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Marine Board Members. Cooperative Research. Consensus and Advisory Studies. SHRP 2 Archives. Find a Project. Sidis or Mulligan was right. Cunneen has studied, analyzed, evaluated and written extensively regarding traffaic impacts including street conversions from two-way to one-way and the reverse, alternative transit systems, safety impacts of speed humps and other devices, and the impact of light rail systems. COST Commentary: The article below, from the Dallas Morning News, is profound and devastating in its implications for public transit users and all taxpayers in Dallas and throughout the nation.

The very few Austin riders and the rails decrease of road capacity will result in increased congestion and pollution. In turn, this will siphon tax dollars from higher priority, more effective projects which would serve the greater-good of the community. Dallas has spent billions on light rail and promotion with very little to show for it: In total, and for most individual stations, fewer people use light rail stations than when they opened years ago. All the DART VP can say is that they are not concerned with the fact that light rail is not making its projections because rail is a year investment.

He should be fired on the spot for making such an unconscionable and unbelievably ridiculous comment. This has never succeeded and there is no established relationship between spending more money on transit and increasing ridership. This is the kind of thinking which can devastate this nation. In fact, it is quite typical that extending rail transit results in higher costs per ride.

DART light rail is in a death spiral and has extended to its financial limit: higher costs leads to higher fares, leads to fewer riders, leads to reduced transit service, leads to higher costs per passenger, and, down and down. It is not sustainable. Too many government programs, at all levels, are not cost effective resulting in conditions where public costs of an activity are much greater than the resulting public good.

This ultimately leads to an unaffordable condition which cannot and will not be supported by citizens over the long term. In the case of the DART executive suggesting train transit is a year investment, there is zero discussion or apparent understanding of the consideration of costs over this period versus the benefit. At this moment, major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and New York City each need many billions of dollars to replace aging and worn out train transit systems which have reached the end of their planned operational lives of 30 plus or minus years.

This will place an unsustainable strain on the ability of local, state and national resources to fund these highly tax subsidized and ineffective train transit system. If Austin continues on its current rail transit path, it will experience even greater failures than Dallas.

Only four of the 20 have drawn more riders than DART projected. Year after year, it has had to scale back projections of rail ridership, sometimes drastically, as passenger counts routinely come in below expectations. The faulty projections, however, are just one part of a much bigger problem for DART. Thirty-four DART light-rail stations opened between and , and most serve fewer riders today than they did in January Ridership has fallen both in the aggregate and at 19 of the 34 individual stations.

The numbers show that the only way DART has been able to increase ridership has been by adding service where none existed. That widely touted expansion is almost over. The Orange Line, under construction to Irving, will probably be the last major light-rail addition for at least a decade. Plesko said that as the construction boom slows, DART will have to become more service-oriented, improving the system it has and relying less on new service to add riders.

In , DART budget writers predicted that by , the Green, Blue and Red lines would combine to provide 45 million passenger trips per year. As a result, DART has lowered its rail expectations for each of the last several years, only to find that performance trailed even the more pessimistic numbers. As recently as last fall, DART projected that by the light-rail system would provide But Leininger said Tuesday that a safer bet would be The recession has meant it has less sales tax revenue to spend.

That has prompted the agency to cut bus service 6 percent and also to reduce rail trips, causing longer waits and more crowding on trains. Fewer riders has meant less fare revenue, even as DART has had to contend with forces well beyond its control, including slow population growth in its member cities and the fact that fewer jobs are located near its older stations.

Plesko said only , people work within a half-mile of a DART rail station, and 51 percent of the jobs belong to people from nonmember cities. Those factors help explain why DART has been able to increase ridership only by building stations, instead of attracting more riders to the ones it has. DART now operates 54 stations and in April provided rides for an average of 33, passengers per weekday. An analysis of station-to-station data dating to reveals just how slow North Texans have been to adopt mass transit. Trains there were providing 1, trips daily to about passengers.

Fourteen years later, the station provided 1, trips in April Plesko said the region must find a way to pass on some of the cost of transit to nonmember cities. But in the short term, Leininger told board members, the agency will need to raise fares again in We raise the fares, and the ridership goes down. I think we need to be in the business of increasing ridership. COST Commentary: As described below, the high debt and deficits and generally poor condition of the US Federal Budget requires extraordinary diligence to reduce expenditures to the absolute minimum until sound financial conditions are achieved.

As part of this effort, Federal transit funding will very likely be slashed in the Federal transportation budgets for several years. Since future Federal transit funding will likely be less than one-half of pre-recession levels and there are already major requests for existing planned and ongoing rail projects, it is not probable that Austin will receive substantial funding for its urban light rail. Spending local tax dollars, up-front, for rail, in hopes of future federal dollars, would expose local taxpayers to a major gamble and high probability of huge losses and higher taxes.

In addition to the probable lack of federal funding, Austin has not identified viable local funding sources for an urban light rail which would cost billions of dollars to implement and tens of millions of dollars per year to operate. Tax Increment Financing TIF has also been mentioned, but, Austin city studies and experience in other cities have shown that TIF financing is not viable as the train does not provide significant net increases to tax revenues.

Partnerships with Lone Star Rail and Cap Metro have also been mentioned, but, these organizations do not have sources of income sufficient to support their own mission needs and it will be many years before they do, if ever.

How bad is traffic congestion for the economy?

A viable plan implies a sustainable plan. To be sustainable, the urban light rail must be cost effective. This cost effectiveness has not been established and considered by the City Council. There is a wealth of experience and facts throughout much of the nation and in Austin to indicate this urban light rail system will not be cost effective and sustainable. Secondly, there is no foundation in experience which would indicate this urban light rail can be effective in addressing the congestion and air quality issues described by the city as the justification for the urban light rail.

This would circle back to provide decreased support for Federal funding even if federal funding was potentially available. With, perhaps, insurmountable funding obstacles and the lack of analyses and experience models to support the effectiveness of the proposed urban light rail system, why is the City of Austin spending millions of dollars to continue to plan such a system? Austin has almost blindly pursued light rail as a predetermined solution to a very ill-defined problem.

The City has not properly defined the issues being addressed and has not conducted the appropriate alternatives analyses to determine the most effective solutions. COST suggests it would be more prudent to take this one step at a time and have a firm foundation plan for funding effective solutions prior to wastefully spending millions of taxpayer dollars, particularly in these stressful financial times for citizens and the City.

What will be the consequences? The practical implications of this policy for the federal-aid transportation program are unambiguous: federal spending in FY and beyond will be limited to tax receipts flowing into the Highway Trust Fund. Over the next ten years, CBO estimates these revenues will grow at an average rate of a little more than one percent per year, largely reflecting expected growth in motor fuel consumption.

Limiting future spending to tax revenues flowing into the Highway Trust Fund will cause a significant drop from the current funding level. The stimulus almost doubled the annual amount of funding available for transportation, making baseline comparisons misleading. A more accurate measure would be to compare the expected FY funding with pre-stimulus funding levels.

Such reduction, while not insignificant, would not be catastrophic.

Traffic Congestion - UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies

The cut in spending could be absorbed by streamlining and narrowing the scope of the federal-aid program. Proposals for major infrastructure funding such as envisioned through an Infrastructure Bank would have to be dropped. James Inhofe calls them, will have to be handed off to state and local governments. Will states and local governments be willing and able to pick up the slack? Some will, others may not. In fact, voters approved 77 percent of local transportation ballot measures in , according to the Center for Transportation Excellence.

While the above prospect may sound alarming when set against the current inflated spending levels distorted by the stimulus spike, many fiscal conservatives view it as an opportunity to return the federal-aid program to its original roots. The rest is provided by state and local governments. What about major new infrastructure investments? Undoubtedly, they will be necessary in the long run because of the need to replace aging facilities and to accommodate future growth in population. But major capital expenditures can be, and will need to be deferred for a few years —until after the recession has ended, the economy has started growing again and the federal budget deficit has been reined in.

For now, prudence, good judgment and the compelling need to rein in the budget deficit, dictate that government should live within its means. And that means spending no more than what we pay into the Trust Fund. Second is an article by Wendell Cox about an editorial published in the Baltimore Sun regarding the need for greater investment in train transit in the Baltimore area. Both articles are from but are essentially current in their messages. The wide gap between facts and perceptions in the opposite positions reflected in these two articles are costing US society billions of dollars in wasteful spending of taxpayer transportation funds which could be redirected to transportation solutions which would improve mobility and quality of life for all citizens.

While all citizens suffer from this wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars, it disproportionately degrades the quality of life for low income citizens by reducing their mobility and access to opportunity while increasing their costs.


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As in the two articles below, the citizens of the Austin area face the daily conflict regarding train transit here is Austin. After light rail transit was rejected for many years by Austin voters, Capital Metro deceived many voters with false promises of a low cost, effective commuter rail in Thankfully, they are technically bankrupt and cannot do much greater harm in the near future. In fact, it will likely increase downtown congestion and create major safety hazards.

Since the City of Austin has no viable plan for funding the proposed downtown light rail train, it could only be implemented with major tax increases for all citizens to highly subsidize the few riders, just as Cap Metro is experiencing with the Red Line. Brookings Scholar on Rail Transit in America. Rail transit projects in most U. Many taxpayer advocates argue against them, contending that they produce very small benefits in exchange for very large taxpayer costs. It appears in the Journal of Urban Economics. The purpose of the paper is to estimate the contribution of U.

The authors define the net benefit of a rail transit system as the difference between its benefits, broadly measured, and its net cost to taxpayers. That means their net taxpayer subsidy is large, given the high capital costs of rail. Most of these are relatively new light rail systems. Next, the authors compare the consumer surplus of each system with its net taxpayer cost.

But what about larger benefits to the metro area? Rail systems are advocated not just to benefit their riders, but because they are expected to reduce traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, save energy, etc. They first conclude that the only one of these purported benefits large enough to make any difference is congestion relief.

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They do quantify the congestion reductions, which are significant because the rail systems attract riders during rush hours, when marginal reductions in cars on the road can make a meaningful difference in the level of congestion. Adding the congestion savings to road users to the consumer surplus gives the total benefits of rail transit. All 23 other U. The net social cost of some of these systems is as follows:.

Winston and Maheshri anticipate that some rail advocates will protest that these systems offer other benefits that are not accounted for in their calculations. For example, rail stimulates some development around rail stations. And there is also the claim that rail systems increase the mobility of low-income residents. Transit Envy at the Baltimore Sun. A Baltimore Sun editorial maws on about transit, transit elections and reducing traffic congestion.

What the Sun misses is that transit and traffic congestion are completely different subjects. No level of transit investment, anywhere in the world, has materially reduced traffic congestion. A November 29, editorial in the Baltimore Sun illustrates the typical populist, and wrong, romanticism about mass transit. The reality is that transit cannot reduce traffic congestion.

The reality is that, at whatever level of investment, transit has not attracted sufficient numbers of drivers to materially reduce the share of urban travel by automobile. A look less than 40 miles south of Baltimore proves the point. Altogether, the miles of Metro built in Washington equal the total built in all of the other US urban areas. Yet what about traffic? Over the past 20 years, traffic congestion has nearly tripled, despite the miles and millions of Metro.

However, things are much different than the Sun perceives across the mountains. It would take a miracle of massive proportions to get transit up to a 0.


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That, however, does not keep transit officials from promising the impossible in their pursuit of more money in elections. In the private sector, such behavior is subject to truth in advertising laws. In transit, it gains accolades. Why is it that transit cannot reduce traffic congestion? It is simply that transit best serves the historical 19th century core of urban areas. For example, nearly 40 percent of downtown Washington commuters use transit for the work trip. More than 80 percent of the destinations are outside downtown and outside the ability of transit to compete.

This is why the large majority of travel in all American and Western European urban areas is by car and why there is no hope for this to be reversed. It is, as noted above, so hopeless that not even the planners can concoct a vision in which car travel would be reduced. At the same time, the mindless preoccupation with transit and its futility outside the urban core is accompanied by a misunderstanding of the role that the automobile has and will continue to play.

Research indicates that the superior mobility of the automobile is one of the reasons that affluence has spread so widely in American and Western European urban areas. There is a simple reason. It cannot. Any genuinely interested in solving the transportation problems of the modern urban area will do well to discard the rhetoric and look at the reality.

Today, excluding NY City, more people work at home than commute to work by public transit which has a a small but much greater impact in reducing roadway congestion. This decline in the use of public transit is reflected in the fact that Austin, other major cities is Texas and many cities throughout the nation reflect transit ridership which is less than it was a dozen years ago. In Seattle and Denver, total transit share is less than 2.

Meanwhile, the costs of public transit have increased much faster than inflation and the nation has spent hundreds of billions of tax dollars, increasing transit rider subsidies, to promote and increase transit ridership. These ineffective, wasteful expenditures have drained funds from transportation programs which could serve the majority of citizens in improving their mobility and quality of life. This is a full one quarter less than the 5. Further, the NHTS data does not include people who work at home.

If the work at home share of employment from the American Community Survey is assumed, the transit work trip market share would be 3. Much of the difference is due the differing questions asked in the two surveys. In contrast, the daily trip diaries report that commuters who drive alone are a larger share of the market than those who indicate driving alone as their usual mode of travel.

The daily trip diaries from the NHTS also a large difference in travel times between automobile commuters including car pools and transit. The average automobile commute time was Cost Commentary: The article below is about the California Bullet high speed train. Both will cost much more as every rail system does. The common points are:. Each is addressing an ill-defined problem with an ineffective solution. California does not have a significant problem in transportation from city to city.

Austin does not have a significant problem in moving those who wish to ride public transit into the city. California cities and Austin all have an issue to improve the mobility of those traveling within the city, primarily on the roadways. Neither California nor Austin have a valid plan which will finance the implementation or operation of the trains.

If implemented, each train will require huge tax increases to fund them or reduced basic services such as police, fire, emergency, library, etc. That segment, the LAO noted, has no chance of operating without a huge public subsidy, yet the terms of the voter-approved Proposition 1A, explicitly prohibit any operating subsidies. These concerns were echoed by an eight-member Independent Peer Review Group.

The two reports unleashed a torrent of criticism from the press. But in a remarkable exercise of inflexibility and delusion, the U. Department of Transportation turned a deaf ear to the request. Note: the NewsBriefs can also be accessed at www. Wendell critiques a recent Brookings Institution report which has produced good information but leaves a lot to be desired in some of their assumptions and interpretations of the their own data.

This indicates a major shortcoming in Cap Metro planning and operations for effective transit routes.

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While this is better than the national average, it appears to be very wrong: just ask riders. The work commute is, by far, the number one priority of transit and the greatest use of public transit. The reading of this article by Wendell Cox and most of the information in the links within this article will provide a wealth of information regarding this overall subject. The report, entitled Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America , provides estimates of the percentage of jobs that can be accessed by transit in 45, 60 or 90 minutes, one-way, by residents of the largest US metropolitan areas.

Among the 29 metropolitan areas with more than 2,, population, the 45 minute job access average was 5. Brookings did not examine a 30 minute transit work trip time. However, a bit of triangulation Note 1 suggests that the 30 minute access figure would be in the range of 3 to 4 percent, at most about 4,, jobs out of the more than million in these metropolitan areas. At least 96 percent of jobs in the largest metropolitan areas would be inaccessible by transit in 30 minutes for the average resident Figure 2. The Brookings report also indicates that indicates that 13 percent of employment is accessible within 60 minutes by transit and 30 percent within 90 minutes Note 2.

Brookings focuses principally on the 90 minutes job accessibility data. However, the reality is that few people desire a 45 minute commute, much less one of 90 minutes. In , in fact, the median one way work trip travel time in the United States was 21 minutes Note 3. Approximately 68 percent of non-transit commuters principally driving alone, but also car pools, working at home, walking, bicycles, taxicabs and other modes were able to reach work in less than 30 minutes.

A mode of transport incapable of accessing 96 percent of jobs within a normal commute period simply does not meet the needs of most people. This makes somewhat dubious claims that transit can materially reduce congestion or congestion costs throughout metropolitan areas. The Brookings estimates simply confirm the reality that has been evident in US Census Bureau and US Department of Transportation surveys for decades: that transit is generally not time-competitive with the automobile.

It is no wonder that the vast majority of commuters in the United States and even in Europe travel to work by car. Meanwhile, core areas, including downtown areas, represent a decreasing share of the employment market as employment dispersion has continued. Louis , saw suburban areas gain employment share.

Even in the city of New York, outer borough residents are commuting more to places other than the Manhattan central business district link to chart. In , 35 percent of transit commuters had work trips of more than 60 minutes. Only six percent of drivers had one way commutes of more than 60 minutes. For all of the media obsession about long commutes, more than twice as many drivers got to work in less than 10 minutes than the number who took more than an hour.

Citations per year

In the case of transit, more than 25 times as many commuters took more than 60 minutes to get to work as those who took less than 10 minutes. Economists Peter Gordon and Harry W. Richardson have shown that the continuing dispersion of jobs along with residences has kept traffic congestion under control in the United States. Available data indicates that work trips in the United States generally take less time than in similar sized urban areas in Europe , Japan , Canada and Australia.

Transit Access is Better for Low Income Citizens: The Brookings report also indicated that job accessibility was better for low income citizens than for the populace in general. Approximately 36 percent of jobs were accessible to low-income residents in 90 minutes, compared to the overall average of 30 minutes. This, of course, is because low income citizens are more concentrated in the central areas of metropolitan areas where transit service is better.

But even this may be changing. Nikole Hannah Jones of The Oregonian noted:. Realistic Expectations: More money cannot significantly increase transit access to jobs. Since , transit spending inflation adjusted has risen five times as fast as transit ridership. Approximately half or more of commuters to these downtowns travel there by transit and they account for nearly 40 percent of all transit commuters in the 50 largest urban areas.

Yet for 90 percent of employment outside downtown areas, transit is generally not the answer, and it cannot be made to be for any conceivable amount of money. If it were otherwise, comprehensive visions would already have been advanced to make transit competitive with cars across most of, not just a small part of metropolitan areas. All of this is particularly important in light of the connection between economic growth and minimizing the time required to travel to jobs throughout the metropolitan area. The new transit job access is important information for a Congress, elected officials, and a political system seeking ways out of an unprecedented fiscal crisis.

A four percent solution may solve 4 percent of the problem, but is incapable of solving the much larger 96 percent. Notes: 1. For example at difference between transit commuters reaching work in less than 30 minutes and 45 minutes, Brookings employment access estimate of 7 percent at 45 minutes would become 3 percent at 30 minutes. Brookings, ACS includes the time spent walking to transit in work trip travel times For example, the ACS questionnaire asks respondents how long it takes to get from home to work and thus includes the time necessary to walk to transit. Median travel times are estimated from American Community Survey data for and includes working at home.

It is generally assumed that transit service is better in larger metropolitan areas than in smaller metropolitan areas. Yet, the Brookings data seems to indicate the opposite. Larger metropolitan areas tended to have less job access by transit than smaller metropolitan areas. In the largest 20 percent quintile of metropolitan areas, only 5. This was the smallest quintile accessibility score, and well below the middle quintile at 9. The top quintile included metropolitan areas with 2. This stronger showing by smaller metropolitan areas probably occurs because it is far less expensive for transit to serve a smaller area.

Further, smaller metropolitan areas can have more concentration in core employment. Even so, smaller metropolitan areas tend to have considerably smaller transit market shares than larger metropolitan areas. Portland Going Nowhere: Austin must heed this transit failure story. Dear Mayor: I did not receive a single response from council members regarding my previous communications about Austin transportation.