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  #761  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 5:18 AM
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Originally Posted by accord1999 View Post
Maybe the estimates were low-balled? I looked at articles from that time period and 25K/day ridership for a line that stretched 20 miles with 28 stops is so small as to question why they built a rail line to begin with. Even with nearly 50K/day ridership, fare recovery is pretty bad at 30%, based on the FY2019 budget document.
I don't know what time period you're referring to, but light rail ridership is about 50,000 per day. Cynics might say estimates were low-balled, but in over a decade of daily commuting via light rail, I've never once been on a train that was anywhere near empty. I have no idea what the typical fare recovery rate looks like in Canada, but 30% is above the median for light rail in the United States:

https://infogram.com/Farebox-Recover...ht-Rail-Lines/
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  #762  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 5:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Doady View Post
The more cities invest in LRT, the more often they neglect the bus system connecting to it, the more incomplete the overall system becomes. And of course if there too many holes in the network, people have to turn to ridersharing to get around. The neglect of buses is what prevents LRT lines across the US from fulfilling their full potential.

Compare the ridership and growth of a more complete transit system without LRT (Las Vegas) to that of an incomplete transit system with lots of LRT (Sacramento) and you can see who is the clear winner.
This comment is a combination of:

1. Silly generalization: "The more a city invests in LRT the more they neglect buses" may be true in some cases but is not remotely true overall or for every city.

2. Flatly incorrect facts: Ride-hailing in the US is most successful in places with the best transit.

and

3. Cherry picking examples: I can just as easily pick a pair of cities that show the opposite trend.

There is a legitimate discussion to be had about when light rail's appropriate, and certainly plenty of US cities have gotten it wrong for one reason or another. But let's not mistake specific problems with inherent ones.
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  #763  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 7:52 AM
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Originally Posted by ssiguy View Post
Those frequencies are horrible but unfortunately common in the US.

How rapid is the rapid transit when you have to wait for it for 20 minutes? In most places with 4 million people outside the US, those would be lousy frequencies for an average local bus. This is made worse by the fact that US cities tend to have huge freeways networks and more importantly many freeways that go right thru the heart of the downtown so cars have a huge time savings advantage.

In the US cars and gas are very cheap and the effect of Uber and Lyft is much higher than in other countries because they are competing with vastly superior transit systems and service and they allow Americans to avoid using transit due to the negative stigma attached to it. The world views transit as an essential service while the vast majority of Americans view it as a social service. Most Americans would rather be caught walking into a porn shop than boarding a bus.
You are mistaken it’s not that people are embarrassed to ride the bus, it’s usually that the city busses are gross, late, unreliable, and full of incredibly undesirable people. I took a city bus to work for nearly a year and it was a horrific expieirence of crime, homeless people and unreliable operation.
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  #764  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by accord1999 View Post
Maybe the estimates were low-balled? I looked at articles from that time period and 25K/day ridership for a line that stretched 20 miles with 28 stops is so small as to question why they built a rail line to begin with. Even with nearly 50K/day ridership, fare recovery is pretty bad at 30%, based on the FY2019 budget document.
Fare recovery is terrible for nearly all transit systems in the U.S.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farebox_recovery_ratio
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  #765  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Obadno View Post
You are mistaken it’s not that people are embarrassed to ride the bus, it’s usually that the city busses are gross, late, unreliable, and full of incredibly undesirable people. I took a city bus to work for nearly a year and it was a horrific expieirence of crime, homeless people and unreliable operation.
I had to work late last night. I thought I'd take light rail halfway home and then summon a ride from the station to my house via Lyft. I was pleasantly surprised to find that due to recent improvements in headways and hours of service that I was instead able to transfer immediately to a bus that serves my neighborhood. I'm still a fan of trains over buses, and I still believe that no BRT line will ever attract discretionary passengers the way that light rail does. Nevertheless, taking the bus in Phoenix has become so much better since Proposition 104.

Light rail opponents and skeptics keep claiming that rail has come at the expense of bus service. Maybe it's that way in some other cities. In Phoenix, however, it has clearly been a case of a rising tide lifting all boats. The same dedicated funds that have allowed light rail to exist have also resulted in steady improvements in bus service, allowing the two modes to complement each other.
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  #766  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 5:49 PM
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Originally Posted by exit2lef View Post
I had to work late last night. I thought I'd take light rail halfway home and then summon a ride from the station to my house via Lyft. I was pleasantly surprised to find that due to recent improvements in headways and hours of service that I was instead able to transfer immediately to a bus that serves my neighborhood. I'm still a fan of trains over buses, and I still believe that no BRT line will ever attract discretionary passengers the way that light rail does. Nevertheless, taking the bus in Phoenix has become so much better since Proposition 104.

Light rail opponents and skeptics keep claiming that rail has come at the expense of bus service. Maybe it's that way in some other cities. In Phoenix, however, it has clearly been a case of a rising tide lifting all boats. The same dedicated funds that have allowed light rail to exist have also resulted in steady improvements in bus service, allowing the two modes to complement each other.
That is exactly what one would hope for.
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  #767  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 5:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Obadno View Post
You are mistaken it’s not that people are embarrassed to ride the bus, it’s usually that the city busses are gross, late, unreliable, and full of incredibly undesirable people. I took a city bus to work for nearly a year and it was a horrific expieirence of crime, homeless people and unreliable operation.
This is something that the city and transit system needs to clean up. I have heard this sort of thing before including on light rail, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Actually, the bus transit network is part of the safety watch for a city and for every neighbourhood that has bus service. Every bus driver can reach the police if there is undesirable activity on the street, and of course, bus riders become pedestrians, and the more pedestrians that are out there, the less likely that there will be criminal activity. It is dead streets that promote criminal activity.
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  #768  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 7:07 PM
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Originally Posted by lrt's friend View Post
This is something that the city and transit system needs to clean up. I have heard this sort of thing before including on light rail, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Actually, the bus transit network is part of the safety watch for a city and for every neighbourhood that has bus service. Every bus driver can reach the police if there is undesirable activity on the street, and of course, bus riders become pedestrians, and the more pedestrians that are out there, the less likely that there will be criminal activity. It is dead streets that promote criminal activity.
Somewhat related to this is the issue of security on the bus itself. On most bus routes, the driver is tasked with multiple jobs: 1) operating the vehicle safely and efficiently 2) collecting passenger fares 3) enforcing rules of passenger conduct. That's a lot for one person to handle, and I'm glad to see some differentiation of roles being introduced to urban bus systems.

Some cities are moving to all-door boarding with fare enforcement done via random fare inspections. It's similar to the proof-of-payment systems common on most light rail lines (and even a few heavy rail systems). The bus can operate more efficiently when everyone no longer has to queue at the front.

There's also the ability to place a dedicated security officer on a bus route that may be prone to problems. I remember last summer taking my kids to Playland during a visit to Vancouver. As we rode the Hastings bus towards PNE, a security officer jumped on board right as the bus passed through Downtown Eastside. I assume that was either because of a history of problems with passenger behavior in that area, or at least a perception of danger that might deter some passengers from using the bus if not addressed.
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  #769  
Old Posted May 25, 2019, 7:44 PM
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Originally Posted by exit2lef View Post
Mesa previously operated a light form of BRT along this corridor. The city then made a wise decision to upgrade to light rail. The "similar thing" was a helpful interim step. Rail makes the commitment more enduring, attracts discretionary passengers that will never take a bus, and does more to catalyze development. It should be noted that Mesa has made substantial improvements in headways and hours of service on bus routes that connect to light rail, allowing the two modes to work together effectively. In that respect, the TV news report is incorrect. Mesa, as well as its neighbors Tempe and Phoenix, does not see rail in opposition to buses, but instead as the spine of a system in which buses complement trains.
I don't see a lot of bus service to those stations in Mesa, but it's the municipalities surrounding Mesa that refuse to provide or fund bus service. It's hard to see LRT being successful in such a situation, but I guess that's not Mesa's fault. Hopefully, the LRT will eventually inspire Mesa's neighbours finally introduce bus service.

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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
This comment is a combination of:

1. Silly generalization: "The more a city invests in LRT the more they neglect buses" may be true in some cases but is not remotely true overall or for every city.
It's a fact. Dallas has the largest light rail system in the US, but the transit ridership of any large metropolitan in the US because the bus service is almost non-existent.

Of course, there are other cities like Portland that invest in buses properly. Despite its huge investment in light rail, Portland has much higher bus ridership than light rail ridership. Do you really think the most systems are more akin to Portland than to Dallas? Seems to me Portland is more the outlier, not Dallas.

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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
2. Flatly incorrect facts: Ride-hailing in the US is most successful in places with the best transit.
I never said otherwise.

Quote:
3. Cherry picking examples: I can just as easily pick a pair of cities that show the opposite trend.
I was referring to my list of the ridership of every city of approx 2.5 milllion, which was a response to IMBY saying he was happy to move away from Las Vegas because its decision not to build LRT. That's why I singled out Las Vegas on that list as an example. And I even agreed with him that Las Vegas should build LRT. Maybe you are the one who should stop cherry picking my posts and quoting them out of context.

I will post the list again for you and everyone to see:
Code:
City           Riders2018  +/-
Portland       97,070,600  -0.96%
Baltimore      95,309,400  -5.54%
Las Vegas      66,384,500  +2.75%
Salt Lake City 44,200,400  -2.04%
St. Louis      37,000,300  -5.63%
Cleveland      31,164,200  -3.35%
Charlotte      21,425,400  -0.82%
Sacramento     20,802,900  -4.99%
Compared other cities of similar size, Las Vegas was the only one that saw ridership growth in 2018, and the only one without rail transit.

Other cities that saw ridership growth: Hartford, Champaign, Indianapolis, Lexington, Lansing, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Austin, Houston, Seattle. All cities with bus-based systems. The cities with rail-based systems all lost ridership. How's that for cherry picking?

Las Vegas is one of the best performing and best growing transit systems in the USA. I just thought it was ridiculous for people here to criticize them so much and even accuse them of trying to sabotage transit simply because they chose BRT over LRT. Even investing in BRT is part of a plot to kill transit. That's how out of control this rail obsession has become. It's just such an incredibly myopic view of transit. People can't even see the big picture anymore.

Last edited by Doady; May 25, 2019 at 7:59 PM.
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  #770  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 2:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doady View Post
It's a fact. Dallas has the largest light rail system in the US, but the transit ridership of any large metropolitan in the US because the bus service is almost non-existent.
You cannot draw nationwide trends from a single city. Dallas has a stupid light rail system but the fact that Dallas built a commuter rail system out of light rail trains doesn't mean light rail is inherently bad.

Quote:
Other cities that saw ridership growth: Hartford, Champaign, Indianapolis, Lexington, Lansing, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Austin, Houston, Seattle. All cities with bus-based systems. The cities with rail-based systems all lost ridership. How's that for cherry picking?
They're growing because they have very low ridership to begin with so even slight increases show up as big percentage growth. Except Seattle, which has a lot of ridership but which is also investing more in light rail right now than any US city except maybe LA.

It may well be correct that Las Vegas was right to build BRT. That doesn't mean LRT is bad. The fact that Las Vegas is experiencing a growth period right now doesn't negate the fact that, say, Portland has experienced growth periods based on rail during other times. The fact that Las Vegas is growing faster right now doesn't negate the fact that Portland has 50% more ridership.

Talk about specifics. Don't insist upon rules that are not real.

Now I'll add an opinion: I think anti-rail advocates claiming specific issues are inherent rules was the primary thing that set back BRT in the US for at least 20 years. I think your line of arguing is precisely responsible for BRT not catching on in the 90s. Instead of talking about the rock-solid topic of where and how BRT is appropriate, the BRT advocacy world tied itself in knots making questionable argument about how bad light rail must be. It was only once the anti-rail rhetoric cooled down that cities could honestly look at BRT without starting a war. So when I suggest you should talk about specifics and not insist on rules that aren't real, it's partly because I want BRT to succeed.
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Last edited by Cirrus; May 26, 2019 at 2:20 AM.
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  #771  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 2:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Doady View Post
I don't see a lot of bus service to those stations in Mesa, but it's the municipalities surrounding Mesa that refuse to provide or fund bus service. It's hard to see LRT being successful in such a situation, but I guess that's not Mesa's fault. Hopefully, the LRT will eventually inspire Mesa's neighbours finally introduce bus service.
It's a bit more complicated than that. Mesa's neighbors are Tempe to the west, Chandler and Gilbert to the south, Queen Creek and Apache Junction to the east, and the Salt River Indian Community to the north.

Tempe has long been the regional leader in transit with a commitment surpassing that of even Phoenix, which is far larger. Tempe has light rail, bus service on most arterial streets, a downtown streetcar under construction, and a system of free neighborhood circulators. It's definitely doing its share to promote regional connectivity.

Chandler and Gilbert were both partners with Mesa in the East Valley Link BRT-lite service a few years ago. Those communities decided to revert to standard local bus service while Mesa decided to move forward with expansion of light rail. A lot of it is political. All three communities are majority Republican, but with different flavors. Mesa has a strong Mormon presence, and the LDS church has been supportive of light rail in Mesa, just as it has been in Salt Lake City. Gilbert, on the other hand, is more Tea Party dominated, and public anything is viewed with suspicion there. Chandler is more moderate and has left open the possibility of adding light rail in the future.

Queen Creek and Apache Junction are both in a separate county that does not provide any public transit. That's something that needs to change since both formerly rural communities have become Phoenix / Mesa exurbs.

The Salt River Indian Community has historically been rural in character but is increasingly using its gaming revenue to develop more infrastructure. My hope is that we will eventually see more transit on the reservation, although it's likely to take the form of connections to Scottsdale rather than Mesa -- largely due to geographic factors.

Of course the phrase "a lot of bus service" is subjective and contextual. It may very well be low in comparison to many other cities, but my point is more that it has been significantly expanded to complement light rail, once again debunking the notion that light rail has been added at the expense of buses.
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  #772  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 4:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
You cannot draw nationwide trends from a single city. Dallas has a stupid light rail system but the fact that Dallas built a commuter rail system out of light rail trains doesn't mean light rail is inherently bad.
I don't recall off hand many commuter rail lines in the world with diesel powered locomotives running in 3.5 mile long tunnels with headways every 10 minutes. DART's electric rail transit system is a light rail system, always has and always will be.
The DART light rail system length is up to 93 miles, with 64 stations it averages 1.45 miles between stations. Not the 0.5 or 1.0 miles typical in the USA. But not the 3.4 miles between stations seen on the TRE, 3 miles between stations on TexRail, nor the 3.5 miles between stations on DCTA.
Math
DART=93 miles /64 stations = 1.45 miles/station
TRE=34 miles /10 stations = 3.4 miles/station
TexRail=27 miles /9 stations = 3 miles/station
DCTA=21 miles /6 stations = 3.5 miles/station

And soon DART hopes to build a subway line under downtown Dallas to reposition a few of their existing light rail lines on. You are not going to see many diesel locomotive commuter rail lines in the world with more than two subway stations under their downtowns on the same line.
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  #773  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 5:07 AM
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He's not comparing DART to the low-frequency, low-ridership diesel locomotive commuter rail systems common found in North America (did he even mention diesel?) but rather with the type of mainline commuter/suburban rail systems common in Europe, Asia and Australia which are the most typical form of commuter rail globally carrying the vast majority of commuter rail trips. in that global context DART would most certainly make for a more appropriate comparison to typical suburban/commuter rail systems than to most urban rail systems if not for the rolling stock.
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  #774  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 6:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Nouvellecosse View Post
He's not comparing DART to the low-frequency, low-ridership diesel locomotive commuter rail systems common found in North America (did he even mention diesel?) but rather with the type of mainline commuter/suburban rail systems common in Europe, Asia and Australia which are the most typical form of commuter rail globally carrying the vast majority of commuter rail trips. in that global context DART would most certainly make for a more appropriate comparison to typical suburban/commuter rail systems than to most urban rail systems if not for the rolling stock.
And in most of the world, light rail isn't called light rail at all; it is called a tram.
In the USA, trams are called streetcars. Streetcars have stations (or would a better word be stops) every few blocks along its' entire length, every 600 - 900 feet, or if you prefer every 200 - 300 yards or meters. Golly, DART runs a streetcar line to Oak Cliff for the City of Dallas that has a bridge over the Trinity River that places stations a mile apart (close to 1500 meters - five to seven times the streetcar average between station stops).

Expecting USA light rail systems to have distances between stations or stops like USA streetcar systems (the world "tram" standard?) is being slightly unrealistic.
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  #775  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 12:39 PM
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It has become somewhat common to criticize DART as an example of rail gone wrong. Jeff Speck did it in Walkable City, Christof Spieler did it in Trains, Buses, People, and now it has occurred in this thread. I don't have enough experience with the system to have a strong opinion, but even if I were convinced that DART's approach to light rail is wrong, that doesn't even come close to negating every light rail implementation in every city.

In the list of cities previously cited with transit ridership gains, it's not entirely correct to say they are all bus-based. Several, like Pittsburgh and Seattle, mix light rail and buses. I've seen officials from Seattle boast about how their approach has been focused primarily on buses, but usually that claim has come from personnel affiliated with King County Metro, who understandably talk about what's under their direct control. Seattle's popular and growing light rail is under the jurisdiction of a different regional agency, Sound Transit.

I don't have a strong opinion about Las Vegas, but it seems to me that what has been called a "rail obsession" is more often just a realistic acknowledgment that buses aren't trains and can't do everything trains can do, no matter how much they are gussied-up with BRT features, many of which can easily be undone when "BRT creep" sets in. Sometimes, a bus is still just a bus in the passengers' minds, no matter how much planners want them to see it differently.
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  #776  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 5:50 PM
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Originally Posted by exit2lef View Post
It has become somewhat common to criticize DART as an example of rail gone wrong. Jeff Speck did it in Walkable City, Christof Spieler did it in Trains, Buses, People, and now it has occurred in this thread. I don't have enough experience with the system to have a strong opinion, but even if I were convinced that DART's approach to light rail is wrong, that doesn't even come close to negating every light rail implementation in every city.
I do not care how common it is, DART built a light rail system the citizens of Dallas and its’s twelve other member suburban cities wanted. Almost half the local taxes collected to subsidize the entire system does not come from Dallas. The suburban cities as a group have almost as much power, politically and financially, as Dallas alone, so the system has to service them. That is why it does. Those who criticize DART for building a suburban friendly light rail system ignores these realities!

Maybe if DART was just limited to within city limits of Dallas politically and financially it could have built as an urban friendlier light rail system these critics want. But that did not happen! I do not see any of these critics suggesting DART should give all the suburban city’s taxes back, collected since 1983.
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  #777  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 5:50 PM
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  #778  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 7:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
You cannot draw nationwide trends from a single city. Dallas has a stupid light rail system but the fact that Dallas built a commuter rail system out of light rail trains doesn't mean light rail is inherently bad.
I never said light rail is inherently bad. I said focusing on light rail at the expense of bus is inherently bad. My point is Dallas has the worst bus service of the Texas cities, it gets 7 million less bus riders annually than San Antonio despite having 3 times the population, and hence it the worst overall transit ridership. You keep focusing on rail, my point is about the bus.

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Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
They're growing because they have very low ridership to begin with so even slight increases show up as big percentage growth. Except Seattle, which has a lot of ridership but which is also investing more in light rail right now than any US city except maybe LA.
Even a "slight increase" would be flying in the face of what been going in the rest of the country. But Hartford, Champaign, Lansing, Pittburgh, Houston, Austin have comparable ridership to the cities previously listed. They are all average or above average compared to the rest of the US.

Code:
Seattle    224,745,200  +1.06%
Houston     89,686,400  +1.00%
Pittsburgh  64,831,200  +1.88%
Austin      29,859,200  +0.24%
Hartford    26,495,200  +0.69%
Champaign   11,784,100  +2.00%
Lansing     10,623,400  +4.00%
Do you really believe Seattle didn't have high ridership before it built rail? It's growth is just a new thing? Light rail is still a very tiny part of its overall network. It focus entirely on the light rail aspect of the system is just ridiculous.

Quote:
It may well be correct that Las Vegas was right to build BRT. That doesn't mean LRT is bad.
No, I will say it again for the third time: Las Vegas should have built LRT. It would have been right to build LRT. Just like Seattle was right to build LRT. And Portland was right to build LRT.

Quote:
The fact that Las Vegas is experiencing a growth period right now doesn't negate the fact that, say, Portland has experienced growth periods based on rail during other times. The fact that Las Vegas is growing faster right now doesn't negate the fact that Portland has 50% more ridership.
And it doesn't negate the fact that Las Vegas has 100-200% more ridership St. Louis, Charlotte, and Sacamento.

Again, the majority of Portland's ridership is on buses, not rail. It has one of the busiest bus systems in the US.

Quote:
Talk about specifics. Don't insist upon rules that are not real.

Now I'll add an opinion: I think anti-rail advocates claiming specific issues are inherent rules was the primary thing that set back BRT in the US for at least 20 years. I think your line of arguing is precisely responsible for BRT not catching on in the 90s. Instead of talking about the rock-solid topic of where and how BRT is appropriate, the BRT advocacy world tied itself in knots making questionable argument about how bad light rail must be. It was only once the anti-rail rhetoric cooled down that cities could honestly look at BRT without starting a war. So when I suggest you should talk about specifics and not insist on rules that aren't real, it's partly because I want BRT to succeed.
Is that what I'm doing? Anti-rail advocacy? BRT advocacy? It seems to me you are the one making generalizations and not focusing on specifics. I give you hard statistics and you just ignore them and make generalizations. I say not to focus on BRT vs. LRT, and you keep going on about BRT vs. LRT.

BRT vs. LRT doesn't matter. Stop attributing ridership growth to rail construction. LRT doesn't increase ridership. BRT doesn't increase ridership. Seattle had high transit ridership before it built LRT. Ottawa had massive transit ridership before it built BRT. The high ridership comes first, LRT and BRT comes second.

Las Vegas should build LRT because the ridership is almost as high as Portland. Las Vegas should build LRT because it is one of the highest ridership and fastest growing systems in the USA. LRT should be built to address high transit ridership, not low ridership. LRT is for dealing with ridership growth, not ridership decline.
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  #779  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 7:31 PM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
I do not care how common it is, DART built a light rail system the citizens of Dallas and its’s twelve other member suburban cities wanted. Almost half the local taxes collected to subsidize the entire system does not come from Dallas. The suburban cities as a group have almost as much power, politically and financially, as Dallas alone, so the system has to service them. That is why it does. Those who criticize DART for building a suburban friendly light rail system ignores these realities!

Maybe if DART was just limited to within city limits of Dallas politically and financially it could have built as an urban friendlier light rail system these critics want. But that did not happen! I do not see any of these critics suggesting DART should give all the suburban city’s taxes back, collected since 1983.
Thank you for this perspective. I knew there had to be another side to the DART debate.
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  #780  
Old Posted May 26, 2019, 9:31 PM
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Is what we are arguing about really models of transit investment?

Usually buses are used to form a comprehensive network while light rail is a way of focusing on corridors. Of course it is possible for BRT to focus service on corridors and for LRT to act like local transit but those things don't seem as common.

I think the reason why the approach of focusing efforts on major corridors was chosen to revitalize mass transit by planners is because it would help stimulate TOD and benefit neighborhoods. Also my understanding is that in the 70s and early 80s a lot of cities had active pushes to build rapid transit as an alternative to freeways by a generation who still remembered streetcars. That would shift the paradigm away from suburbanization and highways. Trains would attract choice riders which was an important component of this. When LRT systems were planned and built I don't think anyone intended for them to come at the expense of buses. What I think is now driving the decline in LRT ridership in a lot of cities has to do with the competition for those same choice riders and TOD dwellers by ridesharing services. That doesn't mean ridership will decline forever, but it takes the edge off the power that light rail would have had to transform neighborhoods and reorient things towards core cities and urbanism.

In the same time frame, the population and densities of working class neighborhoods in the 'middle ring' beyond downtown and desirable central locations has continued to decrease in a lot of American cities. In stable or growing inner cities, gentrification means more people who are likely to own a car. In other words, there are fewer potential bus riders living in places traditionally well served by bus routes than their used to be. Instead of it being a conspiracy I think transit agencies were just doing what they could during lean times like the most recent recession to cut back on service to shrinking neighborhoods.

The reason why buses are doing well in some cities might have more to do with either numbers(a small increase of a very small number looks large when expressed as a percentage) or it has to do with specific geographic and demographic factors. Houston is growing still, and it has some peculiar urban geography that is especially well suited to medium-capacity bus service. It has dense immigrant hoods in 1970s suburbia much like Toronto does and putting bus routes on major corridors picks up way more ridership than one would expect in that environment. But that is ephemeral I think, household sizes and immigrant flows change and buildings are torn down and replaced with less dense development.

Like it or not, most of Dallas-Fort Worth isn't really conducive to transit. Instead of building the DART rail system they could have spent billions to create 10 min frequency bus routes in Garland and Irving. But that would probably just result in a lot of empty buses driving around because a car is still superior in comfort for getting around those kinds of places and all but the poorest people(who don't live in those areas) can generally afford one. DART is doing as much as it possibly can, which is to concentrate transit on areas where it can work. For what its worth, knowing people from Dallas many are proud of the DART rail and will tell you they rode it when they took classes at the community college downtown and like riding it to NBA games or concerts, etc. It's useful and the taxpayers who paid for it seem to appreciate it, and that's all that really matters at the end of the day.
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