Rail: The Transportation Cannibal

Rail: The Transportation Cannibal

The SMART train here in Marin and Sonoma are not the only areas to see the building of a billion dollar train line as the solution to the areas transit needs – Houston has it’s Metro, Portland has it’s MAX light rail, and Anaheim is spending $318m for a trolley that goes a mere 3.2 miles – trains seem to be the new obsession and solution to all of our transit woes. But an analysis of the actual impact rail has had in historic case studies exposes that rail is far from the solution – and the famous Einstein quote becomes apropo: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results Planning for Reality would like to thank Thomas Rubin for his expert insight – this article is based on his detailed analysis of rail case studies – and he is owed all credit. Rail: The Transportation Cannibal The problem with rail projects is that they have a disturbing history of causing transit agencies to eat their young – meaning that they cannibalize other far more cost effective projects capable of increasing ridership, decreasing emissions and not needlessly adding to sales or property taxes.   This is the story of Los Angeles, where the existing transportation system is in jeopardy as it is in the process of being replaced by rail. This is in area where the author, Thomas Rubin, has considerable expertize as he was the former Chief Financial Officer of Southern California Rapid Transit District from 1989 to 1993, when it was absorbed into what is now the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. After he...
Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

Transit Oriented Development’s Dirty Secret

An innocent reader interested in learning about transit oriented development projects would have learned from official county and city sources that one of the major justifications was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. Here is a selection of the justifications made to justify a number of projects in Marin: – The County of Marin told us in official documents that Priority Development Areas would “lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” – The Larkspur Station Area plan public workshop presentation told us that we should add 920 units of high density housing in order to “minimize greenhouse gas emissions” – The SMART’s train’s measure Q, climate change whitepaper and final Environmental Impact Report told us that it would “fight global warming” But what if none of this turned out to be true? What if all of these projects actually increased emissions? What if the claims that “if we don’t build high density here then we’d increase emissions by building sprawl elsewhere?” rang hollow? Then shouldn’t we re-evaluate all those projects based on the new information? After all the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated unambiguously that the climate change crisis has become so significant that we can’t continue with business as usual. The Changing Landscape: Car Emissions Have Dropped Many of us still feel a modicum of guilty pleasure driving a vehicle – based on information such as the above we presume that while taking transit can be inconvenient, we’re doing our bit to save the planet because transit has lower emissions. But the reality is that cars have come a long way in the last few years....
How Access to Cars Could Help the Poor

How Access to Cars Could Help the Poor

Efforts in Marin attempt to reduce car usage, concentrating new development into high density housing with limited parking and presuming residents take transit could have adverse effects on the economy – especially residents on low incomes, suppressing their abilities to access jobs. The study is called “Driving to Opportunity: Understanding the Links among Transportation Access, Residential Outcomes, and Economic Opportunity for Housing Voucher Recipients“. It is based on detailed analysis and peer reviewed reports by authors at UCLA and the University of Maryland exposes some critical factors that should be considered. The sample set is significant – 12,000 families across 10 different cities. – Housing voucher recipients with cars tended to live and remain in higher-opportunity neighborhoods—places with lower poverty rates, higher social status, stronger housing markets, and lower health risks. – Cars are also associated with improved neighborhood satisfaction and better employment outcomes. – Among Moving to Opportunity families, those with cars were twice as likely to find a job and four times as likely to remain employed. The report notes that cars are important in helping lower income residents secure and retain jobs as they have inherent benefit over public transport. Public transport is affected by: – longer travel times – insufficient metropolitan wide coverage (getting people door to door) Access to Transit Does Not Improve Employment Prospects Another 2003 study on the topic by Sanchez, Shen and Peng titled “Transit Mobility, Jobs Access and Low-income Labour Participation in US Metropolitan Areas” states: “While policy-makers assert that increased public transit mobility can positively affect employment status for low-income persons, there is little empirical evidence to support this theory. It...
Your Future Car May Be a Living Room on Wheels

Your Future Car May Be a Living Room on Wheels

The star attractions of many major international auto shows are the way-out futuristic concept vehicles that stand little to no chance of going into production. These crazy high-tech cars are an invitation to imagine an alternative transportation reality in which vehicles can fly, swim, think, and move us— physically and psychically—in unpredictable ways. Read More on Content-Loop...