subway is a good thing. What DC did makes perfect sense in the twenty-first century. SEPTA is stuck in the past. What results from a city subway/suburban rail system is a stark class distinction. This is a lot less evident in South Philly/University City, but coming from the northern suburbs is very striking. Rich, white suburbanites ride into Center City on the rails while the poor huddled masses of North Philly take the decrepit Orange line. The problem isn't exactly that the regional rails are for trips from the suburbs while the subways are for trips within the city. The problem's that, in practice, the regional rails are for people from the suburbs while the subways are for people who live in the city. They might as well have a sign above Suburban Station that says "WHITES ONLY" pointing to the trains and a "COLORED FOLK" banner above the BSL/MFL connector. For the most part, the two services don't interface.

I ride the subway and the el almost everyday (esp. so when it's this cold out). I don't know when the last time you rode it was but I can say this is definitely not true from 7am to 7 pm. Off-peak the white crowd does thin out but i have my own ideas about that - i'll get to it in a minute. Anyway, at any time of day all of the white faces are on the southbound subway or the eastbound el. These are the white parts of the city - it has nothing to do with transit operations.

As far as interface - I can't think of connections any easier than Fern Rock for the Subway or Market East for the El. You can transfer to either at Suburban (but suburban station is a maze).

The reason suburban 9-5ers aren't transferring to the subway at Fern Rock (actually 1500 do it everyday) is b/c there are no employment centers on North Broad except for Temple - but why would you bother with a transfer when a)express subway trains don't stop there and b)the next regional rail stop after Fern Rock is Temple U. The few people that do transfer either work at Temple Hospital, Einstein, or the 4 or 5 office buildings between Vine and Spring Garden.

The reason they aren't transferring to the El is because the trains already run from 11th to 30th. The relatively few regional rail riders that do work east of 11th St. do ride the el and they all get off at 5th St.

That's why there's no night time or weekend ridership. It's not simply the lack of service. It's that the regional rail lines are for men in business suits to commute. It's for a daily routine, not a night on the town. SEPTA aggressively targets a demographic group for regional rail: the habitual commuter. They provide those super saving monthly passes to make the daily commute cost effective, while the base fare is sky-high to keep suburban couples from having a sporadic night on the town. The three Center City stations are all in easy walking distance to most of the high paying employers. Nightlife is not. South Street isn't close to anything. Delaware Avenue isn't close to anything. The sports complex is on the Orange line, but as I mentioned before, Joe Shmoe from Cheltenham will never get on the Orange line. He thinks it's dirty and old and he fears that he'll get mugged. SEPTA confirms his fears by closing off the crossovers in half the stations because of crime concerns and stopping service at midnight.

The suburban population is mostly white. I don't know why it would come as a surprise to anyone that the trains that serve the suburbs would have a mostly white ridership. The reason Joe Schmoe from Cheltenham doesn't transfer to the subway at Fern Rock is because he doesn't have to. Joe Schmoe from the suburbs isn't going clubbing on Delaware Ave. and he's not picking up new vinyl on South St. He's going to Walnut St. or Rittenhouse, or Reading Terminal Market - maybe he's going to the Merriam - either way all of those places are within walking distance (or on top) of Market East or Suburban Station.

You also need to ride the trains at rush hour (it's not men) and they don't call it the pink-collar ghetto for nothing.

The fare structure is something i've always attacked but the reason Joe and Jane Glenside aren't using SEPTA for a night on the town is because the last trip home is at midnight. Same thing with people in center city trying to get to Manayunk. It's a hassle and it's easier just to drive. You're not going to do anything about that until you add late night trips on the weekends and offer day passes.

SEPTA didn't build the train stations and the people who did didn't put them next to all of the high paying jobs. The high-paying jobs chose to locate next to the stations because of the talent they could attract from all over the region. Besides, the premier address is 16th&Market which has easy access to all trains, subways, and trolleys.

I guess my final conclusion is that SEPTA should be awarded a special honor for mismanagement of the most resources. When I bash SEPTA I always mention the fact that the PATCO line is cheaper, faster, cleaner, and runs 24 hours a day. You guys seem to be well-versed in the economics of it, so I ask you: why? Is it just that SEPTA, having a large and unruly system, has more operating costs so it has to charge more for ****tier service? If this is so, why not break each SEPTA division into its own entity so they can manage to run more smoothly?

I guess you've never noticed that the Metro in DC is the "white mode" and the buses are the "black mode" or that certain el lines in chicago are mostly white and certain lines are mostly black.

PATCO? You're kidding right? The same train that makes two very close stops downtown but makes no stops in any Camden neighborhood? Or is it the PATCO with the predominately white rideship with a 50% transfer rate to the El at 8th & Market to get to jobs on west Market and U. City?

Heads need to roll at SEPTA, no doubt, but until the city and the counties bust out the chopping block it's not going to happen.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Dharmster said:
Ah, but SEPTA's labor costs are lower than both MBTA and Washington Metro. Remember, Boston and Washington have much higher costs of living and thus both management and agreement labor costs are higher.

VRE is a low cost provider because it does not own any track. It relies upon CSX/NS/Amtrak for track and Amtrak to operate the service. Capital costs are high because they used fare backed bonds to finance the startup costs. Basically most of the fares go straight towards repaying the bonds and local subsidies pay for the operating costs.

One thing your statistics didn't show was revenue per passenger mile. I'm sure Washington Metro's revenue per passenger mile is much higher than SEPTA commuter rail. SEPTA base fares may be higher, but remember WMATA offers very few passes. So the cost recovery ratio on Metrorail is somewhere around the 80% range. They could probably recover 100% of operating costs, but that would result in a drop in ridership.

once again you're comparing Metro operating performance with that of regional rail. We all know that heavy rail has a higher capacity than regional rail. I also already know that if Philly was crisscrossed with new subways we'd have the same or better ridership. But we have what we have and we have to work with it because heavy rail is not cheaper in any way shape or form unless you average out your capital costs over 30-40 years. (Let's see if the DC area builds another mile of Metro beyond Dulles - if it even gets that far)

Cost recovery? compare heavy rail to heavy rail and our el and subway already turn a profit. But we already know that heavy rail is cheaper to operate than regional rail. The problem is the capital cost.

The cost of living in the DC suburbs isn't any cheaper than it is in the Philly suburbs. Compare comparable suburban towns and you come up with the same thing. Compare comparable parts of the city and you'll come up with the same thing - except DC is less than half the size of Philly and a lot of that land is taken up by a rather large employer.
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:

The cost of living in the DC suburbs isn't any cheaper than it is in the Philly suburbs. Compare comparable suburban towns and you come up with the same thing. Compare comparable parts of the city and you'll come up with the same thing - except DC is less than half the size of Philly and a lot of that land is taken up by a rather large employer.

But on a whole the living costs are lower. Going to Homefair.com and using their salary caclulator. I punched in Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA:

Assuming you are a homeowner, someone with a $100,000 salary in DC would need only $73,737 in Philadelphia..

Bethesda, MD and Paoli, PA was closer at $100,000 needing $92,771. However, my guess is most transit system employees don't live in affluent suburbs.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
comparing DC proper with Philly is apples and oranges. There isn't a 28% difference in the cost of living in the two metro areas. It's more like 9% and 90% of that difference is attributable to one thing - the cost of housing. But in middle-income neighborhoods, where most transit workers live, those differences evaporate.

I don't know the demographics of DC suburbs that well but I do know Greenbelt b/c my dad lives there. $50,000 in Greenbelt, MD would cost you

$80,797 in Doylestown, PA
$60,598 in West Chester
$55,616 in Phoenixville
$54,529 in Hatfield
$54,393 in Lansdale
$51,178 in Horsham
$45,924 in Bristol
$44,565 in Lansdowne

You're right, transit workers aren't living in affluent suburbs. They're living in middle-class and blue-collar suburbs. They're certainly not living in Georgetown or Rittenhouse.

Now, I could take all of the maryland suburbs and compare them with all the towns in Montgomery and upper Bucks Counties and the cost of living in the "DC suburbs" would come out on the bottom. If you took the Northern VA and compared it with lower Bucks or eastern Delaware Co. Philly suburbs would come out on the bottom.

Compare comparable suburbs or comparable city neighborhoods and you come up with the same cost of living.
Some bus driver from Greenbelt is not going to move up here and say, "ohh hey this place Chester has really cheap housing - i think i'll move there"

He's going to move to a town with a demographic that's as close to Greenbelt as he can get (assuming that he likes it there). . .and when you compare those places the cost of living is the same.
 

Bear Up North

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
9,323
Points
31
WOW !!!!!

All the posts in this thread are filled with valuable (to me, fake city "drawer") information. Saves me a world of time going thru internet data posted by regional transit authorites, etc. Thanx!

My experience with transit limited to Toronto and Chicago. Chi was too many years ago to remember....when I go there I drive and park and walk.

Many times to Toronto and I love their system. Last time, couple years ago, took train from Windsor to Toronto. Disembarked and walked short distance out of bad blizzard weather (underground) to subway. Few sub stops north and we were at station adjacent to hotel. Used the subway and streetcars continually to explore city and (especially) taverns.

Heading for Toronto again in April to sign-off on some machinery for my company. Planning same thing, less the taverns. Sorry, business first. Love those subways. (Flatlander country boy living in bedroom suburb impresses easy.)

Bear In Bedroom Suburb
 

Dharmster

Cyburbian
Messages
440
Points
13
jresta said:
comparing DC proper with Philly is apples and oranges. There isn't a 28% difference in the cost of living in the two metro areas. It's more like 9% and 90% of that difference is attributable to one thing - the cost of housing. But in middle-income neighborhoods, where most transit workers live, those differences evaporate.

I

Sorry but this isn't a valid comparison. All the major indexes of housing costs have the DC Metro region amoung the top 5 in the US. They do not include Philadelphia! How then, can you say that on average the cost of living is the same?
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
You can't compare one municipality in a region with one municipality in another region and say you have an accurate picture of the cost of living. If that is the case let's compare East St. Louis with Beverly Hills and declare that the cost of living in Metro LA is 800% more than in Metro St. Louis.

http://www.ci.houston.tx.us/hpd/recruiting_costofliving.pdf
At any rate DC is not in the top 5 of most expensive places to live. It's number 10. Philly is number 12 and Boston is number 9. So say the people who produce the cost of living index that everyone else uses.

So like i said, the cost of labor is roughly the same between the 3 cities and like the reports suggest Boston's system costs about the same to run as in Philly, the difference being that Boston carries nearly twice as many people on the same number of trains. So, the inefficiency is not inherent in the system, it's a ridership issue.

this is about cities with the best transit so i'm not going to waste time arguing with you over the cost of living, or housing, or whatever. If you want to debate which city is cheaper to live in and by how much then start another thread.
 

Rail Claimore

Member
Messages
5
Points
0
The cities in the US with the best public transit are the ones where you can live in a very large contiguous area of the city without any need of a car. There are really only 6 major cities in the US that fit that category: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Other cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami, have extensive transit systems, but they're still basically auto-oriented. You can live in certain areas of these types of citeis without needing a car, but chances are, you'll be driving no matter what.

As for the rest of the world, Tokyo hands down, in terms of coverage, ridership, and efficiency for its size. Tokyo has no equal. Not even New York or London come close.
 

metroboi

Cyburbian
Messages
49
Points
2
I completely agree about the Tokyo comment. I am surprised it isn't mentioned more here. I've personally experienced NYC, London, & Tokyo, and whild NYC & London are on one very similar level, Tokyo is simply on a level of its on. For that matter the transit sistem in Osaka (Japan's second largest metro) is probably the 2nd best in the world.
 
Messages
2
Points
0
bocian said:
And the one in Ottawa sounds awesome - anyone has experienced it there?

As a lifelong Ottawa resident, I used it frequently before I got my driver's license.

As a high school student I would take the Transitway (what Ottawa's busway is known as locally) from its western end point to the eastern end point because the better movie theatres in Ottawa at the time were in the east end of the city. The biggest problem would be during rushhour when the buses would go through the heart of downtown. But other then that, it was a quick way to get across the city.

The buses that weren't on the Transitway were notoriously late or just plain missing at times. They are what caused many locals to refer to OC Transpo as No See Transpo.
 

tiffany

Member
Messages
1
Points
0
np_f said:
If this has been talked about before, please let me know I'm curious as to what a lot of you have to say about this.

Ok here goes:

Poll Question: Which cities are best as far as public transportation is concerned? i.e. efficiency and promptness among other things.

San Francisco and Washington D.C.! I might add that I don't think any city in the United States compares to what I've experienced in Europe....Paris and London can't be beat, Zurich, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Brussels all have great subway and light rail systems. I found Rome to be disappointing for a city of that size however, and the subway there is so crowded and so dirty.
 

jmello

Cyburbian
Messages
2,580
Points
22
Greenescapist said:
The North station-South station gap is not really a problem for the T as much as it is for commuter rail and amtrak. If you want to take amtrak from DC to Portland, ME for example, you'd have to get out at South Station in Boston and take a cab or walk the 1.5 miles to North Station to get the trains that go north. Pretty poor planning. They would like to build an underground tunnel to connect the two stations, but Boston screwed itself out of any more federal transport money since the Big Dig has been waaaaay over budget.

You can also just transfer at either Back Bay Station or North Station to the Orange Line (a heavy rail rapid transit line). This line connects Amtrak and the northside and southside commuter rail lines with all of downtown and midtown.

Trail Nazi said:
It has been awhile but I love NYC's public transit.

No other city had the foresight to build express and local subway tracks (except Philly, and that's not extensive).
 
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