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Old Posted Aug 31, 2018, 11:18 PM
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How America Killed Transit

From CITYLAB:


How America Killed Transit

JONATHAN ENGLISH 11:38 AM ET

Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.

This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not. At the turn of the 20th century, when transit companies’ only competition were the legs of a person or a horse, they worked reasonably well, even if they faced challenges. Once cars arrived, nearly every U.S. transit agency slashed service to cut costs, instead of improving service to stay competitive. This drove even more riders away, producing a vicious cycle that led to the point where today, few Americans with a viable alternative ride buses or trains.

Now, when the federal government steps in to provide funding, it is limited to big capital projects. (Under the Trump administration, even those funds are in question.) Operations—the actual running of buses and trains frequently enough to appeal to people with an alternative—are perpetually starved for cash. Even transit advocates have internalized the idea that transit cannot be successful outside the highest-density urban centers.

And it very rarely is. Below is a set of maps that show the present-day network rail and bus lines operating at least every 30 minutes, all day to midnight, seven days a week, for five urban areas in the U.S. and one in Canada for comparison. That could be considered the bare-minimum service level required for people to be able to live adequately car free. In fact, research says that frequencies of 15 minutes or better—good enough for people to turn up and go without consulting a schedule—are where the biggest jumps in ridership happen. But that is so far off from service levels in most American cities that a 30-minute standard is more appropriate.


From top left corner: Columbus, Ohio, does not have a single route that meets the full service standard. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the the newly extended Lynx LRT helps a little. Denver, Colorado is adding light rail and commuter rail, but many still struggle to get to the rail station without a car. So do people in Portland, Oregon, despite its large light rail network and forward-thinking transit culture. Washington, D.C.’s Metro is one of the most well-used U.S. rapid transit systems, but connecting bus service is limited. It’s Toronto, Canada, that shows what properly high level of transit service looks like in North America. (Design: Jonathan English/Michael Binetti/David Montgomery/CityLab. Ridership data: American Public Transportation Association/Toronto Transit Commission. Map tiles: Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL.)

The maps illustrate the vast swaths of urban areas untouched by full service bus routes. For those who do live near one, it’s quite likely that the bus wouldn’t get them where they need to go, unless their destination is downtown. A bus that comes once and hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.

What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

Here’s how this has played out, era by era.

[...]

Link: How America Killed Transit
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 1:08 AM
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Chicago's network would look pretty similar to Toronto's I would think. I don't know of any non-commuter express routes that have headways lower than 30 mins (but they probably exist on the far south side or far northwest side, and some buses might stop before midnight). Considering just CTA and the city of Chicago, it comes in at around 185 / capita. That's a bit cheating because CTA serves some other cities (Evanston, Oak Park, Forest Park, Skokie, Cicero, Berwyn) as well, but Metra, the South Shore Line and PACE serve parts of Chicago too, so it's not easy to make a Chicago-only comparison. Doing it for the metro area is also non-trivial since some areas (Gary, Kenosha, Valpo) have their own transit agencies, and SSL serves areas outside the Chicago Metro. Also, pretty much nowhere outside the CTA area has frequent transit at all (other than a few select near-city pace routes).
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 2:05 AM
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I love transit. Just this year I've gone to LA to see the construction on the Crenshaw Line, Regional Connector and Purple Line, gone to Seattle to see the construction of the Northgate Link and East Link, gone to DC to see the construction on the Silver Line Phase 2 and Purple Line and gone to San Francisco to see the BART extension and Central Subway. I rode on the first train on the Second Avenue Subway, the 7 Line Extension and the Silver Line Phase 1.

BUT

I think cars are simply far superior to transit for most people. They greatly expand where you can go, they're usually faster and you don't have to be around a bunch of questionable people etc. I just don't get why so many people feel the need to be so anti-car. The US went so auto centric after the war because the economy was booming and people used all that money to improve their lives.. and cars are a clear improvement. Transit certainly has a place. It is superior for areas of very high density and it's useful for the poor who cannot afford cars, but these are limited uses and we shouldn't try to jam it in where it doesn't belong. Even if we want to expand transit, I think the solution in most instances isn't the light rail that is pushed so hard now, it's commuter rail to actually connect the suburbs to the core of the city because that's where the bulk of the traffic is coming from.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 2:23 AM
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Originally Posted by BrownTown View Post
I think cars are simply far superior to transit for most people. They greatly expand where you can go, they're usually faster and you don't have to be around a bunch of questionable people etc. I just don't get why so many people feel the need to be so anti-car.
Maybe people don't want cities to become a sea of parking lots and giant roadways covered in smog. Who knows.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:05 AM
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The more we can focus on alternatives, the better our cities get. Letting cars dominate makes cities suck on several levels.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:06 AM
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I'm with BrownTown. Cars provide more mobility within a metropolitan area. You can go places where buses and light rail don't go, including right up to your house.

Cars are also better between metros, in many cases, and definitely between between an urban and rural area. I can leave my house in Wilmington and be in Buffalo in 6 hours, or I can be in Richmond in 4 hours, or I can be in Seaford in 2 hours. So I can go between my metro and another metro as quickly as I want, and at any time of the day. I'm doing it tomorrow: I'm driving to Canada for the long weekend, leaving before lunch and arriving before dinner.

Cars also transport better. Ever try taking a full shopping cart of groceries onto a bus? If you can even carry 10 bags of groceries in both hands, you're going to take up a lot of space for other people. I just borrowed my dad's ladder and weedwhacker to do some yardwork earlier today. I can't bring those on a bus or train.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:27 AM
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A couple of things that I think would increase transit usage:

1) Increase the amount of housing within cities to lower prices and offer developers benefits
2) Lower city prices / cheaper prices for rents or buying as a result of #1
3) Continue to compete for business to reside within the cores of cities. Cities and suburbs DO COMPETE. They are not friends, but competitors.
4) Clean certain cities up (neighborhoods that would offer #2 but folks don't want to live there due to crime or bad schools
5) Aggressive rezoning (forget about how your neighborliness looks... rezone it all)

In otherwords, cities need to compete with the suburbs because the suburbs offer all of 1-4#.

Believe it or not, a lot of people could care less about being next to others or being in a cultured area. Sure there are those that like cities for the experience, but at the end of the day, we need to talk about the masses, and the masses like lower costs, good schools, and go towards with the jobs are at.

Cities have plenty of good jobs and quantity, but its just easier and cost effective to just commute 30-60 minutes. A little sacrifice compared to being assaulted in costs or living in neighborhoods that are crime-ridden.

Now, point #5 is touchy, but in the world of supply and demand and profit... all I'm saying is that if the cities push for mass quantity of units, they will be built but it takes a will, and American cities for the most part do not have the balls to think big. Bar a few select cities. What can cause these units to rise? Making it lucrative for developers.

The following taxes of all forms could be used to fund transit.

With transit, also limit the bureaucratic c block of regulations and rubbish. Speed the damn process up.

America has the means to build big. To fix its issues, but the cities continue to not think big, in fear that it might piss the residents off.

Well, take a risk! Risk is good! Risk is progress. Even it fails, learn from those mistakes.

All of points #1-5 would encourage the development of transit options. If the demand is not there or is lackluster, its not worth the investment point blank.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:33 AM
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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
I'm with BrownTown. Cars provide more mobility within a metropolitan area. You can go places where buses and light rail don't go, including right up to your house.

Cars are also better between metros, in many cases, and definitely between between an urban and rural area. I can leave my house in Wilmington and be in Buffalo in 6 hours, or I can be in Richmond in 4 hours, or I can be in Seaford in 2 hours. So I can go between my metro and another metro as quickly as I want, and at any time of the day. I'm doing it tomorrow: I'm driving to Canada for the long weekend, leaving before lunch and arriving before dinner.

Cars also transport better. Ever try taking a full shopping cart of groceries onto a bus? If you can even carry 10 bags of groceries in both hands, you're going to take up a lot of space for other people. I just borrowed my dad's ladder and weedwhacker to do some yardwork earlier today. I can't bring those on a bus or train.
Are you suggesting that the people in Toronto, a mostly post-war suburban city built around the car, cannot drive to the grocery store or out of town because of all the TTC buses in their neighbourhoods?

How about instead of deciding for other people that cars are better for them than transit, we let the people decide for themselves what is better. And for the 37% of Torontonians that commute using transit, I think the preference is clear.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:43 AM
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Originally Posted by mhays View Post
The more we can focus on alternatives, the better our cities get. Letting cars dominate makes cities suck on several levels.
Maybe go ahead and explain exactly what those, "levels" are? The only really obvious one to me is cars take a lot more energy than mass transit.

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Are you suggesting that the people in Toronto, a mostly post-war suburban city built around the car, cannot drive to the grocery store or out of town because of all the TTC buses in their neighbourhoods?

How about instead of deciding for other people that cars are better for them than transit, we let the people decide for themselves what is better. And for the 37% of Torontonians that commute using transit, I think the preference is clear.
Keep in mind that the 37% you're quoting is going to work, not going to another city or the grocery store etc. So the total number of trips on transit is well lower because trips to work are the easiest to make on transit since transit is generally geared towards getting people from the outskirts of the city where people live into the core of the city which is where jobs are at. The better questions to ask are what percent of those people still own cars and what percent that don't own cars would own cars if the had more money. But anyways, nobody is saying they want 0% transit, just that there's no need to get upset at say 10% commutes on transit if that's all that there is demand for.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Doady View Post
Are you suggesting that the people in Toronto, a mostly post-war suburban city built around the car, cannot drive to the grocery store or out of town because of all the TTC buses in their neighbourhoods?

How about instead of deciding for other people that cars are better for them than transit, we let the people decide for themselves what is better. And for the 37% of Torontonians that commute using transit, I think the preference is clear.
Yes, and think how cars influence the design of cities. Just look where transit is good. People are on the streets. Look at where there is little or no transit. There are no pedestrians and nothing is walkable. Cars make everything spread out. Cities cannot have dense downtowns without transit. Where transit is poor, either the downtown is struggling or half the downtown is devoted to parking lots and highway accesses.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doady View Post
Are you suggesting that the people in Toronto, a mostly post-war suburban city built around the car, cannot drive to the grocery store or out of town because of all the TTC buses in their neighbourhoods?

How about instead of deciding for other people that cars are better for them than transit, we let the people decide for themselves what is better. And for the 37% of Torontonians that commute using transit, I think the preference is clear.
I'm not sure what you mean by that. Who would think that buses are clogging up the roads and keeping cars from going somewhere? What I was saying was that a car can serve more purposes for many people than a bus network or light rail network. Or, a car can do more than the public vehicles themselves can do.

I'm not deciding that cars are better for people. Most people have made that decision themselves. That's why so many people have them. That ties into Browntown's point, as well.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 3:59 AM
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Yes, and think how cars influence the design of cities. Just look where transit is good. People are on the streets. Look at where there is little or no transit. There are no pedestrians and nothing is walkable. Cars make everything spread out. Cities cannot have dense downtowns without transit. Where transit is poor, either the downtown is struggling or half the downtown is devoted to parking lots and highway accesses.
See, the problem is that a lot of the transit people are begging the question by assuming high density is an end in itself. Density can be useful, but it also comes with major challenges and is certainly not needed in a country as sparsely populated as the US. In many ways we're still thinking of cities in a 19th century way where everything needs to be in a central core, but with the rise of better communications there's absolutely no need for this.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 6:16 AM
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I have a hard time believing that people are being genuine when they say they don't actually know the downsides of auto-centrism, but I'll try and give the benefit of the doubt.

First of all, the comments on land use. Density IS an end in and of itself regardless of the existing human density of a particular country or region. Not only does lower density increase the amount of energy (and other resources) required for people to move from place to place, but there seems to be this odd idea that land which isn't "developed" is simply this unused resource sitting there waiting to be consumed and that hasn't been put to good use yet. In reality, basically all uninhabited land is in use either by humans in terms of agriculture (pretty important), by other plants and animals, or by natural processes like the water cycle. Basically all of the land on earth was already "in use" fulfilling important functions before any was cleared for the first man-made structures, and every bit that is taken away impacts those functions. And this isn't about caring about nature for the sake of nature, but rather that many of the resulting changes are not good for us as humans and cause us countless problems in terms of everything from soil depletion, flooding due to depleted wetlands, runoff/lack of moisture retention due to paved surfaces and deforestation threatening the water supply and causing erosion, a lack of pollinators for agriculture, excessive heat due to reduced foliage, and numerous others.

Secondly, driving everywhere isn't good for human health. A professors in one of my planning classes was actually an epidemiologist who described how the earliest urban planning arose from health issues such as sanitation problems in the 19th century while in our modern era, some of the biggest epidemiological issues are also planning related due to things like obesity and sedentary illnesses, air pollution, noise pollution, traffic accidents, stress, etc. which are related to auto dependence causing a renewed convergence between the fields of planning and epidemiology.

Third, people don't just "decide for themselves that cars are better". They make that decision based on the context in which they exist and the circumstances they're presented with which is predominantly based on economics and built environments that as individuals they had little influence in shaping. The transportation and land use planning (and related funding structures) behind modern urban and suburban form were shaped by governments and industry, and the fact that individual consumers choose the best option to deal with the results of such planning should not be misconstrued as justification for the conditions they're responding to.

All that being said, no one is claiming there are no benefits to motor vehicles, but in this thread, several people have posted a list of benefits without acknowledging any of the drawbacks. Compared to the alternatives, automobiles (and related infrastructure/planning) are many times more costly in terms of both total monetary costs to citizens and governments as well as to the environment. You can't just say, "Between A and B, A has a long list of benefits so it's much better", you have to balance each of the benefits with each of their costs/drawbacks. Just as with choosing between cars, you wouldn't say, "this 150k sports car is the much better option compared to this 30k crossover since it's faster, more agile, more stylish, more exciting, and more luxurious" without also considering the practical considerations. Not considering issues like purchase and maintenance cost, cargo and passenger space, fuel economy, reliability, etc. is basically the same as people here talking about all that cars can do and how convenient they are without mentioning any of the huge list of downsides.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 6:31 AM
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Originally Posted by BrownTown View Post
Keep in mind that the 37% you're quoting is going to work, not going to another city or the grocery store etc. So the total number of trips on transit is well lower because trips to work are the easiest to make on transit since transit is generally geared towards getting people from the outskirts of the city where people live into the core of the city which is where jobs are at.
Toronto's transit network is a grid system, not a hub-and-spoke system centered around downtown. This should be clear from the map above.

And yes, % of people going to work is important to keep in mind since that is what most people are using the transportation network for. Rush hour is when transportation network is most congested, and thus that is what the transportation network has to be designed for.

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The better questions to ask are what percent of those people still own cars and what percent that don't own cars would own cars if the had more money.
Somehow I doubt that poverty is a bigger problem in Toronto compared to US cities.

Don't act like USA became so car dependent because "the economy was booming and people used all that money to improve their lives" and Canada is just some third world country or something.

But yes, social equity is an important aspect of transit. Giving people more opportunites reduces poverty, while solation entrenches poverty. Thanks to its robust transit network, both inside and outside of the city, people in Toronto don't have to worry about becoming isolated if they cannot drive a car, for whatever reason (money, disability, etc.). Do you really believe that people in Columbus have more mobility than people in Toronto? Seems to me the opposite is true.

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But anyways, nobody is saying they want 0% transit, just that there's no need to get upset at say 10% commutes on transit if that's all that there is demand for.
10% transit mode share in a lot of US cities would be a huge achievement. No one would get upset.

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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
I'm not sure what you mean by that. Who would think that buses are clogging up the roads and keeping cars from going somewhere?
Browntown said of transit that we "shouldn't try to jam it in where it doesn't belong", as if it interferes with cities in some way, and you are agreeing with him.

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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
What I was saying was that a car can serve more purposes for many people than a bus network or light rail network. Or, a car can do more than the public vehicles themselves can do.
Okay, so light rail wouldn't be able to take you directly from Wilmington to Buffalo or into Canada. So what? It is hard to understand why Wilmington's municipal government should care so much about travelers to Buffalo and Canada use that as justification for not improving local transit.

Quote:
I'm not deciding that cars are better for people. Most people have made that decision themselves. That's why so many people have them. That ties into Browntown's point, as well.
So you believe that car dependence is a decision that people made all by themselves, and it had nothing to do with all the money that government spent on roads and the funding cuts to transit as highlighted by the article above and the six different cities that it compared? Looking at those maps, it seems to me that in a lot of these cities, there wasn't any choice for people to decide.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 7:05 AM
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Originally Posted by xzmattzx View Post
I'm with BrownTown. Cars provide more mobility within a metropolitan area. You can go places where buses and light rail don't go, including right up to your house.

Cars are also better between metros, in many cases, and definitely between between an urban and rural area. I can leave my house in Wilmington and be in Buffalo in 6 hours, or I can be in Richmond in 4 hours, or I can be in Seaford in 2 hours. So I can go between my metro and another metro as quickly as I want, and at any time of the day. I'm doing it tomorrow: I'm driving to Canada for the long weekend, leaving before lunch and arriving before dinner.

Cars also transport better. Ever try taking a full shopping cart of groceries onto a bus? If you can even carry 10 bags of groceries in both hands, you're going to take up a lot of space for other people. I just borrowed my dad's ladder and weedwhacker to do some yardwork earlier today. I can't bring those on a bus or train.
This is because you’re in America, and you’re an American.

Cars are useful to go to out of the way places, like villages and small towns. They’re necessary to go anywhere outside of a metro, basically. In the countryside, where once you would have had a horse, you now need a car.

But in Europe, between cities like Wilmington and Buffalo, there would probably be fast efficient train service (probably changing somewhere, but so what). It would require a quick taxi or perhaps a streetcar or bus in each city to/from the station, but the train itself would be so much faster for the long distance part (100+ mph average for a standard, non-high speed service), that you could be there in 4 hours.

As for the rest of it, that’s lifestyle. I don’t carry 10 bags of groceries at once. No one over here does. Unless you’re hosting a BBQ and buying everything at once (take a taxi), you shouldn’t be buying that much food at once anyway. The better way to shop, and the traditional way in Europe (or NYC), is to go food shopping every 2-3 days at least, for fresh produce, meat, fish, etc. Good bread won’t last more than a day or two anyway, for instance. I pass a greengrocer, bakery, fishmonger, and two small format grocery stores on my 5 minute (3 block) walk from the tube (the butcher is 5 mins in the opposite direction), so I just stop in on the way home.

And when I last needed a ladder and a power drill, I went to the hardware store around the corner that rents them for like £5. Cities with transit adapt to the needs of people who largely rely on transit.
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Last edited by 10023; Sep 1, 2018 at 7:17 AM.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 8:18 AM
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n many ways we're still thinking of cities in a 19th century way where everything needs to be in a central core, but with the rise of better communications there's absolutely no need for this.
If people can be anywhere thanks to phones and computers, why is there such an intense concentration of tech workers in San Francisco and Seattle and almost zero of these jobs in most parts of the United States?

Turns out that physically being in the same physical space, even for paperwork type jobs, is still incredibly important.

And why, if traditional walking cities shouldn't matter anymore, are so many people willing to pay huge money to live in walkable neighborhoods and as short of a distance as possible from their workplaces?
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 12:10 PM
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Americans don't like transit. We don't really need it. We don't want to sit next to some weirdo that's talking to himself and smells like he hasn't taken a shower since last Monday. We like our space and our privacy. Public transpiration is the complete opposite of that and it isn't really necessary to have 15 minute service til midnight 7 days a week, given that only 5% of the overall population uses it.

People that can afford and have chosen to live in an urban core won't take public transit, they take Uber. The trend is transit passenger counts to continue to decline as ride share technology continues to become more efficient and cheaper, picking off riders and car operators.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 12:16 PM
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Imagine if all the people in Manhattan who currently take the subway took Uber instead, where are all the cars needed for that going to fit? I haven't seen anything to suggest that ride sharing services etc can do anything to solve that capacity problem in dense urban areas, the roads simply can't carry as many people in those places as transit networks can.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 1:06 PM
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Americans don't like transit. We don't really need it. We don't want to sit next to some weirdo that's talking to himself and smells like he hasn't taken a shower since last Monday. We like our space and our privacy. Public transpiration is the complete opposite of that and it isn't really necessary to have 15 minute service til midnight 7 days a week, given that only 5% of the overall population uses it.
The density and land constraints aren't really there bar a few cities. Automobiles and the infrastructure clearly dominate.

Density is a clear attribute to an effective transit system, and a direct motivator to get a expensive system in place, in which the tax payers will support. If we had more Chicago's or NY's out there in the U.S., we'd see more transit.

IF we had retained the 1950's density levels, and overall smaller city sizes, I'd bet we'd see more transit. But the development of the interstate, and the flight of millions turned farm land into productive, mini cities.

One can live, play, work in the suburbs... and given the % of folks out there in "X" metro, for most places, it doesn't make sense to develop transit (financial sense).

Subways are incredibly expensive in this country, and the population density and subsequent tax base within the core needs to be there for states or even the Feds to go along with it.
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Old Posted Sep 1, 2018, 1:11 PM
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If folks want transit, the cities need to become denser and even more populated. Your likely to see light rail, rail extensions, ferries (depending on topography)... if the density is there to support it.
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