Interesting new study from UC Davis that concludes that a massive expansion of mass transit could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by getting people to switch from driving alone to taking transit. As we’ve posted before, transit tends to burn fewer greenhouse gases because it’s more efficient than driving alone.
The report says bus rapid transit is likely the best way for the nation to greatly expand transit because buses are the dominant type of transit in the U.S. and BRT is generally far less expensive to build than new rail lines.
I think there’s certainly room for transit to grow in the U.S. and attract more riders. The key question is whether that would reduce car trips enough to make an impact on emissions. I’m not sure about that. The following item is also quasi-related.
Of course, greatly expanding transit, BRT or otherwise, requires funding. And this chart from a new report on transportation funding by Pew Charitable Trusts shows that spending on highways still outpaces spending on transit at every level of government in the U.S.
Flat fare no longer fair? Agency studies distance-based fares (Salt Lake City Tribune)
Posting by popular demand. The Utah Transit Authority — which has long been charging a flat fare to ride its buses and trains (like most agencies, including Metro — says it has the technological ability to charge less for short rides and more for long rides. So it will study distance-base fares to see if they can be implemented without losing ridership or revenue.
Distance-based fares have been discussed frequently over the years on our comment board and there’s a segment of our readership who feel they should be implemented here. Among their arguments: Smaller fares for short rides would greatly encourage ridership for those who want to make short trips but don’t want to pay the full fare and may even help reduce traffic in congested parts of town. They also argue that it’s not fair that some Metro riders can ride long distances for the same flat fare and should pay their fair share.
As I’ve written in the past on the comment board, distance-based fares don’t really turn my turnstile, so to speak. I think getting everyone to tap in and tap out is a big hurdle (just getting people to tap in has been a challenge, as we know) and I’m not convinced fares for short trips would ever shrink that much given Metro’s financial challenges. I also think hitting long-distance riders with higher fares would hurt those who depend on Metro the most for their mobility — i.e. low-income workers and residents who must travel great distances from their neighborhoods to jobs. Finally, I don’t think any fare system is going to impact traffic given the convenience and affordability of privately-owned cars. Transit provides an alternative to traffic and perhaps helps it from growing worse. Transit doesn’t fix traffic. If it did, there would be more of it in L.A. and elsewhere.
Washington Metro CEO to step down (Washington Post)
Richard Sarles took the job in the aftermath of a subway crash that killed nine people in 2009. The Washington Metro is the second-busiest subway system in the country behind New York and Sarles in 2013 put the agency on a path to rebuild and greatly expand the system if funding can be found. Officials were surprised by the announcement.