Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Rolex of transit, the logic of Houston's sprawl, millennials seek community, interactive flood risk map, and more

Apologies again for the growing delays between posts - it's been a busy summer with a lot of travel.  Getting on to our new items:
"With many major urban areas seeing ridership decline by 20 to 40 percent in the last few years, however, transit agencies are desperate for new ideas that can recapture some of those lost riders. The changes they will make, however, are most likely to be too little, too late.

On close scrutiny, Houston’s story isn’t as compelling as some claim. In 2012, Houston buses carried 66.1 million trips. After revamping the system, they carried 68.6 million in 2013. So far, so good. But by 2015, the number had fallen to 66.5 million, and in 2017 it was 66.4 million — barely 1 percent above the 2012 level. One reason for the 2015 decline was that Houston opened new light-rail lines that year, which no doubt captured some previous bus riders. But, if anything, the real story is that bus ridership hasn’t declined as much since 2012 as it has in other cities such as Los Angeles.

Houston’s real problem was that it built light rail in the first place. In 2002, as it was starting light-rail construction, buses carried 94 million riders. After the light rail opened in 2004, bus plus rail together beat the 2002 number for three years. Then ridership began to collapse, falling to 77 million in 2010, possibly due to a 12 percent decline in bus service. With the revamp of bus routes and opening of new rail lines, ridership grew to 85 million trips in 2017 — which is still 9 percent fewer than bus alone in 2002.

But that growth is mainly due to the new light-rail lines. Since 2012, light-rail service has nearly quadrupled from 0.9 million to 3.4 million vehicle-revenue miles. For all that, they got a 65 percent increase in light-rail ridership. From 2012 to 2017, bus vehicle-revenue miles grew by 5 percent, but ridership grew by only 1 percent — and bus ridership in 2017 was less than in any year from 1984 through 2011. Since Harris County’s population grew by 9 percent between 2012 and 2017, a 1 percent growth in bus ridership is hardly something to cheer about."


Well, worth cheering about relative to other transit agencies, but Metro and others are certainly facing some daunting headwinds. Here's to hoping they ride the new technology wave with their new plan instead of fighting - or ignoring - it.

Finally, I wanted to share this super-cool National Geographic award-winning pic from Hong Kong really conveying the density there! (click on it for full size)

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