Happy Thanksgiving

As a Thanksgiving gift to all my faithful allies and loyal opponents, the Antiplanner has summarized the recently posted National Transit Data for 2007 into one file. The original data are contained in about 21 different files, many of which are hard to read because you have to cross-reference to other files.

The 1.6 MB spreadsheet I’ve posted is in three parts. The first 1438 rows include data for every mode (light rail, bus, etc.) offered by every transit agency in the country (or at least every one that reports to the FTA). The data are also sorted into “DO,” meaning directly operated by the transit agency, and “PT,” meaning contracted out to private companies.

Rows 1442 through 1456 summarize the data by mode: cable car, commuter rail, and so forth. Some of the data (employee hours and BTUs) are only available for directly operated systems, so rows 1459 through 1473 summarize the DO data only by mode.

Rows 1477 through 1828 summarize the data by urbanized area.

Columns represent:

A – Agency ID number
B – Mode abbreviation (see rows 1442 through 1456 for translation)
C – DO or PT
D – Transit agency name
E – City and state (agency headquarters)
F – The number of the urbanized area primarily served by the agency
G – Transit trips in 2007
H – Passenger miles
I – Vehicle revenue miles
J – Fare revenues
K – Capital costs
L – Operating costs
M – Employee hours
N – BTUs of energy
O – Number of vehicles in the active fleet
P – Number of seats in those vehicles
Q – Standing room in those vehicles
R – Directional route miles (rail only – a route mile is usually two directional route miles)

All of the above columns are straight from the data base (except BTUs which I calculated from the kilowatt hours, gallons of fuel, etc. using standard conversion factors). The rest are calculated:

S – Average trip length (passenger miles per trip)
T – Average vehicle occupancy (passenger miles per vehicle revenue mile)
U – Average vehicle capacity (seats and standing room divided by number of vehicles)
V – Operating cost per passenger mile
W – Operating cost per trip
X – Employee hours per thousands of passenger miles
Y – BTUs per passenger mile

In the urbanized area rows, columns X and Y may be low in any areas that contract out some of their transit because the hours and BTUs of directly operated transit will be divided by the passenger miles of all transit. I’ll try to fix this in future editions of this spreadsheet.

For now, have a safe and happy holiday.

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27 thoughts on “Happy Thanksgiving

  1. Dan

    Unless I’m missing something here, there is no way to normalize or weight these data, as measures of population and area are missing.

    If these rows were equal to the DOT .xls you provided several months ago – the one with VMT, roadway miles, density/mi^2, etc – there’d be a way, such as doing a lookup table. Otherwise there is no way to contextualize these numbers for any sort of real, meaningful analysis.

    DS

  2. msetty

    I agree that the relevant population, area and density for each transit operator would be helpful. In the meantime until the spreadsheet can be updated with this additional information, it is available for each individual operator at http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/data.htm.

    Scroll down to near the bottom right of the page, and look for the links:

    Individual Profiles for All Transit Agencies in Urbanized Areas Over and Under 200,000 Population and

    Profiles for the Top 50 Reporting Agencies

    I suggest using the NTD ID number for each transit operator to obtain the individual profile sheet, which lists population served and area served stated in square miles.

  3. D4P

    Lest loyal readers get the impression that only transit projects are subject to cost overruns:

    Glendale’s spring training complex for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox is on track to open in February. But the cost, originally pegged around $80.7 million, sits closer to an Arizona Republic estimate of $115 million, with an additional $40 million for nearby infrastructure.

  4. JimKarlock

    D4P said: Lest loyal readers get the impression that only transit projects are subject to cost overruns:
    JK: OF course the motive here is the same as for LRT etc.: Lie to the public about its benefits and hide its costs, so they both lie as part of the sales job.

    If transit agencies told the truth:
    This rail line will cost as much as a ten lane freeway and have no noticeable effect on congestion, they would never convince voters to shell out good money for their bad projects.

    Same for the stadium – no benefits and great cost.

    Thanks
    JK

  5. D4P

    have no noticeable effect on congestion

    Seems to me that the effect on congestion depends in large part upon whether people choose to ride the train or keep driving. In other words, it’s up to the public to decide whether the train reduces congestion or not.

    The problem is that there’s a prisoner’s dilemma at play. The “best” outcome for any individual commuter would involve him/her driving, while everyone else takes the train. Since this applies to virtually all commuters, they will all choose to keep driving, even though “society” might be better off if everyone actually took the train.

  6. craig

    even though “society” might be better off if everyone actually took the train
    ————

    Would society be better off if using transit adds 1/2 to 3 hours to your daily commute?
    Then does not go to where you need to be.

  7. D4P

    Would society be better off if using transit adds 1/2 to 3 hours to your daily commute?

    Time spent on a train is usually time spent reading, sleeping, working on a laptop, etc. Pretty productive.

    If they saved time by driving, how would they spend it? Watching TV? Eating junk food? Trampling workers at WalMart?

    Plus, your question focuses solely on potential costs associated with transit. Is it your contention that there are no benefits associated with transit?

  8. craig

    What people decide to do with their extra time is their business, in a free society. You seem to perfer them to be stuck on transit.

    You stated there is a prisoner’s dilemma at play I pointed out the daily sentence that is often associated with transit.

    Until transit give us a better choice than driving, it will only be pushed farther down the list, for most commuters.

    Transits problem is People are still free to choose.

  9. Dan

    The GF sees transit as a necessity now. She gets to wind down after work on the train by reading, rather than maintaining the stress level by fighting the other stressed-out people in their SOVs. She arrives home refreshed and relaxed.

    That said, numerous studies out of the PacNW show that the quickest way out of poverty is with a car, as transit in, say, Seattle takes too long. This is more an indicator of our priorities; as the externalities of autocentricity become more clear every year, this will change.

    DS

  10. craig

    Ok transit works for a few people that have unlimited time and for those that live and work along a transit corridor. I never said it didn’t work for some people

    What about the other 95%

  11. prk166

    D4p, do you ever take the train? If so you must be one of the few people I know lucky enough to have the ability to get meaningful sleep on the train and at that without missing ones stop. As for myself, I can’t fall asleep on the train. I may doze off for 30 seconds or so but I’m right back awake. My mind is worried about missing my stop and even what is going on around me. It’s not a good spot to get sleep that actually does the brain and body any good. More so, I have yet to notice anyone on the train sleeping. I’m sure it happys but it’s not an activity the vast majority of riders undertake nor is it productive for those who do.

    As for the laptop, one would need to be riding the train when it’s use is sparse. The seats are simply not wide enough to use the laptop while someone is sitting next to you. Not that the width is a problem I’m most concerned about…. I’m more worried about the pitch between the seats. A couple 5′ 10″ adults can’t sit facing each other, as the seats are arranged, without having each others knees rubbing each others inner thighs. Great for a singles party train; not so great for most adults.

    Reading is about the only thing that can happen on the train. But for myself, and I would imagine for most folks, it’s not a good time for intensive reading. I can kick back and read The Economist or read a small light novel. But if I’m trying to read anything technical where I’m trying to process and remember the information, let’s say something with stocks or software engineering, the train just doesn’t work for me. It’s hard to concentrate and remember it the next hour let alone the next day. That sort of thing aside, most people on the train doesn’t read. If they’re doing anything other than just sitting there, they have their headphones on. That is, they’re doing exactly what they would otherwise be doing in their car.

  12. prk166

    Dan, I’m sorry to hear that your GF is able to relax on the train but not in the car in traffic. I’ve always been curious why people get so stressed out in traffic. I wonder if it’s because when they’re behind the wheel, they think they have control over the situation. Whatever the cause is, driving in and of itself doesn’t need to be stressful even when in traffic. I don’t say this as a transit vs road thing. It’s just something for life. If it’s not traffic stressing someone out, there’s likely other similar things that are stressful more often than they need to be. Maybe some Alan Watts is in order for Christmas?

  13. D4P

    I take a bus, not a train. I read or work on a laptop. Some people sleep.

    I don’t necessarily advocate trains over buses. I would guess that buses are a better option in a majority of cases, possibly including at least some of the cases highlighted by the Antiplanner.

  14. Dan

    I’ve always been curious why people get so stressed out in traffic.

    You are surely the only one on the planet who can’t figure it out. Blissful condition, I guess.

    Ok transit works for a few people that have unlimited time and for those that live and work along a transit corridor.

    None of these conditions apply to us.

    DS

  15. the highwayman

    D4P Says:
    “I take a bus, not a train. I read or work on a laptop. Some people sleep.

    I don’t necessarily advocate trains over buses. I would guess that buses are a better option in a majority of cases, possibly including at least some of the cases highlighted by the Antiplanner.”

    Buses and trains complement each other.

    Besides most of the anti-rail stuff from ROT makes no sense anyways.

  16. the highwayman

    JimKarlock Says:
    “D4P said: Lest loyal readers get the impression that only transit projects are subject to cost overruns:
    JK: OF course the motive here is the same as for LRT etc.: Lie to the public about its benefits and hide its costs, so they both lie as part of the sales job.”

    A route mile of track is around $3 million.

    “If transit agencies told the truth:
    This rail line will cost as much as a ten lane freeway and have no noticeable effect on congestion, they would never convince voters to shell out good money for their bad projects.”

    Well if they gold plate things of course they are going to cost more, also here you are highlighting the aspect that people need to pay for every mile that they drive.

    “Same for the stadium – no benefits and great cost.”

    Then where are people going to hold their tailgate parties?

    “Thanks
    JK”

    You’re welcome
    THWM

  17. msetty

    Karlock “chummed” the Internet waters (e.g., “threw blood in the water for the [Internet] sharks”) on this thread, resulting in a sudden flurry of comments on this Antiplanner item. So for sport, so shall I.

    From my latest Publictransit.us post (http://www.publictransit.us/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=189&Itemid=1.

    …To obtain the transportation and land use benefits of rail and other forms of public transport, government must play a much larger role in structuring land use and the transport system. In contrast, the “instrumental planning” (e.g., “predict and provide”) by concentrating government efforts on the road network means a much more laisezze faire system of land development, consistent with ideological preferences for general economic deregulation, less government and funding through “user fees” e.g., fuel and other vehicle excise taxes and increasingly, tolls. See
    http://www.griffith.edu.au/environment-planning/urban-research-program/publications/research-papers, Research Paper 14, Roads, Railways and Regimes: Why some societies are able to organise suburban public transport — and why others can’t. Chris Harris, Research Paper 14, October 2007.

    …A perhaps unexpected conclusion is that the currently topical question of urban consolidation [e.g., compact growth, Smart Growth, New Urbanism et al] is thus shown to be a political-economic and redistributive minefield. Agglomeration implies land value capture and partial social takeover of development. It follows from this that agglomeration economies can never be discussed in the abstract; to raise the issue in a positive policy context is to immediately beg the question of a state planning mechanism that will first generate the agglomeration economies, and then, second, recapture them. Anything else is likely to be capricious and inegalitarian in its implications. Since rail is a major generation of agglomeration economies this means that the revival of rail is therefore likely to be associated with a revival of positive planning of the 1940s variety. It is clear that this will also constitute a challenge to contemporary neoliberalism [libertarianism], whose view of government as superfluous is, in reality, the beneficiary of several decades of an almost automatic suburban growth machine: “look, no hands”. When the machine falters, so too may neoliberalism [libertarianism].

    In fact such a time of reckoning seems to be at hand, as there is now a multifaceted crisis of the hands-off urban growth machine, comprising: (a) a significant excess of debt-land-housing (‘asset’) inflation over wage and shop prices; (b) cities that have grown too large to be easily traversed by a car-commuter in congested traffic or slow public transport; ( c) rising interest rates, that have multiplied the mortgage debt burden while (perhaps) curbing asset inflation, but only to a lesser degree; (d) failure to address ‘peak oil’ (e) failure to address greenhouse emissions, along with a number of other issues that have been addressed with some success, but on which we could do more, such as local air pollution and the ‘Austral(as)ian [and U.S.] ugliness’ of car-dominated cities.

    Although it was noted above that both corporatist and relatively more laisezze_faire regimes have ‘worked’ as means of procuring economic development, it is clear that privatization and laisezze_faire cannot check automotive proliferation. Nor, as a corollary, the other problems alluded to in the preceding paragraph. All these problems point toward an era of ‘planning even more’, of deliberate urban and ecological reconstruction for sustainability: so-called ‘ecological modernisation.[Emphasis added].

    As one conclusion, Publictransit’s loyal opponent The Antiplanner is likely to have much grist for his “blogging and libertarian paper-writing mill” into the foreseeable future.

  18. Dan

    Michael Setty has a good point in the excerpted above:

    …there is now a multifaceted crisis of the hands-off urban growth machine, comprising:
    (a) a significant excess of debt-land-housing (‘asset’) inflation over wage and shop prices;
    (b) cities that have grown too large to be easily traversed by a car-commuter in congested traffic or slow public transport;
    ( c) rising interest rates, that have multiplied the mortgage debt burden while (perhaps) curbing asset inflation, but only to a lesser degree;
    (d) failure to address ‘peak oil’
    (e) failure to address greenhouse emissions,
    along with a number of other issues that have been addressed with some success, but on which we could do more, such as local air pollution and the ‘Austral(as)ian [and U.S.] ugliness’ of car-dominated cities.

    [reformatted]

    To my mind, a major issue unaddressed is the efficient provision of services that is becoming more difficult to provide with sprawling built environments.

    Cities are so busy running around fixing far-flung infra that PW departments cannot adequately address other needs.

    Of course, certain ideologies like this because when it all finally collapses, it can be privatized.

    DS

  19. the highwayman

    Dan wrote:
    “Of course, certain ideologies like this because when it all finally collapses, it can be privatized.”

    Just as Cato & Reason are front groups for big business, which can be just as bad as big government.

  20. John Thacker

    A route mile of track is around $3 million.

    A route mile of conventional track (non-electrified, running up to 110mph), yes, is around $2-3 million (assuming low acquisition costs). (According to, among other things, the planning documents and reports for SEHSR.) Electrified track runs more. True high speed rail runs considerably more, over 10 times as much. See for example expected costs for new (true) HSR or maglev in the NEC, running at $40 (HSR) – $50 million (maglev) per route mile in initial capital costs (Those costs are over 90% infrastructure, less than 10% initial trainset purchases.)

    Of course, certain ideologies like this because when it all finally collapses, it can be privatized.

    A larger problem for projects like the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is the Environmental Impact Statements required by NEPA. I have a hard time imagining that as an evil scheme, though, so you may not like that explanation, preferring a Manichean worldview.

    Just as Cato & Reason are front groups for big business, which can be just as bad as big government.

    Plenty of big business groups are behind the various mass transit proposals, hoping to win contracts. I don’t think it adds to the debate to just talk about motives. But if you don’t like to argue with numbers or citations…

  21. the highwayman

    JT:Plenty of big business groups are behind the various mass transit proposals, hoping to win contracts. I don’t think it adds to the debate to just talk about motives. But if you don’t like to argue with numbers or citations…

    THWM: Even railroads don’t defend their own business interests.

  22. John Thacker

    Even railroads don’t defend their own business interests.

    The freight railroads are making plenty of money these days shipping freight. Why do they want to bother with making the rails more accessible to passengers? Why would that be in their business interests.

    Here’s the Volpe Center study on proposed Charlotte-Greenville-Atlanta-Macon high speed rail. Note on page 14 the estimate of $6-7 million per route mile for 110 mph alternative, and $10-20 million per mile for an unspecified “faster” alignment.

    I fully support reasonable rail plans (unlike the one recently passed in California.) But too often, rail advocates wildly exaggerate in their figures.

  23. John Thacker

    Also, highwayman, you can note on the last page of the study that “[t]he Southeastern Economic Alliance, formed by metropolitan Chambers of Commerce in the states of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to advocate the development of higher-speed rail passenger service, also contributed to the study.”

    I certainly think that most people would call Chambers of Commerce a form of “big business,” even if many of them are only locally “big.” Business also generally favored the California rail proposal, along with others. I don’t think it matters much, but I’m not familiar with evidence that “big business” opposes almost any governmental spending on infrastructure.

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