How transit pays for the automobile’s sins

Tip of the hat to Portland-based transit consultant (and, thankfully, prolific blogger) Jarrett Walker for finding this gem.

Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group, writing on Streetsblog USA:

We need services like dial-a-ride mainly because our car-oriented transportation system often leaves disabled Americans—not to mention the poor, the elderly and those too young to drive—waiting by the side of the road.

Over and over again, we call on transit to compensate for the failures of cars. Need to get New Year’s Eve revelers home without killing each other on the roadways? Extend transit service hours, put more buses on the road, and make them free. How about getting large crowds of people to a festival or a big game without triggering gridlock? Provide shuttle buses or run extra trains.

These are smart choices. But there is a cost to correcting these failures, and in the crude accounting done by folks such as the Post op-ed writers, all of them wind up on the “transit” side of the ledger.

It’s a nifty trick, really. Design a transportation system that leaves a wide swath of the population unserved and tends to fail when you need it most (including pretty much every weekday morning and evening in most American cities). Call on transit to fill the gap, sometimes at great expense. Then tar transit as being the inefficient user of public funds.


Photo
Transit in my hometown, Charlotte.
By David Wilson via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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