Originally Posted by miketoronto
And it is that kind of thinking which is why transit will not succeed anytime soon in the USA as a viable travel alternative to the automobile.
You do not have a viable alternative to the automobile, if you cut off entire sections of your city and people from transit, regardless of their income levels or built form.
If serving only poor people and areas which are deemed "transit friendly" was the recipe for outstanding transit usage. Then American cities would be at the top of the list for transit usage rates. But they are not, and instead are at the bottom.
I'll quote Jarrett Walker
, from his outstanding blog, with whom I agree on this particular topic:
"Services whose purpose is not ridership are called coverage services -- or at least I've been calling them that for over a decade and the term is catching on. Coverage is an apt term because the result is usually to spread out service over a vast area so that everyone gets a little bit, no matter where they live.
However, spreading it out means spreading it thin. Any fixed service budget, divided over such a huge number of routes, yields low frequency, maybe a bus once an hour, and not many people find that useful for reasons we'll explore below. So ridership is usually low on these services, exactly as we network designers expect. But since ridership isn’t the purpose, that can be fine.
So you will not begin to make clear transit choices until you are clear, at every moment, about whether you want transit service to have high ridership. To the extent that you do, you need to tell transit agencies to think like businesses, which means deploying the service not where people feel entitled to it, or where they need it badly, but where the maximum ridership will result. On the other hand, if you do want to respond to people's expectations and needs, you need to carve out an exception to your desire for high ridership, because high ridership is not, in fact, what you're advocating.
Did you just hear me say that we should deploy transit service for maximum ridership? If so, read the last paragraph again. There is no "should" in that paragraph. There is only a description of the consequences of choices that you, and your community, are free to make.
It's not a yes-or-no question, of course. A more precise question is: “what percentage of our resources should our transit authority spend pursuing maximum ridership?” When transit authorities answer that question, then everyone knows what the purpose of the service is. The services that are trying to attract high ridership can be assessed for their ridership, and the coverage services, where ridership isn’t the goal, no longer count as failing because ridership is not what they’re trying to do. In our network redesign for Houston, for example, the Board said “deploy 80% of our budget pursuing ridership.” That’s what the plan does.
We know which lines in the New Network are intended for high ridership, and those are the ones where we’ll expect that outcome. (For my peer-reviewed academic paper on this issue, see here