notes on government, sports and popular culture
David Hartgen's JLF policy report
on public transit systems in North Carolina:
"Hartgen’s report recommends that the state cut back state support for local transit systems, while ensuring that riders pay more for transit service. Local transit officials should also rewrite their mission statements and long-range plans to reflect their key role in helping people who need mobility. The report also calls for more privatization of transit systems, and it asks the General Assembly to delay funding for light rail systems in Charlotte, the Triangle, and the Triad until Charlotte’s South Boulevard corridor confirms usage expectations. The 10-mile Charlotte light rail line, currently under construction for $428 million, is expected to open in late 2007."
That's probably a good idea. More:
"Overall, the 10 transit systems studied contribute just 0.28 percent of the overall daily regional travel miles, according to Hartgen’s report. That’s the figure you get when you factor in bus riders who have no cars. Greensboro (0.15 percent) and Winston-Salem (0.19 percent) both fall below the average.......
"While the state and federal transportation bill is growing, the transit systems are not drawing people away from the cars that clog city roads, the report says. A typical trip on a public transit system is slower than a trip by car. Many transit riders are lower-income workers who have no access to cars.
“'Riders use the systems primarily as ‘stepping stones’ for improving personal mobility,' Hartgen said. 'The systems serve less than one-half of 1 percent of regional commuting and impact about one-quarter of 1 percent of regional air pollution or congestion.'”
With the high price of gas, you'd expect city buses to be standing room only. That they're not is evidence that Americans are willing to pay whatever it takes to maintain their "personal mobilty." I think the assumption on the part of many local governments is that if more services are provided, more people will use public transportation.
That's a tough strategy in a market where practically no one rides the bus just because it's there.