Monday, January 11, 2010

Mass Transit Death Spiral

This is very troubling, the various mass transit agencies in the San Francisco are in a death spiral as they lose ridership and revenue, they have to cut service which in turn causes more riders to abandon mass transit leading to more cuts. The article focuses on the cost of mass transit versus owning a car, but even better it talks about the cost in time and the differential in transit time because of the frequency and routes of mass transit in the bay area.

I actually timed it that it was faster for me to ride my bicycle 11 miles to the airport than it was to take the local light rail. Note that my light rail is even within walking distance away. The mass transit for me getting to the airport was 10 minute walk, 10 minute light rail trip, 5 - 10 minute wait for the next train (sometimes even longer) and then another 10 minutes on another train, and I'm not done yet. I have another 5 - 10 minute wait to get to the shuttle to the airport.

The fail is that in most US metropolitan areas there is really no center. Contrast this to London where I can take Heathrow Express to Paddington and then London is at my feet to tons of other trains. It is faster than car. Even faster when you can check in your luggage at Paddington and skip the airport. Wow!

This illustrates the challenges of mass transit in the American Metropolitan Model. I love mass transit, took it for two weeks in New York. I actually don't think that the transit time is the issue, it's the frequency and wait time that kills most people.

These two articles (one and two) suggest that there is a certain zone where mass transit will work and where it doesn't. If you can't fund it that way or even out the balance between mass transit and the surface transit system. Mass Transit will be for those who don't have a choice.

And that's no choice at all.


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