Transportation headlines, Thursday, December 1

Here is a look at some of the transportation headlines gathered by us and the Metro Library. The full list of headlines is posted on the library’s blog.

How federal funding fails to match demand for transit in the U.S. (DC Streetsblog)

Streetsblog’s Washington bureau points us to a handy compendium of the nation’s transit projects complied by advocacy group Reconnecting America. The group found, unsurprisingly, “strong demand for transit projects around the country but a dearth of federal support for such projects,” reports Tanya Snyder. In fact, the organization deduced that just those projects in the that are “late stages of engineering and construction alone would ‘connect 3.5 million more jobs to transit [nationwide], an increase of 25 percent.’” I’ve got to think a good chunk of those jobs are along the Westside Subway corridor, right? Here’s the direct link to Reconnecting America’s list, which prominently features forty-some transit projects throughout the Southern California region.

L.A. rolls out clean bus fleet (L.A. Times)

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation – which operates the Commuter Express bus service – has begun to roll out 95 new compressed natural gas buses, reports the Times’ Ari Bloomekatz. The new fleet will replace some buses that are apparently older than I am, including one that’s logged 1.2 million miles – enough to travel to New York and back almost 200 times. New features like reclining seats and triple bike racks should help keep loyal riders and attract new ones.

Amtrak: Record breaking thanksgiving ridership (Railroad.net)

We’re always hearing about how busy Thanksgiving air travel is, so it’s nice to see that Amtrak is seeing ridership gains as well. The national railway saw an 2.2% ridership increase over last year’s Thanksgiving week, requiring the agency to put every train in its fleet into service.

California lawmakers say goodbye to their state-purchased cars (Sacramento Bee)

State lawmakers auto perks have come to an end after several decades, a casualty of the state budget crunch. However, the Bee notes that if legislators simply shift to the typical $.55 cents-per-mile reimbursement rate for state employees on work-related trips, the benefits might actually cost taxpayers more.

2 replies

  1. While federal funds are necessary to keep up with the rising demand of public transit, the agencies themselves also need to start finding ways to move away from being too dependent on taxpayers to keep their agencies running.

    In that light, there are many ways public transit agencies in the US can learn from their Asian counterparts where they are truly a “mass transit system.” Taxes cover a fewer percentage to keep their transit system running because of higher farebox ratios, logical distance fare systems, data collection to maximize efficiency of schedules and frequencies, and other alternative sources of income such as rental income from businesses and retailers operating directly at rail stations.

    In contrast, public transit in the US is still perceived on all levels as a “poor people’s transit system” where the solution is just to tax people more.

    As an example, the solution to the problem of “we need more bus frequencies” in the US is always “tax the people more to buy more buses.”

    In contrast, in Asia, the answer is “let’s first create a data collection scheme to analyze the most efficient way to maximize higher frequencies on the routes and time of day that’s most warranted” and they start collecting data via a tap-in/tap-out system on buses.

    In another example, the solution to the problem of “we are deeply in the red and we lack funds to keep public transit running next year” in the US is “raise fares for everybody” or “tax the people more.”

    In contrast, the Asian solution is “raising fares for everyone is not fair because everyone has different needs to get where they are going; some people travel farther than others. Furthermore, raising fares for everyone may have the opposite effect of decreasing ridership because short distance riders may seek alternative ways to get around town, which defeats the purpose of sustaining and increasing number of riders to keep our transit system running. Let’s move to a distance based system instead.”

    Unless both the public and the agencies themselves stop taking the easiest way out by “just tax everyone more” and actually start making decisions like their Asian counterparts, public transit in the US will forever be a “poor people’s transit system” that’s forever dependent on tax dollars.

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  2. Congrats to Amtrak for a successful Thanksgiving weekend.

    I just wish partisan bickering over the transportation bill would end and our federal government would take charge to rebuild/improve our intercity rail network which desperately needs it.

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