Daily Archives: May 9, 2017

Reason #9 to Stop Subsidizing Transit
It Doesn’t Relieve Congestion

Congestion relief is one of the most used–and often most persuasive–arguments in favor of increased transit subsidies. Transit carries more than half of New York City workers to their jobs, and as such it prevents that city from being more congested than it already is. However, at least since 1970, almost nowhere in the United States has a subsidized expansion of transit service led to a reduction in overall congestion.

Transit’s Share of Travel in 1970 and 2015

Urbanized Area19702015
Atlanta10.4%3.8%
Baltimore16.9%8.2%
Boston18.2%15.5%
Buffalo12.3%4.4%
Charlotte9.1%3.0%
Chicago24.4%13.7%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington5.7%1.9%
Denver4.8%4.5%
Houston6.0%2.6%
Los Angeles4.8%5.6%
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-W. Palm Beach6.2%4.0%
Minneapolis-Saint Paul9.5%6.1%
New York39.0%34.6%
Norfolk-Virginia Beach9.0%2.0%
Phoenix-Mesa1.3%2.5%
Portland7.0%8.5%
Sacramento2.7%2.8%
Salt Lake City2.3%4.2%
San Diego4.8%3.9%
San Francisco-Oakland16.0%21.2%
San Jose2.4%4.5%
Seattle6.6%10.7%
St. Louis9.2%3.3%
Washington17.6%17.6%

In most urban areas, subsidies to transit began in earnest in 1970, plus or minus five years. As shown in the table above, since then transit usage in most of these areas has declined despite the subsidies. The only major exceptions are Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles. Portland and Seattle also saw an increase in transit’s share, though for what it’s worth, all of the increase in Portland and most of Seattle’s increase took place in the 1970s. Continue reading

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Prediction: 95% of 2030 Travel by Self-Driving Cars

“By 2030,” says a new report from a group that calls itself RethinkX, “95% of U.S. passenger miles traveled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals.” The Antiplanner is more optimistic about the rapid growth of self-driving cars than most, but RethinkX’s prediction is more dramatic than anything the Antiplanner has said.

As recognized in this more moderate report from UC Davis, RethinkX’s statement is really three predictions in one: first, about self-driving cars; second, about what powers those cars; and third, about who owns those cars. I think 95 percent by 2030 is optimistic for any one of these predictions, much less all of them.

First, the decision about what powers cars is completely, 100 percent independent of the decision about whether humans or computers drive cars. So long as the United States gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels, even natural gas, the environmental benefits from converting to electric cars is negligible, especially since we can make gasoline-powered cars more fuel-efficient. Continue reading

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