Sunday, December 17, 2017

My City Journal piece defending Houston, Katy commuter rail vs. freeway, Elon Musk vs. transit, zoning failures, and more

Before getting into the smaller items this week, I wanted to pass along an analysis from Oscar Slotboom responding to Judge Emmett's lament that we should have kept commuter rail in the Katy Freeway corridor, which I'm guessing would have removed a minimum of two and possibly more lanes from the new Katy:
"The freeway carried 387,144 average vehicles per day in 2016 at Gessner. I'm assuming that's all the lanes: main, managed and frontage. 
If you assume uniform distribution across all the 20 lanes (which of course it not correct, since the main lanes carry most of the traffic), you get 19357 vehicles per day per lane. Two lanes are 38714 vehicles per day. Metro reports 65894 boardings per weekday on all light rail, with the disastrously low 4588 on the Green line and 6769 on the Purple line. Since TxDOT numbers are an average over all days of the week, you can average the Metro data over the week, which lowers it to 55324 average per day. 
So the question becomes: what is the traffic of a main lane? I'm thinking the main lanes carry at least 75% of all traffic (but that's just a guess), and then that would be 387144*.75/10=29000 per lane or 58,000 vpd for two lanes. So the two lanes carry about the same number of trips as the entire Metro light rail system, and of course some cars have more than one person, further increasing the highway advantage
Of course the Red Line has good ridership. A better comparison would be a light rail lines going along a freeway corridor, like in Dallas. The entire 90-mile Dallas light rail system has only 96,300 average weekday boardings. The Red (26,800) and Green (24,900) roughly parallel freeways. The blue (22,200) and orange (22,400) lines are similar. I think those numbers are good for comparison, and a single Katy Freeway lane carries more trips than any of the radial DART lines."
And one lane of freeway is a heck of a lot less expensive than a commuter rail line!

One commenter on Swamplot also makes a good case for Park-and-Ride buses over commuter rail:
"The train isn’t going to travel that much faster than buses, if at all. Also, buses in the Katy corridor make just one stop at most between the burbs and Downtown (the major route is express from the Park-and-Ride lot direct to Downtown). And people play on their phones on the bus (have you never been on one? the park-and-ride vehicles have nice cushy seats and baggage racks). And unless one’s destination is outside the CBD, no transfers are required; you are likely dropped off within a few blocks of your destination, an easy walk. Furthermore, on the highly used Park-and-Ride routes the buses leave every several minutes; you don’t have to time your arrival, the wait time to depart is minimal. Commuter rail never works like that (though light rail can). The assumption that rail is going to provide superior service simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s likely to be worse service for the patrons than what we have now with the Park-and-Ride buses. Especially since most everyone will have to drive to the station anyway, so no difference there.”
Moving on to some smaller items this week:
Musk said that “public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end?”
  1. Why Zoning Doesn’t Work
  2. Zoning Laws Destroy Communities
  3. Zoning laws: A tool for designing dysfunctional, unsocial communities
  4. Ten Good Reasons Why Zoning is a Bad Idea, Houston Chronicle, 1993
Finally, ending on a little heroic inspiration from a METRO employee.  If the opening few seconds of this video don't grab your attention, I don't know what will.  Wow.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


At 5:59 PM, December 17, 2017, Anonymous Houston Metro Rail Development said...

There are far fewer accidents when riding light rail: 10 times fewer, supposedly, than when riding in a car:

Meanwhile is highway expansion that much more economical than rail, if at all? (asked sincerely, not rhetorically). Additionally, how much smog do commuter & light rail trains emit on their electric grid, relative to fossil fuel-burning vehicles?

Ridership rates are worth keeping in mind too though, and it's helpful that you shared those. Didn't Obama's DOT force Houston Metro to build expansion lines in so-called "enterprise" zones where nobody particularly wants to be, though? As for DART, isn't it plagued with problems resulting from a soft-on-crime local govt., and use of railroad right-of-ways that inconvenience some riders who prefer to arrive closer to their desired destinations? Rail is not perfect, and it's surely expensive. But factors like these warrant considering too, right?

At 9:59 PM, December 17, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MetroRail expansion was approved in 2003. . .Obama didn’t take office until 2009. Pretty sure his DOT didn’t have anything to do with where the expansion lines went. . .

At 12:52 AM, December 18, 2017, Anonymous Houston Metro Rail Development said...

The new lines weren't opened until approximately 2015, with the expanded portion of the Red line opening just over a year earlier (circa 2014). Obama was in office for quite some time before expansion line construction began, was he not? (<---Asked sincerely, not rhetorically)

At 5:57 PM, December 18, 2017, Blogger George Rogers said...

the Dan Ryan Branch and the Blue Line expressway stations have good ridership, but Houston is not Chicago and therefore building lines in areas without the built form for a rail transportation is stupid.

At 9:41 PM, December 18, 2017, Anonymous Dom said...

I think it's very disingenuous to not talk about the other floods we have had just within the last decade.

Sure, setting more land aside for flood mitigation would have raised housing prices, but we wouldn't have to be subsidized by the state and the feds when it floods.


Post a Comment

<< Home