What's happening at other transit agencies?

Caen's tram is getting a revamp. Rails are in; rubber tires are out. Photo by flickr user michallon.

This weekly post features news from other transit agencies and planners from around the world. Did we miss a good story? Let us know in the comments.

Detroit abandons light rail dreams, plans BRT routes

In past editions of this series we’ve looked at the woes of public transit in Detroit: poor service, routes that don’t connect and buses that never show up. The latest in the saga is the decision to scrap plans for a nine-mile rail line in favor of a more wide-reaching system of BRT lines, reports DC Streetsblog. Details on the BRT system are still emerging, but it seems that it would provide improved public transit service to much more of the region, linking downtown Detroit to sprawling suburban job centers. Some advocates and boosters had hoped that the rail line would yield more development in the city center. But, as the Transport Politic notes in the rail line’s postmortem, “no rail project, no matter how nice, can singlehandedly reverse the systematic decline of a once-huge city.” Given the magnitude of Detroit’s transit problems, swapping a nine-mile light rail line for 80-plus miles of BRT seems like the smart move to this transit writer.

Caen (France) to switch to light rail
On the flip side of the coin is the French city of Caen (pop. 110,000), which is undertaking plans to convert its rubber-tire busway to a steel-wheel tram, reports the Railway Gazette. The city’s transit agency expects that the switch — prompted by reliability issues with the current guidance system — will take 18 months and cost roughly $220 million. Interestingly enough, the current 10-mile busway is powered by an overhead electrical wire like many rail lines, which is the first time I can recall seeing such a mix of technologies (commenters, do you know of any others?).

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board votes to award $772m for BART to Silicon Valley project

The extension of BART’s steel and concrete fingers to San Jose via the East Bay is one step closer to reality thanks to an infusion of $772 million dollars from the Silicon Valley transit operator and planner, VTA. Those funds come primarily from local sales tax measures, much like L.A. County’s Measure R. The agency is seeking an additional $900 million through the federal New Starts program — the primary federal mechanism for funding major public transit projects — for the 10-mile first phase to the north end of San Jose. If everything goes accordingly to plan, construction could start as soon as next year and finish by 2017, reportsKTVU.com.

Toronto transit agency considering fare hikes, service cuts in the face of revenue shortfalls

The Globe and Mail bears the bad news: the Toronto Transit Commission is considering increasing single-ride fares by 10-cents and truncating 50 lines in order to fill a $200-million funding gap. Impressively by North American standards, TCC gets roughly two-thirds of its revenue from the fare box — I guess those $121 monthly passes help that cause.

But that’s cool comfort to riders who could see their monthly pass increase to $141 by 2015. TTC chief general manager Gary Webster expressed concerns that such hikes might put the brakes on the city’s transit ridership, which has broken local records for five years running. Without supplemental funding from the city of Toronto or province of Ontario, however, Webster sees no other alternative than the proposed course of action.

Afghanistan opening first major train service, providing key link for US supplies, trade

Today marked a milestone for economic development in Afghanistan: the land-locked central Asian country opened its first railroad, the Washington Post reports. The line runs 50 miles from Mazar-i-Sharif to the country’s northern border with Uzbekistan. While other central Asian countries received rail investments during the Soviet era, Afghanistan was left behind.

Discussions are already underway about extending the line to Turkmenistan as well. While the Post’s article focuses — perhaps understandably — on how the train will improve U.S. troop supply movement, it’s hard to understate how much improving the movement of people and goods can improve economic conditions in Afghanistan in the short and long term.

13 replies

  1. Flat rate for transit (as opposed to commuter rail) is never going to fly here as it would result in two things that are untenable:

    1. DECREASE in revenue for the MTA–who is already trying to deal with less than expected revenue from the tax increase. Say goodbye to all your future rail projects and other paid for by Metro services (freeway tow truck or fewer Call for Projects and the Muni’s aren’t going to accept LOWER mandated revenue from the county transit taxes because of the lower revenue produced by a distance based fare system

    2.INCREASE in fares to those who can least afford it. OK, you want distance based fare? Well to make up for the loss in revenue for short trips and prevent all the cutbacks listed in #1, the MTA would have to RAISE the fare quite a bit beyond the current flat rate to make up the difference (here come the BRU’s). I don’t think punishing and fleecing a women who cleans housed 16 miles or more away as a way to provide for her family by increasing her fare just because the few hipster-trendies want to only pay 25 cents to go one block (you could walk, you know) is thoughtful way of making anybodies life any easier–except for the lazies who just can’t stomach that they may be subsidizing some of the poorest residents who have some of the longest commutes. I’m sorry, my heart goes to those who wake up at 4AM so they can commute the long miles to work by 7 or 8 (where all the jobs that pay a liviable wage a located, never by where those who have the least can afford live) using our limited Metro, and do the same coming home and are exhausted and caring for kids, and some people have the nerve to say to her, “cough up more grannie, cause I just wanna pay 35 cents for my 6 block commute.” But I’m sure distance based fare proponents would fault our poor Josephina for not living closer to the homes she cleans on Beverly Hills or Century City or Brentwood. Then our poor cleaning women would only have to pay 40 cents for her commute and save her money, but what would her rent be, if the racists landlords even let her consider renting.

    Think these things through, people.


  2. @Bobby McGee

    I think you’re the one who’s not thinking these through. Have you ever considered that we’re not the only city in the world where we have the poor, the disabled, senior citizens and students using public transit? Have you checked into how the most vulnerable get around and what fares they pay in cities with distance based fares?

    Here’s Hong Kong: http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/fares_tickets/train_service_index.html

    It clearly shows that even with distance based fares, the most vulnerable still get large discounts that cost less than the adult fares.

    How about Singapore? http://www.smrt.com.sg/trains/fares.asp
    Just pick any two stations and it shows how much it costs when buying a ticket at full adult price, the discounted price when using a smart card, and further discounted price for senior citizens and students.

    Let’s look at the Taipei MRT: http://english.trtc.com.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1056377&CtNode=49782&mp=122032

    Just pick a station and it shows you a list of how much it costs to go to each station. It clearly lists a separate column for “Single-Journey Ticket,” “EasyCard,” and “Senior, Charity and Escort Cards.

    Look, public transit is for the masses, it’s not for the poor. We should not be held hostage to unfair flat fare rates just for the sake of poor people traveling longer distances. There are other ways we can deal with this as clearly illustrated on how other cities run public transit on distance fares WITHOUT hurting the poor by providing them with discounted fares.

    To answer your short-sighted views:

    1. No, you have to think this in a formula of [flat rate price riders pay] x [number of riders] = revenue to Metro. The flaw in your theory is that the number of riders will remain constant no matter what the fares rises. If it’s $1.50 now for 100,000 riders, Metro earns $150,000. But there’s no way that can be sustained so Metro may inevitably raise fares to $2.00, maybe even $3.00. Who’s to say the number of riders will remain constant at 100,000 riders at that point when fares rises to that point? Just look at Toronto. $141 for a monthly pass? You gotta be kidding me.

    The better approach would be to change the formula to [variable price based on distance traveled per rider] x [number of riders] = revenue to Metro. By making the fares variable, it encourages short distance riders to take Metro instead of alienating them. Long distance riders will pay more, but that’s the price you have to pay in order to travel farther.

    2. Now here’s the claim that most distance based opponents always bring up. Oh, think about the poor person who has travel 20 miles from East LA to Beverly Hills, the poor will have to pay more.

    No, all Metro needs to do is examine how Taipei, Singapore, and Hong Kong does it: introduce another column of fares that takes in consideration of the most vulnerable of our society. Look, 80-90% of Angelinos are middle class; they can afford higher fares for longer distance rides. But you’re right, there’s 10-20% of the vulnerable that we have to consider. Why not give them X% off the distance fare price as how the other cities does it? If its going to cost $3.00 to travel 20 miles, I’m sure 80-90% of Angelinos can afford it. But for a low income person, give that person a discounted fare to $1.50 which is not any different than now.

    The whole thing is simple; it’s just like how we have two different TAP cards; the regular TAP card and the senior citizen/student TAP card. Why not make it regular TAP card and the discount TAP card for senior citizens, students, the disabled, and the low income qualifier? 80-90% of Angelinos will be on the regular TAP card paying full price. The 10-20% of the vulnerable Angelinos will be using the discounted TAP card which gives them cheaper distance fares.