Transportation

School Buses: America's Largest Transit System

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Reminiscent of the late Rodney Dangerfield's lament, America's network of school buses get "no respect." The thousands "yellow buses" are buried without a mention in the most important tables of the US Department of Transportation's National Transportation Statistics. Neither the terms "school" nor "school bus" appear in tables summarizing the number of vehicles (Table 1-11), vehicle travel (Table 1-35), passenger travel (Table 1-40) and others. At the same time, there is far more complete information on virtually every other transportation mode.  read more »

Raise the Gas Tax!

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Driving just got a lot cheaper in America. The timing is great not only for American consumers, but also for America’s infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund simply can’t keep up current spending levels without more revenue. Significant declines in pump prices have presented an excellent opportunity to raise the federal gas tax, while keeping pump prices lower than initially anticipated. Though a gas tax hike may not be the ideal approach, it is infinitely preferable to bailing out the Trust Fund with general revenue, or to putting the brakes on much needed infrastructure spending.  read more »

Subjects:

Evaluating Urban Rail

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For more than 40 years, US cities have rushed to build new rail systems (indeed I was part of such an effort, see Los Angeles: Rail for Others). This article examines the trend in transit and driving alone work trip market share in 23 cities (metropolitan areas) that have built new rail systems that have represented material expansions of regional transit systems. These new rail systems include Metros ("heavy rail"), light rail (not streetcars) and commuter rail (suburban rail).  read more »

Southern California Stuck in Drive

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Southern California has long been a nurturer of dreams that, while widely anticipated, often are never quite achieved. One particularly strong fantasy involves Los Angeles abandoning what one enthusiast calls its “car habit” and converting into an ever-denser, transit-oriented region.  read more »

Urbanists Need to Face the Full Implications of Peak Car

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As traffic levels decline nationally in defiance of the usual state DOT forecasts projecting major increases, a number of commentators have claimed that we’ve reached “peak car” – the point at which the seemingly inexorable rise in vehicle miles traveled in America finally comes to an end.   But while this has been celebrated, with some justification in the urbanist world as vitiating plans for more roads, the implications for public policy haven’t been fully faced up to.  read more »

Los Angeles: Rail for Others

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A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline "98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others." The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said "Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable.  read more »

Real Economic Payoff from Infrastructure

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With the Obama proposal to get some money for infrastructure, it is time to revisit the payoff from investments in transportation. Investments that improve the performance of transportation in the US will pay for themselves in 17 years through increased economic activity and the resulting gains in federal tax revenue. The rate of return for national investments in transportation is 7%, significantly more than the cost of borrowing. Recently released research verbalizes a theory of why the performance of infrastructure matters for the economy.  read more »

Should the Gas Tax Go Local?

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After approving yet another general budget stopgap for highway construction in July, legislators across the country are acknowledging the obvious: The Federal Highway Trust Fund, the primary pot of federal roadway dollars, is nearly out of gas.  read more »

California Bad to its Bones

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Any serious student of California knows that the state’s emergence in the past century reflected a triumph of engineering. From the water systems, the dredged harbors, the power stations and the freeway system, California overcame geographical limits of water, power and its often-unmanageable coastline to create a beacon of growth and opportunity.

That was then, but certainly not the case today. Indeed, since the halcyon postwar days of infrastructure-building under Gov. Pat Brown, roughly one-in-five dollars of state spending went to building roads, bridges, water systems and the like. Today, this investment amounts to less than 5 percent.  read more »

New Commuting Data Shows Gain by Individual Modes

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The newly released American Community Survey data for 2013 indicates little change in commuting patterns since 2010, a result that is to be expected in a period as short as three years. Among the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), driving alone increased to 73.6% of commuting (including all travel modes and working at home). The one mode that experienced the largest drop was carpools, where the share of commuting dropped from 9.6% in 2010 to 9.0% in 2013. Doubtless most of the carpool losses represented gains in driving alone and transit.  read more »