Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finally a Trips Comparison!

Finally someone points out something I've been thinking for a long time about the hits on the Seattle light rail plan. The anti-transit faction has gotten away with their comparison of all regional trips to a specific corridor(s). This means they are comparing trips you take to get ice cream at 2am to trips taken on the freeway at rush hour. Obviously those 2am trips don't cause congestion, and capacity isn't an issue either. But as Diamajin points out, Mr. Westneat at the Seattle Times gets it too:

Project A, the no-brainer, will carry an additional 110,000 people daily over its 30 miles by the year 2030, according to its planners.

Project B, the wasteful one, will carry an additional 180,000 people per day over its 50 miles by the year 2030.

So ... the boondoggle will transport more people? For the same construction cost?

So it goes in the upside-down world of our transportation debate, circa 2007.

Project A is the widening of the Eastside's Interstate 405. The plan is to spend $10.9 billion (in 2002 dollars) laying four new freeway lanes and a bus rapid-transit route.

When done, the road will be 67 percent wider and carry 110,000 more trips than now. In some parts it will flow more freely. In others — such as the evening rush hour between Bellevue and Renton — it will be as jammed as it is today. (All this is from the state's studies.)

Project B is Sound Transit's light-rail plan. For $10.2 billion (in 2006 dollars), it would extend rail north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and south to Tacoma. The whole system, including the line being built now, is projected to carry 300,000 riders daily by 2030.

So the Times does some stuff right with Mr. Westneat, but allows Mr. Niles to parrot one of the anti-transit factions favorite comparisons without proper analysis of his claim. Regional trips to a specific corridor. As has been said before, the Big Dig only takes less than 2% of regional passenger miles. And before the cost escalations the road warriors loved that project. Some still love it and hope to repeat it in Atlanta among other places. But, as we know from the previous comparison: 180,000 > 110,000. But is it just 180,000?

What I would like to see is these 311,000 transit trips plus the calculation of walking trips generated from smarter development, specifically the trips that won't be taken by car. This is what the folks in Portland are referring to as the trip not taken.

In a 1994 travel survey, it was shown that areas with good transit and mixed use development got 9.8 VMT per capita. In outlying areas of the city, that number went up to 21.7 per capita. So if we look at the 7,200 housing units that were built in the vicinity of the streetcar, this means an annual reduction of 31 million VMT! This suggests that people don't have to drive as far (good for carbon reduction) and take trips using other means such as bikes and walking (even better).

So it seems to me that in this instance, if this light rail and streetcar network in Seattle generates smarter growth patterns for the next 1 million people, you can count on significant VMT reduction and more alternative trips. Now compare that to adding another freeway which will just add more VMT due to the extra trips you need to take in a auto-centric environment. I wish someone would discuss these issues rather than taking the bait and talking about that dumb region to corridor comparison.


JohnSN said...

This is an insightful request: "What I would like to see is these 311,000 transit trips plus the calculation of walking trips generated from smarter development, specifically the trips that won't be taken by car."

In fact, the Puget Sound Regional Council (government-funded planning organization) has in fact made the calculation of transit and walk/bike mode shares, for 2040, with not only 70 miles of light rail in place, but with a full 125 miles of light rail OR equivalent fixed-guideway high capacity transit -- meaning busways that go where light rail tracks would go.

Results from computer modeling:

Walk/bike market share of work trips in 2000 was 4.5%. In 2040, with significant land use changes that concentrates more of the population around train stations, the walk/bike share would be 6.3%.

The transit share of work trips goes from 8.4% in 2000 to 11.3% in 2040.

The HOV (car pool/van pool) share stays constant at 7.5% in both 2000 and 2040.

The solo driving share drops from 79.5% in 2000 to 74.9% in 2040.

These results are for work trips only.

These numbers are the official case for voting yes on Prop 1.

Some environmental groups think these results show the "transformative value of light rail."

Sierra Club and Ron Sims evaluates these results as too little for the billions and billions to be spent to achieve them.

These results are buried in reports at I've extracted one of the reports, and moved the results to page 1 of the large pdf posted at in a bulleted link titled "See transportation performance results from Prop 1 (plus even more light rail) published by government planners: Work trip transit share forecast to grow from 8.4% to 11.3%."

If you think this result is good enough for $157 billion, vote yes on Prop 1. I don't, so I'll vote no.

Ben Schiendelman said...

Um, yeah, so for WORK TRIPS ONLY, you see little change - but as we've seen everywhere in the world, total trips change dramatically. So how about instead of misleading statistics, we compare apples to apples?

Oh, wait, we don't have to, because Portland already proved the point for us.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

John you just switched from total regional trips to total work trips, which is still what I called you out on the first time. That same Wendell Cox talking point which as Ben says isn't apples to apples. What about the corridor John?