What can Houston learn from LA's transit-oriented development failure? (+Tory rides transit!)Tom managed to beat me to the LA Times front page story on the utter failure of dense transit-oriented development (TOD) there to get people out of their cars.
"Among the few academic studies of the subject, one that looked at buildings in the Los Angeles area showed that transit-based development successfully weaned relatively few residents from their cars. It also found that, over time, no more people in the buildings studied were taking transit 10 years after a project opened than when it was first built. ...Clearly, that set of criteria is going to really cut down the riders, especially in a city built around the car.
The reporting showed that only a small fraction of residents shunned their cars during morning rush hour. Most people said that even though they lived close to transit stations, the trains weren't convenient enough, taking too long to arrive at destinations and lacking stops near their workplaces. ...
The region's transit system is limited, experts say, because it was built on two assumptions that have since proved untrue: that most traffic was generated by commuting trips and that most people worked downtown.
Nowadays, people nationwide are driving so much to take their children to school, run errands and engage in other activities that these trips far outstrip commuting, according to federal transportation statistics. ...
Barring significant changes, this could mean that tens of thousands of residents will be clustered near train stations they only occasionally use. For most shopping, schools and jobs, they'll still get in their cars. ...
Two related studies, both conducted by UC Berkeley and Cal Poly Pomona, show that people who live near transit tend to use it more than people who don't. But the number is still minuscule compared with the number who drive.
Residents were more likely to use transit only if it took less time than driving, if they could walk to their destinations from the transit stop when they arrived, if they had flexible work hours and if they had limited access to a car."
Tom also points to a USC urban economics professor that essentially says, "I told you so."
This backs up my assertions that TOD mixed-use is a fine lifestyle choice, but Houston should not kid itself that it will have any meaningful impact on transit usage or reduce the need for car and road infrastructure.
I recently had my own eye-opening experience with transit when I attended a tech conference in Boston. Coming in, I took a taxi from the airport to the Westin Waterfront right next to the new convention center, which is immediately after you come out of the tunnel from the airport. Total time: about 7 minutes to cover 3 miles. Very nice. $20, including tip and tolls. Not as nice.
Returning, I thought I'd try their new Silver Line, which had a stop not far from the hotel. Dragged my luggage about 5-10 mins to the stop. Spent a while figuring out their farecard machines (not at all clear), but only $2, which is very nice. Waited just a few minutes for the bus-rapid-transit to come up out of the subway tunnel. Very full bus, but it had a nice luggage rack with just enough space for my bag, and I was able to get the last available seat. The bus travelled a bit farther in its own right-of-way at street level, then retracted its connection to the overhead power wires to become a normal bus and go through the underwater tunnel to Boston airport. The whole way I was utterly amazed at the ability of the woman sitting across from me to stare into space and completely avoid eye contact with everybody - including me - on a totally full bus. I've heard that's a learned skill in transit towns. The bus had several stops at various airport terminals before getting to mine, and got so crowded with standing passengers it was nearly impossible to recover my bag and get off. Total bus time: 30 minutes to cover 3 miles! 45 minutes total travel time from when I walked out of the hotel. That's vs. a *seven* minute taxi ride. And I can't imagine what the travel time must have been for all the others on the bus connecting from all over the city - at least in the 1-2 hour range.
I think this is relatively normal for transit. Just read this story by a woman that took 2.5 hours on transit to an outlet mall in San Diego - when a car would be 20 minutes! And we wonder why more people don't ride transit in our time-crunched society. What do you think Metro's trip times to IAH and Hobby will be when the system gets built out? That's a heck of a lot more than 3 miles. That said, it was obviously a popular route. But I'll bet a lot of people on that bus were thinking, "Why didn't I just ask a friend to drive me?..."