Commuters and curmudgeons have been slinging mud at public transit, saying it’s inefficient, outdated, unattractive, and a leech on municipal budgets. A report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, “Evaluating Transit Criticism,” refutes these and a litany of other outlandish claims (i.e. “transit doesn’t reduce traffic congestion” and “harms poor people”) with hard-and-fast statistics. The study makes a stellar case for investing in rail systems for every major city.
The report is a comprehensive, data-rich argument in favor of public rails that’s definitely worth a gander. But, for now, we’ll save you the dry data and deliver the juicy bits (after the jump):
- The report found that cities with no major rail system, like Los Angeles, suffer far more congestion than cities with widely used, efficient rail transit (like New York and Chicago). “Rail transit significantly reduces congestion,” said the Institute. Seems like a no-brainer to us.
- Rail transit operating costs also tend to be lower than for buses.
- In congested urban areas, rail systems actually get commuters to their destination faster than an automobile (bus or car). There’s no sitting in traffic, or being stuck behind the wheel, breathing fumes.
- Many highway projects run over-budget and aren’t completed on time. By contrast, most rail construction is completed by its projected deadline and within its original budget.
Anti-rail naysayers claim that commuters “love their cars” too much to give up driving. However, the study says, rail systems don’t require people to relinquish driving altogether. Rather, access to a rail system enables commuters to skip traffic and take the train, instead, reducing car travel, overall. The report cites evidence that “many motorists would willingly shift a portion of their travel to transit, provided that it is convenient, comfortable, affordable and prestigious. In most cases a 5-20% mode shift on major corridors is sufficient to justify rail investments.” I, for one, would rather kick back on a train (which entails reading, people-watching, rocking out with headphones, sleeping, or sipping coffee, or any combination therein) than sit in sluggish traffic, screaming inwardly, with weary nerves and patience, worrying over whether I’ll make it to work on time.
For proof that taking public transit creates less stress than driving, check out this study by the APTA.
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