The Federal Transit Administration has published the 2011 National Transit Database, which has cost, fare, ridership, and other data for every transit agency, broken down by mode, that receives federal support. You can download the raw data in two formats: the database, which is easier to manipulate, or data tables, which are easier to read (links download self-extracting .exe files; if you have a Mac, you can expand these files using Stuffit Expander).
Either of these self-extracting files includes about 20 to 30 spreadsheets with data ranging from operators wages to energy consumption. It has become an annual ritual for the Antiplanner to extract the most interesting data and compile it in a single summary spreadsheet. The 2011 summary presents the following data by agency and mode:
- Transit agency identification number
- Who runs the service (DO=the transit agency, PT=a contractor)
- Full agency name
- Agency nickname
- City (usually the headquarters city of the agency)
- Urban area
- Passenger trips
- Passenger miles
- Vehicle revenue miles
- Operating costs
- Maintenance costs (what the database calls “existing service” capital improvements)
- Capital costs (what the database calls “expanded service” capital improvements)
- Number of vehicles
- Total number of seats on those vehicles
- Standing room on those vehicles
- Directional route miles (rail only–note that 50 route miles of rail equals 100 directional route miles)
- BTUs of energy consumed
- Pounds of carbon dioxide emitted
A return to the cities and rejection of the suburbs is an article of faith among smart-growth planners, and their wishful thinking is often supported by breathless media reports. The latest news comes from 2011 Census estimates, which the Wall Street Journal reports as revealing that the “cities outpace suburbs in growth.” MSNBC reports that “cities grow more than suburbs [for the] first time in 100 years.”
What do the numbers actually say? Of the 51 largest metropolitan areas, the percentage growth of 26 center cities was higher than the percentage growth of their suburbs. Why 51? Maybe because if they only looked at the 50 largest areas, exactly half of their cities would have grown faster than the suburbs and then they couldn’t say “most.” The percentage growth of central cities in all 51 of the largest areas combined was also higher than of their suburbs, but not by much: 1.03 percent vs. 0.93 percent.
That’s percentage growth, and if that continued as a long-term trend, it might be meaningful. But in fact it was only one year, from 2010 to 2011 (and the 2011 numbers are only estimates). And since, in most cases, the central cities make up only a small portion of the metropolitan area, faster percentage growth doesn’t translate into a large numeric growth. For example, Atlanta grew by 2.4 percent while its suburbs grew by only 1.3 percent. But Atlanta’s 2.4-percent gain means 10,040 new residents, while the suburbs 1.3 percent gain means 62,869 new residents. In other words, Atlanta suburbs actually gained more than six times as many people as Atlanta itself.
The Antiplanner has reposted the consolidated spreadsheet for the 2010 National Transit Database. The revision of a file I posted last month fixes an error in the calculation of the total number of seats and standing room provided by each transit agency and mode of travel.
More important, the revised file includes some calculations, including BTUs and CO2 emissions per passenger mile, seats and standing room per vehicle, the average number of passengers per vehicle (passenger miles divided by vehicle revenue miles), and operating subsidies per trip and passenger mile. Many more calculations can be made using this spreadsheet and you are welcome to download it and do them.
The Federal Transit Administration added a new kind of transit this year: demand-taxis (id code DT). This is a demand-responsive system that uses private taxis in place of the wheelchair-accessible buses used by many transit agencies. This actually saves money as the average demand-responsive bus costs taxpayers about $30 a ride while the average taxi costs about $17 a ride.
The 2010 National Transit Database has been available for a few weeks. As usual, it comes in two formats: either some 34 data tables that are easy to read but difficult to manipulate in Excel or some 20 data files that are easy to manipulate in Excel but difficult to read.
The Antiplanner has summarized the database in a single Excel file that includes annual transit trips, passenger miles, vehicle revenue miles, fares, operating costs, capital costs (which the database calls “expanded service” capital costs), maintenance costs (which the database calls “existing service” capital costs), number of vehicles, total seats, total standing room, BTUs of energy consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions for each transit agency and mode of transit. The BTUs were calculated from the energy table using energy factors from the Energy Information Agency. Carbon dioxide outputs were calculated using state electrical generation data from the same source.
Rows 2 through 1392 include the data by transit agency and mode. Rows 1396 through 1412 are sums by transit mode. Rows 1416 through 1431 are sums by transit mode including only those modes for which energy data were published. Rows 1434 through 1798 are sums by urbanized area. Eventually, I’ll add more columns that include calculations of various factors, but with these raw data you can do the same on your own.
Despite huge efforts to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles, nearly 8 million more people drove alone to work in 2010 than in 2000, according to data released by the Census Bureau. Wendell Cox’s review of the data show that the other big gainer was “worked at home,” which grew by nearly 2 million over the decade.
Transit gained less than a million, but transit numbers were so small in 2000 that its share grew from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent of total workers. While drive alone grew from 75.6 percent to 76.5 percent, the big loser was carpooling, which declined by more than 2 million workers. As a result, driving’s share as a whole declined from 87.9 percent to 86.2 percent.
Some people are chortling over a recent Pew survey that finds the share of Americans who think that cars are a “necessity” is the lowest since pollsters started asking the question in 1973. Perhaps, some are suggesting, that’s because young people aren’t driving as much as older Americans, so we shouldn’t invest much more in highways.
Another interpretation of the numbers is that more people think they should tell pollsters that they don’t need cars as much as they used to. The Antiplanner prefers to rely on revealed preferences rather than survey data. Here are a couple of revealed preferences.
Table B25044 of the 2009 American Community Survey indicates that 113 million out of 123 million American households–that’s 91.1 percent–have at least one vehicle available. Despite the recession, this is up from 105 out of 126 million households (89.7 percent) in the 2000 census (see table H44, summary file 3 or this brief).
According to census data, about 4 percent of American workers–5.9 million–live in households that have no automobiles. Conventional wisdom suggests that these are people who are either too poor to own a vehicle, and we should pity them; or people who for environmental or other reasons have learned to live without a vehicle, and we should admire them.
There may be a third category, however. As demographer Wendell Cox recently discovered, table B08141 from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey shows how people get to work by how many vehicles they have in their household. It turns out that nearly 1.2 million people who have no vehicles nevertheless drive to work in a single-occupancy vehicle. That represents 20 percent of workers with no vehicles. Another 730,000, or more than 12 percent of people with no vehicles, carpool to work.
My first thought was that this must be some kind of sampling error. But the Census Bureau insists the 1.2 million number is accurate to within plus or minus 2 percent. Another possibility is that some people didn’t understand the questions. But another possibility is that nearly 1 percent of workers live in households with no vehicles but still manage to drive alone to work. Maybe they use company cars?
Next time someone tells you about how everyone is returning to the cities, point them to these maps based on the 2010 census. Available for the forty largest urban areas in the United States, they show, almost without exception, the central cities losing population and the suburbs gaining.
According to the mapmakers, “deep blue indicates that the population doubled (or more), pure red means that everyone left, grey denotes no change, and the intermediate tones represent the spectrum of increases and decreases in-between.” The white beyond the urban periphery indicates very low densities.
American forests are growing 42 percent faster than they are being cut and 380 percent faster than they were growing back in 1920. At least, that was true in 2000 when this report evaluating the state of forests in the United States was published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Though the report is a bit old, its conclusions should be just as valid today.
What the report does not say is that the internal combustion engine is one of the main reasons for the healthy state of American forests. As recently as 1910, farmers used horses and other animals for almost all heavy-duty farm work. To supply these animals with food, farmers typically dedicated a third or more of their farms to pastureland. This pasture provided farmers with no direct revenue, just feed for their draft animals.
According to economists at Moody’s, the housing market will bottom out in 2011–which means now may be the time to hunt for cheap homes and be ready to flip them when prices start going up. Unfortunately, the Antiplanner can’t afford the $250 required to listen to Moody’s webconference, so let’s look at some other data to see how likely it is that prices will start to recover.
First, we can go to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which publishes home price indices beginning in 1975 for states, metropolitan areas, and the nation as a whole. Many news reports rely on the Case-Schiller index, but that index only covers a selection of metro areas and misses many states. The FHFA uses the Case-Schiller methodology but has a much larger database.
The Antiplanner has made a user-friendly Excel chart from FHFA’s state data. Simply enter the two-letter acronyms of up to six states in cells BK150 to BP150, and the chart should update with those states. Nationally, housing prices peaked in the first quarter of 2007, declined through the second quarter of 2010, and recovered slightly in the third quarter of 2010. But, as averages of the country as a whole, national data do not provide very useful indicators of what is really happening in housing markets.