By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
In a country where the car rules, what do people think about public transit?
The United States is the land of the car. It spent billions to bailout big auto companies. It builds cities with wide streets and highways running through downtowns. It builds suburbs where the only way to get anywhere is by automobile.
But does that mean Americans aren't interested in alternative transportation options?
The Natural Resources Defense Council has an interesting new survey with some unexpected results for a country that's stuck in drive.
In general, Americans have a fondness for transit. Here are some of the findings:
Thoughts on transit
- 58 percent would like to use public transportation more often, but it is not convenient or available from their home or work
- 64 percent say their community would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, such as rail and buses
- 68 percent support more local investment in improvements to public transportation (including 63 percent of those who do not use transit), with 39 percent supporting it “strongly”
Thoughts on driving
- 55 percent prefer to drive less, but 74 percent say they have no choice
- 56 percent cite a preference to driving as the reason for not taking public transit, 43 percent say that it's because transit stops are too far from home
Thoughts on U.S. transportation infrastructure
- 59 percent feel the transportation system is “outdated, unreliable and inefficient”
- 63 percent (more than three in five Americans) would rather address traffic by improving public transportation (42 percent) or developing communities where people do not have to drive as much (21 percent) – as opposed to building new roads, an approach preferred by only one in five Americans (20 percent)
- 67 percent favor setting new standards for local planning that guide new development into existing cities and/or near public transportation
And when it comes to the best strategies for reducing transit, it's not just people from big cities who think public transit is the best option:
Another fascinating statistic the survey brought to light is the misinformation about how much their state spends on public transit. The average estimate was about 16 percent of the total transportation budget. In reality, the average amount allocated for public transit in state and federal transportation budgets over the past three years was around 6.5 percent. Those surveyed think spending for public transit should be around 28 percent.
The bipartisan poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (which traditionally conducts Republican polling) and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (which typically focuses on polling for Democratics) and surveyed 800 people.
Photo: Flickr/Visualist Images
Sep 13, 2012
Most transit systems will never be near your house or near your place of work. It involves multi modal transfers which also means a waste of time and also travelling in overcrowded trains or buses that too after paying a hefty fare after having waited for more time than the duration of the journey. What is needed is a Network Transport System wherein all areas are covered by Special Purpose Vehicle which is designed for individual mobility and also mass transit. This is a low cost option. The authorities have to go beyond conventional thinking and give the people what they want rather than give the people what the manufacturers want to sell, cars, buses, trains & petrol.
Interesting that you picture Austin's Metro Rail. I use the Metro Rail occasionally. It costs a dollar for me to go the 12 miles to the downtown convention center, but not on Sundays or on Saturday mornings... when the shows are at the convention center. My wife works close by, so when I join her after dinner or at lunch, I'll use the train. We also used it for a couple of downtown dates on a Friday or Saturday night. That being said, Metro Rail is a total Boondoggle. They said they could have the system built by 2008 for a cost of $60 million. By 2010 they spent $105 million on the system's construction, before any passengers were ever carried. The annual cost to operation the line is $14.3 million. Ridership figures are hard to pin down. SXSW and ACL Fest boost numbers for their events, but at SXSW, one train every 35 minutes leaves people stranded at the station, becuase the train is full and you can't get on. During a normal week, they say they get 1,600 people a day. I know this is bogus; there are 18 trains a day, and each train seats 108 people, and only the monring/evening rush hours are full; the off hour and return trip trains are mostly empty. The reality is that they're counting trips, not people, so if I go downtown and back, they count me as two people. So, here we have yet another system where the government taxes a million people in the greater Austin area (MetroRail uses sales taxes and property taxes for funding) to benefit a couple of thousand. At $1 a trip, it's much cheaper and easier for me to ride the train downtown that to drive. I always buy a ticket. Despite having made several dozen trips, I've never been asked to show a ticket yet. It's a total Boondoggle and a waste of taxpayer's money. However, the progressives that pushed this thing on us know that. Their solution? A bigger better train, that goes more places and carries more people. Yeah, right. I have some Arizona oceanfront property I want to sell you.
We live in the suburb of Atlanta. Starting 6:00 AM to almost 10:00 AM it takes three times as log to travel 12 miles to work. Time and again there have been attempts by seriously interested people to get mass transit. Unfortunately this was always stuck down by "special interest groups." When gas is near $4.00 per gallon, it makes sense to have some form of mass transit. To make matters worse, they allocated almost 12 miles of HOV lanes as HOT lanes. This was truly a harebrained idea. During rush hours, one will see cars with several people sitting in the regular lanes as they do not believe in paying this "highway robbery." We are already paying a fair share of amount for the highway funds. Hmmmm I wonder if one of the elected official has his "back covered".... During the past 10 years we have not had a single head of state who is truly a visionary or an honest person.(case and point: the new "International terminal" built at a cost of BILLIONS of dollars does not have the extended MARTA service. To make matters worse, all the "help" available is "appointed" by the mayor!!! They are either his relatives or cronies who paid for his election).
More often than not, people are just responding with the popular or politically correct answer. Usually when they say they want "more transit options", they mean more for the people in the car in front of them.
The answer to all this isn't more heavy iron public transit, high speed or not, although some of that will be necessary for really densely populated areas and to connect small and large localities that are more than say 15-20 miles apart. Even then the heavy iron is more for heavy cargo, and human transport is a side benefit. The answer is a revolution in personal transport that is reliable and cheap, something more akin to new and improved e-bicycle technology than automobiles as we have known them and watched them grow into overpowered, overspeedy monsters. I live in Chicago, a city with good to excellent public transit. While it's great for commuting and going to school, if you live within walking distance of both ends of the transit, it's often not worth a damned for other of life's necessary transport. If I don't have personal transport, I'm tied down to the system, what's near the system, and no American wants that. If I walk or take a bus or train for life's most frequent necessities like food, clothing, external entertainment, visiting friends, I am constrained to those few establishments that I can make in one public transit trip, No one but an idiot would use public transit to go to 5 or 6 stores for the best deals, because it would take all day. I think I need a car, so that I'm not tied to public transit routes and schedules. I don't need a car and don't have one anymore. I ride an electrified adult tricycle year round and get where I need to go on average as fast as a car, carrying almost anything I need, while moving myself and 125 lbs. of steel, rubber, plastic and batteries at 1/20th the cost in $$$, carbon and Infrastructure than moving myself and ton or two of resources. It's not all I want it to be yet, but I'm working on that, and soon many more will be because..., it doesn't demand a whole new infrastructure in transport and habitat, mostly repurposing, and can be accomplished in months and years, not decades. I take climate change very seriously. Every projection I've seen says that mitigating climate change to an adaptable problem demands that we remove or sequester 90% of our current carbon output by mid century. Very light and somewhat slower e-vehicles fits the bill for 90% of people transport to a tee, and greatly expanded mass transit doesn't, even if we'd be able to afford it while big infrastructure projects like smart grids and some large scale renewable energy is much more long term important. It's about time we started looking at what we can realistically do in a contracting economy forever cut off from cheap energy, and not at what we'd like to do to keep up with the 50's and 60's, which is patently impossible. Of course most folks don't know that yet, because their leaders refuse to tell them. More's the pity. If this tinkles a little bell with anyone, you can see how I get around in an urban setting here: www.etrikebikes.com Watch the video at the top called "E-bike Shopping in Winter." It's not home video because I've been a TV producer all my working life.
Not In My BackYard is the enemy of all progress. Everyone says, "I want better public transport, but NIMBY."
A classic example is the new multimillion dollar train station in my home town. They were wise enough to put a parking garage attached to it with nice high ceilings and a bus station on the ground level. 10 years later less than half of the bus routes in that side of the city pass through the train station. Only 2 bus routes from the other side of the river go to the train station. So this big beautiful bus station is hardly used, but the taxi stand outside is jammed every morning with people being dropped off and just as busy at night when the Boston bound commuters come home. A recent survey of the taxi riders indicated most lived close enough to bus routes to use them if only the buses went to the train station. Better bus routes would make it easier for the people using the trains now and would make the train more appealing to people who might use it if not for the hassle to get there.
...for public transit until public transit becomes competitive in terms of convenience, personal safety, and cost. Long and unpredictable wait times, inconvenient nodes, multiple transfers, and uncomfortable environments are deal killers. Instead of tackling those challenges, most public transit systems end up catering to those who have no alternatives and low expectations. Until transit planners change their view, little will change.
"I've never been asked to show a ticket yet." Scammers working for Bostons MBTA ticket contractor Cubic made and sold over 20,000 fake Charlie Card passes that cost the MBTA at least $5 million in lost fare revenue. http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/2011_0520ag_scammers_fake_passes_cost_t_5m/ The MBTA spent $75 million just 5 years ago to update its fare collection system. By all accounts it has been a failure. In 2009 alone the MBTA spent over $600,000 replace failed equipment. They refuse to disclose replacement costs since then. And they claim they do not even track how often equipment fails or why. An audit of fare collections due this summer has yet to be released.
...it was announced that Metro Atlanta will be getting more HOT lanes, whether people like them or not. DOT says they need them to raise money for road projects. I guess it's supposed to be punishment for not voting for the multi-billion-dollar sales tax-funded transportation initiative boondoggle last month; already built-and-paid for lanes to be converted to a revenue generating for the state bureaucracy. And then they wonder why the Tea Party is so popular.
There hasn't been a "visionary" re transit in Atlanta for at least, well, ever, with the possible exception of MARTA. (And MARTA was botched by the politicians and cronies from the start) And now it's mostly too late. The HOT lanes were a scam; robbed HOV users of a lane and did not add any extra capacity. They should be reverted to HOV, and those responsible tarred and feathered.
NIMBY - The snotty rich folks of Dallas howled about possibility of noise until the electric train was put in an underground tunnel through their little enclave, yet it runs above ground in all other parts of the city. But in the end, no one cares about their opinions or if the train is underground or above; there is a much worse problem with it. The biggest problem in Dallas TX is the size of the DFW area and the very bad planning of the bus and train system. I drive 35 miles each way for work. There is a train station near me at home, but no train or bus within many miles of my work place. At a previous work location, there was a way to get on the train and take a bus, making a couple transfers, but the time to get to or from work was 40 minutes by car and 2.5 hours by puiblic transport. That is the main problem in Dallas TX area, the outlandish amount of time it takes to go 20 miles on the inefficient public transport. And they charge $6 for that.
Undoubtedly the taxi drivers are behind this situation. They've got some sort of tit-for-tat going with the bus drivers' union. (Hah! Funny. Filter thinks my colloquialism is naughty. It has a dirty mind.)
...as rumor has it that Atlanta MARTA's general manager is heading your way to fix the MBTA. Good luck with that. Years ago, they replaced MARTA's token-based system with "smart cards", and the system has never worked reliably since. Instead of buying tokens from machines at the station, you now "fill" smart cards. The idea is to move to a cashless system. The problem is that the machines are frequently unable to take cash, credit or debit cards. At most stations, at least 1 or 2 are off-line at a time. Just a few weeks ago, they were unable to process credit cards for a week. So if you show up without cash, I guess you're screwed.
Same in Denver..20 mile one-way commute by car or motorcycle is 30 minutes, by RTD Bus and/or plus FasTracks train - 2hrs 45 minutes and 6 bucks. Time spent is insane and the added hitch is the train is so expensive to build/operate you are paying 5 bucks for an actual 15.00 cost. Fascinating logic.