By on February 13, 2015

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From  “Commuting in America 2013” via AASHTO. Lots of growth in private transportation, but public transit, telecommuting and walking to work have stayed fairly flat. Despite prognostications of a newly urbanized populace that’s hungry for public transportation, the statistics seem to tell a different story.

H/T Glenn Mercer

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245 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: Mass Transit Isn’t Hitting Critical Mass...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    Predictable. Mass transportation is always a great idea…for everyone else.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    It’s because mass transit is expensive, slow, and unreliable. Also typically dirty and generally miserable. And I would have said this before Boston’s public transit basically collapsed under all the snow in the area.

    To be fair, right now it doesn’t sound like you can get anywhere by car in Boston either.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanska

      Plus it’s really hard to spend money on something you haven’t in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick T.

      Plus an excellent opportunity to get exposed to measles or bubonic plague.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I used mass transit in South Korea which was cheap, efficient, on time, and pretty clean. And it was still a PITA, loud, uncomfortable and a hassle*.

      *When not slightly drunk. After drinking, it was lovely.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Depends where you are. If I drove to work rather than using mass transit, I’d be out a whole lot more money.

      Mass transit pass at $58/month

      vs.

      Parking at $300/month +
      Tolls at $149.60/month ($6.80 x 22 work days) +
      Gas at about $60/month

      = Total of about $510/month

      I take the bus.

      And clearly the message that buses and trains are flat hasn’t reached Seattle, where mass transit ridership is up about 20% in the last two years.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        Seattle has always had the best bus system. I used to take it to school every day from about 5th grade on. And you must live on the Eastside and commute into downtown.

        I used to stay outside of DC (too far from Metro) and commute in – driving my car was still cheaper than taking the bus ($10/day and no flexibility).

        As always, YMMV.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I do live on the Eastside and commute into downtown — and I’m in exactly the place where 520 saves the most time vs. any of the other options. I’d put some real nice Scotch on I-90 being tolled within the next 15 years, though.

          I used to have a similar commute except without 520 (from far NE Seattle). The math of taking the bus was still compelling even without tolls.

          (And another factor: if I drove every day, I’d need to get a more boring car.)

          I lived in DC for four years. The whole time, I was close enough to work to walk. I wouldn’t have wanted to commute. Both car and Metro commutes seemed like real slogs. Did you work for the government in order to have such cheap parking?

          • 0 avatar
            Trichobezoar

            Yep, I emigrated from DC to Seattle a few years ago and did public transit for most of the last decade.

            King County cut back their bus routes last year, despite explosive growth by Amazon tripling in size. I have a nice bus cruise across Lake Washington, but it’s always been standing room only during rush hour(s), with the buses regularly skipping stops due to overcapacityeven before they voted to cut back the funding and schedules last year.

            Unfortunately, no one wants to pay for the nearly empty buses running around during non-peak hours. OTOH, Seattle is fairly unique in having just as many people living in the city and commuting out to Microsoft and other job centers in the ‘burbs, keeping buses full in both directions. Plus, the bus fare practically pays for itself in bridge tolls, not to mention parking fees and the IRS pre-tax status for businesses providing monthly transit passes as a fringe benefit. It makes it pretty silly to throw money away to drive to work just to “save” maybe 30 minutes per day, when they could be getting an hour or so of reading time on the bus. Esp. when they spend that saved time at the gym to make up for not walking enough.

            But there’s no political capital to be gained by solving problems I suppose.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        When we moved back to Canada, I calculated that car ownership (capital, insurance, operating costs) eats up $12,000 p.a. of after-tax income. If your marginal income tax rate is 40%, it requires $20,00 of pre-tax income. Expensive – far more expensive than using transit.

        In central Toronto, the subway/streetcar system works very well. I can be in the heart of downtown in 15-20 minutes, without the hassle of traffic and parking. Pretty much any place I need to go for business or entertainment (except the golf club) is 30 minutes or less. And at night, no worries about driving after any amount of drinking.

        At 4% interest, that $12,000 we save will service almost $190,000 of mortgage debt. In Toronto, the average long-term appreciation of housing has been around 6% p.a. since the 1960s. Which can’t be said for any car I’ve owned.

        So, we have 1 car instead of 2, and that works fine. On the rare occasions when we have to operate 2 cars, AutoShare has 4-5 vehicles within a 5-minute walk.

        So yeah, in urban settings public transit can work just fine. In good weather, it’s also a lot more scenic than driving….

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        “And clearly the message that buses and trains are flat hasn’t reached Seattle, where mass transit ridership is up about 20% in the last two years.”

        Yeah, I’d be interested to see this broken out by city — I would guess that ridership in areas with good transit may have been offset by transit cuts in marginal areas.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      Here in Veneta, they keep pouring money into buses that are 95% empty. For me, it would take 1½ hours to go 19 miles, a trip I can make in my car in only 25 minutes. And no bus on weekends. Or holidays. Or after 7:30 pm. Case closed.

      • 0 avatar
        Duaney

        There should be a law, all radical environmentalists who force mass-transit on us, should donate their own vehicle, and only ride mass-transit. It would be fair if they contributed a large portion of their income to pay for it also.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        When I first moved to DC, I thought I’d be fine living with just a bike. Then I realized there are those times I needed to go into the suburbs, and the buses didn’t run on weekends. Not to mention, a trip to the grocery store was an all-night affair. Yeah, I’d rather have a car.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to live in DC right off the red line, not far from downtown. Nonetheless, with one change, it took 40 minutes by subway to reach my doctor’s office. It took 20 minutes by car and 20 minutes by bicycle.

      Despite the small number of people taking public transit, car traffic wouild probably be quite a bit worse in major cities without it.

      The chart provides no info on bicyclists. No info on telecommuters, either, unless they are all included under “walk, work at home”. I can’t help thinking there must be scads of them. The numbers on the chart suggest 130 million people working in the US. Nearly 60 million working age people are not working (20 million of them are actively looking). That leaves nearly 120 million (some of whom are retired, and some of whom are children) unaccounted for.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        I had the same problem at a previous job — the job was right on transit, and I was five minutes from a station, but the train commute was well over an hour, versus 25 minutes by car.

        One major reason for this is that most of the older, comprehensive transit systems in this country were designed with the expectation that jobs and shopping are downtown, and people live outside downtown. Nowadays people’s lives are more geographically distributed, and fewer trips involve the “core.”

        Boston has floated the idea of an “urban ring” that would connect the transit lines at their midpoints — sort of like a beltway for highways. I don’t have much hope it’ll ever be built (particularly given that we can’t keep the existing system running at the moment), but it’s exactly the sort of thing that’ll be needed to move transit forward into this century.

        • 0 avatar
          Glenn Mercer

          Very accurate point. Latest “Commuting in America” survey I saw (more than few years old, sorry), said that for all commutes across all modes and all cities and states averaged, for any given metro area (rounded):

          25% of commutes were within the central city
          40% were from one suburb to another
          15% were from suburb to central city
          10% were from central city to the suburbs
          10% were from this metro to another (e.g. NYC metro to Philadelphia metro)

          Of course, there are huge definitional issues here, especially when you get someplace like Jacksonville FL, where the incorporated city is so large there are almost no “suburbs” if defined as “outside the city limits.”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Despite the small number of people taking public transit, car traffic would probably be quite a bit worse in major cities without it.”

        Oddly enough, that probably isn’t true.

        Adding and removing traffic infrastructure doesn’t reduce or create congestion, it changes the amount of overall traffic volume. A couple of notable examples of this were in Seoul and San Francisco, where freeway/expressway demolition hasn’t created problems despite all of the fears about what would happen — instead, some trips are eliminated or rescheduled in response to the reduction in traffic lanes.

        What a useful mass transit system should do is increase the utilization of the city. And making a city work for more people is a virtue unto itself.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Boston’s daily mass transit ridership is 1,295,700. I don’t know how many cars that would translate to in the downtown area if there wasn’t mass transit, but I have no idea where we would put them all or how we’d get them into the city. Downtown Boston is tiny, Parking is scarce and expensive. Rush hour lasts most of the day. There just isn’t room for more cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Fewer people would bother to go there, and some of those businesses would leave.

          • 0 avatar

            That is certainly an interesting statistic about Our Fair City. My only potential quibble with what you say is that I don’t think rush hour lasts most of the day. I do try to avoid going into Boston before 10 or after 3 (to be sure, I’m talking Brookline; I rarely go into Boston proper on weekdays), but when getting off Storrow Drive at Kenmore Sq to go to Longwood, I really have no problem between those hours. But westbound traffic on Storrow can get dicey as early as 3:30. Though not always.

            And, yeah, I think Pch is right about what would happen without the transit. But I also think the traffic would be significantly worse.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I suspect that the city would be significantly worse, when some of the people and businesses there set off for greener pastures (no pun intended)

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            Boston is a bit of a unique example, given its geography, but the tradeoff between transit and roads is a commonplace.

            In Toronto, downtown is accessible from 3 directions. The 2 expressways that serve the downtown core carry about 200,000 vehicles per day – if all of those are commuters (which they are not), that would represent about 75-100,000 people. The local transit system carries 1.4 million riders per day, of whom more than 150,000 exit from the 5 subway stations in the business core.

            The commuter train system carries another 200,000 passengers per day, the overwhelming majority of whom are commuting to downtown jobs.

            Toronto’s transit system is very good by US standards, quite poor by European standards. But it is very clear that the road system couldn’t begin to handle the load if the transit systems did not exist.

            In addition, the fact that most people commute by transit contributes to the cohesion of the downtown core, by reducing demand for parking lots/garages.

            For intelligent urban planning, transit is an absolute necessity, not an afterthought.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            @ect, it’s probably worth noting that Toronto’s highway system was artificially stifled by Jane Jacobs and the residents of the Annex stopping development of the Spadina Expressway (now Allen Road), which set the precedent to stop any more expressway development, like the other several the city had conceived.

            Now, 45 years later, I’m not about to argue that’s a bad thing, as it has forced more consistent transit support, and less car-centric urban planning, that makes for a relatively more welcoming city.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> The chart provides no info on bicyclists.

        David, have you ever seen the bicycle parking situation over at the Longwood Medical Area? Not sure if I’ve ever seen that many bicycles in one place! I wonder what the statistics are?

        • 0 avatar

          I have. I think I’ve seen similar numbers elsewhere around the area. Boston’s compact size and the the difficulty of using a car in the city definitely contributes to that demand. But alas, in ten minutes of googling I could not find a statistic on the number of bicycle commuters here.

          If I lived closer in than east Lexington, or if I were 20-30 years younger and not such a car nut, I’d probably use my bicycle for a lot of my trips into Boston. And if I weren’t so afraid of people who text while driving.

          • 0 avatar
            Glenn Mercer

            For bicycle and walking commuter data broken down by city Google “Alliance for Biking and Walking” and download their annual benchmarking report. For some topline statistics from that: major cities ranked by share of commuting that is bicycling (see the report for methodology): Portland OR (surprise…) 6% (I am rounding to nearest %, but the rank order is maintained, see report for details)… Minneapolis 4%, Seattle San Francisco and DC 3%, then all at 2% (rounded) Tucson Oakland New Orleans (surprised me!) Sacramento Denver Philadelphia Boston Honolulu. Oddly enough Boston is far and away the leader with WALKING to work, at 15%, see report for details.

      • 0 avatar
        Glenn Mercer

        Telecommuting statistics are notoriously difficult to find (see the wikipedia article on telecommuting for example), for many reasons I am sure but a big problem is definitional. Other than for call center types, most telecommuters do not work 100% that way (i.e. NEVER go to the office), and I think there has not been agreement reached as to what % of the work week short of 100% counts as “telecommuting.” 50%? 75%? Whereas for other modes of commuting, there tends to be more stability (that is, “I drive to work” or “I walk to work”).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Walking looks like it has grown to the same level as the 1940s, that’s excellent.

  • avatar
    superchan7

    Mass transit only works in cities that were built in “node” arrangements.

    Most of the US does not live in any urban core. In flat, sparse suburbia, a car is the only way to get around.

    Most of the Old World developed towns as dense clusters which could then be well-connected by railways during the Industrial Revolution. Few countries actually use such land-intensive methods to build residential areas as the US does.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      It takes a lot of time for infrastructure to change. I don’t believe it’s fixed–I see enough tear down & reconstruction to know that US cities are morphing to include mass transit, but it will ever approach the level of car use, and in fact may never grow at a faster rate than car use thus meaning no change to the above graph.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      That’s the issue I’ve always had. With every job, I’ve looked into mass transit and it would just take too long. Typically, it would take 2.5 times as long to take the bus than to drive. Unless you live and work on the same Express route, it’s not worth it (to me).

      I appreciate that there are some people who find the bus to be the better (or only) option. I’m not trying to speak for them.

    • 0 avatar

      This.

      There is still no excuse for the sorry state of US mass transit where it exists. Inside cities we could do better (2nd Avenue Subway, anyone ? Link from the A train to NJ ?. Commuter rail on existing rights of way in Bergen County and Rockland county ?)

      In most of the US parking is basically free. In central cities it can get technical and expensive, like in NYC or Boston, but for the rest of the nation, there’s a big space for your Escalade. There isn’t enough mass in one place for the transit to work. Here in the burbs, there is a bus line.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    People like to be trendy/hipster/green/conscientious and loudly proclaim “I love public transport, I’d use it if it were here. So jealous and sad you have it and I don’t.”

    Then they have a look at the seats on the train, tram, or bus. Then they consider how they have to get to the stop and/or station. Then they consider how much longer it takes to get to work. Then they get in their Lexus instead.

    Having to take public transport sucks, and everyone secretly hates it. Hence the flat line for 60 years.

    EDIT: And in The America, fuel is cheap, insurance is pretty cheap, cars are cheap, and parking is usually free. Oh, and 75+% of people live outside of public transport access.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Parking is usually free?

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Unless I’m going to a sporting event, parking is always free in my area.

        That said, when I do go downtown (which is rare), the bus is an effective option. The park & ride system uses Greyhound-style buses that are in good shape. It’s mostly professionals commuting, so it’s clean & quiet. I can get things done instead of sitting in traffic. But if I’m going anywhere but downtown, then taking the bus is a terrible option.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Yes, quite literally everywhere here with the exception of right downtown, and at certain museums.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Not free, but often comparable to public transit (which has to include the cost of parking at the transit station), or even less expensive. And that’s just for a solo driver/rider. Let’s say you have a group heading into downtown for dinner, splitting the cost of parking between the group is definitely cheaper per person than everyone buying a pass for public transit. And you will probably get there in half the time. And you can leave when you want too.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Despite plenty of grumbles, I find it a pretty good way to get to work and get around the DC area. It’s rather nice to put your headphones on and shut your brain off during your commute. It’s also generally guilt and liability free if you choose to tip a few. You also do a lot more walking and standing, so much better for you than parking your fat a$$ in a car seat driveway to driveway everyday.

      Granted, it’s useless for about 98% of the US, and I still love driving when I’m not parked in traffic, but it’s nice when you have the option.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        @ sproc – Agree. It’s interesting how quick people who lack either the inclination or the opportunity to try public transportation are to condemn it. I love to drive, but crawling along in rush hour traffic, frankly, sucks. I’d far rather be reading a book while I ride a bus or train in New York, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, or (this week’s problems notwithstanding) Boston.

        I’d also like to point out two fallacies:
        1) That you have to live in a densely populated urban core to make use of public transportation. Just because the US deviated from the model doesn’t mean that streetcar suburbs aren’t a viable strategy.
        2) That taking public transportation equates to low social status or poverty. Tell that to the fat cats riding the train in from Greenwich or Lake Forest.

      • 0 avatar
        MrGreenMan

        The DC metro is quite nice. This does not compare with the usual public transit experience elsewhere, which is a bus that takes some subset of smelly, messy, slow, filthy, or lacking a free seat.

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          The New York and Chicago commuter trains to which I alluded are, at a minimum, as nice as the the DC Metro.

          • 0 avatar
            morbo

            NYC metro is no where near as nice (cleanliness wise at least) as DC metro. Of course NYC metro costs half of DC metro, so you get what you pay for.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ morbo – I take it by “metro” you mean the subway? I specifically said “commuter trains,” which in New York and Chicago are separate systems from the subways and elevated trains. And yes, the former are, conservatively, as nice as the DC Metro. (Personally, I’d opine that they’re nicer, though all systems vary from line to line and station to station.) NY’s and Chicago’s subways and els are indeed grimier than the DC Metro, but they’re also older, less expensive, and carry more passengers.

            My point is that people who criticize “usual” public transportation systems located “elsewhere” often seem to have zero experience with them beyond having seen The Warriors beat up The Punks or Joel Goodson have sex with Lana.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            That’s true Morbo, and those NYC people don’t even get the luxurious plush carpet that DC trains are equipped with. It’s great, until the first 10,000 or so people grind their filth into it.

          • 0 avatar
            morbo

            I’ve ridden New Jersey Transit’s Atlantic City and Northeast corridor lines, SEPTA’s Regional rial lines, and the DC metro for many moons. I stand by statement that DC metro is cleaner than NYC (don’t have enough experience with Chicago’s system beyond ORD to city center to speak to it.

            The real difference, food and drink are banned on DC metro. makes a HUGE difference in overall train and station cleanliness.

            Because DC’s rail system is a hybrid subway – regional rail (the same rail cars travel both above ground and below ground depending how far out into the burbs you get), I consider it a fair comparison against both the subway and regional rail systems elsewhere; it’s still cleaner.

            All that public transit love aside, I’ll still take my 393HP HEMI whenever I can justify the parking and aggravation factor.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I’d like to know where you people are living where parking in dense commercial centers is free. Parking in the building where my office is located is $300/month for employees, and that’s about market-correct for the area.

      The closest free public parking is many miles away.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Derek,

    I’ve lost a lot of respect for you for posting that chart.

    “From 1995 to 2013, transit ridership rose 37 percent, well ahead of a 20 percent growth in population and a 23 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled, according to the association’s data.”

    Try a chart that corrects for population growth so we can see the change in the ratio of various modes of commuting.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Commuting into San Francisco the BART train is great, compared to slow freeways, a tunnel, bridge tolls and parking. Here in rural Texas there is no mass anything.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Mass transit is efficient only where it serves an area with a high population density. Most American cities are too spread out to achieve this.

    Two examples of the difference between the United States, where mass transit is confined to a few large cities, and Europe, where it is common:

    Both North American and Europe have political subdivisions that average a few hundred miles in length and width. In North American, they are called states or provinces. In Europe, they are called countries.

    Wyoming and the United Kingdom are about the same size, 98,000 and 94,000 square miles respectively. The population of Wyoming is not quite 600,000. The population of the United Kingdom is 64 million, more than 100 times greater.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Indiana has the same area as Ireland. And half again as many people. Wyoming is not average or otherwise representative of US states.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In deference to this thread, I’ve dropped my support for the Laramie-Cheyenne subway line.

      Mass transit is still a good idea in places such as NYC, DC, Boston and SF. I would even go as far to say that it now merits a greater role in car crazy LA. I do think that resources could be better deployed in some other places — for example, in some smaller cities, we might be better off subsidizing cab service for those who need it instead of running near-empty buses.

  • avatar
    MPAVictoria

    I live close enough to work so I walk. Expect when it is cold as hell. Then I drive.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Public transport is as desirable as the public you’re sharing it with.

    John Rocker was right.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      There are jerks in subway cars and there are jerks in the cars with which you share the road. The difference is that the ones in the subway car are a lot less likely to get you killed or injured. Rocker showed an incredible lack of class with that comment, he proved himself to be a racist, prejudiced jerk and he got roundly criticized for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        Well said, bunkie. And on the subject of getting killed or injured, I’ll add that public transportation allows you to have that third (or fourth or eighth) drink without either endangering anyone, inconveniencing a designated driver, or spending a small fortune on cabs or Uber.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I live near and ride the 7 train that Rocker was referring to. It’s a fairly decent ride, for the most part reliable, nothing like the dystopian hellhole that the hate-filled Rocker described. Everyone from Wall Streeters, blue and pink collar folks to bubble tea sipping Asian students take it with nary an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      ChevyIIfan

      +1 to Dan.

  • avatar
    redav

    Transit ‘solutions’ for commuters miss the mark. The solution isn’t to move people without cars–it’s to not move people in the first place.

    Telecommuting is an obvious solution. But it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Simply being able to work at a location closer to your home:
    – Instantly cuts your gas bill, regardless of what you drive. It also cuts the same amount of pollution. Again, for free, without any upgrade.
    – Gives you back time to your day.
    – Reduces traffic. You aren’t stuck in traffic; you are traffic. The shorter distance you drive, you interact with fewer cars. Everyone experiences less traffic, and gain that time, gas, & pollution savings.
    – Your vehicle suffers less wear-and-tear (based on the model of vehicle life being defined by mileage). Tires last longer, fewer oil changes each year. Either you keep your car longer or it retains more value when you do sell it.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “Your vehicle suffers less wear-and-tear (based on the model of vehicle life being defined by mileage). Tires last longer, fewer oil changes each year. Either you keep your car longer or it retains more value when you do sell it.”

      It’s less wear and tear based on time, not mileage. Short distance local driving involves harder miles than highway cruising (less time to warm up, more stops and brake usage, etc).

      I agree that shorter commutes are ultimately less expensive; however, the per mile cost is higher. Driving fewer miles typically more than offsets that though.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Another way to interpret this statistic is that public transport is running at capacity where it exists and not expanding to where it isn’t.
    In my experience in the dense cities in the US Northeast (NY, DC, Philly and Boston), public transportation runs at full capacity during rush hours. Trains and subways, while crowded and sometimes funny smelling, are way faster that street travel to and from the suburbs to downtown. So the benefit including the tradeoff of getting to and from the stations vs driving at rush hour heavily favors public transport. Throw in outrageous parking expenses, and public transport wins for rush hour commuting hands down. The only thing that would make cars more attractive would be free parking in exchange for longer travel times.
    However, once you commute from home to a suburban office park or industrial park, there is no effective public transportation. Commuting by car is the only option.
    Since the city cores are effectively saturated with office real estate, and the public train and subways are effectively running at full capacity, the new commercial spaces tend to be built in suburban areas. This would explain the trend shown in this graph.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Great Society and the War on Poverty have turned US cities into terrible places to live and work, so businesses and citizens (who can) have fled to the suburbs.

    Mass transit can’t really exist in the suburbs, by virtue of the significantly larger geography to cover.

    Cheap cars and cheap gas conspire to make the commuter car more attractive than the bus, but most people aren’t commuting to the city anyway – they’re commuting to another suburb.

    Finally, ‘mass transit’ is fundamentally anti-independent – un-American, if you will. People want to go their own way, on their own terms and on their own schedule.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Finally, ‘mass transit’ is fundamentally anti-independent – un-American, if you will.”

      The expansion of the US was built on railroads.

      Modern American cities such as LA were built around streetcar systems.

      Suburbanization trends began before LBJ was president. The GI Bill subsidized it, as did urban freeways that began to become of age after WWII (and that would have been started earlier had it not been for the Depression.)

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “The Great Society and the War on Poverty have turned US cities into terrible places to live and work, so businesses and citizens (who can) have fled to the suburbs.”

      That was due to a surge in crime due to lead in gasoline, not the Great Society. With the lead out of gasoline the crime rate, in many cases, has dropped below the lowest rate for which accurate statistics exist.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “That was due to a surge in crime due to lead in gasoline”

        ?

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          28,

          http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2013/01/03/how-lead-caused-americas-violent-crime-epidemic/

          It links to a much more expansive article by Kevin Drum. Read it over and let me know what you think.

          “There are three basic reasons why this theory should be believed. First, as Drum points out, the numbers correlate almost perfectly. “If you add a lag time of 23 years,” he writes. “Lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.”

          Second, this correlation holds true with no exceptions. Every country studied has shown this same strong correlation between leaded gasoline and violent crime rates. Within the United States, you can see the data at the state level. Where lead concentrations declined quickly, crime declined quickly. Where it declined slowly, crime declined slowly. The data even holds true at the neighborhood level – high lead concentrations correlate so well that you can overlay maps of crime rates over maps of lead concentrations and get an almost perfect fit.

          Third, and probably most important, the data goes beyond just these models. As Drum himself points out, “if econometric studies were all there were to the story of lead, you’d be justified in remaining skeptical no matter how good the statistics look.” But the chemistry and neuroscience of lead gives us good reason to believe the connection. Decades of research has shown that lead poisoning causes significant and probably irreversible damage to the brain. Not only does lead degrade cognitive abilities and lower intelligence, it also degrades a person’s ability to make decisions by damaging areas of the brain responsible for “emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.”

          • 0 avatar

            I agree it has a lot of truth in that, but you cannot discount that during the same time, in advanced countries, there were high numbers of young males. In everything country, whenever there is a surge in the numbers of that subset of population, crime peaks.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for posting, an interesting hypothesis. I actually found that exact Forbes article and my only issue with it is the amount of data used. In the source Mother Jones article it shows graphs starting in 1937 and then claims:

            “Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.”

            The trouble is Tetraethyllead was first used in gasoline in 1921 and was first released in 1923. So even if we round up to 1925, from this point on every child born was exposed to lead residue in the air which only climbed over time. These mid ’20s children for the most part missed out on the war and would have been coming of age right in the late 1940s and early 1950s. If any amount of lead was behind the uptick in crime, then higher crime rates should reflect in 1947-52 vs say 1920 data in a large city (they use New Orleans in an example). However the article claims:

            “Just this year, Tulane University researcher Howard Mielke published a paper with demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level. They studied six US cities that had both good crime data and good lead data going back to the ’50s, and they found a good fit in every single one.”

            It doesn’t cite when in the 1950s or if earlier data is available (which it may not be). In my view, the study is incomplete without earlier data encompassing all children exposed to this toxin. Very easy to cherrypick the data and ignore other causative factors which may have been occurring at the time (widespread introduction of drugs for instance) .

            “From that report and elsewhere, one can conservatively estimate that a total of about 68 million young children had toxic exposures to lead from gasoline from 1927 to 1987.”

            http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,0

            “In February 1923 the world’s first tankful of leaded gasoline was pumped at Refiners Oil Company, at the corner of Sixth and Main streets, in Dayton, Ohio, from a station owned by Kettering’s friend Willard Talbott.”

            http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,5

            Ironically General Motors was behind the widespread use of Tetraethyllead.

            “With a legal monopoly based on patents that would provide a royalty on practically every gallon of gasoline sold for the life of its patent, Ethyl promised to make GM shareholders–among whom the du Ponts, Alfred Sloan and Charles Kettering were the largest–very rich. Profit-free ethanol, indeed. As Kovarik has calculated: “With gasoline sales [in 1923] around six billion gallons per year, 20 percent would come to about 1.2 billion gallons, and three cents gross would represent $36 million. With the cost of production and distribution running less than one cent per gallon of treated gasoline, more than two thirds of the $36 million would be annual gross profit.”

            http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,6

            “Ethyl leaded gasoline fueled the top three finishers at the Indianapolis 500 motor race on Memorial Day, 1923. With demand skyrocketing, Kettering signed exclusive contracts with Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon), Standard Oil of Indiana (later Amoco, more lately merged with BP) and Gulf Oil (owned by the Mellon interests) for East Coast, Midwest and Southern distribution, respectively, of leaded gasoline.”

            http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,7

            “Sloan had by now fully cottoned to an essential fact about his company’s new lead additive patent. As the management expert P.F. Drucker described it many years later, “GM, in effect, made money on almost every gallon of gasoline sold, by anyone.”

            http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead?page=0,9

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “The trouble is Tetraethyllead was first used in gasoline in 1921”

            You’d have to adjust that for per capital car ownership levels and total gas consumption. The Great Depression and WWII put a crimp in car sales and domestic consumption.

            I can’t find a chart for gasoline consumption but you’ll note the massive increase in oil production and importation after WWII. So, that should give us a rough idea. It looks like we were using 10x as much in 1955 vs. 1921.

            http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MCRFPUS1&f=A

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “(widespread introduction of drugs for instance) .”

            Cocaine and opium were available over the counter at any pharmacy prior to 1914. Indeed, cocaine and heroin were the main ingredients in most of the 19th century’s most popular patent medicines.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Care for a Coca-Cola?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with you on consumption levels and thanks for the chart. I’d still like the earlier data as it should fit in with the claims if the claims had merit but the data may not be available prior to some point in the 1950s. FWIW in 1925 620,373 barrels were pumped and in 1935 993,942 were pumped, an increase of over 1/3rd. How much of this was sold as gasoline in cars we cannot fully determine.

            Additional: Regarding drugs yes that is true, I was thinking more widespread use of opiates.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Also, the city to suburbs migration rate peaked before the Great Society, let alone the War on Poverty. Biggest years were from WWII to about when Johnson took office.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey SCE to AUX!

      “The Great Society and the War on Poverty have turned US cities into terrible places to live and work, so businesses and citizens (who can) have fled to the suburbs.”

      Genuinely curious, why did you say that? I thought the “suburbification” of America was largely due to so-called “White Flight” and some other factors you mention like cheap cars and gas and successful dream selling (propaganda).

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Suburbs were a byproduct of:

        -White flight
        -GI Bill and FHA mortgages
        -Freeway construction
        -Mass production techniques that were introduced to home building after WWII

        It’s worth learning about Levittown, one of the first modern suburbs. It could not have existed without government-backed mortgages and it was marketed as being all-white (although racial covenants were found to be unconstitutional in 1948 and school segregation was found to be unconstitutional in 1954.)

        • 0 avatar

          Thanks Pch! When I mentioned the “dream selling” Levittown was exactly what I was thinking about, though I couldn’t recall the name so I expressed myself in the way it did. I have read some about them and it is amazing what they did and how they changed your country.

          • 0 avatar
            Zackman

            A close friend of my wife is from Levittown!

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you have 30 minutes, this is worth watching:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwJeJfZzcaE

            (Not everyone who belonged to the “Greatest Generation” was great.)

          • 0 avatar

            Thanks for the link Pch. When I get home later I’ll be sure to watch.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            My ex-wife was from Levittown. I grew up in a nicer suburb nearby.

            Levitt used production-line ideas to build houses. There was the famous “green kitchen” crew who only installed those particular kitchens. In Levitt’s case, the line was stationary but the production crews moved from house to house.

            By the way, these houses were terrible. Heating consisted of copper tubing embedded in the poured-slab, fed by a boiler located under the stairs. The acid in the concrete meant that, eventually, they all leaked. Most houses in Levittown have been expanded with added dormers increasing second-floor space. I remember closing the front door of my in-law’s house and feeling the entire front of the house shake.

            Every election year, like clockwork, everyone who lived in Nassau County got mailings from the Republican party claiming that Democrats wanted to build huge high-rise low-income housing projects “in your neighborhood!”. Their reign in county government lasted, unbroken, for almost 40 years.

            Today, the streets of Levittown are choked with cars. Almost every house has more than two. And the property taxes are astronomical, yet the county is almost always broke.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I always get confused when people mention Levittown, because they usually mean New York but I think Pennsylvania.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            There’s another one in New Jersey, too. The New York location was the original.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Interesting…the idea of an entire town built by a real estate development firm sounds kinda crazy today, what with the more modern approach of creating suburbs from small rural towns (or creating larger suburbs from small suburbs) by planting housing developments and shopping centers, but then I have to remember that the modern idea of the suburbs didn’t really EXIST before the late 40s.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            @Nogoyo: The Woodlands (north of Houston) is the modern version of Levittown. Since it’s success several communities have sprung around Houston

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A more recent one (with mixed results) is Celebration, FL, built by Disney.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            @Bunkie — no question they were cheap houses, but they also tried a lot of experimental construction techniques in those years that proved less than successful. Radiant heating is a great idea, but they didn’t have the materials for it to be reliable.

            Shortages also caused issues — aluminum wiring, for example.

            @NoGoYo — I was just thinking that.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Is it impossible to imagine that people want their own (detached) home, a yard, open space for their kids, some sanctuary from chaos, and relief from some level of big city crime and political corruption? That but for racism and mortgages (they were forced to accept) most people would prefer to raise their families in a rented high rise apartment or tenement?

          Nobody imposed suburban housing on anybody; the vast majority prefer it, and vote with their feet and wallets.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            If the vast majority preferred the suburbs a 1 bedroom condo in Manhattan wouldn’t cost $1 million.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Of course, a lot of people want more space and a yard.

            But many of them couldn’t have traveled to and from their jobs without government highway programs, could not have afforded the payments without government-sponsored debt and would not have wanted those suburban homes to be located next to minorities.

            On the other hand, if everyone wanted to live in Manhattan, then it would be even more costly than it is now. Fortunately for all concerned, most Americans are not inclined to live there.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @jmo

            Sure. Let’s just pretend supply doesn’t exist, and that people aren’t using scarcity as a means of speculating in urban real estate.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          For the record, “white flight” itself was not really a free-market phenomenon. A variety of developer scams, intended to fleece both the white people who moved out of first-ring neighborhoods and the black people who moved in, contributed to it. The white people overpaid horribly for cheap housing in the suburbs and the black people got exploitative mortgages that almost certainly doomed them to foreclosure. The white people did this out of fear of the black people moving in, and the black people did it because they saw it as their only way out of the tenements. Both groups paid handsomely for racial prejudice and poor information.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The primary driver of white flight (in conjunction with the obvious racism) was the elimination of racial covenants in 1948.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            School integration was an even bigger reason

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No, Pch, that only played a bit part. Most of it came from exploitation of fears associated with desegregation by unscrupulous developers and mortgage brokers. They screwed people coming and going.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            They were motivated to flee when their neighborhoods were in the path of minorities moving in.

            School desegregation added to white flight.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            They were motivated to flee when real estate hucksters did the following:

            1) Sell a house on an all-white block to a black person hoping to move up and previously redlined out, with an exploitative mortgage.

            2) Knock on the door of all the white people on the block, loudly proclaiming how the neighborhood was going to disintegrate because “the blacks” were coming.

            3) Offer the whites criminally low prices for their homes, and criminally expensive prices on new homes in cheap, quickly thrown-up suburban subdivisions.

            4) When the whites bit (out of fear of the blacks), sold the remaining houses on the original block to more blacks at terrible terms.

            This is all well documented. Racial fear played a part in making the scam so easy, but it was the scam that really resulted in the breathtakingly fast “white flight” we saw in many places in the ’50s and ’60s.

            The most shocking thing about American race relations is how deeply they are intertwined with the real estate market. Even today, a major cause of black poverty is the loss of land and houses that resulted from the exploitative practices of the early desegregation era.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If those people weren’t bigots, then scare tactics wouldn’t have worked.

            Watch the Levittown video. It includes several white folks who are quite clear that they don’t want blacks as neighbors; some were fearful of a takeover and had moved there because it was white.

            (As of 2010, Levittown PA’s black population was about 3%. Oh, the horror…)

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “If those people weren’t bigots, then scare tactics wouldn’t have worked”

            Exactly, those awful bankers and real estate people didn’t force anyone to sell and a lot folks didn’t fall for it

          • 0 avatar
            Kevin Jaeger

            “If these people weren’t bigots the scare tactics wouldn’t have worked”.

            The “scare tactics” predicted that the neighborhoods would suffer from crime, dysfunctional schools, falling property values and generally be bad for business. The transformation of Detroit seems to suggest that the first ones to flee may have been the most astute.

          • 0 avatar

            “neighborhoods would suffer from crime, dysfunctional schools, falling property values and generally be bad for business”

            Except for falling values (due to ingrained cultural issues) all else could’ve been avoided if there had been the will.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            You needed the racism, but you needed the scammers too. The consequences of the transition wouldn’t have been nearly so dramatic if it hadn’t been so sudden and/or if the new arrivals hadn’t all immediately been plunged into foreclosure or a vicious cycle of devoting ever more of their meager incomes to housing.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            I am still trying to figure out what they were are all afraid of? We have, for money and personal reasons, lived in a very diverse neighborhood where our son has been exposed to a variety of people – black, east Indian, native, Russian, Vietnamese, etc. The mix of music, pageantry, lifestyles and language is fabulous. As a child of white homogeneous upbringing, we had it wrong. Plus, it appears we are now in the new “hip” neighborhood? Going forward, my Son and his peers will be the forefront of progress. With mass transit of three types included.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @ Marcelo:

        I agree with Pch’s summary of the many causes for suburbanization.

        But ‘white flight’ has its own causes. I think it is partially due to the programs I mentioned, which ostensibly are designed to help minorities, but actually result in their entrapment in ‘the system’ of dependency upon government. I personally believe it’s a new form of enslavement, mostly unintentional.

        In any case, the suburban flight also upsets the economic base that would fund mass transit. That, coupled with fewer riders, makes it a tough sell for commuters.

        Granted, I speak with bias. I grew up in the suburban Pittsburgh area, whose mass transit system is terrible, and have actually ridden a Pittsburgh bus only once – I can’t even read a bus schedule. I have ridden the the trains in Chicago and Atlanta, and thought they weren’t so bad.

        Pittsburgh has difficult geography and intransigent neighborhoods. One attempt to create a rapid transit system for airport travel to the east suburbs has been met with decades of red tape and endless studies. Yes, decades. And all the while, the tax base has spread out to the point where the funding would need to come from the state rather than the city, as Pittsburgh’s population is now 1/2 of what it was 50 years ago. Since I live in the east suburbs, I would actually make occasional use of such a system, but I don’t think I’ll see it in my lifetime.

        • 0 avatar

          @SCE to AUX. Thanks! Can’t comment on many of those aspects as you and others here know it much better than me, but it does appear lots of positives arouse from said programs (mentioned by you and Pch) while some nasty, unforeseen results also came back.

          Regardless, suburban living does have its charm and will forever attract those with children, but not only. A system that could attend all types of living would be most welcome. And the American style suburb is not going away.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Interesting argument, but not wholly valid; even before the automobile became popular, many of the more affluent would take the train into the city to reach their places of employment. Commuter trains were quite common before WWII and only began to die off once cars became more ubiquitous.

      Meanwhile, mass transit doesn’t need to be limited to the cities. Some cities use a hub-and-spoke type of network where localized transit systems connect to a long-distance commuter train which then connects to the inner-city transit of subways, busses and trolleys. This is occurring right now where I live, almost exactly half-way between Baltimore and Philadelphia, where the local bus system transports riders to the nearest SEPTA and MARC stations where they can then ride into these cities more than 40 miles away in either direction. Naturally, the local bus also services several other towns in the area to bring them also to the local train stations. Additionally, both Septa and BART have discussed adding this ‘central’ town to their respective routes, making such commuting even easier.

      Why are these transit services discussing this? Because their ridership has risen despite the chart above and there is active demand by local residents to make these stops available. As gasoline prices have risen, people took the train to save gas and even with the fall-off of fuel prices, the less-stressful ride has shown them they can actually enjoy going into work rather than fighting heavy freeway traffic during rush hour.

      These cities have an advantage, however. They already have much of the infrastructure in place and Philadelphia is apparently working towards re-activating some of its old trolley routes due to demand. Busses currently service those routes, but an electric trolley would cut costs in half while potentially serving up to twice as many riders with the same number of vehicles. Other cities might have an advantage by designing new routes using otherwise unused properties due to abandonment or simply reclaiming ill-used properties. They could design very effective routes from the start, though the costs would be high to develop them until these routes reach their ultimate destinations. Underground works for most but on-street trolly service is well proven in many cities around the world. Startup costs are really the only inhibitor to creating an effective transit system.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      A fantastic and interesting thread to read. Some of the beliefs are a little hard to comprehend and fit into the real reason for the development of suburbia.

      Suburbia and conurbanation is a creation of the second phase of the industrial revolution. If you recall I described it a while back, it started with the advent of the electric motor.

      Most lower middle class jobs like a blacksmith, cobbler and candlestick maker disappeared. Consumer goods had become mass produced. This left an opportunity for many to have additional income to spend, hence create more industry, etc.

      This is around the time most of our major cities in Western Europe, US, Canada and Australia expanded.

      People moved out of the inner cities to have a “better” life in back then was considered the country, not quite country, we now call the suburbs.

      It’s amazing how racial issues are brought into this. This whole thread is based on what the US people consider history to be. Urbanisation isn’t an “Amercian” idea.

      The US isn’t the origin of the suburbs, this started in the EU with the development of mass transit.

      Contrary to some comments that stated that mass transit impinges on a persons liberty, it didn’t back when a great expansion of railways and the subsequent development or off shot of railways became the Metro, The Tube, The Subway, etc.

      The expansion of mass transit did in fact offer people the ability to move around like never before.

      Up until WWII mass transit in Western Europe, US, Australia, Canada expanded. After WWII most of the largest infrastructure development with mass transit has occurred in what is termed “developing” nations.

      The reason is the people of these nations don’t have the capacity maintain individual motor vehicles. So to them mass transit offers mobility.

      The reason for the expansion of suburbia is due to technological advancement at an affordable price, ie, the motor vehicle. This has been encouraged by successive governments in the EU, US, Australia, Canada, etc.

      Suburbia in the US has very little to do with race, but economics. Race is only a side issue.

      As I have mentioned in Australia, especially cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne mass transit is slowly being encourage via planning through existing transport corridors. Mass transit requires a critical number or population density to be viable.

      It is a monopoly, like a road system. Most transport infrastructure is a monopoly. Look at the beginning of tolls. If you have the only bridge to cross a river and person wants to cross all you need to do is charge the same as the guy operating the ferry.

      Why? Because a bridge is a far better product for the job. The ferry guy will slowly lose out. Or if he maintains his business he must receive handouts of some sort.

      It’s the expansion of the industrial revolution that has given us our suburbs. People moving in from the countryside, ie, farmers looking for work in factories. The agri-industry expanded and became more efficient alongside the efficiency gains in manufacturing, construction, services, etc.

      We are now entering the next phase of the industrial revolution. Suburbia as we know will have a population density increase, public, mass or rapid transit will gradually become more viable.

      You will see AI and robotics operate much of the future mass transit systems.

      We live and are the way we are due to technology, not race or any other reason.

      Australia didn’t have the “White Flight” and yet our cities sprawl larger than US cities. Race! Ridiculous, it’s economics.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Mass transit requires some minimum population density and serious infrastructure investment to work. Most places in America just don’t have it.

    A lot of folks don’t understand what it took to build the transit systems in places like NYC either. Can you imagine a major avenue in Manhattan being an open trench for YEARS? Such infrastructure building takes serious patience and commitment most cities just don’t have.

    That said, here in the Charlotte area commuter rails would go a super long way and save a ton of gas and traffic. It is just a matter of what they can commit.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      Actually, a major avenue in Manhattan is, in point of fact, pretty much an open trench, so to speak, and has been for a number of years. It’s the Second Avenue line. If it can be done in the heart of Manhattan, it can be done anywhere. That’s not to say for a minute that it will be. I’m inclined to think rather that the automobile will evolve but not disappear in any foreseeable future.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        Jeff, what you’re describing is “cut and cover” construction.

        The alternative is tunnelling, which takes place entirely below the surface and has no impact on life above ground. Toronto uses this approach in dense neighbourhoods.

        I’m sure tunnelling is more expensive, but it has dramtically lower social and economic costs.

        You’re right, cars are not going to disappear. But the reality is that cities don’t have – and will never have – enough land or money to build roads fast enough to meet traffic needs if everyone is driving. The only way to seriously address congestion issues in cities is mass transit, because only mass transit systems can move enough people at an affordable cost.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Can you imagine a major avenue in Manhattan being an open trench for YEARS?”

      I lived in Atlanta during the construction of the MARTA railway system. Peachtree St (Main drag through the downtown area) was an open pit for years. I lived in a high rise along Peachtree Street at the time and I remember walking on planks to cross the street to get in and out of the building. I also remember the blasting they did always in the middle of the night that would shake the whole building.

      Honestly, you get used to it and just adjust your life around it

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        Yeah, but Atlanta has like six streets called Peachtree. They can afford to take out one of them…

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          They took out the main “Peachtree Street” because the subway followed it exactly. Why did they take out the main one? Well, that’s where all the businesses were and where people wanted to go, go figure

          There’s really only one “Peachtree Street” the others are just similar

          West Peachtree Street
          Peachtree Place
          Peachtree Pkwy
          Peachtree Circle
          Peachtree Center
          Peachtree Industrial Blvd
          Peachtree Road
          etc.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            I knew what you meant — I just am always amused at just how many things named Peachtree there are in Atlanta. It’s like they got a bulk deal.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The biggest problem with mass transit is that in most cases you have to drive to the nearest station and that takes time. You wait for the bus or train and that takes time. The train/bus makes frequent stops to pick up/drop off passengers and that takes time.

    Do you see a pattern here? In the suburbs, you multiply that time factor, and to most people it simply isn’t worth it, especially if you must work more than an 8 hr. day.

    For example, I live 4 miles from the nearest bus stop for an express bus to downtown Cincinnati. I don’t work anywhere near downtown, but ‘way down in NKY behind the airport! If I tried to take public transport, it would take me the better part of 2½ hrs. one way on I don’t know how many transfers it would take, either. It takes me an hour as it is driving. No sale.

    Many years ago, before I married, I lived only a mile or so from the shopping center where I caught a bus to downtown STL – I worked there and it was quite convenient. 45 min. compared to 30 min, driving. That was fine. Same when I lived in an apartment. 45 min. and the bus stop was a block away.

    It all depends where you live and work. Personally, I would absolutely LOVE to ride the train if we had one!

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      You wait for the bus or train and that takes time. The train/bus makes frequent stops to pick up/drop off passengers and that takes time.

      Right, because in a car you never encounter traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        jmo, what’s your point, traffic exists for the bus just as it does for the car, but one doesn’t have to circle around every other block with their car, nor stop every mile.
        The bus also isn’t half as maneuverable as the car is at squeezing into spots or making it through a yellow light that takes 4 minutes to switch back.

        It doesn’t matter if traffic is heavy or light, either way your going around your behind to get somewhere in 2 times the amount of time, 2 times that is on a highly efficienct route.

        I wouldnt expect that graph to change in the next 10 years unless there is a significant increase of people living in poverty.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “traffic exists for the bus just as it does for the car,”

          Not for a train and certainly not for a subway.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Subway, yes, sure. But only where applicable, and the millions that it cost to build and maintain the system makes it questionable even then.

            A train in the traditional sense, and with the purpose to use as a form of daily transportation, certainly not. A train makes sense for moving cargo, and even then it’s not absolute as we still require the use of large numbers of 18 wheelers.
            I remember riding the Amtrak from Durham… To I think Charlotte NC iirc, honestly I can’t remember where it was we went but that is beside the matter. This was when I was in elementary or middle school. Anyhow all the adults were already at the museum we were going to via the car they travelled in, and aside from our small class the train had few if any other passengers. It took a long time to leave, a long time to stop at the one station we stopped at, and was completely unbearable for a group of kids pre-game boy.
            Also remember being time constrained at the museum that we visited, something about the schedule changing, basically we were there for maybe an hour and then we were rushed off.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            And not for a bus that has a dedicated lane, either. The bus I take saves a lot of time because it uses a tunnel to get through downtown Seattle.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Speaking of Seattle and tunnels, how’s the Alaskan Way coming along, or maybe I shouldn’t ask

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Funny you mention that, Lie2Me. Our giant highway tunnel is having all sorts of problems. Meanwhile, at the same time, our transit agency just finished one set of much smaller rail tunnels (“University Link”) ahead of schedule and under budget, and is on schedule digging the next set (“North Link”).

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        The further the distance, the worst it gets; especially if you have to change buses and trains.

        With my past job, I could in theory drive to and park in Burleson, take the bus to the intermodal station in downtown Fort Worth, take the Trinity Railway express to Dallas, catch the bus and later the train, which would drop me off at the office; and later a mile or so away when my office was moved; though I could have brought my bike with me and rode the final mile back and forth.

        But I found the same thing as Zachman; it would have taken 2.5 hours one way to make the trip; roughly 2/3 of my commute was actually rural; so even with DFW traffic; it only took me 1.5 hours most of the time. It was worth driving myself to save 2+ hours each day; and that time in the car actually became my me time; when I would listen to music on my radio or iPhone, sort out my day, and be more relaxed by the time I got home.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      In dense cities, buses travel down a main corridor to cover one district. You do not blanket bus coverage down to every street and every corner to pick up every last person.

      Another rarely discussed topic is the grade separation of pedestrian traffic. Some cities like Hong Kong already do this. Where foot traffic is sufficiently high, a network of elevated or underground walkways allows people to cross main streets without disrupting traffic or waiting for ped crossings. That cuts down on travel time significantly as you are not restricted to sidewalks and crossing lights. Train stations are also elevated or underground. The nearby mall also has passageways to access the transit. I know people there who can get from home to work without ever stepping on real ground, and in a few cases, without breathing outside air. Kind of a scary thought.

  • avatar
    Garak

    It’s the same everywhere. Even in “socialist” Finland, we have very little useful public transit outside of the capital city Helsinki. On the other hand, everyone’s unemployed, so there’s no need to commute anyway.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    ““Commuting in America 2013″ via AASHTO.”

    Who is ASSHTO? What is this report? Those apparent figures seem to fly in the face of almost every article I’ve read reporting Amtrak and commuter line ridership up enough to add more trains to their routes. SEPTA out of Philadelphia has added three more trains just in the last few months and Amtrak consistently reports growth–well, with the possible exception of the last few months since fuel prices have dropped so significantly. The simple fact that private vehicle commuting has leveled out as much as it has means those drivers must be using some other form of transportation and those lines below should be showing some form of increase in traffic to compensate. Either that, or they’re using something this chart doesn’t cover.

    So again, who is ASSHTO and what is this document they refer to?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Historically if one looks at mass transit, there has not been a rapid expansion of mass transit since the late 19th Century and WWII.

    After WWII mass transit has been more or less sidelined by all governments in comparison to the development of the automotive industry.

    NA, Australia, UK, EU, etc need to expend massive amounts of money.

    I do think like we are witnessing in Australia in our three largest cities, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane the use of what we call transport corridors.

    Along these corridors (most use existing mass transit corridors) high rise residential development is encouraged.

    Mass transit is only viable if a population density has reached a critical level.

    Again, since WWII urban sprawl has accelerated, even in the EU.

    With widespread urban sprawl the cost of mass transit becomes unviable. The cost to maintain and develop adequate infrastructure is prohibitive.

    But, in Australia population density compression is the future. The traditional Aussie dream of a home on a 1/4 acre block in the suburbs is becoming rarer as well. The average block in new subdivisions are around 450-600 square metres. The old quarter acre block was around 1000 square metres.

    It will all change slowly as urban centres increase population densities. (Unless you are in Detroit;)

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “there has not been a rapid expansion of mass transit since the late 19th Century”

      The airline industry is pretty massive

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Lie2me,
        1. Airlines are not rapid transit in the sense of this article. How efficient is using an aircraft (even a helicopter) to travel from a city centry 20-30 miles to your home in outer suburbia.

        2. You cut and paste left out a crucial part of my statement. WWII. After WWII most every OECD economy has had a rapid expansion of urban sprawl, even in the EU.

        3. Rapid and urban transit actually with the expansion of the railways. The UK was the first. London was the first city to experience urban sprawl, suburbia due to the expansion of the railways (railroad).

        4. Rapid transit has experienced a low take up rate since WWII. Even in the 30s the US vehicle manufacturers (GM?) was responsible for the removal of many trolley systems in the US.

        The Wikipedia link below gives you some direction in what is the definition of Rapid Transit. Airplane, very much a nope.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapid_transit

        A cut and paste from the Wikipedia article to support my argument;

        “The opening in 1863 of the steam-hauled London’s Metropolitan Railway marked the beginning of rapid transit. Initial experiences with steam engines, despite ventilation, were unpleasant. Experiments with pneumatic railways failed in their extended adoption by cities. Electric traction was more efficient, faster and cleaner than steam and the natural choice for trains running in tunnels and proved superior for elevated services. In 1890 the City & South London Railway was the first electric traction rapid transit railway, which was also fully underground.[17] Both railways were eventually merged into London Underground. The 1893 Liverpool Overhead Railway was designed to be electric traction from the outset.[18]”

        More links;

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy

        http://www.trainhistory.net/subway-history/history-of-rapid-transit/

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          You said mass transit, not rapid transit. I was responding to what you said

          “2. You cut and paste left out a crucial part of my statement. WWII. After WWII most every OECD economy has had a rapid expansion of urban sprawl, even in the EU.”

          The airline industry had it’s greatest expansion after WWII. If you meant rapid transit you should have said rapid transit

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Lie2me
            WTF?

            Find a link on the definition of mass transit and give it to me??

            Really, are normally just a trole?

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Al, a commercial passenger plane is no doubt a form of mass transit. Unless you own the plane, or it belongs to your company/friend/government, then your flying mass transit.

            Of course who knows, if a RollsRoyce in Australlia costs 3x what it does in the rest of the world, it wouldn’t surprise me if Aussie had regressive taxes on personal aircraft as well. So maybe you’ve never known anything else?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @DiM or Hummer at the moment,
            WFT?

            You also find and understand what mass transit is. Rapid transit is a subset of rapid transit.

            DiM, I’m not going to google and provide a link for you on this one. Look at your comment. It a foolish comment and a troll.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “@DiM or Hummer at the moment”

            Face palm

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ve been fortunate to live in a city with some of the best NA mass transit (Boston), a city with a realistic view on mass transit given its geography (Houston), a city that immediately outside of its core is rural (Sioux City) and a city that thinks it has the best mass transit on the planet (Seattle).

    The reality to have an amazing mass transit infrastructure you need a few things. First, you need eminent domain. When the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic built the foundation of their mass transit systems, it was out of necessity to rapidly get troops and materials to the battlefields of the Civil War. When New York and Boston built their subway systems, they were cities going through massive growth, and personal transit involved your feet, or horses, which were creating massive amounts of pollution – albeit organic biodegradable pollution.

    The next thing you need is money. In modern terms to build a Boston or New York or Philadelphia grade system hundreds of billions of dollars. During the Post World War II we are the greatest nation years this country had the stomach to fund great public works project at the taxpayer expense. Today…we have politicians arguing with a straight face that the highway system should be privatized completely (red light cameras, lets talk about how private industry law enforcement is working)

    So what stops it from happening in places like Seattle – which thinks they have a great system? The first comment from the B&B is the perfect answer. It’s great for everyone…else…but not me. I don’t want any tracks, tunnels or parking lot by MY house – put it somewhere else. The other thing is tapped out, frustrated, rightfully distrustful taxpayers not wanting to pony up for another project. Throw in environmental impact studies, special interest groups, forget it.

    The next think you need is a location that can viably support public and mass transit in the first place. Boston? Check. New York? Check. Philadelphia? Check. Washington D.C.? Check. San Francisco? Check. Geographically enormous cities like Houston, Orlando, and Los Angeles – forget it. The thousands of miles of rail and bike paths that you would have to lay to connect Baytown to Katy to Clear Lake to Cleveland around the city of Houston, and places between? Forget it. See money above.

    The next thing you need is a large population to support your system. Public mass transit is wildly unprofitable. In Seattle, home to what people think is the greatest mass transit solution on the planet, Metro, Sound Transit, and the regional bus systems (which all compete against each other in the core of Seattle) cut routes and weekend service year after year because they’re unprofitable. It would be easy to enable a mass transit solution in Sioux City, Iowa. You have space. The core of people there live close to each other. It wouldn’t be that expensive to build. But are people in Sioux City, Iowa going to give up their cars? NEVER. EVER. EVER…. You need anything remotely out of the core mainstream that the barges don’t bring up the Missouri (fun fact, most stuff in stores in Sioux City come in via barge, it’s cheaper than long haul truck) you’re driving to Sioux Falls, Omaha, or waiting for Amazon to bring it to your door.

    For half of the US population, mass transit is completely unrealistic. They live in rural areas that require great distance to travel for the most basic of needs – only a car meets those needs.

    Then toss in our graying nation, the disabled, the very young, and the needs of that group and how do you move them around beyond personal conveyance.

    Gee – Mass Transit isn’t living up to its promise and has near flat adoption, despite the fact government spending on transportation infrastructure goes almost 80% to mass transit programs.

    Meanwhile in the real world, our over crowded highway system is crumbling, and the list of desperately needing replacement bridges grows longer.

    Eisenhower would be completely bummed to see what’s happened to his vision.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Atlanta built a very good rail system just 30 years ago. It’s not impossible. I think Eisenhower would be impressed by the Hwy system. Where it works, it works well

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        MARTA wss 90% funded by the federal government. The feds actually went to Seattle first in the late 60’s and then it was discussed into the mid-70s (because that’s how they roll here) and said, “how would you like comprehensive light rail system 90% paid for by the federal taxpayers.”

        The idiots here said no – we don’t want to pay the other 10% and Atlanta got light rail, Seattle got gridlock. Atlanta still suffers from horrific traffic.

        When these options were brought up 40 years ago the Soviets were our enemies, the Arabs had us by the short hairs over energy, inflation was out of control, and the American public had a stomach for big government projects – we just spent huge stacks of cash putting a man on the moon and had backed out of a 10 year boondoggle called Vietnam.

        Do you really think in today’s political climate if someone in Washington D.C. floated the idea, “hey, lets build some mass transit systems on the federal taxpayers nickel,” that the members of Congress, especially within the Tea Party would declare, “why yes by golly, investment in American’s infrastructure by the taxpayers is the right thing to do!!!”

        If you supported something like MARTA today, you’d be politically dead.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @APaGttH: What you said.

      The City of Pittsburgh retains delusions of grandeur despite having lost half of its population in the last 50 years. The city was near bankruptcy a few years ago, due to unfettered spending with a dwindling tax base. And this – the city has been under 1-party political control since the 1930s – might have something to do with it.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Few American urban centers show any desire to reach mass transit density. Only the oldest cities on the East Coast have viable transit systems as a result.

    The sad part is that mass transit is actually cheap and efficient, but for psychological reasons we can’t abandon the road grid. Road grids force mass transit underground or onto elevated platforms, which increases the cost exponentially.

    Nothing kills love of the automobile faster than traffic congestion and inner-city gridlock. Auto enthusiasm would benefit, if fewer commuters were congesting the roadways.

  • avatar

    There is a reason a car enthusiast might like public transport. The things PT can do – take care of boring routine travel- leave the car free to do the fun drives and odd jobs. I’ve been using my car like this for years meaning I get to work unstressed and when I drive it’s a pleasure. I am sorry that in many places PT has languished or is substandard as it’s just forced people to do boring things with cars and make them drive small fuel sippers because they can’t avoid a 16,000 mile annual mileage.
    It would be a welcome change to the debate if car fans acknowledged the demerits of car dependency too. Nothing comes without problems, even cars. Can anyone say that the changes wrought to the existing urban fabric to satisfy cars were good or that a car-based suburb is pleasant? I’m only asking. I know this will unsettle some car fans but please offer your criticism politely. I am anticipating some colourful responses.
    Richard in Denmark

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      If routine travel is boring you need to change something.

      I absolutely love driving my truck, and I probably drive 500-1,000 completely aimless miles every month. On the other hand I’ve had rentals that made me prefer to walk.

      Public transportation is extremely stressful, you wait in 90 degree heat and you wait in 20 degree cold, when it’s raining, and when it’s dark. Your inside a large cabin that is dominated by people that have given up on life not only emotionally, but they physically show this as well. Your also reliant on a system that sees you as a number, which can never makes your needs priority. Sudden changes to plans are not possible, or extremely time consuming.

      No I would have to disagree, Public Transportation is a complete nightmare.

      But above all, if your a car enthusiast and driving bores you, there’s a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        +1 I love to drive even in bumper to bumper traffic

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I take public transportation to work and back every day. It has nothing to do with your description of it, and it’s less stressful than driving. I spend the whole time reading news and websites.

        Meanwhile, driving IS boring when you are going 20 mph in stop and go traffic on a freeway.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        You know, Hummer, you just verified his point.
        “I absolutely love driving my truck, and I probably drive 500-1,000 completely aimless miles every month.”
        If they’re “aimless miles”, then they’re certainly not ‘routine travel’, are they?

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    If you build it they will come, but maybe not right away. In Dallas and Atlanta I have watched what happens when you plop a light rail system down in a city built around the automobile – financial disaster is putting it kindly.

    Sure, after maybe 50 years a city infrastructure will build up around the rail lines. It is already starting to happen. Meanwhile, the rail systems are bleeding red ink. They limp along on government subsidies.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Does the street in front of your house turn a profit?

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The mail box in front of my house doesn’t do so well either. Maybe the Postal Service wasn’t such a good idea after all

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Not a single street in the small New England town I live in has turned a profit since I’ve lived here and before. They’ve been bleeding red ink since the 1600’s. Talk about a financial disaster. They just limp along sucking up government subsidies.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Don’t feel too badly about it. The streets in Old England are money losers, too.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          @mcs

          Lol, you’re funny

          How about the military? I know, swimming in red ink

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            We should convert the military into a country club, and make people pay to join it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The military provides room and board along with cash entitlement, just another government welfare handout

            Not to mention free travel to exotic places

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            And they get to blow up stuff, which is pretty cool.

            What do you want to bet that those leaches drive Avalons?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I hear you get a free Avalon with your first Social Security check, I’ve already put in for a blue one

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            The military built the middle class as we know it. If it were just another welfare program, it would have sustained or manufactured poverty by giving something for nothing.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            It was thinly veiled sarcasm meant to mock your misguided view on Social Security

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            How am I to know when you’re attempting sarcasm, if you don’t know what the “I” in FICA, OASDI, and SSI stands for?

            If you think it’s okay for people to draw public insurance when they have no insurance claim, you are endorsing fraud and needless economic calamity. Look at our health insurance system, if you’re confused about the end-game.

            Our Social Security system functions more like Workfare/Welfare, and our Welfare system functions like Social Security. Naturally, labor participation is rising for old Americans and falling for young Americans. The common man is ass backwards and utterly confused. You are his champion.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This victim’s mentality of yours makes for a lot of bad posting.

            Dismount your high horse and find out what a “fiscal multiplier” is.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @PCH

            You must be the only person to discover the power of eliminating the national savings quotient by taxing away retirement and spending it in the current period. Surely, the benefits can go on forever! I also think you requested an absence of irrelevant economic cliches. Monetary expansion, gussied up as government spending, has nothing to do with socioeconomics or structural economics, unless you want to highlight the future decline in social spending caused by the national interest payment or the ruination of the lower-middle class citizen by payroll taxes and min wage laws.

            I’ve piled high and deep my worldly accomplishments. I’m not worried about me. I can rip-off the Treasury as well as the next educated worker/investor. I’m worried about all of the people who know nothing about the system, and leave themselves exposed for economic ruination–the middle class.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Surely, the benefits can go on forever!”

            Thanks for the strawman, but your decision to resort to an absurd distortion of my point would suggest that you know that you’re backed into a corner.

            This austerity thing that you love so much has proven to be a dismal failure, time and time again. If you can’t learn from your mistakes, then that tells me all that I need to know about you and your worldview.

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @PCH

            You lazily threw an economic cliche against the wall to see it would stick. It failed. Don’t bleat about the condition of your stye.

            Social Security reform has been on the CBO docket, since Clinton’s second term. Medicare is actually a bigger problem so both Bush and Obama rushed into that Waterloo.

            You are not aware of these problems because no one has ever spoon fed you the relevant details or historical economic trends.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Panic doesn’t make for good analysis, just as cliches don’t make for good policy.

            You might want to consider the cost of not having Social Security and Medicare. What we’re doing now is cheaper, and it creates benefits via the fiscal multiplier.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “If you think it’s okay for people to draw public insurance when they have no insurance claim”

            The “insurance” that I’ve been paying the premiums on my whole life is if I live to be 62 the “Insurance Company” (gov) will guarantee a certain income for the rest of my natural life. Which would be my “claim”. If I die at 61 I’ll have no “claim”

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @PCH

            I believe my tome was against upper-middle class seniors in Avalons, who are already secure, conspiring to rip-off the SSA, which increases taxes, reduces benefits for people in need, and adversely affects America’s young workers.

            If I need someone to foil anarcho-capitalism with our socialistic avarice (welfare for wealthy people), I’ll let you know.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “I believe my tome was against upper-middle class seniors in Avalons, who are already secure, conspiring to rip-off the SSA”

            Um, no

            I take it that you’ll be refusing your Social Security Benefits when the time comes, right? How could you live with yourself otherwise?

          • 0 avatar
            darkwing

            The laziest of arguments — even assuming the government allowed you to opt out of Social Security or Medicare.

            The fact remains that the wealthiest demographic in the country, by far, claims the income of poorer ones. Feels a lot like those deep-blue public sector unions fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying 5% of their own healthcare.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I believe my tome was against upper-middle class seniors in Avalons, who are already secure, conspiring to rip-off the SSA, which increases taxes, reduces benefits for people in need, and adversely affects America’s young workers.”

            As I stated before, your point is vague (and cliched.)

            I see that you’re agitated about a generation of people, but it isn’t clear exactly what it is that you dislike and what you would want to replace it. Perhaps you think that being agitated about grey hairs driving large family sedans makes you some sort of genius, but from here, it just makes you look whiny.

            In any case, Social Security is a bit of a bait-and-switch. If we didn’t have a government-backed retirement system, then we would have just have more welfare payments, instead. This way, we get people paying toward the benefit with the understanding that they’ll get some guaranteed payoff at the end, which gives them an incentive to keep working and consuming. And since 70%ish of our GDP is consumption, that’s a very good thing.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “The laziest of arguments — even assuming the government allowed you to opt out of Social Security or Medicare.”

            Lazy argument? Since when does the government *FORCE* you to take Social Security benefits? That’s the funniest of arguments

          • 0 avatar
            TW5

            @PCH

            We’re dealing in such specifics that I referred you to the web to use one of many free income tax-liability calculators so you could study the problem.

            Just study the system. People can have $100,000 in traditional IRA income and pay just $3,400 of tax on $16,000 in SS benefits.

            The system is not amusing, and every dollar we waste on welfare for the rich is a dollar we don’t have to spend elsewhere. The waste runs in the hundreds of millions for SS and MED. And many seniors work hard with their CFPs to make sure they live on government cheese, rather than their private income security.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            So you want seniors to pay higher taxes? Eliminate IRAs? Gut Social Security? Aside from your desire to gripe, I still have no idea what you actually want.

            This shouldn’t be that tough, although I suppose that it’s possible that you don’t know what you want, either.

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        Yoicks! Did all you geniuses sleep through Econ. 101?

        Hint: Public goods are non-excludable and non-rival. Natural monopolies are excludable and rival. DART and MARTA are obviously excludable and non-rival. Starting up a natural monopoly that bleeds huge amounts of red ink from day one es no bueno.

        Seriously, I rode the IRT train for years. Subways make total sense for cities based on 19th century grids with severe and unsolvable traffic congestion problems or considerable geographic constraints. Just not Dallas and Atlanta which were begun as railroad junction towns and are flat as a pool table.

        • 0 avatar
          TW5

          Roads are excludable and rival. We simply choose to make roads non-excludable. They’ve been bleeding red ink since day one.

          If we made public transit non-excludable, would you support it?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Irrelevant.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Well, the idea is that subsidizing mass transit – running it at a loss – can be cheaper than the next best alternative. This is sometimes true. It just isn’t true, in spades, for light rail a la MARTA and DART.

            Mad king Ludwig had nothing to show the idiots who commissioned those two white elephants.

            This is now plainly obvious to community leaders everywhere – Houston, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Los Angeles, et.al. It ain’t rocket science. You just have to use common sense and avoid making a stupid, expensive mistake.

            Judging the ultimate cost of subsidizing light rail versus it’s alternatives may be difficult to get right in some situations. The future is not ours to see. In most cases, though, I think it is pretty obvious.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @jimbob457,
            There will always be certain aspects of transport infrastructure, that is any form of transport, will be “communal” and shared by all.

            The monopoly whether it is controlled by government or private industry is inevitable.

            Ships require ports that are shared, aircraft require airports.

            Motor vehicles require roads. Imagine running 3 or 4 separate freeways owned by different companies just to go home on. Are you creating a competitive environment?

            Transport is an area that should be regulated to support the consumer.

            Transport infrastructure is like the military. It’s required.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Actually DART tried that for a number of years out of desperation. Their system was so bad that hardly anyone would pay to ride it. The management had claim on a 1% sales tax in the metro area – no money problems at all. So, they just said: “scr*w it. Everyone rides for free.” Very few took them up on it.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          You did a fine job of missing the point.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @Pch101

            +1!

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Jeez. I hate to miss the point. Just what did I miss?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            @jimbob457, don’t get all butt-hurt they weren’t talking about you. Look at the post times. I know, it’s hard to follow who’s commenting to who

            BTW…

            “Just not Dallas and Atlanta which were begun as railroad junction towns and are flat as a pool table.”

            Atlanta is about as flat as San Francisco

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You missed the point of why we go to the trouble of building roads in the first place, even though they are almost never profitable.

            The value of transportation infrastructure comes from its use, not from its (lack of) cash flow. The same principle applies to public transit. Your “arguments” were completely off point.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    There was a time before horses, trains, automobiles, etcetera.
    We are in the time before real ‘public transportation’.
    When it is finally perfected, it will be orgasmic.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    The problem with some mass-transit, is that it’s a huge TAX hit on citizens, money which could otherwise be used to buy goods and service and contribute to the economy. Here in Colorado, I pay a RTD tax to subsidize the mass-transit in Denver, over 100 miles away from me. Of course there is no RTD service here. I get upset when I see the empty buses in Denver when I travel there, and know that I pay for that, but derive no benefit. What a boondoggle, supreme waste of money and resources.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. K

      “Duaney
      February 14th, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      The problem with some mass-transit, is that it’s a huge TAX hit on citizens, money which could otherwise be used to buy goods and service and contribute to the economy. Here in Colorado, I pay a RTD tax to subsidize the mass-transit in Denver, over 100 miles away from me. Of course there is no RTD service here. I get upset when I see the empty buses in Denver when I travel there, and know that I pay for that, but derive no benefit. What a boondoggle, supreme waste of money and resources.”

      There are always empty vehicles in any transit system either due to end of the line, dead heading, or just low ridership at a particular point.

      http://www.denverpost.com/ci_9112300

      Posted: 05/01/2008 12:30:00 AM MDT

      RTD bus and rail ridership surging
      By The Denver Post
      Posted: 05/01/2008 12:30:00 AM MDT

      Denver-area residents are hopping the bus and taking the rail in record numbers, according to the Regional Transportation District.

      RTD said it carried almost 98 million passenger trips for the 12-month period ending in February — the largest number of passenger trips over a 12-month period in the transit agency’s 30-year history.

      http://www.rtd-denver.com/factsAndFigures.shtml

      Ridership
      January-December 2013

      Average weekday boardings: 336,706
      Annual boardings: 101,996,064

      January-December 2012

      Average weekday boardings: 328,109
      Annual boardings: 99,142,849

      336,000 weekday trips in 2013. Think that if those folks used cars they would need more roads?

      Gee, are roads more costly in urban areas due to cost of land and required accommodations due to development?

      Who would pay for those new roads?

      You would either through taxes or through Denver area roads eating much more of the existing funding.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Public transit spending is about $0.50 per day per person, about one-quarter of which is recovered through passenger fares. Not exactly a budget buster.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        I’m hard pressed to say what’s more disingenuous about your math there. Is it the gross population in your denominator that includes, among other people who don’t pay taxes, 75 million kids who aren’t even allowed to work? Or is it taking the nonsense result from the previous exercise and restating it on a cost per day basis to make it sound smaller?

        65 billion bucks a year isn’t a budget buster. Mismanagement and all it does more good than harm. I think there ought to be more of it.

        That doesn’t justify lying through your teeth to pretend that that’s pocket change.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          What’s disingenuous is when the mouthpieces of the perpetually outraged brigade such as yourself ignore the cost of the alternatives.

          • 0 avatar
            jimbob457

            Nobody ignores the cost of the alternatives. But, when the cost-benefit ratio is totally out of line – you have mad king Ludwig of Bavaria.

            This is what DART and MARTA prove. They were a bridge too far. Why get upset?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Dan ignores the cost of the alternatives, hence my reason for mentioning it. I actually quantified the costs of the transit system (something that the ranters never bother to do), and those costs aren’t that high after all.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Dan, I grew up in a suburb of Chicago that had bus service into the city. Most of the riders of that bus were the household help of the residents of my neighborhood. If it wasn’t for that bus my neighbors wouldn’t have the help they needed and those people who rode the bus wouldn’t have jobs

          win/win

          There’s a real need to keep people mobile for society to succeed, at any cost

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            I agree with that.

            It’s also simple reality that no city has the land or the money to build new roads to accommodate having everyone drive their own cars. Transit is the only solution that has a chance of working.

            And any way that Dan tries to slice it, transit is la lot less expensive that expressways.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It would be better if those domestic servants who were dependent upon the bus would stay home and collect welfare, instead. That would give Dan Limbaugh here even more stuff to complain about.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ Lie2me & ect – To your points I’ll add another: There’s a fallacy that the libruls are trying to take away real Muricans’ cars. In reality, mass transit is a complement to automobile ownership. My grandfather lived a couple of blocks east of an elevated line in Lie2me’s hometown of Chicago. Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, he liked the El. Do you know why? Because each rush hour it took innumerable cars off the road and allowed him to cruise in his ’59 Caddy to his North Side office with relative ease. Were most of his neighbors not commuting by train or bus, the streets would have been a clusterf*ck. I hasten to point out that he had a medium-length commute: a little too far to walk and quicker by car than by public transportation. Had his office been all the way downtown, he absolutely would have ridden the El, the C&NW, or a bus. Why? Because it would’ve been faster and easier, and the man had a shred of common sense.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            ” ’59 Caddy”

            Yikes! That’s equal to three cars off the road. No wonder your grandfather liked public transportation ;-)

  • avatar
    MEngineer

    Interesting discussion. I have no desire to live in a big metropolitan area (where it sounds like many of the problems are). Been there, done that, never again. To each their own. I live in a Midwest town/area of around 150,000. My commute is 20-25 minutes by car, and I enjoy it. Depending on the route I take, some streets can be a little pothole filled, but that just adds a certain gymkhana aspect to my commute. Probably a lot of places in the US like this: not real small, but not large enough or dense enough for good mass transit. The folks that think they know what’s good for everyone and that we all have to be the same will probably manage to change it all someday, but in the meantime I’m going to take the long way home and enjoy the drive whenever I can.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    “Riding Mass Transit Is Like Inviting 20 Random Hitchhikers Into Your Car”. Stolen from a famous Canadian website.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials huh?

    I live a mile north of Philly so I am most familiar with Philly:

    http://www.septa.org/media/releases/2011/7-28.html

    July 28, 2011
    SEPTA Records Highest Ridership Numbers In Decades

    Trips Growing at Steady Rate, Despite Funding and Economic Challenges

    http://montgomerynews.com/articles/2013/01/28/north_penn_life/news/doc5102c51d501ec209971600.txt

    Published: Monday, January 28, 2013

    SEPTA report highlights increased ridership, lack of infrastructure funding

    SEPTA ridership is at a 23-year high, customers are more satisfied with SEPTA service and the agency’s more cost-efficient than the transit industry as a whole.

    But the agency is far short of funding needs for operations and critical infrastructure repairs.

    Those are the key takeaways from the economic component of the 54-page SEPTA Sustainability annual report issued this week.

    http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/06/24/septa-overnight-pilot-hit-night-owls-ridership-up/

    http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/636/294/Amtrak-Sets-New-Ridership-Record-FY2012-ATK-12-092.pdf

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    October 10, 2012

    AMTRAK SETS NEW RI
    DERSHIP RECORD
    31.2 million passengers best ev
    er, On-time performance up
    WASHINGTON – Amtrak carried
    more than 31.2 million passe
    ngers in Fiscal Year 2012
    ending September 30, marking the highest annual
    ridership total since America’s Railroad®
    started operations in 1971 and
    the ninth ridership record du
    ring the last ten years.


    25 of 44 Amtrak services set new
    ridership records

    Amtrak set 12 consecutive monthly
    ridership records; July was the single
    best month in the history of Amtrak

    Northeast Corridor had best year ever
    with more than 11.4 million passengers

    State-supported and other short
    distance routes had best year ever
    with 15.1 million passengers

    All 15 long-distance routes saw an
    increase in riders and combined had
    best ridership in 19 years with
    4.7 million passengers

    From FY 2000 to FY 2012, Amtrak
    ridership is up 49 percent

    http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/178/1001/Amtrak-Ridership-Growth-First-Six-Months-%20FY2013-ATK-13-031.pdf

    April 9, 2013

    AMTRAK RIDERSHIP
    GROWTH CONTINUES IN FY 2013
    March sets record as single best month in history of railroad
    WASHINGTON –
    Amtrak
    ridership increased in the firs
    t half of FY 2013 (Oct. 2012 –
    March 2013) and March set a record as the single
    best month ever in the history of America’s
    Railroad
    ®
    . In addition, October, December, and Janua
    ry each set individual monthly records.
    Rebounding strongly from service disruptions
    caused by Superstorm Sandy and other
    severe weather, Amtrak ridership grew 0.9 pe
    rcent in the first six months of FY 2013 as
    compared to the same period the prior year. In
    all, 26 of 45 routes poste
    d ridership increases and
    Amtrak expects to end the fiscal year at or
    above last year’s record of 31.2 million passengers.

    NYC Subways:

    http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ffsubway.htm

    Ridership: In 2013, average weekday subway ridership was 5.5 million, the highest since 1950. Annual ridership was 1.708 billion, the highest since 1949.

    I could go on. Where there is a mass transit SYSTEM that gets people where they need to go they use it.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    You see, I blame all of D.C’s public transit problems on President Carter. There’s a federal decree, law, edict, thunderbolts from bureaucrats; etc that any federal building will have less parking spots than occupants. Personal Story: Had a meeting at the Pentagon that ended about 5 in he afternoon. Boss looked at me and asked who many stops on the train (subway) I had to go. I responded four. He asked which line. I told him the next one that shows up. He replied F-you; we both knew he had a I-395 to I-95 for 20 miles commute. We just laughed. If you don’t think public transportation doesn’t work in D.C.; go look at the Pentagon transportation center. The subway, city buses, and commuter buses all in one spot. Yes, it’s a unique situation/building. Oh, did I mention there’s not enough parking?

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Where do bicycles fit on this stupid, scale adjusted to not see what it claims to measure, paid for by road builders graph?

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    People typically spend $10,000 or more per year on every car. They spend a few hundred dollars on transit. Then they wonder why transit is either a hassle, nasty, or needs subsidies. Yet, transit is inherently more efficient, so you get more transportation per dollar spent than by paying for cars. At the same time obesity rates are soaring and warnings about global warming are increasing.

    All this seems incredibly stupid. Maybe the problem is that people can’t think straight. Maybe there’s too much carbon monoxide in their brains.

  • avatar
    an innocent man

    Nice. I can be away for a few days, and yet accurately predict which threads will still be alive when I get back on.

  • avatar
    JD321

    I hate pedestrians. Hate.

    Tax gas to $10 per gallon and starve the stupid little people off the roads and into buses where they belong.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The commuter bus I take to work is full of Amazon workers. Amazon has expanded a lot and as a result the bus service has expanded as well. The Park and Ride where I live is about 3 miles from my house and drops me off in front of the building where I work. An added bonus is that my employer pays for my bus pass. True mass transit works better in large cities where people commute to and parking is scarce and expensive. As Zackman said for someone with his commute from the a Cincinnati suburb to the N KY and Cincinnati Airport it would take him over 2 hours each way in that he would have to take the Cincinnati METRO bus and transfer to the TANK bus (Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky).

    I do see a major problem with mass transit in the US in that we have a large country and it is hard and expensive to build the infrastructure for a mass transit system that would connect every place. As some have said it is much easier in the Northeast where transit systems have been in existence for many years, but it is much harder to build a new system which does take up a lot of land and would require taking land for public use. The comments in this article are excellent and have brought out the pros and cons of a mass transit system. These comments have been among the best that I have read on a posted article.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Mass Transit for many US Cities is a bit of a pipe dream LA Could have had a very substantial mass transit system but companies pressured city planners to get rid of their street cars etc

  • avatar
    Victor

    Public transportation is a cynical, communist idea that nobody really wants.

    The farcical notion that newer generations would prefer to ride the bus is not only plain wrong but also surgically planned to disrupt freedom. Is it great to see society giving those leftists the statistical middle finger.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Huh, 200+ posts to argue that transit makes sense in places where it makes sense, and doesn’t make sense in places where it doesn’t makes sense. B&B? Not so much sometimes.

    Personally, one reason I bought my house where I did is that it is close to a bus line (two, actually, ~5-10 min walk in either direction). My roommate at the time didn’t drive. She commuted by bus for years. Slower than a car, sure, but it worked for her.

    I do think telecommuting is the future. Does it really make sense for people to commute to cube farms to sit in front of a computer all day? You can skip the commute and just sit in front of a computer all day at home. My company is about 50:50 at this point. In my circle of friends, more than half of us do not have daily commutes. It would be very hard to go back to that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Personally, one reason I bought my house where I did is that it is close to a bus line”

      You have half a dozen cars and you sought out a house on the bus line? Do you have an unnatural fear of being housebound?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        @Lie2Me

        Reading is fundamental – “my roommate at the time did not drive”. We had been living together for 5 years when I bought the place, thus it was important to find a house located such that she could still get to work. We lived together for another 5 years before she got married and moved out.

        I had three criteria when house hunting: 1. located such that Kate could still get to work. 2. Broadband Internet available (not a given here in 2001). 3. A garage. Managed to score all three (2700sq/ft garage!) at a bargain price to boot. The added bonus was room enough for another roommate, who still lives with me to this day, 14 years on.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Robert you brought up a valid point in that where there were rail and street car lines were gotten rid of like LA’s street cars. Downtown Cincinnati had street cars well into the 50’s then removed them. Now Cincinnati is rebuilding a street car line with track with huge cost overruns and it will benefit few commuters. Matching transit funds was an incentive. Much government funding of transit systems are wasteful. Atlanta’s MARTA is a good mass transit system along with Chicago’s.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    I thought I’d share my personal experience as a commuter who used public transit in Chicago to commute downtown for work for 6 years before abandoning it for the car. Chicago is considered by many to have excellent public transit. Chicago really has two light rail systems the “El” a largely elevated electric train that operated within city limits (there are a few exceptions) and funnels folks from the city’s exterior to the interior. Then there’s Metra, more traditional diesel trains that move suburbanites into the city core. I live in an inner ring suburb less than a mile out of City of Chicago limits; so both systems are accessible to me. I can and have ridden either system, however because of the massive cost difference ($100/mo vs $250/mo) I always rode the “L” so all of my comments apply to it. I can say without a doubt the ONLY advantage to public transit was the cost savings. I can also say without a doubt that what you don’t pay in money with mass transit you absolutely pay in time. Taking either system cost me over an hour day more of my time than simply driving to downtown Chicago. As a new father this time is now extremely valuable to me; hence I’ve switched to driving.

    However the switch has also highlighted all the other bullcrap of public transit I no longer have to deal with. It was at least 1 – 2 times a week on the train that I was approached for money. I routinely stood getting pelted with rain waiting for rail/bus with no shelter. I endured searing heat on buses that had a measured 80+ degree internal temperature despite single digit outdoor temps. I attempted to remain upright despite being slammed into by fellow passengers that couldn’t figure out how to balance themselves whilst standing on the train. I had to maintain a constant awareness of my surroundings so as not to have any of my personal items pilfered. The ride quality on the 5 mile bus ride from the rail station to my house often left me naseous and with a ringing in my ears (from extremely loud rattles, engine noise and jarring impacts on bumps from Chicago’s poorly maintained roads). Personal hygiene is purely optionsl; the smell of body odor was a constant background as was the occasional urine smell. Lots of folks will also cough, sneeze and what have you without covering any of it up so you too can share in whatever malady ails them! Other customers will not so much sit next to you as sit on top of you. The seats aren’t big, if you don’t fit in one, just take two; I’m not Santa… On top of it all, some part of my commute was often late; connecting or “last mile” buses were often behind schedule, making an already slow commute take longer. That is the reality of public transit. It’s dirty, smelly, hot, slow, unreliable and filled with people with the hygiene and personal space respect of a zombie.

    Is driving perfect? No, it costs me 42 miles a day round trip with associated E85 and parking costs ($140/mo). However the commuting times are dramatically shorter; the commute is safer (yes the risk of a fatality while driving is higher, but the risk of being the victim of ANY far more common violent crime (such as battery or robbery) is significantly lower. I’m not as exposed to infectious disease, the vehicle temperature isn’t set to tropical rainforest, the ride quality is controlled and smooth, nobody ever put their hand in my face looking for money, etc. I’d rather sit in my truck for bumper to bumper traffic than ever ride the rails again. At least I get to spend another hour plus with my little girl every day.

    EDIT: If you are using public transit in Chicago to get around while downtown, it is truly an excellent system. However for commuting to and from work, its horrid.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      Well, YMMV. If I stop to think about it, I’ve ridden subway/light rail systems in San Francisco, Chicago (El and Metra), New York, Atlanta, Washington, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong.

      They are all different. None of them are luxurious, of course, but my own experience has generally been much more positive – nothing at all like you report. Chicago’s system is obviously old, and has the look/feel of too much “deferred maintenance”, but it still worked satisfactorily whenever I used it. I will say that some of the neighbourhoods it passes through look not too enticing…

      Still, chacun a son goût.

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