Thursday, December 01, 2005

Transportation planning

This morning's LA Times includes the following two items that caught my eye.

"MTA to Expand Rapid-Bus Service ... A mediator approves the agency's plan to more than double the number of routes to 29 by 2008 ... The number of rapid-bus lines in Los Angeles County will more than double over the next three years, making it easier for commuters to rely on public transportation and to move quickly around the region .

"On Wednesday a court-appointed mediator endorsed a MTA plan to meet demands for better bus service by expanding its rapid-bus program ..."

And, "Council OKs $40 Million for Exposition Rail Line ... The City Council has approved $40 million for the MTA to help build the Exposition rail line from downtown to Culver City. The 9.5-mile light-rail line is expected to cost about $640 million. The transit agency eventually plans to extend the line to Santa Monica."

L.A. county now has five recently-completed fixed guideway lines in operation. They include a $4.7 billion subway that carries slightly over 115,000 riders each day, three light-rail lines that cost almost $1-billion each just to build and between them serve 125,000 riders per day, and a recently opened busway that cost upwards of $350-million to build and carries approximately 10,600 riders per day.

These are all pathetically low numbers. The county's population is 10-million and the average person takes about four trips per day

My students and I recently applied a standard cost-benefit template to the five projects mentioned and found that, all things considered -- including generous assumptions about auto trips diverted and externality costs avoided, these five lines have a net cost to society of $560 million per year.

It takes a court order (and a lawsuit by the NCAAP and a group called the Bus Riders Union) to tell the MTA to add express bus service.

Tom Rubin reports that all of the MTAs routes could now be served by express buses -- had the money not been wasted on rail.

And what do local planners and politicians want to keep on doing? You guessed it.