Transit Choices are more than Points A &, _ thru Z

Mobility is obviously needed to reach destinations. Star Trek transporter technology is not here & should be left on the fiction scrap heap. The dream of public transit, meeting all needs, for each person, is almost as far-fetched. The depiction at the right, shows absurdity, in driving a car. Yet people often claim that it’s too bad, that a car is needed for most residential places. One of the absurdities about that, is the fact that the area surroundings are known, before the choice is made, to make a home. How do you choose which transport method? Walking is only good for short distances, and that includes from transit stations, which is often neglected in promoting transit—the facts that wherever you need to go, needs to be near a station, preferably less than about 1,000’ (2-3 blocks), at times, up to double that, a little over 1/3 of a mile. Sure, cars are great, but mostly expensive. Why do people choose their mode?

A century ago, transit was used a lot more. In fact, beyond walking & horses, transit was the only other option, for land. Since mass car production, made possible by capitalism & Henry Ford, most people have chosen not to use transit, thus declining ridership. Also, moving away from dense cities. Larger yards, newer cities, more nature & many other advantages, were other reasons. There have been many benefits with that greatly increased mobility. The map shows US Highways & Interstates. People often forget, or are just unaware, that there were many highways before the Interstate System, and even high-speed limited access roads too. Those can go by 2 names: freeways & expressways, but those meanings are not uniform. The claim is made that freeways changed behavior towards driving. There is some truth to that, but not as implied. That can be long discussion, but people choose per their wants, in proving benefit. In having fewer freeway lanes, that does not change the want & convenience factor, as evidence by other nations & choices pre-1950s in the US.

It offers better options for faster driving.
If you want widespread transit, you cannot choose anywhere. Nationally, look at the ~75,000 sq.mi. of urbanization. Within all of the UAs, maybe 1/5 of the area has a stop within a 1/3 mile. It would be ridiculous to have transit for all major roads in areas down to, say, 2,000 ppl./sq/mi. Costs will be exorbitant and energy/passenger-mile will be much more than cars. Only a few major cities have major transit options. For cities above 100,000, there are only 8 for which there are more than 1/3 of households being car-less, and there are only 33, with <20% having no cars. Most of those cities are in 6 urban areas, with the 5 cores having densities above 8,500/sq.mi., and then the remaining, being suburbs. The Seattle & LA areas have a few suburbs with low car use.
The chart of US cities show the driving amount.

Most people choose cars, and being able to walk to many places, from most places is very implausible. Most of the people in the rest of the world likes cars better too, but have less income and have higher densities. Comparisons are often made to European cities. The chart show the various modes. Several factors account for higher transit use. The main item is overall lower country density, which leads to denser cities, but there are other factors for denser cities. Tradition, older age, less income are other major factors for denser cities. Government policy is a big factor too, in restricting personal choice for yards & car use, including the push to continue compactness. For the newer age of US cities & lower country density, there is also the frontier factor, in that the population only started moving west, a little over a century ago, and mostly after WWII & the invention of air conditioning.

France is seen as great for HSR, but that’s not for regular, daily travel. In addition to the US not having the city density & layout as France, there is less need here to travel between urban areas. France also has a larger amount of visitors. France has travel mode composition, not much different from the US. Local transit routes are used less too. Besides having lower incomes, the cost of car ownership is also higher than in the US. They are also lazier & more dependent on others in there big welfare state.

In using transit, people should realize: the choice of a home, work and destinations is severely limited, even for high density, above 8-10,000. The medium dense areas, often have very limited transit. To offer more routes, the questions are: money, riders per unit, & energy per passenger? The more that transit is expanded, the lower ridership [per unit] and thus higher energy [per passenger-mile]. The cost per rider goes up too. Sometimes it is imagined that there is a phantom breaking point in meeting higher expectations of high ridership. That is not seen. Even Japan, with its high level of riders, has not met costs.

For each mode, who should pay cost? to be fuller user-funded, transit needs to triple ticket prices, and roads need about another $0.50/gallon. It cannot be expected to have much of a public transit option for many areas. How can so many people avoid the fact that high density, over a large area is needed for transit? Even in the Bay Area, with its high level of transit, there are many limitations, once you get below a density of ~8,000/sq.mi. BART and Caltrain hubs only offer so much. Nation-wide, the Bay Area has about 3rd to 6th most widespread transit system. Rank can vary, depending on what variables for measurement are used. The top 6 are: NYC, Chicago, SF, DC, Boston & Philly. So, if you want transit, often, then live in one those dense core cities. Transit there is still heavily subsidized. Why should general taxes pay for <4% of users? Once you get “near” your destination, you still need transportation. A car surely helps out with that.


About Randall
A contrarian, not for conflict, but because many decisions are made, without considering the full impact & consequences.

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