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PS: Still not a crackpot

Posted to comments and as letter-to-editor in their new interface, but who knows if this new technology will work, so it's reposted here for your pleasure. The 2nd Hawaii report coming as soon as work calms down a bit.

Commuters will only switch to transit if they are delivered to their final destination – within a couple of blocks. Failing to provide that "last mile" transport can doom an entire regional rail system. If far-flung suburbanites hate the bus, and their offices are too far to walk from the last rail or rapid-bus stop, then they'll just keep driving, however long their commutes.

The part which was left out, in what's becoming a disturbing trend of analysis-free journalism at the Chronicle, is that choice commuters will also NOT accept transfers as part of their daily commute, unless we're talking about the Manhattan end of the scale where the transit alternative has the benefit of competing against 50-dollar parking.

Transfers from commuter rail to streetcar will not be any more attractive to daily commuters than transfers from commuter rail to shuttlebus - and choice commuters, as shown in South Florida with Tri-Rail, simply will not do the latter. Once you ride every day, the fact that the streetcar isn't any faster or more reliable than the bus was becomes very obvious.

It's time to remind people yet again: we did NOT decide to build what worked in Dallas, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake, Houston, and Minneapolis (light rail, or, what we would have built in 2000 and should have tried again in 2004). What we're building instead was what failed in South Florida - a transit alternative which is utterly non-competitive with the car and will continue to serve only the transit-dependent at an incredibly high cost, while derailing transit momentum for decades.

Mike Dahmus

Urban Transportation Commission, 2000-2005

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , PS: I am not a crackpot , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Republicans Hate The Environment , Texas Republicans Hate Cities , Transit in Austin , Transportation

Comments

I used to live in New Orleans and would ride the St. Charles streetcar, which works well, although it is really not much different timewise than the bus (and NOT air conditioned!). New Orleans was even working on another streetcar that was going to go up and down Canal Street before Katrina. That said, New Orleans is very different than Austin - N.O. is much more dense and has MANY more public transit riders, both tourists and poor folks. I have no strong opinion about a street car system working or not working in Austin, but it concerns me that so much emphasis is being placed on its charm or coolness or whatever. Public transit is first and foremost an economic decision - does it save me time and/or money? A perfect example are UT students who ride the shuttle - there is no group more interested in being cool, yet they ride the most uncool transit around...crappy, old busses (that are standing room only a lot of the time). Why? Because it is impossible and/or extremely expensive to drive to campus and park.

I guess my point is: will people that do not currently ride the Dillo ride a streetcar that goes along the same route simply because a streetcar has more charm? I don't think so.

PS What's up with the signing in now?

By the way, my wife lived in San Francisco without a car for two years and never took the trolley. She took the bus, the subway,walked...the trolley was just for tourists. A streetcar may or may not be a good idea, but I don't see it as a serious, realistic solution to Austin's transportation problems.

One more thing!! A trolley starting at MLK and Congress and going down to Ben White might work, kind of like in San Francisco/New Orleans.

Yes, I think a trolley might work for tourists, too. That along might make it a good idea, but that would imply it ought to be funded by the bed tax, not by the city.

Had to go to logins to stop spam. Sorry.

I see streetcar not working in conjunction with commuter rail, but what about as an independent transit system? Can we get enough density surrounding a streetcar system to make it the primary means of transportation (and the sole commuting vehicle) for a large enough number of people living and working within walking distance of streetcar stops?

shilli,

Unlikely. People are largely rational decision-makers in the aggregate (given the incentive system under which they must make their decisions). If a downtown resident who works at UT can get there quicker in his car today (even counting parking) than he can on the bus, a streetcar which is just as slow as the bus isn't going to make him change his mind. Especially when that streetcar goes to the ass-end of UT (which UT has some nebulous long-term plan to re-center at, which will probably never happen anyways).

In other words, uh, no. Not really. Tourists will love it. People moving downtown to live will, in the aggregate, treat it as just another bus, which is what it really is (except even less flexible). Light rail would be different, of course.

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