General Urbanism

Reorienting our discussion of city growth

los angeles

» Over the decades, cities change size, but they gain and lose population in varying ways: Some in-town, some on greenfield land. How does that impact our understanding of population change?

Every few months, the U.S. Census releases new data on population change, chronicling the rise and fall of America’s cities, counties, and regions as they grow and shrink. The data are fascinating, bringing us useful insights about migration flows and economic shifts. They also point to fundamental changes in the places Americans live: Houston over Chicago, Phoenix over Philadelphia, and so on. And they produce breathless news reports that emphasize that the fastest-growing places are 15 cities you’ve never heard of.

Yet as data are released and evaluated, the trends as described by the levels of information presented by the Census often fail to directly represent underlying facts about how cities are changing–or they at least do not do so adequately. Comparing the changes in population size in the Birmingham and Buffalo regions, for example, explains very little about the health of their respective center cities. Comparing how the cities of Houston and New York have grown overall tells us little about how their in-town neighborhoods have held up over time.

This post delves into the question of how to measure population growth in urban environments by examining frequently used measures of demographic change and comparing them to alternatives. It is geared toward a discussion of demography rather than transportation, but its implications are important for how we think about cities and their component parts, including transportation. Indeed, as I’ll delve into in this article, the question of what cities are growing and what cities aren’t is at the core of some of the most pressing debates in today’s urban planning–so understanding how a place’s population change is occurring is essential.

Levels of data reporting

The U.S. Census collects data about people, either as a full sample (on decennial years) or using sample-based estimates (through the American Community Survey). These data are aggregated by the Bureau to different geographical levels. Depending on the sample used and the year collected, they are aggregated to the block, block group, tract, place (city), county, metropolitan statistical area (region), and other geographies, which are then used by analysts to make conclusions about the way in which the country’s population is changing.

The typical way for demographers to make comparisons between centers of population is to use regional (MSA) data and to track their changes, as MSAs provide a broad view of a place’s demographics and offer insight into how that place is evolving, regardless of political boundaries. The justification for this approach is based on the fact that boundaries in different places work differently.

For example, the city of Philadelphia is the major center city of its region (and jobs center), and it happens to share borders with Philadelphia County, the major county in the region. On the other hand, while Boston is the largest city in its region, the city of Cambridge next door has a large share of the region’s jobs and many of its dense, urban neighborhoods. Meanwhile, while Boston is in Suffolk County, there are other municipalities also in Suffolk County, and Cambridge is not in Suffolk County. As a result, comparing trends in Philadelphia with Boston as cities or Philadelphia with Suffolk as counties with one another at the national level could result in inappropriate conclusions.

Yet there are significant tradeoffs in using a regional level of analysis, as well. Indeed, every level of analysis has advantages and disadvantages, as summarized by the following table.

Level Advantages Disadvantages
Region (MSA)
  • Represents broader economic and commuting geography.
  • Does not require abiding by “arbitrary” political boundaries.
  • Allows reasonable region-to-region comparisons.
  • Fails to account for differences in politics between jurisdictions, which may influence growth. MSAs are not political entities.
  • Masks issues occurring at the local level and fails to compare suburb to suburb or inner city to inner city.
  • Usually has fixed boundaries.
  • Counties at the center of a metro area often represent the “inner city” dynamics of a place.
  • Counties typically have minimal political power compared to states and cities.
  • Counties are rarely “understandable” for lay people.
  • A county in some cases can be regional in scope (Bexar, TX) or just be a part of a city (New York, NY).
City (“place”)
  • Cities are the base level of local jurisdiction most people understand, so they are relatable.
  • Cities often have strong political environments that likely influence growth significantly.
  • Boundaries change over time, especially in Sunbelt cities with annexation powers.
  • City trends do not necessarily represent the region as a whole, and suburbs are usually cities in their own right, confusing matters.
Tract, block group, block
  • Represent local-level trends most effectively.
  • Do not represent broader trends.
  • May not accurately represent “neighborhoods” because of arbitrary boundaries.

How, then, can we compare cities across the country with one another? If no Census geography is problem-free, are cross-regional comparisons useless?

The answer is to first determine what it is, exactly, that we are trying to ask. If the question is, for example, which areas of the country are growing most quickly, looking at regional demographics make sense (rather than, say, emphasizing large percentage growth in tiny cities). If the question is whether different political approaches are affecting growth differently, then examining population in cities may be effective.

But if the question is something more complicated, such as how similar neighborhoods in different places around the country are acting, these Census geographies often cease to be relevant. This is particularly important for understanding transportation trends, since the way people move around is often directly related to the physical characteristics of the places people live and work. But cities or regions as a whole rarely respond to this issue because cities are often too big and inadequately uniform.

Components of urban population change

More than just pondering the rather simple (but important!) question of what metropolitan regions are growing or declining most quickly, I wanted to get a better sense of how specific parts of regions changed over time. I wanted to be able to answer questions more relevant to urban transportation patterns, like how downtowns in various cities grow or shrink over time. Downtowns are almost uniformly the places in urban regions with the highest transit, walking, and biking mode shares; their health is indicative of whether a region is moving in the right direction on that front. Similarly, how much are already-developed areas of cities changing over time? This is particularly relevant for understanding the pace of infill development, to determine whether cities are adapting to become denser places, or whether they are focusing on suburban growth instead.

To conduct this analysis, I moved beyond the standard Census geographies and to create more appropriate and nationally comparable methods. Taking as a base the 100 largest U.S. cities in 1960 (many of which, though not all of which, are the same as today’s 100 largest cities), I compared changes in not only (a) the overall population within city boundaries, but also (b) the areas of those cities that were already built up in 1960 (with a density of at least 4,000 people per square mile*), and (c) the areas within 1.5 and 3 miles of city hall, irrespective of whether those areas are within the relevant city or not.

The following four maps illustrate how these geographies look for four representative cities–Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Houston, and New York City. The cities have changed dramatically between 1960 and 2014. Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and Houston increased the area within their city boundaries dramatically through annexation or, in the case of Indianapolis, a merger with the surrounding county. New York City, on the other hand, has the same boundaries, with the exception of some landfill such as at Battery Park City.

The areas that were built up in 1960 also differ considerably between the cities. Whereas most of 1960 Indianapolis had neighborhoods of densities of more than 4,000 people per square mile, less than half of Las Vegas did and Houston’s density was arrayed along corridors emanating from downtown. Finally, while the areas within 3 miles of Houston city hall are entirely within the city, those within 3 miles of Las Vegas and New York city halls include suburban jurisdictions (including parts of New Jersey, in the case of New York City).

las_vegas indianapolis
houston new_york

When examining just a comparison between changes in population in the city as a whole and those in the neighborhoods that were already built up in 1960, some remarkable trends become apparent.

As the following interactive graph shows (mouse over the graph to get more information; not all cities are shown in the X-axis), very few cities saw significant overall growth between 1960 and 2014 in neighborhoods that were already built up. Houston and San Antonio, which each gained hundreds of thousands of people overall during that period, also each lost more than 100,000 people in their already-built up areas. So did Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, and Memphis. What’s surprising is that these are cities often acclaimed for their dramatic growth over the past few decades. Yet their growth has been premised largely on annexation–suburbanization–even as their already-built up cores have declined.

In fact, the average of the 100 largest cities grew by 48 percent overall. Yet the average city also lost 28 percent of its residents within its neighborhoods that were built up in 1960.

Some cities did expand through infill quite dramatically, and Los Angeles is a true outlier on this front, gaining almost 1,000,000 people in areas that were already at least partially built up. Other coastal cities had similar but less dramatic trends, like San Diego, San Jose, Long Beach, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Arlington (VA) and Oakland. San Francisco is often singled out as a place where growth is not moving fast enough, yet this chart illustrates that the city is at least as willing to accept infill growth as most others.

Of course, change from 1960 is just one criterion to measure change in urban environment. The following graph illustrates how the built-up neighborhoods in 1960 fared over the next few decades. In some cases, they rebounded from significant declines in the 60s and 70s; in others, their populations have continued to fall. (Note: this paragraph and the following graph added in a post-publishing update.)

Looking at areas within 1.5 and 3 miles of city halls produces equally interesting results. While these areas often overlap with the areas that were built up in 1960, they do not match directly as many downtowns had few residents in 1960 (look at the map of downtown Manhattan above, for example), and they often include communities outside of the city itself.

When looking at these neighborhoods, as shown in the following chart, the overall trend is negative: The preponderance of U.S. cities has lost a significant number of people within 1.5 miles of city hall and between 1.5 and 3 miles of city hall, with Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and St. Louis leading the way.

There are some clear exceptions, however: San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Long Beach, Honolulu, Arlington, and Austin each grew dramatically within these core areas. New York City and Chicago grew dramatically (in fact, more than any other cities) very close to their city halls–but they also lost a significant number of people between 1.5 miles and 3 miles of downtown.

It is worth pointing out that these trends have changed over time and that choosing a starting point in 1960 was an arbitrary choice based on the availability of Census tract-level data for that year.

As the following graph illustrates, the population of the neighborhoods within 1.5 miles of city hall in the 100 largest cities has changed dramatically over time, and while the change from 1960 to 2014 is a key indicator, it is not all meaningful. Indeed, it is interesting to point out that of the areas within 1.5 miles of city hall of the 100 largest cities, only 5 grew between 1960 and 1970, but 6 grew between 1970 and 1980, 35 between 1980 and 1990, 51 between 1990 and 2000, and 53 between 2000 and 2014. In other words, while the central areas of most large cities are still less populated than they were in 1960, many have recovered a significant share of their population in the intervening years.

Diverging paths to growth

Of the 15 largest U.S. cities in 2014, 13 grew between 1960 and 2014. Yet of those 15, only 7 grew in the areas within 1.5 miles of city hall, and only 5 grew in their respective neighborhoods that were already built up in 1960. Even New York City, whose growth has been outpaced by just a few cities, has increased in population only in areas that were underdeveloped before from the perspective of residential occupancy, such as on Staten Island, in the financial district, and on land that was reclaimed from the rivers.

Los Angeles is an outlier, seeing stellar growth both overall and through infill development during this period.


Seen alternatively, examine the following chart illustrating how the 100 largest cities in 1960 have changed over time when separated by region (by chance, 1960’s 100 largest cities are roughly evenly distributed between the Midwest, Northeast, South, and West).

What’s intriguing is that though large cities in the South and West grew spectacularly over this period (the median city grew by more than 50 percent overall even as the median cities in the Midwest and Northeast lost people during that period), their infill development–particularly in the South–stalled out. Indeed, the median city in the South, much as in the Midwest, saw its 1960 developed areas decline in population by more than 40 percent; the median city in those two regions also experienced a decline in population in the 1.5 miles closest to city hall of more than 50 percent.

From the perspective of these alternative measurements, cities in the Northeast actually appear closer in trends to those in the West than those in the Midwest and South.


Implications for discussing population data

The U.S. has gained more than 140 million people since 1960, and the growth of its largest cities has at least to some degree corresponded to that; the total population of the 100 largest cities in 1960 grew from 47.5 million then to 57.4 million in 2014. Yet this growth has come largely through annexation and not through infill development or construction downtown, as I’ve noted above. This gives some clue as to why the country’s residents continue to rely on personal automobiles to get around. Overall, this paints a worrying picture about the renaissance that many cities appear to be going through; is it simply a blip on the overall continued suburbanization of the country?

Yet by evaluating growth from a different perspective using the indicators I presented above (surely there are other measures that would also be helpful) suggests that we need a more nuanced look at population growth. It is simultaneously true that Chicago lost the country’s second-largest number of inhabitants between 1960 and 2014 and that the same city gained the second-largest number of inhabitants living within 1.5 miles of city hall. It is simultaneously true that San Antonio gained almost 800,000 people in the city as a whole even as it lost more than 100,000 people in the areas that were already developed in 1960.

nominal percent

Why take these alternative measures of city growth so seriously? They should help us question whether the cities that grew fastest from 1960 to 2014 were Las Vegas, San Jose, and Austin or, alternatively, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Miami or perhaps New York City, Chicago, and Honolulu. Each tells a different but useful tale about demographic change.

These measures might help us to understand, for example, how it is possible for half-vacant neighborhoods to exist just blocks from central Houston, which is otherwise booming. Or it may help us to understand why that city’s transit ridership has increased by just 5 percent since 1996 even though the city has grown by more than 25 percent since then. And they might help us get a better idea of what cities are truly regenerating their inner-city neighborhoods versus those that are simply gobbling up suburban growth to feed into their growing population counts.

Much of the rhetoric in the urban planning discourse over the past few years has focused on the lack of adequate housing construction in many of our cities’ most-desired communities. This is, no doubt, one of the most pressing issues facing places where supply has not kept up with demand and, as a result, rents have risen out of control.

Cities like San Francisco, notably, are frequently cited for inappropriately preventing growth, whereas places like Houston have been lauded for their unbelievable growth. Yet the data presented above should make us question this argument, or at least make us evaluate whether it conclusions correspond to actual demographic change. How is it that “growing” Houston lost almost 120,000 people in its neighborhoods that were already developed in 1960, while “growth-inhibiting” San Francisco gained more than 70,000 in its similar communities? Context matters.

* I used this density measure because it approximates mid-level suburban density levels.

Image at top: Construction in Los Angeles, from Flickr user fliegender (cc)

Infrastructure Social Justice Urbanism

Which riders matter?

G train

» Given the need to prioritize transportation investments, whose mobility needs are most important?

In an article earlier this month, I described the Seattle region’s draft proposal to spend $50 billion over the next twenty-five years on a massive transit expansion program. In that article, I compared the cost of building and operating new transit projects with the expected number of riders each proposed line would carry, concluding that the region was choosing projects that were relatively ineffective from the perspective of maximizing their benefit-cost ratios.

There is no formula that can definitively tell us whether a project is a good or bad one, or how it stacks up against other potential investments.

What I didn’t delve into was the fact that that metric—like any metric—was founded on an assumption that not only biased my conclusions, but also which was impossible to avoid, even if altered to reflect a different premise.

What I assumed was that every potential rider for a transit line has equal worth. In the Seattle case, for example, I noted that the cost per expected rider of a light rail line from the Ballard neighborhood to downtown was far less than that of a light rail extension to Tacoma, so I concluded that the former project should be built first.

At face value, the idea that we should treat each transit rider equivalently in a comparative analysis may not seem particularly controversial. Doesn’t it make intuitive sense to prioritize transit projects that serve the most people for the lowest cost?

In truth, though, riders are different. Some are taking long trips, some short ones. Some are wealthy, some are poor. Some have no choice but to ride transit, others are picking it instead of driving.

If the Ballard light rail project I noted above was filled with people already using buses to get to work and who would save just a few minutes traveling by train versus bus, while the Tacoma project was to be used by people who otherwise would be driving and who would be saving a lot of time, can we still be confident that the Ballard project is the better one? What if the Ballard project was serving all wealthy people, while the Tacoma one was designed for the poor?

How do we differentiate between riders? Who matters most? These are essential questions that we must answer when we’re picking investments. After all, given the fact that resources are limited, we must have some way to determine how to use them—whether that is through a process of reviewing quantitative statistics or through political debate.

When it comes to urban transit systems in the U.S., determining what riders matter most has a direct impact on what types of services are provided. Many large regions, for instance, have chosen to subsidize commuter rail at a higher rate per rider than other modes of transportation. Essentially that means that suburban, longer-distance travelers are being prioritized over urban travelers.

There are many reasons to think that’s okay: Subsidizing suburban commuters may be necessary to maintain political support for transit; their trips are longer and therefore putting them on transit may do more to reduce congestion and pollution; and urban riders often have better access to a variety of ways of getting around, such as walking and biking. But we can’t avoid the fact that the decision to preference the suburban rider is a choice, not a random outcome.

Another way to look at the way we think about which riders matter is through federal policy. Some years ago, the U.S. Federal Transit Administration required transit agencies building new lines and seeking support from the government to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of their projects by using a formula that divided overall operating and capital costs by the number of hours of rider time savings in the end year of the project.

This system had the consequence of prioritizing projects that saved as much time as possible for riders, rather than focusing on other issues, such as better serving existing transit users, potential transit-oriented development, social equity, or overall mode share. As a result, the government encouraged the extension of lines far out into the suburbs, which scored better than inner-city lines. The downside was that, in general, potential riders who were wealthier and had longer commutes were prioritized over people who lived in poorer urban neighborhoods.

Facing resistance from cities around the country, the FTA altered this rule and significantly reduced its weighting in the determination of which projects to build. In the process, it has redirected its attention toward projects that are questionable from the opposite perspective: They too often emphasize slow, central city travel over fast regional needs.

The reality is that there is no formula that can definitively tell us whether a project is a good or bad one, or how it stacks up against other potential investments. The most we can ask is for a lot of information about not only how many riders a project might serve, but also who those riders would be and how they would be expected to use the system.

Residents, political officials, and policy makers deciding how transportation spending should be distributed need to focus on the question of which riders are most important to them, because in doing so, they will come to a better understanding of what projects to invest in and which services to provide.

Here are three questions that every region should ask about transit riders, not only in reference to new projects, but also about how transit service is being provided today.

  1. Do we want to serve people who are already riding transit, or do we want to attract new people onto transit? If the goal of transit investments is to (1) attract new riders onto the system, new investments should probably focus on areas of the region where transit service is currently poor but adequate demand exists for people to get on trains and buses. On the other hand, if the goal is to (2) improve the quality of life for existing transit riders—who can be depended on to actually take transit when the project is completed—new investments should probably emphasize areas of the region where existing lines are well-used but slow and unreliable. One example of a project that fulfills the latter goal is the Second Avenue Subway in New York City, which will attract relatively few new transit riders (most people in the area already use transit) but dramatically reduce commute times for them by replacing packed and slow buses. It is worth noting that even if more new people ride transit under the first scenario, the second scenario could actually produce more new trips as better transit in dense urban areas is more likely to produce off-peak, weekend, and non-commute trips. It’s also important to emphasize that if a goal of transit is to expand social equity, a focus on existing transit riders, rather than “choice” riders, is essential, since their needs are the greatest.
  1. Do we want to replace longer trips or encourage more trips? If the goal of transit is to (1) reduce overall vehicle miles traveled on the roadways, projects like commuter rail systems can often be very effective because they replace the trips of people who drive long distances. A commuter from the suburbs who drives 50 miles roundtrip each day is causing far more pollution and congestion than a commuter in town who drives 5 miles roundtrip each day. Alternatively, if the goal is to (2) encourage more overall transit trips, urban rail systems serving dense neighborhoods are likely to result in more boardings. In addition, prioritizing longer trips may have the negative effect of encouraging more outward sprawl by making it easier to take longer transit trips to and from jobs; in the long term, this could actually reduce transit use.
  1. Do we want to focus on commuter trips or transit in communities where all-day transit use is possible? If the goal of transit investment is to (1) significantly reduce or provide an alternative to congestion, resources should be concentrated on peak-hour services that parallel a region’s most-travelled corridors, typically expressways. Fast commuter lines can offer a real alternative to congested highways. On the other hand, if the goal is to (2) develop communities where people do not have to rely on their cars for most of their daily needs, projects and services that focus on urban neighborhoods designed around walking are far more relevant. In many cases, investments in these places may have no relationship to relieving congestion but may have far more relevance to issues like transit-oriented development.

No investment decision can be a pure response to any of these questions, but understanding what types of riders we care about can help us identify how we make choices about how to spend public money on transportation.

Image at top: G Train, from Flickr user Jed Sullivan (cc).


America’s car obsession will not be diminished by Millennials alone

» We cannot bank our hopes for a less car-dependent future on the supposed preferences of a new generation.

The plateauing and decline in U.S. vehicle miles traveled per capita that occurred between mid-2005 and mid-2014 was described by some hopeful commentators as a dramatic shift that was indicative of the preferences of a new workforce. Yes, it coincided with the recession and an increase in gas prices, they said, but it was really more about generational change. Whereas in the past Americans dreamed of living in the suburbs and traveling virtually everywhere in their single-occupant automobiles, now Americans, addicted to their smart phones, are looking for walkable, urban living. Evidence suggests that they may have had a point: The age at which people registered for drivers licenses is increasing and certainly neighborhoods in central neighborhoods in city after city have been blossoming of late.

The more recent uptick in per-capita vehicle miles traveled that has occurred since mid-2014, coinciding with a reduction in gas prices, has failed to dim this argument among some. The long-term facts are still there, many urbanists argue; younger people are fine with biking and taking transit. Yes, people might drive more when gas prices decrease, but they’re never going to drive as much as traffic models suggested they would.

Except that’s not enough. The basic facts of life on the ground in America—that our country is an automobile-oriented society—remain the case. Marginal changes in the way a new generation behaves, or even major changes in the way a new generation thinks, cannot overcome the realities of a country where more than three-fourths of jobs are located more than three miles from downtowns and where only one-fourth of homes are in places that their residents refer to as urban.

While slow change may be occurring—the share of Americans driving to work alone declined from 76.98 percent in 2005 to 76.46 percent in 2014—the overwhelming majority of U.S. residents will continue to rely on cars for their everyday needs. Just as importantly, the population is growing so much more quickly than these marginal changes are occurring that the problems related to car dependence are likely to get worse before they improve. Relying on a new generation’s supposed preferences to make a dramatic change in the nation’s overall habits is not only not going to work but it is also naive.

Missing the forest for the trees

Much of the impression that the society is changing is informed by the truly positive changes occurring in many of America’s center cities. In the ten cities with the highest number (not share) of people taking transit to work in 2014,* each saw more commuters using transit in 2014 than 2005. In total, the number of commuters using transit to get to work in those places increased by almost twice as much (+629,000 or +22%) as the number of people driving alone to work (+332,000 or +9%) over that period.

Between 2005 and 2014, there were seven times more new commuters driving alone to work than new transit riders at the national level.

In other words, the growth in workers in America’s most transit-friendly cities is being absorbed by the transit system more than the roadways. In Chicago, for example, I documented that growth in jobs was entirely absorbed—and more—by sustainable transportation modes and people working from home.

Given that this growth is corresponding to increased congestion on transit systems—visible to anyone who uses them—and, perhaps more importantly, that these cities are the center of American media and intellectual culture (the major East Coast regions, plus Chicago and the three biggest West Coast regions), we shouldn’t be surprised that the dominant narrative is one of a move away from cars.

But the truth is that the dominant reality is actually a move toward more cars. The residents of the ten cities mentioned above account for 46.8 percent of total transit commuters despite representing only 6.6 percent of total American workers. They also slightly grew their share of overall American transit ridership between 2005 and 2014.


The rest of the country moved toward cars. The number of transit users outside of those ten cities increased by 701,000, but the number of commuters driving alone to work increased by 8.8 million—more than 12 times as much. The higher percentage increase in transit users versus drivers (21 versus 9 percent) masks the fact that there are just so many more people getting to work alone in their cars.

Those 8.8 million new driving commuters are on our roads, and they will probably be joined by at least 8.8 million more driving commuters over the next decade, as well. How will they be accommodated? What other options do they actually have?

Even among the youngest members of the workforce, the pull of driving remains strong. Of the increase in workers 16 to 24 years old between 2005 and 2014, two times as many drove alone to work versus taking transit; the drive-alone mode share of commuters in that age group (70.3 percent) is practically as high as the national average (76.5 percent), though it has declined slightly from 71.5 percent in 2005.


The growth in driving, again, should not be a huge surprise. Peoples’ lives are built around the environment in which they live, and that landscape changes slowly. Neighborhoods where it was hard to get around by anything but driving 20 years ago likely have remained that way and will continue to work as such for the next 20 years. “Solving” the suburban reliance on cars in any region is impossible when communities are so spread apart and mixed uses are so limited in their availability.

Nor is a mass movement into transit-friendly center cities realistic. Between 2005 and 2014, the top ten transit cities grew their collective workforce by 1.3 million jobs—but the rest of the country increased by 11.5 million jobs. Today’s transit cities are expensive to live in and difficult to build in.

Just as importantly, we simply are not investing in improving transit systems to provide people adequate alternatives. While some regions have directed substantial sums to upgrade their urban and suburban public transportation—Denver and Seattle come to mind—many others have not; think of Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, or Tampa, where improvements have been limited at best and where sprawl and its associated road building continues virtually unabated.

How in the world can we expect people in these types of places to switch en masse away from driving when real alternatives are not being offered to them?

Ignoring the political

Much of the recent argument has revolved around the fact that road engineers have vastly overestimated the growth in car traffic, assuming that people will continue to increase their reliance on driving and thus encouraging ever more investments in road construction—even when confronted with evidence of a generational change in habits.

The logic of transportation planners is indeed detrimental to the construction of a different way to get around, and it provides empirical justification for continued pursuit of policies that are bad for our cities and ultimately bad for our country.

But the real problem is not the logic of planners; making the case to them that they should alter their metrics to reflect generational change is missing the point. Indeed, if generational change is altering the decisions about the way some people get around, it is not, in itself, nearly enough to alter the way a lot of people get around, and as the figures cited above suggest, the large majority of young people still use cars to get around. Importantly, we will go back to rampant increases in car use—and perhaps we already are—if we rely only on the hope that younger people will act differently and adjust our models to reflect that.

We must do a better job developing a political argument—an ideological claim—that can support a transition away from road building and a society built around it that works not just in the aforementioned center cities but also in the suburbs of those cities and in other regions. Only with a change in the way our society is built—meaning not only the way our transportation is planned but also the way our neighborhoods are structured—will the level of automobile use actually decline, and that change requires political support. A generational change of mindset is not enough.

A stronger political argument, adopted by people and by politicians around the goals of improving our climate and of improving our communities, followed by investments and policies that actually support reduced car use, is the only way to truly make progress on these questions. Otherwise, we’ll simply be improving the conditions of a few urban centers and ignoring the rest of the country.

* These were, in order, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, Seattle, Jersey City, and Baltimore. In Washington, the transit share of total trips actually declined slightly mostly because of an even more significant increase in population and shifts to biking and working from home. In Baltimore and Los Angeles, the share of people driving alone to work increased slightly because of reduced carpooling.

Cities with the largest number of transit commuters.

PlaceTransit commuters 2014Transit share 2014Change in transit commuters 2005-2014Percent change 2005-2014
New York City2,231,97857%359,63819%
Los Angeles197,77111%26,56116%
San Francisco163,53934%38,65031%
Jersey City62,67249%16,67636%
Remainder of the U.S.4,034,5223%700,87721%
Source: U.S. Census, means of transportation to work.
Automobile Infrastructure Personal Rapid Transit Urbanism

Will autonomous cars change the role and value of public transportation?

» Self-driving cars could alter how we get around—and also change the way our cities work.

Even the concept of a self-driving car is enough to get people talking in raptures about the potential for a utopian future society. It could fulfill the promise of “personal rapid transit” transportation planners hoped to provide decades ago, offering personalized point-to-point service without the hassle, congestion, or crashes involved with driving.

The autonomous vehicle, some predict, will replace many of today’s forms of transportation and radically expand mobility by allowing people, including the young, old, and disabled, to get around without having to walk, without having to know how to drive, and without having to wait for a bus or train. Operating without a driver and using electricity for power, the autonomous vehicle could be cheap to operate and environmentally friendly. It could, in fact, replace car ownership for many households.

We’re years away from the rollout of any self-driving car that people can purchase, and we’re even further from a future city with no human drivers on the street. But progress toward autonomous cars has accelerated, and companies from Google to BMW to Volvo suggest that they’ll be able to offer such vehicles relatively soon.

How exactly will autonomous vehicles affect our transport systems and our cities in general? As I’ll describe below, they may radically alter the types of public transportation regions provide for their citizens, and they may increase—or decrease—the sheer amount of driving people do. Given the fact that these types of cars are almost definitely coming at some point, it is time to begin the conversation on how to handle them, since their impact on the urban environment is a matter not only of private research and development but also of public policy questions about space, access, and who decides how our transportation system will work in the future.

I gained some insight on these issues at the International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig, Germany that I’ll relate here (full disclosure: as part of the Media Travel Programme, the Forum covered the cost of my attending and traveling to the event).

New forms of mobility: An intermediary step toward autonomous vehicles?

The basic forms of urban mobility have hardly changed over the past century. Walking, biking, public transport, driving, carpooling, and taxiing represent the vast majority of trips. Each of these modes has, in essence, remained technically similar while there has of course been a very significant shift away from public transport toward single-passenger automobiles as cities have spread and become less dense.

Advanced computing is slowly but surely altering the interactions between people and the transportation system, potentially with the endgame of eventually replacing most motorized modes with fully autonomous vehicles, which would represent a radical change in technology.

The development of these new forms of mobility thus far has been evolutionary and taken advantage of the technology offered by smart phones in particular. The creation of hour-by-hour car-sharing options such as Zipcar encouraged people to rely on public transport, walking, and biking for most of their trips but also allowed them access to automobiles on demand, and research indicates that car sharing does, in fact, significantly reduce household car ownership.

Also made possible by new technology, French company BlaBlaCar‘s simplified paid ridesharing allows people to split the costs of long-distance trips for its 10 million users. According to BlaBlaCar head Frédéric Mazzella during a panel at the ITF, the service has yet to enter the U.S. market because with gas prices “at two dollars a gallon, there’s not much to share.” The U.S.’s weak transit systems and sprawling physical environment also limit the ability of users to carpool.

Undoubtedly the most prominent entry in this field of technologically informed transportation solutions has been Uber, whose fleet is generating up to $10 billion in annual revenues. Like Lyft and others, Uber’s offer of cheaper taxi services has been transformative; in San Francisco, for example, traditional taxi rides have declined in number by at least 65 percent over the past three years.

Now other startups are attempting to, in a similar vein, supplant traditional public transportation. Boston’s Bridj guarantees seats, faster travel times, and wifi for customers who are willing to pay slightly more than they would for a public bus.

What’s undeniable is that novel approaches to transportation have relied on tactics that avoid many of the regulations that have been in place for decades, or require them to be altered. Zipcar’s initial implementation, for example, needed a change in Massachusetts’ car rental laws. Uber’s services, more dramatically, require public entities to classify its operations differently than taxis (though that may be changing), allowing its independently contracted drivers to avoid full insurance and reducing the public sector’s ability to cap the total number of driver services being provided, guarantee stable fares, or ensure adequate pay for drivers.

It is true that the arrival of these transportation options has increased the mobility of many people who do not own, or do not wish to use, private automobiles. Uber’s Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy David Plouffe (who was the campaign manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign) emphasized in an ITF panel session that the company’s services are being used in many cities as a gap-filler. “We are very excited about how we help public transportation,” he noted. By guaranteeing transport from the end of a rail line, for example, Uber can ensure peoples’ ability to get home at all hours when they’re not living within walking distance of a stop in a way that less available and more expensive taxis may not be able to.

“The only option is getting more people in fewer cars.”

These new taxi offerings may also be able to reduce costs for their users even further through the use of carpooling; UberPool and Lyft Line, for example, allow two to three people to share the same ride, and its cost, with one driver. Today, according to Plouffe, 20 percent of Uber rides in San Francisco are shared.

For cities coping with congestion, this kind of carpooling does suggest benefits for traffic reduction and Plouffe is right when he says that “the only option is getting more people in fewer cars,” since new highway construction is untenable in most places. Switching people out of single-passenger automobiles and into carpooling-like services could, indeed, reduce traffic. But if these people are choosing not to use transit, they may be making traffic worse. After all, twenty cars with three people each still take up more space per capita than a bus with sixty passengers.

The rapid rate of technological change in transportation has been a challenge for the public sector because of the difficulty of keeping up. For better or worse, the government’s ability to regulate urban movement has been undermined by the speed of the tech companies and their publicly attractive insistence that they’re only increasing mobility. David Plouffe claimed at the ITF that Uber is “hungry for new regulations,” but it’s hard to avoid the sense that Uber simply won’t accept regulations that don’t fit with its revenue motives.

The rise of tech companies effectively making their own rules and then asking the public to accept them puts in question the government’s ability to maintain stability in the industry while ensuring safety and continued access. Is the public sector abandoning its role in favor of crowdsourcing and crowd ratings?

Another question is the long-term impact of the services of these new companies. In making the argument for its importance, Uber’s public relations strategists have emphasized the company’s success in creating 20,000 new jobs per month. Similarly, Bridj suggests that it is providing supplemental services to public transportation, not competing directly, therefore creating more transportation jobs in general. It’s unclear, however, how many taxi drivers are now losing their jobs or suffering from reduced incomes, or whether public bus routes are not being implemented because of the availability of new private options.

The rollout of self-driving cars

The new jobs created by such technological advances may be ephemeral at best, because the autonomous car is likely coming soon, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that transportation companies are licking their chops to reduce the labor costs of their operations. While new services, from Zipcar to BlaBlaCar to Uber to Bridj, continue to rely on drivers to function, what would happen if labor were simply removed from the equation altogether?

There’s disagreement about how soon self-driving cars will come to market, though Google’s autonomous vehicle is already making the rounds, both literally and in the media. The fact that it has been tested on highways across California surely indicates that popular use of the technology isn’t far off—even if the experience of riding in the vehicles leaves something to be desired.

Slate’s Lee Gomes points out that there’s still plenty of work to be done, beginning with the fact that the Google car relies on highly complex maps of every street it drives on, and most streets have not yet been mapped. But it’s hard not to believe that some sort of vehicular automation will be rolled out soon. “Autonomous cars are going to happen so fast that it almost doesn’t matter what you’re going to do between now and then,” Robin Chase, co-founded of Zipcar, told me in an interview at the ITF. She predicts a public rollout in the next five to ten years.

But the question for our cities is how these autonomous cars will be introduced; will they simply replace today’s Uber drivers, or will they be owned by individuals? In an article in CityLab last year, Chase delved into this problem, arguing that individual ownership of self-driving vehicles would be destructive, increasing congestion and encouraging significant increases in car travel by people who order their vehicles to drop them off in front of stores, only to have the car circle the block for hours as they shop. Indeed, the ITF has modeled out scenarios showing increases in miles traveled with the rollout of self-driving vehicles.

Alternatively, a world in which autonomous cars are shared, perhaps operated as Uber-like taxis or alternatively as some sort of publicly or cooperatively owned service, could have significant benefits for cities by reducing the need for parking, encouraging intermodal trips, and expanding mobility by providing lower-cost travel options.

Changes in the role of public transport

As suggested by Uber’s David Plouffe, new mobility options may be providing an important complement to existing public transport systems. Evidence from San Francisco, where technologically advanced mobility may be most instilled in the popular culture, suggests that there hasn’t been a dramatically negative effect on public transportation thus far.

As of December 2013, Uber was already providing 160,000 trips per week in the Bay Area, a number that has likely increased in the subsequent months. Those trips, however, do not appear to have reduced transit ridership. Indeed, according to statistics from the American Public Transportation Association, ridership on buses and trains operated by all four of that region’s major transit operators—BART, San Francisco Muni, Oakland’s AC Transit, and Caltrain—increased between 2013 and 2014.

So perhaps Uber et al. are actually increasing transit ridership. Or maybe ridership is not increasing as quickly as it could given that metropolitan area’s relatively explosive population growth. It is probably too early to tell.

What is likely true is that the prices being charged for these taxi-like services are too high to attract most people out of public transportation for their daily trips. As Robin Chase told me, even UberPool, at “Five to seven dollars a trip, is still not what people can afford to get to work. Fourteen dollars a day, that’s not happening… and that’s [Uber’s] best case scenario!” At those prices, bus and train ridership is not likely to be dramatically affected.

On the other hand, Chase told me that she thinks that automated cars will dramatically change the equation for public transit services because of the much cheaper prices made possible when there’s no human labor involved. For Chase, “buses, shuttles, minivans, school buses [will be] all gone.” Because of the ability to substitute automated cars for these low-capacity transit modes, they will simply disappear from the options available in the urban environment as cities recognize the limited utility of their fixed schedules and inability to adapt to point-to-point demand. And she expects this change to come sooner rather than later.

“Would you prefer what we have today, [where] only poor people use [most transit service] and it sucks, or would you rather that poor people use the exact same thing that everyone else is using?”

When I asked her about how this would alter the public sector’s role in transportation, she noted that she expected governments to switch from subsidizing service provision for all to providing vouchers for automated transportation for the poor, much in the same way that the government in the 1970s switched from building public housing to providing rent vouchers.

I raised the prospect that this would negatively affect poor peoples’ mobility, but Chase rejected my premise, arguing that lower-income people would be able to use “the same vehicles that people who can afford it are using… Would you prefer what we have today,” she asked me, where “only poor people use [most transit service] and it sucks, or would you rather that poor people use the exact same thing that everyone else is using?”

It’s an interesting point, but it would require a very significant public role through subsidies if we’re to maintain mobility for low-income people who do not have access to their own automobiles. Are American cities ready to provide direct transportation subsidies for poor people to use self-driving cars? How would those subsidies work, and would people have access to unlimited trips and travel distances?

Paratransit services provided by many cities already offer people with limited personal mobility a point-to-point alternative similar to that which could be offered by automated cars. Today, paratransit trips cost the public purse more than three times as much to provide as regular bus and rail services according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, but that’s in part because of the low capacity of paratransit vehicles, high labor costs, and their non-fixed-route services. Eligible customers in most regions are allowed to take as many trips as they’d like upon advanced reservation, generally at a per-ride fare on par with traditional transit.

But paratransit has been implemented thanks to a federal government mandate resulting from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Without a similar requirement, will cities have the incentive to subsidize poor peoples’ trips? Or will they simply abandon traditional transit and leave those people to fend for themselves, at whatever price point charged by the companies operating automated vehicles?

Chase’s vision—that low-capacity transit operating on fixed routes will be replaced by automated cars that allow point-to-point trips—has become a commonly cited argument among those who suggest that governments cease investment in public transportation. To them, why spend any public money on transportation if all our problems will be solved with driverless cars?

But eliminating bus lines would disassemble the transit grid that makes the network work in most places. A large share of transit users rely on buses to take them to the train, or vice verse. Automated cars could fill some of that gap, but it’s hard to see them replacing local transit routes entirely.

In addition, eliminating bus routes as a component of the urban transit system could terminate one of the biggest perks of living in many cities: the unlimited-ride fare card. For tens of thousands of people—even millions of people in some cities—the unlimited ride card allows people to move about their city on public transit at one fixed price per month, giving them the ability to take side trips and explore new parts of the region. Could trips in automated vehicles be incorporated into such a system?

For Chase, “major, hard routes” like subways and elevated lines—and probably bus rapid transit, though she did not name it—would remain important even with the mass use of automated vehicles. The most heavily trafficked transit corridors, with more than 5,000 people moving per direction per hour, cannot be handled by automated vehicles alone. When operating in its own lanes and in a dedicated right of way, transit also has the potential to be quicker than automated vehicles.

So for dense urban neighborhoods and major job centers, public transit will likely remain a fact of life.

It’s also worth emphasizing that any advances in technology that provide for automated cars could also result in automated public transport vehicles, potentially saving significantly on the cost of operations by eliminating the need for driver labor (it could also reduce the cost of shipping by, for example, eliminating the need for truck drivers). Automated trains are already common for new subway and elevated rail systems, and some train lines in cities like Paris have been converted from driver to automated operation.

Buses moving around the city with no drivers could be more frequent because of reduced labor costs, and certain bus lines could probably be operated profitably. In other words, automobile automation could have a genuine competitor in automated public transport.

Automated buses and trains, much like automated taxis, do come at a cost: Significantly fewer jobs in the transportation business. Is this a tradeoff worth making? Is the robotization of transportation labor a benefit for society as a whole in that while it will eliminate transportation jobs, it will reduce the cost of getting around, producing more jobs in other industries? Or are the well-paid jobs in transportation worth retaining as an essential pathway to the middle class?

Implications for the urban environment

The mass adoption of automated cars could radically alter how the urban environment looks and works—particularly if, as Robin Chase suggests, they’re shared. The easy availability of cheap point-to-point transportation in which passengers are free to read, watch films, or sleep while travelling around could increase the amount of time people are willing to travel each day, increasing overall vehicle use.

Automated cars could also devalue urban cores by making biking and walking, or waiting for transit, less appealing when a robotized car can arrive practically instantly at the touch of a button.

But Chase’s sense is that people “really enjoy clusters.” People like living and working near one another, and that has led to the renaissance many American central cities are experiencing today. Uber itself seems convinced of that fact; the company is planning a huge headquarters complex in the heart of San Francisco filled with walkable shops and restaurants and—intriguingly—it will be directly adjacent to the T-Third Street light rail line. In its urban perspective, the complex is diametrically opposed to the suburban, generally car-oriented campuses under construction by fellow tech giants Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Chase notes that the real benefits of the autonomous cars will actually be to the currently less-accessible parts of dense cities. Today, she argued to me, “If you live in Brooklyn, and you live three blocks from the A [Subway] train, your house is more valuable than if you live within 15 blocks of it,” but with the automated car, people there will feel like they are much closer to the Subway stop and therefore their home values will increase. But living in the exurbs, with no effective public transport available, will remain unappealing to many.

Perhaps her vision is optimistic, but I don’t disagree with her sense that most people won’t want to spend more time in a vehicle—automated or not—if they can help it, especially since they’ll be paying for the privilege.

And the automated vehicle, if widely adopted, could do wonders for the livability of urban neighborhoods by significantly reducing the need for parking. If every automated vehicle replaced 10 now privately owned cars, we would need one-tenth of the parking spaces at peoples’ residences. And retail, parks, offices, and other attractions would need virtually no parking, since the automated cars could simply store themselves somewhere else—or serve other customers—once they’re finished being used.

Eliminating parking would reduce housing costs and free up space for other, more important needs.

Urban transportation politics after the rise of the automated car

Self-driving cars will transform our cities, but how will they transform our urban governance?

Plouffe’s argument is that the public sector’s role has diminished, will continue to diminish­­, and does not need to stop diminishing.

At the ITF, Uber’s David Plouffe painted the rise of his company’s services—and the potential future implementation of automated cars—as a sort of reaction to the limitations of our era’s public sector. For Plouffe, many cities “don’t have the ability to build whole new public transportation systems” because they “don’t have room or money” for new subway lines or other investments.

Plouffe’s argument is that the public sector’s role has diminished, will continue to diminish­­, and does not need to stop diminishing. As a result, private actors such as Uber are needed to fill in the gap and, in fact, replace the government in some ways. Uber’s mission, Plouffe said at the ITF, “is to provide more mobility options so that cities can plan better, make better choices, and actually save money.”

But who should be doing the planning: Uber or our democratically elected governments?

There’s no doubt in my mind of the validity of Robin Chase’s evaluation that the current American public transportation system, particularly in smaller cities and suburban areas, is too often a repository for the poor. Inadequate funding has produced inadequate service, leaving people isolated and, frankly, often desperate to purchase their own cars.

But automated vehicles are no panacea, nor are they an excuse for the continued defunding of the necessary and vital transit systems that will continue to serve our cities in the decades to come. Uber’s current shared services, while cheaper than the taxis of yore, are still far more expensive than public transit. Even if self-driving cars lower costs further, it’s hard to see how they could ever match the low operating costs of far higher capacity buses and trains, especially if everything is automated. So we shouldn’t rush into the privatization of every element of our transportation system; we cannot allow it to be hijacked by new technology without first ensuring that changes do not negatively affect the parts of the system that do work.

New technologies offer the opportunity to change the way we think about transportation and likely offer us opportunities to improve our cities. But the public sector, and the civic sector in general, must continue to play the key role in planning, identifying essential investments, and aiding those who are in need.

Image at top: Google’s newest self-driving car, from Flickr user smoothgroover22 (cc).

Florida Intercity Rail Miami Urbanism

How broadly applicable is the All Aboard Florida development strategy?

» Coupling real estate investment with the construction of new transit lines is the future, but the conditions need to be right.

Public development and ownership of the transportation system in the United States provided some broad, important social benefits that would not have been possible had our governments left it in the hands of the private sector. The downfall of the public transit and rail industries between the 1930s and 1970s throughout the country (itself partly a consequence of government investment in roads) was due to the fact that those services were no longer profitable. Government intervention through takeover of bankrupt lines kept those services operating and ensured the continuing existence of what is truly an essential public service in our major metropolitan areas.

Yet with the governments takeover of transit services, our regions lost a powerful skill that private transportation providers a century ago used well: Connecting new development with transit investments. The history of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is often told, but it bears repeating. The New York Central Railroad, which built the terminal, decided to submerge the tracks under Park Avenue north of the terminal in order to create a massive new business district surrounding the station. That neighborhood remains the nation’s most important commercial center.

The railroad understood that the land it used to build its line was valuable, and that allowing new investments in the area near its station would produce a virtuous cycle that built ridership, which, in turn, increased the value of the surrounding land. It’s an understanding we must absorb if we are to ensure that our transit investments are most effective.

After decades of simply ignoring the land use-related effects of transit investments, over the past two decades local governments have made halting efforts to take advantage of this fact, encouraging transit-oriented development by private investors in areas near new stations through the sale or lease of land or the altering of land use regulations to better accommodate denser growth. The most dramatic version of this is the Hudson Yards program on Manhattan’s West Side, where millions of square feet of new office and residential buildings are under construction or planned. Parts of this land was sold to a private bidder by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which will run a new subway station on the 7 Line, and parts were rezoned to allow big buildings by the city.

Altogether, this represents an intentional effort by New York City to repeat the lessons of Grand Central Terminal by merging transportation investment with a real estate program. But, unlike previous private sector development programs, the MTA and city have not been directly involved in the surrounding projects themselves, relying instead on third-party developers to make the choices and, eventually, reap the rewards.

All Aboard Florida’s $1.5 billion investment in new intercity rail services between Miami and Orlando suggests that the private sector is, in part, picking up the slack by taking advantage of the same forces that the private sector used to build its rail lines a century ago. The rail line will run 235 miles from downtown Miami to Orlando airport in around three hours (compared to five hours on Amtrak today). All Aboard Florida is investing in massive new station complexes in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. The Miami terminal, which will be located on company-owned land downtown, will include two million square feet of office or commercial space, and one million square feet of residential space, as shown below. The project is coming along more slowly than initially planned, but company officials insist they will not need government aid other than a large, low-interest loan from the federal government which it expects to pay back from ticket revenues.

Why has it taken so many decades for the private sector to get back into the development game? The growing demand by individuals to live in urban centers is attracting interest in monetizing the benefits of transit-oriented development, and that’s particularly true for large urban markets like Miami. All Aboard Florida will not need its real estate investments to subsidize its rail operations, which it expects to be operationally profitable, but those developments will certainly help justify the investment in the rail service. They’ll also build the rail line’s ridership, as they’ll create major destinations right at the stations.

Government transit agencies focus on the provision of good transit service, and if you ask management at most agencies, they’ll let you know that they need to focus on “what they’re good at,” i.e., running buses and trains. Yet that approach has repeatedly produced projects with mediocre ridership and little nearby development. Transit agencies are reliant on surrounding land uses to support their operations and whether or not they want to, they must make real estate development something they’re “good at.” It is in the public interest to make our transit system not only well-used, but also the foundation for a sound urban development strategy.

The idea of melding new transportation infrastructure with real estate investments does not have to be a strategy reserved to the private sector. For decades, Hong Kong has used its metro system (76% owned publicly) to invest in surrounding developments, which include properties as diverse as towers and shopping malls (this is known as the “rail plus property” model). Similarly, the Grand Paris Express program I profiled earlier this week will integrate its stations into large new developments directly planned by the government implementing agency (“Completed by private developers, the connected project takes into account the technical and functional prescriptions defined by” the agency, with a program “defined by municipal land use plans“). A special tax on property near stations on the line will help pay for the construction of the metro project.

Of course, the All Aboard Florida, Hong Kong metro, and Grand Paris Express projects are exceptional programs that cannot be repeated in most regions. All rely on strong local real estate markets where there is significant demand for major new development. All Aboard Florida takes advantage of that company’s prior ownership of the tracks used for the trains and of the land where its stations and surrounding real estate will be completed. Meanwhile, the transit investment programs in Hong Kong and Paris have been supported by major infusions of government grants that are not available in most American cities and by considerable political will to invest in the creation of denser, more transit-oriented regions.

Most U.S. regions are too sprawling, too auto-dominated, or too poor to expect this kind of transit-oriented development to occur simultaneously with new rail or bus links, particularly if that means that the transit agency has to take on some risk that a project will fail financially.

Nonetheless, major U.S. cities with significant demand for dense living and working environments like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Washington should evaluate their transit investment programs to ensure that they’re taking the greatest advantage of surrounding land to develop large real estate projects. These developments will not only increase system ridership but also bring decades of future revenue from office, residential, and retail rent, all of which can be used to improve transit system finances. Recent system expansions in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington — none of which have included major development projects on land owned by the transit agencies — suggest that there is significant work left to be done.

Images above: Proposed Miami station, from All Aboard Florida.