» We have failed to come to terms with the fact that the transit we’re building is too slow.
Residents of the Twin Cities greeted the opening of the new Green Line light rail link last month with joy and excitement, finally able to take advantage of a train connection between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The 11-mile rail line runs through a relatively densely populated area, serves two business districts, and travels through the heart of a university.
It’s also alarmingly slow. Green Line trains are taking up to an hour to complete their journeys, and even optimistic schedules released by the local transit agency put running times at 48 minutes, or less than 14 mph on average.
Of course, the Twin Cities are hardly alone in their predicament. Recent transit lines elsewhere in the country feature similarly leisurely travel times. The new Houston North Line, for example, is averaging 17 mph.
Continue reading The value of fast transit »
» Evidence suggests expanded rail operations produce higher ridership gains than more bus service.
In researching the article I wrote last week for the Atlantic Cities on bus rapid transit (BRT), I wanted to provide a basic piece of evidence that offered support for the idea that typical bus operations were not offering the sort of service that attracted riders effectively. My sense (hardly a unique perspective, of course) was that bus services in cities around the country are often simply too slow and too unreliable for many people to choose them over automobile alternatives. Rail, particularly in the form of frequent and relatively fast light and heavy rail, may be more effective in attracting riders, but so might, the article hypothesizes, BRT services, which provide many of the service improvements offered by rail.
To provide such evidence, I compared ridership growth between 2001 and 2012 on urban bus and rail services on the ten
Continue reading Recent Trends in Bus and Rail Ridership »
» Central government approves 25 new rail projects in cities across the country, worth hundreds of billions of dollars of new construction.
With China’s growth slowing — a product of internal economic changes as well as the continued poor performance of the U.S. and Europe — the country’s government has decided to accelerate investments in its cities’ rapid transit networks as part of a larger transportation infrastructure program. About $127 billion (or 800 billion yuan) is to be directed over the next three to eight years to build 25 subways and elevated rail lines as a stimulus whose major benefit will be a increase in mobility for the rapidly urbanizing nation.
Though China’s high-speed rail network (now the largest in the world) has garnered most of the headlines when it comes to transportation there, the nation’s investments in urban rail have been just as dramatic and serve far more people
Continue reading Profitable or Not, China Doubles Down on Investments in New Metro Systems »
» Front runner in mayoral contest opposes rail project. But it’s already under construction.
In 2008, Honolulu’s citizens approved the construction of a new high-capacity rail line that would provide quick public transportation along the city’s coastline. The $5.3-billion, 20-mile project is one of the largest in the nation, but it is backed by a steady source of local revenues and the almost definite promise of a federal New Starts capital grant that will cover about a third of costs. Moreover, it has held the support of the city’s leaders consistently since 2005, when pro-rail Mayor Mufi Hannemann entered office. The project broke ground last year.
After the mayoral primary earlier this month, however, the project’s future is decidedly up in the air. Current mayor Peter Carlisle, a major supporter of the project, received only 23% of the vote and will not make it to the second round. On
Continue reading Honolulu’s Rail Project Back in the Crossfire This Fall »
» The failure of a local sales tax to produce revenues as expected should dampen excitement around the latest extension of Miami’s Metrorail system.
Last week, Georgia voters overwhelmingly denied the passage of the T-SPLOST referendum, which, among other things, would have provided $7.2 billion for transportation over the next ten years to the Atlanta region thanks to income from a 1¢ sales tax. About half of that funding would have gone to public transit operations and expansion; in the city of Atlanta itself, the program would have paid for the beginning of work on the Beltline transit corridor, a light rail line to Emory University, several BRT lines, and a MARTA heavy rail extension. Voters were clearly unconvinced of the value of the transportation investments, were motivated by anti-tax sentiment, and felt that the projects would not benefit them directly. The result may be decades of increasing
Continue reading Where There Were Once Many Lines Planned, Just One Opens in Miami »