Thursday, July 17, 2008

We already have a fabulous rapid-transit system…

…it’s called the freeway! That's what a board member of the Central Ohio Transit Agency said in Columbus. How do these guys get appointed to a transit board if they don't even like transit? It also seems to be an Ohio thing. Stephan Louis was on the Board of SORTA, Cincinnati's transit agency. From a 2006 Citybeat Article:
Someone who signed his name as Stephan Louis replied, "Good points throughout your piece. With me sitting on pivotal boards, rail won't likely happen here for some time, but not necessarily. In either event, the city of Cinn. is unlikely to remain in the top 25 metros by 2010."
If you read the article, he denies what he said, but its all on the internets. Can't hide from that.


Anonymous said...

Stephan Louis is a prominent anti-transit zealot on Randal O'Toole's "American Dream Coalition" Yahoo Group.

If you want to see what the discussion is like among people who truly wake up every day doing their best to stop public transportation, visit this list.

Loren said...

Do you have a link to that? I looked in Yahoo Groups, and I couldn't find it.

And what are their favorite arguments?

Michael said...

Randal O'Toole's favorite argument goes like this:

1. A city proposes $x million to build some sort of rail. The city states that the rail line will attract y "new riders".

2. Divide x by y. Then, find some ridiculous luxury car that can be purchased or leased for x/y.

3. State "we could have bought each new rider a [luxury car] for the price of the rail line".

4. Profit!

I've seen him make this argument for at least three rail systems, Houston being one (I forget the third). has a good rebuttal.

The flaws in the logic I see are:

* Takes the whole capital cost of the transit system, compared to the capital cost of a small part of the auto-dependent system (cars only, rather than cars + roads + parking.

* Ignores the benefits that would accrue to people who already take transit along the route. To O'Toole, these people were perfectly happy taking the bus, and they do not benefit by having a more comfortable, more reliable, smoother, faster and more popular transit route.

* Ignores any development effects and the cost savings to residents if the city develops in a less auto-dependent manner.

* Ignores operating costs for transit (potentially small per passenger mile) and cars (potentially large if single occupancy and fuel prices stay high)

* Ignores social costs (congestion, pollution, development, fuel availability)

Michael said...

The other argument goes like this:

Tally up all of the riders for transit in a region.

Tally up all of the trips taken by car for the same large region. Make sure to include trips that transit doesn't serve, like after hours or rural areas.

Divide to find the fraction of all trips served by transit. It helps if this number can be lower than 1%.

Divide the transit funding by the highway funding only. Ignore all costs for local roads, parking, traffic enforcement, fuel, insurance, depreciation of cars, interest on car loans. It helps if this number can be as high as possible, say 40% or more.

Obviously, transit only carries 1% of people, yet it's sucking up 40% of our spending. It's obviously a bad deal.