Monday, February 20, 2012

What is the Basis for Transit Policy in the USA?

Policy and Planning as Public Choice Mass Transit in the United States (300 page pdf, David Lewis and Fred Laurence Williams, United States Department of Transportation, 1999)

Today’s focus is a comprehensive policy report from the Department of Transportation of the USA which builds the case for subsidizing transit by looking at its benefit/cost ratio (5:1), transit’s value (along with congestion pricing) as the main solution to congestion and the affordability of transit in the rider’s budget. The analysis of congestion by itself contains many useful observations and conclusions. Although written more than a decade ago, the trends and proportions appear valid today.

Key Quotes:

“A methodical exploration of why the American public so persistently supports transit is long overdue“

“.. the public realizes five dollars in cash savings for each tax dollar invested in transit services. These are the costs of owning, operating and accommodating automobiles that several million Americans avoid with the help of transit services“

“In urban America, public transit serves three market niches :
  • transit serves a basic mobility function for children, elderly people, people with disabilities who are unable to drive, people who cannot afford their own cars, and motorists whose car is in the shop.
  • rapid transit enables ..commuters to bypass severely congested freeways and thus save travel time for themselves and motorists alike.
  • transit facilitates a pedestrian friendly streetscape in which walking, elevators and bicycling are more common than driving”
“The fraction of all households owning 2 or more vehicles rose from 29 percent in 1969 to 53 percent in 1988”

“A major long run cause of congestion is the increasing spatial separation of work and residences. Workers tend to live further away from Central Business Districts (CBD) and places of work, seeking private, quite and spacious single detached homes”

“If optimum congestion tolls were charged, the motorist might well choose to use mass transit, to join an auto pool, to make the trip at a less congested time, or to use a less congested but perhaps more circuitous route”

“...a subsidy paid to public transport with a downward sloping cost curve, would lower the costs of travel on both”.In the reverse, a policy that increases roadway capacity luring away transit patrons, increases the costs of transit with increasing per passenger costs of the road system.”
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