Centralize or Decentralize Transit?

16 02 2010

This is CapMetro’s proposal for a centralized transfer facility in Downtown Austin (starting on page 9)

Is this a good idea? And why?

(source) “Evidence underlines that the emergence of hub-and-spoke networks is a transitional form of network development rationalizing limited volumes through a limited number of routes. When traffic becomes sufficient, direct point-to-point services tend to be established as they better reflect the preference of users.”

(source) “Metro areas that have integrated their rail transit into a decentralized network structure are found to enjoy higher riding habit, higher service productivity, and better cost-effectiveness than metro areas with other network structures or modal combinations.”

Transit is moving from its traditional centralized hub-and-spoke model to one that follows the point-to-point (no centralized hub) model, where multiple “nodes” are distributed around a city (examples: Providence, Seattle, Tallahassee, Orlando, Atlanta). In input/output economic parlance, they are disaggregating clusters by increasingly expanding and diversifying their operations to locations where their investments will be most profitable. Cities that are remodeling their public transit network but are sticking to the hub-and-spoke model are creating X number of hubs throughout the city; thus these hubs are becoming, in effect, nodes (example: Los Angeles).

Advantage of point-to-point system: It minimizes connections and travel time (the more that passengers use it, the more intuitive it becomes) and increases accessibility (and greater accessibility is good).

Advantage of hub-and-spoke system: They are simple; new ones can be created easily; scheduling is convenient for passengers since there are few routes, with frequent service, so they may find the network more intuitive. An example of technology that obviates this advantage: The Chicago Transit Authority’s Bus Tracker

Disadvantages of hub-and-spoke system:

  • Because the model is centralized, day-to-day operations may be relatively inflexible. Changes at the hub, or even in a single route, could have unexpected consequences throughout the network.
  • Route scheduling is complicated for the network operator. Scarce resources must be used carefully to avoid starving the hub, and traffic analysis and precise timing are required to keep the hub operating efficiently.
  • The hub constitutes a bottleneck in the network. Total capacity of the network is limited by the hub’s capacity. Delays at the hub can result in delays throughout the network. Delays at a spoke can also affect the network.
  • People must pass through the hub before reaching their destination, requiring longer journeys than direct point-to-point trips. This is often desirable for freight, which can benefit from sorting and consolidating operations at the hub, but not for people.
  • In a spoke-hub network the hub is likely to be a single point of failure.


Filtering people through a hub or a series of hubs is wasteful and inefficient compared to the direct point-to-point model, which can reduce transport emissions and operational costs…Are the five sites CapMetro identifies desirably positioned and reasonably purchasable land for this to be in any way an achievable endeavor?

In any case, no matter what occurs, this is what we here at The Placemaking Institute would like to see occur with Congress Avenue

Support the ERCMP

16 02 2010

As you know, the East Riverside Corridor is in desperate need of wholesale re-invention. Indeed, one could say no other part of Austin is in such dire straits. This is having a detrimental effect on our City’s overall health. We here at The Placemaking Institute believe the proposed East Riverside Corridor Master Plan (which was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on February 9th, albeit with compatibility standard and zoning classification amendments that should not be part of Phase 1) is both comprehensive and excellent, and we are writing to urge you to support it because

It is a plan that puts forward a vision of thoughtful land use supported by a much needed rail transit  system.

It is a plan dedicated to high-quality public space (i.e., streets and parks and trails) that will support and encourage appropriate private investment in a location in much need of just that. 

It is a plan that will facilitate and enable a more integrated pedestrian environment of appropriate mixed-land usage that is more walkable and bicycle-friendly.

It is a plan that clearly demonstrates socioeconomic integrity by following all the very best principles of True Urbanism, and it was in fact created by the public itself through open and transparent community visioning charrettes, where anyone who wanted to participate could – And did.

In short, the East Riverside Corridor Master Plan will move Austin further along the path toward Progress by transforming an area that can only be considered a huge liability into one that would be a wonderful precedent for a pattern of future renewal. It will provide many healthy lifestyle options, in the process generating a significant new tax base. While we know Austin will grow, we don’t know how or where, and will it occur in a sustainable manner? If the leaders of this community do not, on February 25th, ultimately approve such an excellent vision and support its long-term implementation, what hope can we truly have for the future of our City?

While it will and already has been (by the Chronicle’s Katherine Gregor) said that the “The master plan lacks any economic analysis or direction on value capture – a glaring omission,” Our Most Senior Fellow’s Eminence Gris explains: “The reason that the master plan lacks these things is due to the scope imposed upon Nelessen by the City; economic analysis or direction on value capture was outside of Nelessen’s purview and, thus, this glaring omission should not be considered to be a knock on the Master Plan itself per se. A better question would be to ask, why didn’t the City include these aspects within the Master Planning process?”

Our Most Senior Fellow would like to add (from his point of view as a classically trained economist with a master’s degree that focussed on economic development and affordability [which he generally abhors admitting in public]) that “Yes, obviously an economic development component must be added. However, the ERCMP is a wonderful vision that we should all embrace before working together to ensure that an appropriate economic development strategy is insinuated within it. How many times over the years have we as a society taken radical redevelopment actions such as this one solely initially predicated upon an economic development plan? That strategy has not really worked well for we the people, has it?”

And we conclude with the words of Mr. Tony Nelessen himself: “For your info we completed two economic analysis’s for the site. One was done by a local firm and we completed another in house to meet the needs of the contract and to understand feasibility. The city has both reports and did not include them in the Master Plan which is appropriate. Regarding value added for transit: Given the negative perceptions of the land today, the plan when adopted will already add value! If the plan is implemented without the light rail, there will have to be a serious upgrade to the bus service, stops, lanes and image. I guess that there is no question about the value added if the urban design master plan was implemented along with the light rail. To answer how much more will land and adjacent property be worth? And, what is the fiscal impact and benefit to the city if LR was implemented?

“The answer to these questions is going to be a factor of how much FAR/DU’s the city will allow at what distance from the station, along with the positive or negative images of the transit, stations, landscaping/streetscape, cars,  service etc. It is one of the key principles of smart growth and if there is a market for the housing as planned then there is certainly a justification for transit and vice versa. I can’t imagine a sustainable city without a huge emphasis on mixed and multiple use, walking and bicycling within the TT6 and TT5 and TT4, with more emphasis in the TT4 on bike, walking, local jitneys and car use. I have just completed the second rush of a new video about TT Transit Transects.  It is very interesting and compelling. Uses all the principles of the New Urbanism except TT6 is heavily weighed towards the pedestrian and landscaping not the car. This is a really good model for Sustainable Urbanism. In the next week(s) it will be on YouTube.”

Parking and Pricing

15 02 2010

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, “parking has tremendous costs (many vehicles are worth less than the parking space they occupy, and the total value of parking facilities is probably much larger than the total value of roadways), and parking supply and pricing have tremendous effects on travel behavior and land use.”

(source) “If you’ve never really thought about parking, it’s astounding how much space that dull activity requires. It’s estimated that in the U.S., there are seven spaces for each car — even if they seem rarely to be right where you want them. The average space is roughly 40 square feet, but to leave room for lanes between the spaces and such, planners generally allow 320 square feet per parking space. That quickly adds up to real acreage. Parking lots are often vastly larger than the restaurants or stores they serve. And if you drive to work, it’s likely that your car requires more square footage in the lot or garage than you do inside the office. All that real estate isn’t cheap. The Victoria Transport Policy Institute calculates that if you take into account land, construction and operations, the cheapest possible parking space — a suburban surface lot for which the land was provided free — has an annualized cost of $242. The most expensive — an underground garage in a central business district — clocks in at $2,288. When the space is free to the driver, that means that someone (the store, the restaurant, the employer, the city) is subsidizing the cost. It’s likely that, as Houston grows denser still, and as our public-transit options improve, the city, developers and business owners will look for ways to cut back on those expensive parking spaces, or at least to make sure that they’re better used. Maybe we’ll see more employers offering bus or train subsidies or charging to park in the office garage. Maybe malls and shops will offer alluring, super-deluxe transit.”

(source) Typical Parking Facility Financial Costs

Type of Facility Land Costs Land Costs Construction Costs O & M Costs Total Cost Daily Cost
  Per Acre Per Space Per Space Annual, Per Space Annual, Per Space PerSpace
Suburban, On-Street $50,000 $200 $2,000 $200 $408 $1.36
Suburban, Surface, Free Land $0 $0 $2,000 $200 $389 $1.62
Suburban, Surface $50,000 $455 $2,000 $200 $432 $1.80
Suburban, 2-Level Structure $50,000 $227 $10,000 $300 $1,265 $5.27
Urban, On-Street $250,000 $1,000 $3,000 $200 $578 $1.93
Urban, Surface $250,000 $2,083 $3,000 $300 $780 $3.25
Urban, 3-Level Structure $250,000 $694 $12,000 $400 $1,598 $6.66
Urban, Underground $250,000 $0 $20,000 $400 $2,288 $9.53
CBD, On-Street $2,000,000 $8,000 $3,000 $300 $1,338 $4.46
CBD, Surface $2,000,000 $15,385 $3,000 $300 $2,035 $6.78
CBD, 4-Level Structure $2,000,000 $3,846 $15,000 $400 $2,179 $7.26
CBD, Underground $2,000,000 $0 $25,000 $500 $2,645 $8.82

The High Cost of Free Parking: The Movie

(source) Typical Parking Facility Financial Costs

  Spaces Per Vehicle Annual Cost Per Space Paid Directly By Users User-Paid Costs External Costs Total Costs
Residential 1 $600 100% $600 0 $600
Off-street 2 $800 5% $80 $1,520 $1,600
On-street 2 $400 5% $40 $760 $800
Totals 5     $720 (24%) $2280 (76%) $3,000 (100%)

“This table shows an estimate of total parking costs per vehicle and their distribution. It indicates that users only pay directly for about a quarter of total parking costs. The rest are borne indirectly through taxes, reduced wages, and additional costs for goods and services.”

Carfree Design Manual

Many economically successful areas, such as large commercial centers, have limited parking and high parking prices (Martens, 2006). Real estate market analysis suggests that traditional urban areas, where parking is limited and priced, often experience greater economic growth than suburban areas (LLREI, 2000). This suggests that parking pricing and other management strategies are not necessarily harmful to local economic development if an area is attractive and accessible in other ways (Roth, 2004; Martens, 2006). Using existing parking supply more efficiently tends to support TDM and Smart Growth objectives, providing additional economic, social and environmental benefits…Generous parking requirements help create low-density land use patterns with dispersed destinations and unattractive streetscapes, that are unsuited for walking, and therefore for transit, since transit trips usually involve pedestrian links. Devoting land and funds to automobile parking often reduces the resources available to support other modes. As a result, policies that increase parking supply tend to reduce overall transportation choices.

(source) “Over the years, (in Hoboken, NJ) various zoning requirements have gradually been enacted requiring off-street parking minimums and, recently, even an effort to “decouple” parking from new developments. But these efforts have not been implemented with gusto, and critical missing components have resulted in several “Don’t try this at home, kids” lessons for other municipalities to learn, such as charging separately for an off-street parking space in a new development but not prohibiting these owners from acquiring dirt-cheap on-street parking permits for the first car in their household. The result for that seemingly minor disconnect in policy is that many off-street spaces remain unowned, unoccupied, and unused while other residents roll the cost of rights to an off-street parking space (a reasonable price is, say, $30,000) into their mortgage, and then lease out that space at $150/month while they pay $15 to park on street all year. You gotta love capitalism, folks!”

(source) “The Los Angeles City Council Budget and Finance Committee approved a plan to partially privatize city-owned parking garages, but not meters, for the next fifty years to help fill a massive budget hole in the short term. The city is hoping to raise $189 million from the transaction which would basically be a 50-year outsourcing of the garages’ management and profits. Some of the management and profits would remain with the city, and some experts are pointing to other aspects of the plan which could lower the city’s $189 million asking price and hamper efforts to bring major reform to our city’s already wasteful parking strategies.”

(source) “State lawmakers are taking aim at what some of them see as a menace to California’s environment: free parking. There is too much of it, the legislators say, and it encourages people to drive instead of taking the bus, walking or riding a bike. All that motoring is contributing to traffic jams and pollution, according to state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), and on Thursday he won Senate approval of a proposal he hopes will prompt cities and businesses to reduce the availability of free parking. “Free parking has significant social, economic and environmental costs,” Lowenthal said. “It increases congestion and greenhouse gas emissions…The problem with free parking is it’s not free.”
Some Case Studies

a modest proposal (for downtown commuting)

8 02 2010

Recently, we here at The Placemaking Institute have been required to take out our statistical microscopes, which is how we identified this major chokepoint here in Austin:

South Loop 1 at Town Lake

Then Our Most Senior Fellow and Our Most Senior Fellow’s Eminence Grise embarked upon an idealistic idea born from Utopian (if you will) Idealism, the sequence of which is as follows:

1) Average peak hour speed here is about 20 mph; thus this throughput is performing 66% below capacity.

2) TTI’s 1.25 people/auto is probably too high of an average; 1.12 may be more realistic. (It’s interesting to note that, at a recent City Council meeting, Rob Spillar mentioned that Austin has a very high rate of carpoolers even though we don’t provide any support whatsoever for them before adding: “We need to be creative and do things that support them.”)

3) Projected Traffic Volume on South Loop 1 at Town Lake (numbers from CAMPO):


Autos % increase from previous count People/Day(1.12 P/A) People/Day (1.25 P/A)
2000 146,000   163,520 182,500
2007 192,000 30 215,040 240,000
2015 221,600 15 248,192 277,000
2025 256,300 15 287,056 320,375

4) Why managed lane(s) are more cost efficient than building/widening existing roadways: Lower costs – Lower environmental impacts – Shorter implementation time frame – Greater flexibility – More active enforcement management – Minimal delays

5 ) What if, instead of a traditional managed lane, it was a dedicated bus lane wherein commuters must pay to use that lane? (Capacity for urban buses is 80-100 passengers [+20% stand] and 600-1,800 passengers/vehicle/day while capacity for articulated buses is 150-200 passengers [+20% stand] and 1,500-2,500 PPVPD.)

6) How many buses and how often should they run to help expedite mobility via a dedicated bus lane? (Assumptions: 30 buses/hour on freeway; there are 15 locations from which the buses pick-up with 30 minute headways, which means that buses are staggered every 2 minutes on the freeway.)

7) Each person dissuaded from driving will save the region @ $812/year in congestion costs (TTI 2007).

3-Lane System Efficiency with Managed Lane    
Purpose: Moving more people with less cars and not just moving more cars more efficiently
Key: A=Autos; B=Buses; H=Hour; L=Lanes; P=Passengers; GP=General Purpose; ML=Managed Lane
Scenario 1: 1.12 Passengers/Auto General Purpose Lane, i.e., Existing Condition (3 lanes)
Lane Type # A/L/H P/A Total A/L/H P/A/L/H B/H P/B/L/H
GP 3 2,000 1.12 6,000 7,526 0 0
      SUBTOTAL 6,000 7,526 TOTAL 7,526
7,526 people = absolute maximum capacity of existing condition  
Scenario 2: 2 Passengers/Auto Managed Lane (starting point; supplemented by paid SOVS)
Lane Type # A/L/H P/A Total A/L/H P/A/L/H B/H P/B/L/H
ML 1 1,500 2 1,500 3,000 30 6,000
GP 2 2,000 1.12 4,000 4,480    
      SUBTOTAL 5,500 7,480 TOTAL 13,480
A net gain of 46 people from Scenario 1, the equivalent of .33 new GP lanes…adding bus lane = 3.33 new GP lanes 
Scenario 3: 3 Passengers/Auto Managed Lane (achieved in Houston; national average is +3.0 P/A)
Lane Type # A/L/H P/A Total A/L/H P/A/L/H B/H P/B/L/H
ML 1 1,500 3 1,500 4,500 30 6,000
GP 2 2,000 1.12 4,000 4,480    
      SUBTOTAL 5,500 8,980 TOTAL 14,980
A net gain of 1,454 people from Scenario 1, the equivalent of .75 new GP lanes…adding bus lane = 3.75 new GP lanes
Scenario 4: 4 Passengers/Auto Managed Lane (supplemented by vigorous bus/carpool system)
Lane Type # A/L/H P/A Total A/L/H P/A/L/H B/H P/B/L/H
ML 1 1,500 4 1,500 4,500 30 6,000
GP 2 2,000 1.12 4,000 4,480    
      SUBTOTAL 5,500 10,480 TOTAL 16,480
A net gain of 2,954 people from Scenario 1, the equivalent of 1.5 new GP lanes…adding bus lane = 4.5 new GP lanes
Scenario 5: 5 Passengers/Auto Managed Lane (success breeds success)  
Lane Type # A/L/H P/A Total A/L/H P/A/L/H B/H P/B/L/H
ML 1 1,500 5 1,500 7,500 30 6,000
GP 2 2,000 1.12 4,000 4,480    
      SUBTOTAL 5,500 11,980 TOTAL 17,480
A net gain of 4,454 people from Scenario 1, the equivalent of 2 new GP lanes…adding bus lane = 5 new GP lanes

1) Each person dissuaded from driving saves the region @ $812/year in congestion costs. Savings without dedicated bus lane for:

Scenario 2 = $37,352; Scenario 3 = $1,180,648; Scenario 4 = $2,298,648; Scenario 5 = $3,616,648

2) Net Passenger Gain after adding a dedicated bus lane (from Scenario 1):

Scenario 2=6,046; Scenario 3=7,454 ; Scenario 4=8,954; Scenario 5=10,454

3) Each person dissuaded from driving saves the region @ $812/year in congestion costs. Savings with dedicated bus lane for:

Scenario 2 = $4,909,352; Scenario 3 = $6,052,648; Scenario 4 = $7,270,648; Scenario 5 = $8,488,648

(sidenote: Also, solely from an O/M point of view, this modest proposal may very well lead to cost efficiencies. TXDOT spends @ $5,000/lane mile/year for maintainence [and can only afford 30% of this] and CapMetro is fiscally constrained from properly maintaining its fleet. Expediting the traffic of people with HOV lanes would increase performance efficiencies for both roadways and buses.)

Machiavelli: “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”

Cleaning out our notebook

1 02 2010

2009 VMT Perceptions and Demand Survey Central Texas

Vaporizing the Gas Tax Myth: “The federal gas tax, now set at 18.4 cents per gallon, was last increased in 1993. A combination of inflation, changing driving habits — due in part to higher gas prices (quick note: not quite true; over the course of the past twenty or so years gas has gotten 17% more affordable when CPI adjusted) — and better fuel economy of our cars has robbed it of much of its purchasing power. In fact, the trust fund is broke, needing infusions from the general treasury totaling more than $15 billion in the last year alone. The way we fund our roads is at odds with almost every other public policy America has adopted. While proposed climate change legislation, green energy initiatives and even our foreign policy demand that we move away from a dependence on oil, we pay for our transportation system almost entirely by using more of it. In the short-term, we need to consider an increase in the gas tax. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the only way we can ease the congestion we face. At last count, that congestion costs every traveler in the U.S. $750 a year. A gas tax increase between 5 cents and 8 cents each year during the next five years will cost average Americans only $10 to $20 each month per car. In Britain and much of Europe the gas tax is nearly $4 per gallon, 20 times the federal tax in the U.S. In the long-term, we must move away from the gas tax to solutions that actually charge people for the roads they use, including a vehicle miles traveled user fee, congestion pricing for peak hours and more toll roads. We’re willing to pay for actual use of other utilities — like electricity, water and natural gas — why not our roads?”

To give just one example, TxDOT, recently concluded that the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes — just 16% of the total cost…And an individual’s approximate yearly gas tax (quick calculation based on 12,000 miles driven/year) = about $350/year/individual

Sustained Long-Term US Gasoline Demand Growth Unlikely

(source) “If you don’t like gasoline taxes, here’s an alternative: a tax on the number of miles you drive in a year. The Texas Transportation Commission has directed a fresh study of the idea, and it is not alone. There are pilot projects in other states and nationally to gauge how such a tax would work. Texas transportation officials say the study is meant to help give lawmakers information on options ahead of their next regular session in 2011, when they confront a funding squeeze that is expected to drain the highway fund of money for new construction contracts by 2012. “We need to think differently about how we fund transportation,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairwoman Deirdre Delisi said at a Texas Taxpayers and Research Association forum in November. Delisi said the vehicle-miles-traveled tax idea is controversial, but should be discussed because revenue from the state’s main source of transportation funding, the motor fuels tax, is declining. The gasoline tax has not been raised since 1991.”

Quick note: If one further thinks about it, due to hybrids requiring massive batteries which, in turn, require massive amounts of heavy metals which, in turn, require massive amounts of energy to extract and transport, the “environmental footprint” of a hybrid, may very well be higher than that of a gas-driven comparable model.

From AAA’s 2008 Your Driving Costs report (Quick note: Reducing an individual’s VMT will free up disposable income that can be spent elsewhere, like for actual goods and services locally):

Miles/Year   10,000 15,000 20,000
(in cents)        
small sedan   55.1 42.1 35.7
med. sedan   71.9 55.2 46.9
large sedan   85.8 65.1 54.8
average   71 54.1 45.8

(source) “The claim to a link between economic growth and vehicle mileage – that, in other words, auto travel is essential to keeping U.S. productivity high – remains controversial and much-debated in transportation policy circles. One notable recent flare-up in that debate took place on National Journal’s blog after road lobbyist Greg Cohen, referring to an October paper [PDF] released by the Cascade Policy Institute, contended that “it’s not simply a correlation but VMT actually causes economic growth.” Now economist Todd Litman, founder of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, has taken direct aim at the mileage-growth arguments made by Cascade’s Randall Pozdena. In a paper [PDF] prepared for next week’s Transportation Research Board conference in D.C., Litman charges that Pozdena’s research “misrepesents” the relationship between prosperity and VMT “in important ways.” Litman questions Pozdena’s conclusion, based on the below chart, that “increasing a country’s income by 10 percent appears to increase its use of energy by the same percentage.”

(source) According to Litman: “Recent research shows that per capita economic productivity tends to increase as public transit travel and land use density increases in a community, and declines as per capita motor vehicle travel and roadway supply increases. This reflects transportation cost savings and agglomeration efficiencies from more efficient transport and land use policies. Images and more detailed information can be found in these reports.”(source) “By increasing transportation system efficiency, Win-Win strategies increase economic productivity and support economic development. They do this by reducing inefficiencies such as traffic congestion, road and parking infrastructure costs, accident and pollution damages, and the cost burden of importing petroleum to fuel vehicles. Here are some examples and their typical VMT reduction impacts”:

 Pay-As-You-Drive insurance and registration fees (8-10%)

 Efficient parking pricing and cash out (6-10%)

 Efficient road pricing (3-6%)

 Mobility Management programs (4-8%)

 Transit & ridesharing priority (3-9%)

 Walking & cycling improvements (2-6%)

 Smart growth planning reforms (4-12%)

 Freight transport management (0.5-2%)

 Carsharing (1-2%)

 Tax shifting (5-15%)

 Vehicle Miles Traveled Reduction Targets: Will This Strategy Get the Desired Results? [from the Transportation Research Board’s 89th Annual Meeting (January 10-14, 2010)]

A Compendium of Research Papers and Information

Socially Optimal Transport Prices and Markets Principles, Strategies and Impacts

Promoting public health through Smart Growth

Key Relationships Between the Built Environment and VMT” (quick note: based on this author’s other work and his “think tank” connections, he’s  irrationally anti-Smart Growth and a pro-road partisan but has put together a great bibliography at the end)

Evaluating Transportation Economic Development Impacts Understanding How Transport Policy and Planning Decisions Affect Employment, Incomes, Productivity, Competitiveness, Property Values and Tax Revenues

Investments in transit produce 19 percent more jobs than an equivalent investment in new road and bridge projects

Portland’s Streetcar Oriented Development

Development ROI for Streetcar Lines
  Initial Track Miles Capital Cost/Mile Total Capital Cost Development Investment ROI Expansion Planned
Kenosha, Wis. 2.0 $3.00 $6.00 $150 2,400% Yes
Little Rock, Ark. 2.5 $7.84 $19.60 $200 920% Yes
Tampa, Fla. 2.3 $24.35 $56.00 $1,000 1,686% Yes
Portland, Ore. 4.8 $11.38 $54.60 $2,300 4,112% Yes

All costs in millions of dollars. Tampa’s costs include land acquisition.

“Operating costs per passenger for light rail are between 25 percent and 75 percent lower than for buses, through a combination of more carrying capacity, higher levels of ridership, more efficient grid-connected electric power (using only one fifth the energy per passenger-mile), and much lower maintenance costs for the vehicles… In fact, according to a study of light rail in Texas, each percent shift in travel from automobiles to transit produces almost $3 million growth in regional income and over 200 new jobs.”

Density and Urban Rail

(source) “This paper examines economies of scale and density in urban rail transport. It isolates the effects of constant and non-constant returns on output and productivity growth using data relating to 17 rail systems in cities around the world. Estimates reveal constant returns to scale but increasing returns to density. The productivity model shows that total factor productivity change has been of great importance in differentiating the output performance of urban rail systems. Our analysis of average labour productivity confirms the importance of shifts to other factors of production and technological change in explaining changing levels of output per worker.”

“A number of myths about rail transit have long been promoted by the automobile industry, the highway lobby and other special interest groups that are opposed to balanced transportation. The most common of these myths as well as the realities are provided HERE.”

“This table, Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips and Passenger Miles for Urbanized Areas Over 1,000,000 Population, Fiscal Year 2004, from the American Public Transit Association, shows that the more dense a rail transit system is, the more it will be used. For example, passenger miles in Chicago are some 30 percent higher than Los Angeles, despite the larger population in L.A. Particularly telling is a comparison of Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC – each with relatively much more developed rail transit systems – with Miami, Dallas, and Houston.”

(source) “Real world experience in the U.S. and other countries has demonstrated repeatedly that rail transit does not necessarily require high population densities to be successful. And there are numerous urban areas in the U.S. that have densities sufficient for rail. An example is Salt Lake City, which has a population of only 181,743 and a density of 1,666 per square mile. The population for the urban area as a whole is about a million. Its new, two-line light rail system is heavily utilized with more than 53,000 riders per day, far more than even the most optimistic original projections. This success has resulted in strong pressure to construct more lines to serve additional parts of the city and suburbs.”

(source) “This bulletin summarizes current concerns about improving public transportation and compares the distinguishing characteristics of the different modes of urban rail transit. It provides an overview of the history of rail transit in the state and outlines the evolution of current rail proposals for southeastern and southern Wisconsin. It also surveys the experi­ences of comparable urban areas outside the state.”

(source) “This paper describes the potential use of the financing strategy of value capture or benefit assessment for an urban mass transportation project. The paper describes the legal background to the use of benefit assessment, and the process of implementation for the first construction phase of the Los Angeles Metro Rail project. The process of developing the benefit assessment structure was a consultative one, utilizing technical inputs from a team of specialist consultants, a task force consisting of major developers and property owners in the affected area, and politicians representing many of the interests in the region. The initial benefit assessment districts were set up to raise $130 million of the cost of the first 4.4 miles of the rail project, and are based on the benefits accruing to certain categories of property in the vicinity of stations. The assessment would be collected for about 18 years and bonding would be used to provide the capital at the time of construction. The paper describes the procedure for setting boundaries, the structuring of the assessment rates, the definition of benefiting properties, and the uses and tenure of the assessment. In almost all cases, the theory of value capture indicated a different result than was achieved from a consensus of the task force, and the nature of these differences is explored in the paper. The establishment of the benefit assessment districts withstood early court challenges, but has subsequently been appealed and was overturned on appeal. Action is pending with the Supreme Court currently, and efforts are also underway to pass new legislation to deal with some of the issues raised in the court proceedings.”

Environmental Protection Agency Publishes Draft Report for External Comment on the Feasibility of Incorporating Climate Change Information Into Land Protection Planning

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