Transit myth

HARTLine/3-Davis Islands - December 1989

Bus first

According to the latest Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) study:

 “The system-wide average speed of HART’s bus network has been declining steadily for decades due to congestion, and the bus routes in the study area have experienced some of the steepest decreases in speed. Because most HART bus routes operate in mixed traffic on major roads and arterials, HART buses get caught in the same auto congestion that affects private auto travel.”

 What they fail to realize is that long ago, Disney successfully began using wait times as a self-regulating control on the use of  rides and attractions by park visitors. When the wait time on a popular line got too long, people decided to do something else, like go on other rides or go get something to eat.

Traffic congestion for drivers works the same way, but when it gets too bad, they  look to another way to travel.  More drivers begin to leave their cars at home and take the bus, train or bike and traffic congestion goes down.

 What has not worked for Tampa, is giving frustrated drivers enough attractive alternative bus transportation to get them to want to get out of their cars in sufficient numbers to reduce traffic congestion. Waiting 30 minutes in Tampa’s heat or rain for the next bus is actually worse than being stuck in traffic for the same 30 minutes. Reduce that wait time for the next bus to 15 minutes or less, with adequate shelters, and suddenly bus transit becomes more attractive. Traffic congestion goes down.

 Please note that the same number of riders will fit on the same sized alternative transit, whether it is rail or bus. The same number of automobiles will come off the road either way, allowing more “headway”.

 We can verify this in two ways. Either spend a bazillion dollars on a fixed light-rail line, or spend a whole lot less on increasing Plain Old Bus (POB) transit. If rail doesn’t work as expected, you are stuck forever with the continuing operating and maintenance costs. If bus doesn’t work, you sell the used buses for a small loss.

 What do HART consultants suggest as a way to get people on to trains? Bus feeder routes, that would operate in the same mixed traffic that they claim now slows buses.

 So why are we looking at light-rail as the ONLY alternative to getting people from one place to another? What is REALLY wrong with bus or the kind of automated transit monorail guide-ways that move people around at our airport?

Light rail will make more money for consultants, developers and lawyers than POB.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen


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