Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday Night Notes: Fake Trolleys and Blown Up Ridership Estimates

These articles are from a few days ago but I wanted to clear my tabs and get some opinions.

Ogden is going to spend some money on buses that they hope will stimulate streetcar ridership. While I've been impressed with the Broadway Shuttle in Oakland that recently started running given the short headways and fast access to Specialties bakery and Bakesale Betty from City Center, I have to wonder if people honestly think they are going to get a real estimate from these faux trolleys. (Calling them trolleys is a whole other can of worms I could get into in another post) It's understandable to want to know what is going to happen and spending less money to do it. But I'm convinced that given the completely different experience, you're almost dooming any streetcar to death by running the fake trolleys, especially if the headways are limited. Would like to hear more on this from others though.
I know we have to make ridership estimates for capital projects. Until recently ridership estimates made or broke your ability to build projects. So color me annoyed that Denver finally gets around to updating the regional land use estimates that boost ridership for the Fastracks plan. Should we think this estimate is correct? No. Ridership estimates will always be horrific when done using software built for estimating auto trips. Should Denver have gotten more federal money for the program? Yes. Given they are already underwater paying for it, why didn't they try to fix this earlier and get more than 20% from the Feds? Were they just lazy?

Regions that are doing these massive projects like LA, Seattle, Denver, Houston, and Salt Lake City should get more help from the feds. They have a plan and are moving forward with it. It's likely that these types of network expansions that make up the Transit Space Race will give more bang for the buck than one off single line expansions.
Here's an interesting article sent in by reader David. I'm always amazed at the different issues that places like Vancouver are dealing with than the majority of the United States in terms of ridership and development pressure along transit lines.
Finally, there are tons of academic journals out there. They make you pay for their products and don't really care if only a few academics read them. But there's always interesting things to be found. Here are some links to Elsivier journals with a barrel of research on transport issues you all might care about. If you're RSS junkies like me, put them in your reader.


Ant6n said...

In Montreal they started small downtown loop bus line in anticipation of a TRAM to be built there, that has been a colossal failre from the very beginning, two years ago. It's still running, an empty bus every time it drives by (not true actually, once I saw two people in it).

joshuadf said...

For what it's worth, many major university libraries allow the public to come in and do research as a "community member". Also public libraries typically subscribe to some journals, but Cal would probably be your best bet if you wanted an Elsevier title.

John Schneider said...

We should call them "truck-trolleys" because that's what they are: gussied up trucks masquerading as trains -- I guess that's the idea, anyway.

MB94128 said...

As "joshuadf" mentioned in his comment, here's a link to the article section of SFPL's eLibrary :
SFPL "Articles and Databases"
[SFPL card required for some links.]

P.S. On the left side of the above page are some links to other parts of SFPL's eLibrary. Happy browsing ...

Some library home pages (mostly SFBay) :
San Francisco Public Library (SFPL)
CCSF Library
SFState Library
UCBerkeley Library
Stanford Univ. Libraries
Library of Congress

Bob Davis said...

A friend who, for many years drove a succession of VW Beetles, used to use terms in "ersatz German" to describe parts of his car. When the subject of fake streetcars came up he said, "Ach, you mean ein Ersatz Strassenwagen." One time my wife was looking up places to visit and one town advertised "trolley service". When she named the town, I said "I know every city in North America that has real trolley cars, and that isn't one of them. They're talking about those bogus buses with fake streetcar bodies." (boo! hiss!)

neroden@gmail said...

Well, regarding Denver: better late than never. I'm not sure how many construction projects the city could take on at once anyway; hopefully this will kickstart the North Metro and Northwest lines.

Myself I'm hoping for the Ft. Collins rail line to get built, for selfish reasons :-) but that depends on the Northwest Line getting built first.