The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has come up with a creative explanation for why its ridership is dropping. It seems Salt Lake police have started something called Operation Rio Grande aimed at arresting drug dealers and other criminals near downtown Salt Lake. Many of those drug dealers were apparently regular light-rail users, so their incarceration has significantly reduced UTA ridership. Or so UTA says.
UTA hopes to gain new riders once the system appears to be safer. But it is forecasting “stagnant” ridership for the next year, which may actually be optimistic.
Meanwhile, reporters in Hawaii have noticed a drastic decline in ridership on Honolulu’s bus system, which on a per-capita basis is one of the most popular in the nation. Local transit officials profess to believe that bus ridership will recover when the city’s rail line opens. That’s pretty unlikely, however, both because they don’t even have funding to complete the rail line and because bus ridership has dropped when new rail lines opened in nearly every other city.
In the nation’s capital, officials of the Washington Metro system have admitted that Uber and Lyft may be cutting into Metro’s ridership. They have taken the time-honored transit solution to any problem by hiring a consultant. This consultant will do little more than “create a forecasting and modeling tool” to help Metro respond to this competitive challenge, especially as driverless cars enter the picture–which, as commenter Capitalist Roader noted in last week’s Antiplanner, may be in as little as two years. While that seems optimistic to me, I’ve repeatedly stated that there are simply too many unknowns about self-driving ride-sharing to forecast the consequences, so the model Metro is paying for will be worthless.
As if in protest to transit’s declining relevance, New York’s Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal both decided to immolate themselves on Wednesday. While there’s no evidence that these fires were anything but accidents, they underscore the fact that too many people have forgotten the lesson of 9-11, as stated by Stephen Ambrose: “Don’t bunch up.” Or, as Wired magazine put it: “Density kills.”
Wired thought the problem was how to “preserve the virtues of density while protecting city dwellers from the nonlinear, asymmetrical threat of modern warfare.” But, Ambrose responded, “It is no longer necessary to pack so many people and offices into such small a space as Lower Manhattan. They can be scattered in neighboring regions and states, where they can work just as efficiently and in far more security.” Such scattering, of course, is not good for transit, so transit agencies are fighting this attitude for selfish reasons. The good news is that they have been, for the most part, unsuccessful.