Transit Today: Marketing Over Mobility

Denver’s Regional Transit District (RTD) won an award for its airport rail line. But the award was not for the line itself, which continues to suffer from technical failures more than a year after it opened, but for the agency’s marketing campaign for the train.

This is a sad commentary on the state of the nation’s transit industry: marketing is more important than mobility. Agencies have successfully marketed themselves as deserving of increased tax dollars (more than $50 billion in 2016), yet they are increasingly failing their supposed mission of improving urban mobility. RTD, for example, is under pressure to build and operate rail lines with low ridership (one carries just 1,600 a day), forcing it to cut bus routes that carry many more riders.

To discuss the future of transit in detail, next Wednesday the Antiplanner will be at the Cato Institute in Washington DC. Joining me on the platform will be Art Guzzetti, vice-president of policy with the American Public Transportation Association. While I will argue that transit’s decline is irreversible, Art–an intelligent man who previously worked for New Jersey Transit–will offer an alternative view. If you are in DC, please register and I hope to see you there. If you are not in DC, you can watch the event on livestream starting at 11 am ET.

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7 thoughts on “Transit Today: Marketing Over Mobility

  1. CapitalistRoader

    In other Denver rail news:

    AURORA, Colo. — RTD is expected to finalize controversial cuts to the new light rail R Line at a meeting on Tuesday night.

    The service, which runs through Aurora, just opened in February after long delays.

    But RTD said daily ridership is way off. Only about 40 passengers an hour are using the R Line during weekdays compared to about 200 for the A Line between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport.

    Aurora officials said making cuts now could derail development plans along the line in the future.

    Some of the development includes apartments and retail that already are in the works.

    And riders think the cuts are coming too soon.

    “No, I do not think they’ve given it enough time,” Omari Mitchell said. “They need to give at least three to five years, allow consumers to figure out the trains are there, figure out the schedules and go from there.
    “Don’t cut it.”

    “They’re nuts,” Nathan Trujillo said. “We need this out here. Everybody needs to get to work. If they cut back, they are only going to cut us back. We need all the help we can get to where we need to get.”
    Aurora officials also claim when the Veterans Administration hospital opens, ridership will spike.

    The cuts, if approved, would got into effect next year.

    Speaking of nuts, this is what they were saying about that Aurora line when it opened only a few months ago:

    “It’s going to be crazy,” said Regional Transportation District board member Tom Tobiassen, who represents Aurora. “It’s our new downtown.”

    Mayor Steve Hogan said city planners have talked about more restaurants, shops and a hotel for the part of the city near the Town Center at Aurora. There’s even the possibility of making the area a destination with some sort of events or cultural center.

    Crazy, nuts…all good adjectives for that orphan line.

  2. CapitalistRoader

    Why? The R line goes to Peoria now and it’s not as if transferring from the H to the R entails more than a few steps. Besides, they share a track when the H turns northeast and they’d still share a track if they added more cars and extended the H line to Peoria. The problem is too few riders, not not enough cars.

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