This Just In: Light Rail Fails to Relieve Congestion

The Los Angeles Time seems surprised to report that Los Angeles’ 9-mile-long Expo Line has failed to relieve congestion in the corridor it serves. Rail and bus boardings increased about 6 percent after the line opened in 2012 (at least some of which would be due to transfers of passengers from bus to rail who previously could go the entire distance of their journey by bus), but the rail line had no “significant or consistent impact” on auto traffic.

Many people believe rail transit depends on population density, and if so then the Expo Line should be a perfect candidate, as the area it serves has 26,000 people per square mile (about the same as New York City and nearly ten times the average urban density in the United States). On one hand, even that’s not dense enough for rail to attract a lot of riders. On the other hand, light rail is really low-capacity transit, so is truly the wrong solution for areas of high transit demand.

As the L.A. Times observes in other articles, rail does benefit some people. First, it gives perverts opportunities to engage in anonymous sexual harassment. Second, it gives politicians opportunities to spend a lot of money: with the prompting of Governor Jerry Brown, Los Angeles is considering spending billions of dollars on six more rail lines.

One thing building rail doesn’t do is get many people out of their cars. In 1980, before building any rail, Los Angeles transit carried 5.9 percent of commuters to work. Today, after building six light-rail, one heavy-rail, and seven commuter-rail lines, transit’s share of commuting is all the way up to 6.0 percent–and only 13.5 percent of those transit commuters take the train.


7 thoughts on “This Just In: Light Rail Fails to Relieve Congestion

  1. FrancisKing

    “The Los Angeles Time seems surprised to report that Los Angeles’ 9-mile-long Expo Line has failed to relieve congestion in the corridor it serves. ”

    No kidding. If the number of cars is reduced on a busy road, this reduces the costs of driving. Then basic economic theory tells us that reduction in costs will make the car more attractive and increase the number of cars. The previous equilibrium is regained.

    You need to hold traffic flows below the upturn in delay, to a point where changes in traffic flows have only very small effects on delay. Each corridor will have its own optimum practical capacity.

    A range of interventions are required – some carrots, and some sticks. You squeeze the car drivers, but give them somewhere to go. For example – park & ride + congestion charging. For example – light rail network + increased parking charges.

  2. gilfoil

    Andres Cantero of Long Beach, a law student at USC, takes the train to school five days a week. “For me, it’s an opportunity to study and not waste time in traffic,” he said. “Very rarely do I drive.”

    This guy sounds suspicious. Why doesn’t he drive, like the vast majority of American commuters?

    “An opportunity to study”..right – more like an opportunity to harass innocent women.

  3. metrosucks

    That didn’t take long. I expect msetty to stop sucking someone off in a Vallejo alley and react to the huge bat symbol (actually Stacey & Witbeck logo) now shining above the Bay Area; his signal to rush forth and defend the indefensible.

  4. Frank

    “a law student at USC”

    What? Someone attending a highly subsided university and likely receiving subsidy for tuition would take the most subsided for of transportation? Surprise! He’s also a future parasite, I mean lawyer. Sorry if this comment is offensive to him. Maybe he can run to a safe space with videos of puppies playing. All these microagressions add up (eventually one presumes) to an actual aggression.

  5. metrosucks

    msetty, feigning innocence might work better if you wiped the splooge off your face. Just saying.

    Where’s your contractually obligated defense against today’s post? John Bollier won’t give you that extra special treat for Xmas if you don’t deliver the goods.

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