Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Transit demands will increase. First fix what's broken. Not High-Speed Rail.

Given global circumstances at this time, higher oil and therefore higher gasoline prices are certainly likely.  And, while I have little confidence in the mathematical modelling that produced the public transit number projections -- since these come from the American Public Transportation Association after all  -- the trend is doubtlessly correct. Higher fuel prices translate into greater public transit demand.

What does that mean?  It means not wasting resources building more inter-city rail, particularly high-speed rail, but repairing our urban and regional public mass transit systems that operate where most people live and work, and optimizing their cost/effectiveness.  

That, in turn, means restructuring them for greater parsimonious management efficiency. It means planning for and implementing their repair, maintenance and upgrading, both in carrying capacity and in safety. 

Those are, in my mind, high priority, justifiable federal investments that we can be confident about making.  In short, based on this article, we must first fix what's broken in our transit capacity before venturing out on highly questionable, least cost-effective and unnecessary transportation modes, such as inter-city high-speed rail.

Soaring gas prices could spur up to 1.5 billion trips on public transportation, APTA says

On Monday, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released a study predicting that if gasoline prices soar to $5 per gallon, an additional 1.5 billion rider trips would be generated on the nation’s public transportation systems. That increase would result in a total of 11.6 billion trips on public transportation annually.

If, or when, gasoline prices reach $4 per gallon, an additional 670 million rider trips would be registered, for a total of 10.8 billion trips per year, the study found. At $6 per gallon, an additional 2.7 billion rider trips would be taken, pushing up annual ridership to more than 12.9 billion trips.

APTA released the study in part to encourage Congress to provide greater long-term investment in public transportation. 

"The volatility of the price at the pump is another wake-up call for our nation to address the increasing demand for public transportation services," APTA President William Millar said in a prepared statement. "We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases stranded without travel options."

Many public transit systems already have experienced ridership increases as gas prices have risen, APTA officials noted. Take February ridership totals for example: the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority reported a 10.6 percent increase in ridership; the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s ridership rose 10 percent; and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority of Oakland, Calif., saw its ridership soar 14 percent, APTA said.