Planning for total gridlock: a LOWER white paper. Executive Summary: 1. Transit in the DC Area handles an insignificant amount of transport demand but will receive the majority of money in the next quarter century. This misallocation must be changed.
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“The White Elephant (Uganda), illustration by John Tenniel. Caption reads: “Present Proprietor: See Here, Governor: He’s a likely looking animal, but I can’t manage him… If you won’t take him, I must let him go.” This issue was whether John Bull would finance building the Uganda Railroad to Lake Victoria to hold on to the territory– which it did.
Allocation of Transportation Funds, 2005-2030: of $93 billion, transit to receive 60% of funding
2030, Demand by mode share, roads versus transit billion, transit to receive 60% of funding
2005, transportation mode share, roads versus transit billion, transit to receive 60% of funding
WMATA Heavy Rail’s Mode share declines from 2.7% to 2% from 2005 to 2030
Population Growth need NOT cause congestion 2% from 2005 to 2030
The above graph is for the Seattle area, but it’s the same story here
Long Range Transportation Plan Study Area 45 percent of all trips.
MWCOG 2005-2030 Forecast for Wash DC Area 45 percent of all trips.
Congestion Forecast to be MUCH Worse in 2030 45 percent of all trips.
Road Use Projected to Grow faster than Transit Use 45 percent of all trips.
WMATA’s PR take on their predicament. The truth is that we are OVER invested in Metro and have to keep feeding the bloated beast even though it hasn’t worked well enough to justify building it in the first place.
Transit’s Market Share Insignificant– the tail that seems to be wagging the dog
WMATA Rail currently handles about 600,000 trips a day. At 5.8 miles per average trip (National Transit Database), that’s about 3,500,000 passenger miles per day.
Current daily Vehicle Miles in the COG study area is 126,000,000.
Metrorail is 2.67% of current travel. Adding other transit modes brings the grand total up to 4%. (Source: 2002 National Transit Database).
2005-2030 Long Range Transportation Plan for DC Area seems to be wagging the dog
To address the requirement that the plan be financially realistic, the TPB hired a consultant to conduct a study in 2003. The study projected the revenues that each state would have available for transportation through the year 2030 and compared the projected revenues to the estimated costs of maintaining and operating the current transportation system together with the expected costs of implementing the long-range plan. The total expenditures over the 25 years of the plan are equal to the total expected revenues or $93.3 billion. Overall, almost $72 billion or 77 percent of the total expenditures is for operations and preservation of the region’s transportation system. About $22 billion, or 23 percent is for expanding the transportation system. Transit expenditures are $56 billion or 60 percent of the total and highway expenditures are $37 billion or 40 percent.
Transit Share of Future Demand even smaller seems to be wagging the dog
COG forecasts that total daily Vehicle Miles Traveled will increase 40,000,000 by 2030—126,000,000 to 166,000,000 vehicle miles per day (or 32%). Average auto occupancy is 1.13. This is then 45,200,000 passenger miles.
Metrorail Miles is projected to increase 24%, or 840,000 (from 3,500,000 to 4,340,000)
Metrorail is thus capturing 840,000/45,200,000 or 1.86% of new travel demand 2005-2030. The nonrail share will increase transit modal share in toto to around 3.0% of new demand.
Thus, the rail share will decline to 1.86% from its current 2.67%, and overall transit share to 3.0% from its current 4.0%.
The Grim Truth seems to be wagging the dog…Metro really doesn’t matter
Rail, at 2.67% of today’s transport mode, and below 2% of tomorrow’s mode, is too small to make any real difference.
If rail shut down tomorrow, between carpooling at previous rates and express buses, life would go on pretty much the same. Even for downtown commuters.
Metro would never be built again by rational people-it is a White Elephant. And it hasn’t been duplicated, either.
The money would be much better invested to reduce surface congestion– such as time of day tolled express lanes, and bus rapid transit on key corridors.
Congestion is much worse today than if the money that went into Metro had instead been invested in filling out our highway links– which were cancelled to pay for the White Elephant we have to keep feeding.
It was an experiment that failed.
Promise Keepers (just kidding, but it’s our money) seems to be wagging the dog
WMATA heavy rail numbers: Promotion versus Reality
Projected Cost (1974): $2.98 billion
Actual Cost: $9 billion ($24 billion replacement cost)
Projected Daily Trips (1990): 1,300,000
Actual Trips: 600,000
Projected Income Statement: Operating Surplus after allowance for depreciation/amortization
Actual Income Statement: $300 million annual cash deficit, ignoring depreciation/amortization
-------- quote: James Dunn, Rutgers political scientist who studies transit
Another illustration: Federal transportation bill reauthorization, which now contains 4,000 earmarks, almost all of which don’t appear in any state’s transportation wish list for needed improvements.
Monopoly transit agency pursues seems to be wagging the dog“choice” suburban rail riders by ignoring their base- San Francisco BART version
Dateline, May 2005:Low-income residents of Oakland are suing the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, charging discrimination because the commission gives most available funds to rail transit to affluent white neighborhoods while bus transit in poor minority neighborhoods are starved for funds. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is the regional organization that distributes federal transportation funds to Bay Area transit and highway agencies.
The suit points out that MTC's regional transportation plan failed to provide $700,000 for bus transit improvements in a black neighborhood, but it did fund $1.5 billion for commuter trains and $4 billion for a BART extension to San Jose. MTC's own analysis said that the unfunded bus service would have added new passengers at a cost of just 75 cents a ride, while the commuter trains would cost $26 per new ride and the BART extension would cost up to $100 per new ride. [JUST LIKE DULLES RAIL]
Would any megaproject be undertaken if some form of delusion were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?
Project promoters appear to think delusion is necessary to get projects started and they effectively produce deceptive forecasts…
Martin Wachs interviewed public officials, consultants, and planners who had been involved in transit planning cases in the U.S. He found that a pattern of highly misleading forecasts of costs and patronage could not be explained by technical issues and were best explained by lying.
In case after case, planners, engineers and economists told Wachs that they had had to “cook” forecasts in order to produce numbers that would satisfy their superiors and get projects started, whether or not the numbers could be justified on technical grounds.
… were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?WE find with a very high level of significance that rail passenger forecasts are more biased (inflated) than road vehicle forecasts.”
…We conclude that the traffic estimates used in decision making for rail infrastructure development are highly, systematically and significantly misleading. Rail passenger traffic forecasts are consistently and significantly inflated. For road projects the problem of misleading forecasts is less severe and less one-sided than for rail.
Sign Entering Tysons from McLean were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?:
(Courtesy the Taxpayers League of Minnesota)
Dulles Super-Toll Road Gridlocked…. were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?
Dulles Rail- NO Congestion Relief! were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?
Source: Dulles Rail EIS, table 6.2-1
How we got here were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?….
Tysons current zoning incentive is the product of a false assumption… today’s density multiplied by x if bus rapid transit and 2x if rail. Kate Hanley’s core proposition. Absolutely no evidence any of this assumption has real world validity.
Logic 101: if you start with a false premise, you can logically prove anything.
West Group is out of building density, this is fueling the ruinously expensive Dulles Rail proposal (the desire to get higher density).
Best results will result from decoupling misguided density/ transit assumptions from one another and looking at the whole issue afresh.
Historically the best pedestrian “places” have resulted from planning flexibility: Disney World, downtown Atlanta, Reston Town Center, National Harbor (Prince Georges County), Rouse urban shopping centers (e.g. Baltimore Harbor) . Almost all these had no transit at the time they were put in place, and none rely on transit today for their success.
Densification not bad per se, but…. were not involved, that is, would projects be undertaken if the true costs and benefits were known beforehand?
Remember that Tysons must go from 20,000 population to 120,000 population before any mitigation due to transit will kick in.
Since it took Tysons 45 years to get to 20,000 population, this process will take decades, if it ever happens.
The commutershed west to Leesburg will provide stiff competition for Tysons, and already is.
Study of 258 government projects, reported in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
Nine out of ten projects in their sample had cost overruns, with an average of 28%. The study concluded that intentional deception by public officials was the source of the problem. “Project promoters routinely ignore, hide, or otherwise leave out important project costs and risks in order to make total costs appear low.” Politicians use “salami tactics” whereby costs are revealed to taxpayers one slice at a time in the hope that the project is too far along to turn back when true costs are revealed.”
Data Point: Fairfax County Public Safety project: Bond language said $29 million, now we learn cost is $120 million
The debate over transportation has become as clogged with myths as I-495 is congested with traffic at rush hour. But there is a simple truth we should focus on — we can end gridlock if we want to. MYTH: New roads only fill up with more traffic.FACT:New road miles fill up with traffic because there was either a previously unfilled demand or because that roadway offers a quicker route. The general failure of our road system to keep pace with increasing traffic is the biggest reason why the few new road miles that have opened were quickly used to capacity.MYTH: We must learn to live without cars.FACT: Studies have always shown that commuters are willing to consider cost-effective and convenient transportation alternatives. However, even after spending billions of dollars on mass transit and requiring major businesses to encourage employees to use it, our roads continue to fill. An integrated transportation system should include options, but cannot ignore the need to expand road capacity to handle growth — for both commuters and truck traffic.
Transportation Myths and Facts-Part I
Transportation Myths and Facts- Part II myths as I-495 is congested with traffic at rush hour. But there is a simple truth we should focus on — we can end gridlock if we want to.
MYTH: More mass transit will clear roads.FACT: Even if the mass transit we currently have, and are planning to build, was 100% utilized, it would not clear our roads. The problem isn’t a lack of buses, but the failure of our roads to provide sufficient capacity to handle the increasing number of cars, trucks, and yes, even buses, that want to use it. Pouring more dollars into transit while depending on a road system stuck in the 1990s simply doesn’t make sense.
MYTH: We cannot afford to build more roads.FACT: For about $8 billion, we could construct a regional network of Express Toll Lanes that would give all of us another option for mobility. At the same time, transit would be greatly aided by this network of congestion free lanes– in effect, a free, unsubsidized right of way that is much faster (at 60 mph) than rail (at 35 mph). This network could be privately financed at the 75% level. For one-half the public Dulles Rail investment, we would build capacity at 30 times the passenger mile throughput, that would benefit the entire area.
Heavy Rail Speed? myths as I-495 is congested with traffic at rush hour. But there is a simple truth we should focus on — we can end gridlock if we want to.
“Novelty”, shown here at the Manchester Museum of Industry and Science, hit 30 mph before the opening of the first commercial railroad, Liverpool to Manchester, in 1830.
Metro’s current average speed is 35 mph.
Conclusive Research myths as I-495 is congested with traffic at rush hour. But there is a simple truth we should focus on — we can end gridlock if we want to.
Danish reviewer Bent Flyvbjerg reviewed ALL urban rail projects worldwide for which data were available both for forecasts of cost and ridership, and actual costs and ridership
U.S.: “Cost overruns averaging 50 per cent, with actual ridership 53 per cent lower than forecast..…Actual costs per passenger on the average 500 per cent higher than forecast costs (ranging from 190 to 870 per cent).
DC Metro: 85% cost overrun, only 50% of forecast traffic
Note: DC Metro was “sold” and approved in a series of referenda as a project that would more than pay operating costs and depreciation and repay some of the initial capital cost over time. Instead, the shortfall on the first two items is $600 million per year, and the deferred maintenance has ballooned to $12 billion (WMATA estimate).
Developing Countries Results: Costs underestimated by 20 to 100 percent and ridership was overestimated by 25 to 225 per cent, resulting in actual viability being substantially lower than forecast viability.
Why are these forecasts so far off?
“ trafficWe lean in favor of enabling critics to initiate referendums of urban mega-projects.
While private rent-seekers and public entrepreneurs are invaluable sources of energy and ingenuity of urban mega-projects, local champions of environmental protection, of neighborhood preservation, and of fiscal sobriety have no less valuable roles to play.
There are no good substitutes for representative democracy, empowered and required to approve all major projects, and a vibrant local pluralism.
Bent Flyvbjerg: traffic
“Cost underestimation and overrun cannot be explained by error and seem to be best explained by strategic misrepresentation, namely lying, with a view to getting projects started.”
…We conclude that the cost estimates used in public debates, media coverage and decision making for transport infrastructure development are highly, systematically and significantly deceptive. So are the cost-benefit analyses into which cost estimates are routinely fed to calculate the viability and ranking of projects.
Virginia traffic’s lady on the spot:Why is she getting $4 billion?
Wendell Cox on Rail Transit Myths measures
Myth #6: “The Cost is the Benefit:” Rail Transit Reduces Traffic Congestion:
This enduring myth is the first refuge of the “railvangelists,” romantics and carpet bagging rail builders who try to sell their elixir from Portland to Sioux City (yes, Sioux City).
In fact,there is no evidence that new rail transit has materially reduced traffic congestion in any urban area, US or Western Europe. Building rail is justified principally by an irresistible urge to spend money --- our money. The cost is the benefit. Of course, the historic rail systems serving the pre-automobile cores of New York, Chicago, Paris, London, Tokyo or Hong Kong are essential. But Sioux City is not Hong Kong. Neither, for that matter,are Phoenix or Portland.
Wendell Cox, more Urban Myths measures
Myth #4: “Two Tail Pipes is Better than One:” Higher Densities Mean Less Air Pollution:
United States Environmental Protection Agency research says that air pollution emissions are higher where traffic speeds are slower (at least at urban speeds) and that emissions are higher where there is more “stop and go” traffic. Higher densities mean more traffic congestion (above), which in turn means slower traffic speeds and more stop and go operation. More tail pipes do not emit less pollution.
BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure)- A Northern Virginia Transportation Non-Issue
Predictable response by Fairfax Board, get feds to fund a heavy rail line extension– Dana Kauffman wants two (Blue AND Yellow)!
Reality is that only 18,000 new jobs would be added to Fort Belvoir.
Military works non standard hours. Car-pool at average peak occupancy for Shirley highway (more than 3 occupants/car) is only 6,000 new cars per day, or 600 per peak hour. This is about one year’s annual growth in demand on I-95 exclusive of BRAC.
Capacity of a managed lane is 1,500 vehicles per hour. Take the hybrids off the reversible lanes, enforce the HOV restrictions, and we are there. The Route 1 connector will have to beenlarged, but that should be done anyway.
Better yet, add ETL (express toll lanes) to I-95. Virginia has two private sector proposals to do this. Each pair of lanes will more than suffice for Ft. Belvoir.
Mixing Bowl improvements assure that I-95/495 interchange will not fail.
This is one of the most fervently held doctrines. The idea is planners should design transportation and land use so that the distance between work and home is minimized. This may be the most bankrupt, and surely the most arrogant concept in the entire smart growth confession of faith.
Census data indicates that barely 20 percent of households consider proximity to the job location as the principle reason for selecting their neighborhood. This suggests that herding cats would have at least as high a probability of success. The problem is that a jobs-housing balance requires other balances as well --- a jobs-housing-education balance, a jobs-housing-interest balance and so on. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs closer to home that the one filled by the average American worker in a large urban area. And things are no different elsewhere. Hong Kong, the high-income world’s most dense urban areas (6,000,000 population in 75 square miles) has an average journey to work distance of six miles (at Hong Kong densities, the entire population of the city of Portland would be clustered within 1.5 miles of NE 23rd and Burnside). In Houston, with densities slightly less than even Portland, the average work trip travel distance is only 13 miles --- little more than double that of Hong Kong, with an urban land area more than 20 times as large. This folly of the jobs-housing balance cries out for an urban planner’s retraining program. Each devotee should be required to work, for at least a year, at the closest job, whether a convenience store, the custodial service or the fast food restaurant. That would put an end to this silliness.
The Oakland suit resembles a suit brought by the NAACP against the Los Angeles transit agency in the 1990s. That suit forced the agency to slow or halt its rail transit plans in order to restore bus service to minority neighborhoods. More information about this suit is available at http://tinyurl.com/8otrw.
For an interesting history of the Los Angeles Bus Riders' Union suit by one of the organization's leaders, see http://la.indymedia.org/news/2005/05/126280.php.
But we’re more enlightened here…Aren’t we?– the “No-Build bus scenario
Location: One block off Toll Road, Reston Pkwy, 50,000 cars/day
No shelter, no schedule, no marquis, fortunately water only 2 inches deep
Better in the summer… not exactly “No-Build bus scenario
Not exactly sure where the stop is, when the buses arrive, where they go
Location is ½ mile from office of local county supervisor who’s a rail fetishist
Heavy Rail outside downtowns fails these three tests “No-Build bus scenario
Reality Check– Look Around “No-Build bus scenario
How about the airport? “No-Build bus scenario
Outside the original EU countries, very few national capitals have rail links to their international airport. None in North or South America, Africa, or Asia, except for Tokyo, Seoul, and Kuala Lumpur. 3 out of 200 countries.
Recent rail links to non-capital cities– JFK, Newark, SFO, and Shanghai’s new Pudong facility– have had disappointing patronage, no more than a few thousand paying passengers a day.
A Little Promotional History on Capital Costs “No-Build bus scenario
In November 1968, WMATA bonds were approved in referenda in Prince Georges County, and Fairfax and Arlington Counties, and the Cities of Falls Church and Fairfax City. DC’s share was authorized by Congress (no home rule then). Montgomery County authorized its share via the County Council, and Alexandria was empowered to authorize bond issues without public referenda. These bonds covered 20% of the original $2.5 billion capital cost estimate, the rest coming from the feds.
From 1968 to 19711 the cost estimate “ballooned” to $2.98 billion, which included a built-in 7% per annum cost escalation. The local jurisdictions put in 1/3 of this increment.
Income Statement Promotional History “No-Build bus scenario
The estimated income and expense statement for 1990 showed:
Adjusted Gross Revenue--- 203.8 million
Operating and Maintenance Expenses---- (107.2)
Net Revenue before Depreciation 96.6
Net Revenue after depreciation 81.3
In other words, the system was “sold” as covering its operating and maintenance costs, and after an allowance for depreciation/replacement, would generate sufficient capital to repay its initial cost at a 3% per annum rate.
Ridership/Operations Promotional History “No-Build bus scenario
By 1990, the rail system was supposed to carry 350 million riders annually- or 1,300,000 per day.
Two minute rush hour service was promised on main routes.
Maximum speeds were said to be 75 miles per hour.
As they say on Wall Street… “No-Build bus scenario
“Between the promise and reality….
Fell The Shadow.”
Acid Test….. is there surface congestion relief? “No-Build bus scenario
So…. “No-Build bus scenario
The logic behind rail boondoggles “No-Build bus scenario
Rail logic in a more colorful setting “No-Build bus scenario
How did we plan ourselves to gridlock? The bottom line (details to follow)
This is transportation researcher Randal O’Toole’s explanation:
Basically it results from a powerful transit lobby, a discredited and demoralized highway lobby, four decades of demonization of highways and autos, and a strong feeling that transit is more "moral" and less controversial than roads.
Planning for Gridlock, II: (details to follow)
In the 1960s, Congress decided to spend some transportation dollars on transit. It gave cities incentives to buy private transit systems that were profitable but admittedly on the rocks. We don't have complete data, but it is clear that subsidies per passenger mile were almost immediately greater for transit than for highways -- not that anyone in Congress cared.
Inflation in the 1970s led Congress to increase the gas tax. In 1981, I believe, transit advocates convinced Congress that 20 percent of all gas tax increases from then on should be dedicated to transit.
Transit advocates insisted this was necessary for "balanced transportation funding."
Since the 1950s, at least, all federal spending on roads came out of user fees. But many members of Congress don't understand the distinction between user fees and taxes. As far as they are concerned, money is money and theirs to spend. So it seemed to make sense to spend some of it on transit.
Planning for Gridlock, III (details to follow)
During the 80s the 20 percent formula held but the 1991 reauthorization act, ISTEA, created a new category of funds called "flexible funds." Cities were allowed to use these funds either for transit or roads. Transit still got its 20 percent minimum, and much beyond that out of flexible funds.
The picture is further complicated by "new starts"and other earmarks. Powerful members of Congress dedicate billions of dollars to pet projects. Too often these are transit projects because transit tends to be less controversial than roads.
Road versus transit subsidies? (details to follow)
Note on trucking costs (details to follow)
Germany has instituted a technically challenging system of billing trucks using their highways according to mileage tracked by a Geostationary Satellite System. The rate is 12.4 euro cents per kilometer, or about 25 U.S. cents per mile. I do not believe rates currently change by time of day to encourage off hour use (but they could).
The issue of trucking costs is beyond the scope of this paper, but it is worth noting that at an average load of two tons, 1 trillion ton miles is 500 billion truck miles, or 1/9 of overall highway use. To make up all of the $16 billion federal highway subsidy, trucks would have to be allocated only 3 cents per mile– or 1/8 of what Germany is charging.
Highways are nice because they are multiuse corridors, unlike fixed guideway systems which only transport passengers.
Road versus Rail capacities (details to follow)
One of the most persistent lies spread by the rail lobby is that only their approach has the “capacity” to serve a particular corridor… equal to “x” additional lanes of highway (the “x” ranging from 3 to 6).
This particular fabrication has been repeated so often that most clueless pols will cite it as their rationale for supporting rail. Joseph Goebbels would be proud his techniques still prove effective.
Road versus Rail capacities, continued (details to follow)
In fact, congestion managed lanes have proven to have a people-moving capacity beyond the transit demand of any corridor in the US, and far higher than rail.
The proof is the SINGLE LANE busway which connects the New Jersey Turnpike to midtown Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. It carries 700 buses per hour with an average occupancy per bus of 30, for over 20,000 people per hour. This is far from capacity… it could handle 2-3 times this level of traffic if demand existed.
That corridor is far from optimized. The pavement is in such bad shape that the speed limit is formally 35 mph. The busway is exclusive only in the morning, not the evening. It terminates is a on-line facility (The Port Authority Bus Terminal) instead of a series of off-line facilities, which would enhance the capacity of the lane even further.
But no good deed goes unpunished…. (details to follow)
The Port Authority busway has been a transportation success since it started. It also permits access to Newark Airport from midtown Manhattan in ½ hour.
So……The Port Authority, being a typical governmental monopoly, has allowed the facility to run down. Signage is poor, the buses are old, and the Bus Terminal at 8th and 34th St. is rundown, being built in 1950 and not renovated since 1981. Instead…
The Port Authority recently spent close to $2 billion apiece to build rail links to Newark and JFK airports. Each train carries only a few thousand paying passengers per day…far below projections.
After all, though, the costs are the benefits, and enhancing bus service isn’t as sexy as building something new (like a “Skytrain”, with the pork that comes with it.
The “X” extra highway lane fallacy, I (details to follow)
The rail lobbyists compare apples and oranges by talking about bodies crammed into rail cars versus vehicles, mostly single occupant, in highway lanes. It’s bodies versus vehicles, essentially.
Their arithmetic begins with 8-car trains running peak hour frequencies of say 10 per hour. To seat everyone in a 64-seat rail car, that’s 5,000 passengers per hour. Standees will increase this number somewhat.
The reality is that very few corridors have this demand even during peak hours, and that only results from canceling often more convenient express bus service in favor of local rail.
Even so, we know that each lane of the Shirley Highway reversible lanes carries 5,500 persons per lane at peak hour– 11,000 per hour—and that corridor is far from optimized (between motorcycles, hybrids, and cheaters, probably half the capacity is wasted).
The “X” extra lane highway fallacy, II (details to follow)
The rail lobby also insists that the Dulles Corridor is “out” of expansion capacity. This is patently false.
The right of way of the Toll Road is a minimum of 380 feet and most often 400 feet, as is the I-66 connector road. At 12 feet per lane, this is enough right of way for 32 lanes. Take away shoulders, median structures, etc. and 24 lanes is good to go. This is twice what is in operation today.
Each pair of lanes will cost around $10 million per mile to build (given free right of way and no structures) versus $160 million per mile for heavy rail, and has HIGHER general purpose, trucking, AND transit capacity than rail.
The I-66 connector, a notorious bottleneck where five lanes merges into two, only devotes 24 feet of the 400 feet available to peak hour traffic. This is insane. And yet Washington motorists have put up with this absurdity for 25 years.
The “x” extra highway lane fallacy, III (details to follow)
Here are the real numbers from the National Transit Database (2001).
In the DC area, WMATA heavy rail carries 18,073 daily passengers per directional route mile.
Each freeway lane carries a calculated 29,000 daily passengers at an average occupancy of 1.6 persons per vehicle.
Thus, heavy rail operates at 62% of the capacity of a single extra freeway lane. This percentage is an overstatement, given that 1) highways also carry freight, and 2) passengers travel faster, on average, on a freeway than a rail system (which averages 35 mph).
A freeway lane can be built for between $5-15 million per mile, depending on overpasses/structures. Heavy rail costs $150-200 million per mile. Highways pay for themselves operationally, but rail must be heavily subsidized at around $3 million per mile per year, more if depreciation/amortization is included (as it should be).
Why Express Toll Lanes are the “next thing” (details to follow)
For highways with daily traffic above 100,000 vehicles, Express Toll Lanes have been shown to yield an operating profit in the $500,000 per lane mile per year range. This is a decent return on an assumed $4 million per lane mile capital cost.
Express Toll Lanes can be financed and operated by the private sector, taking the strain off state transport finances.
The beauty is that for such corridors, transit vehicles, using off-line terminals and collector routes, have a free uncongested right of way. Transit demand in reality is so low that less than 5% of the capacity of a single ETL is sufficient to meet demand (75 vehicles per hour versus 1,500 vehicle per hour lane capacity).
ETL’s should be solicited wherever possible (details to follow)
In US Cities, the 6% of highway lane miles that are limited access satisfy 45% of passenger mile demand. Since most of these highways are now saturated with traffic, particularly during peak hours, we need to figure out how to implement a seamless network of ETL lanes. Since a single bad intersection will bring down the entire system, this must be planned to interconnect.
How to do this– the combination of public franchising and private financing and operation– is the next challenge in urban transportation.
ETL Necessities (details to follow)
Planning for the Future (details to follow)
We know what won’t work… heavy rail is no solution to anything in the suburbs. Light rail doesn’t work either.
The future is unpredictable. In the 1980’s Europe planned its network of high speed intercity railways (Eurostar). They are operating far below projections. Shorter travel has been taken over by express buses…. ½ the price. Longer trips are handled now predominantly by discount airlines, which didn’t exist in Europe 15 years ago. Also ½ the price. Meantime, the EU bureaucrats who planned this expensive network, converging in Brussels, have so alienated their taxpayers that the EU constitution may fail.
Flexible, congestion managed multimodal road networks are today’s best answer to tomorrow’s uncertainty. Modern technology has just begun to be applied to this field, and is where we must focus our efforts.
How about “peak hours” (details to follow)
The WMATA heavy rail system was planned to ferry peak hour commuters from the suburbs to downtown jobs and back again.
Over the course of the day, a WMATA heavy rail line operates at an average of 62% of the capacity of a freeway lane. At peak hours, though, passenger demand will exceed the VEHICLE capacity of a freeway lane. But there is no reason to devote all highway use for free to mostly single occupancy vehicles.
We know from the Shirley Highway experience a pair of freeway lanes can handle 11,000 passengers per hour at 60 mph speeds… far greater than the peak demand for any of the WMATA routes (which operate at 35 mph, even less when you consider station access time/platform access time/waiting time). And that’s without any real optimization, since about one-half the capacity is not utilized. Even so, per vehicle occupancies are above 3.0– also the case for SR-91 in Orange County.
Even simpler solutions… (details to follow)
I-66 outside the Beltway is one of the most intensely utilized highways in the U.S. Yet less than 4 lanes out of a potential 12 are devoted to peak hour use on this radial facility. By simply using one or more shoulders, and reversing one or two lanes in the peak direction, capacity on I-66 could be effectively doubled with almost no extra cost.
As for transit, if just in time ridesharing were promoted and made easier to operate, one out of every ten drivers giving a ride to just one extra passenger during peak hours would obviate the need along those corridors for subsidized transit entirely.
The fact that these simple, low-tech solutions are not on the radar screen illustrates the bankruptcy of the transportation planning process that has grown up.
This is the (details to follow)“vision” of the future the Congestion Cartel is planning for us… illustrated by the rail promoters themselves!
They don’t deny this will be the situation soon- otherwise known as Service Level F (failing, or gridlock). With or without rail. And on the Dulles Roll Road, the gridlocked outer lanes are paying ever escalating tolls for the privilege of not going anywhere!
Devoting the center right of way to Express Toll Lanes will not only offer better transit service, it will relieve pressure on the outer (free) lanes.
Worst of All Worlds, another illustration (details to follow)
The Congestion Cartel just finished spending $500,000 of your tax money on a public relations campaign to promote the idea that paying higher tolls on the Dulles Toll Road on the way to Service Level F (total gridlock) was a really neat concept. As part of this Brave New World of higher taxes, higher tolls, and total congestion, they published this picture of their ideal world…highways so unusable that either walking or rail are the only practical alternatives. The rail cars are moving, but the autos aren’t.
Is this the world we want to live in? Is I-66 with tolls the future?
Demand, Induced or Otherwise (details to follow)
So-called “smart growthers” love to talk about “induced demand”, by which they mean more miles being driven when road capacity is added. However, there is almost no empirical evidence that people drive more than necessary. In the DC area, roads fill up since all of us want to travel on modern faster highways rather than congested local and neighborhood roads that have been forced to absorb regional traffic they were not designed for. And if supply has been constrained over the years, as it has here, it is no wonder that demand is there– it has been suppressed.
Another form of “induced demand” is when highway capacity is so restricted due to no-growth rhetoric that people are forced to abandon their preferred travel mode and stuff themselves into transit vehicles. This is the model for the Dulles rail advocates, with 128 passengers per rail car at peak hours (a level which WMATA otherwise calls “unsustainable”.
When we said transit monopoly, we weren’t kidding, kiddoo (details to follow)
The ride-sharing or “slugging” operation on Shirley Highway began when arrogant monopoly WMATA tried to force passengers to switch modes to slower rail when it cancelled express bus service to the inner core. The much admired system, which operates without government subsidies (and thus without pork), carries 44,000 passengers per day along that corridor– far more than the number of new riders Dulles Rail is projected to attract at a true all-in cost over $7 billion. Check it out for yourself: www.Slug-lines.com
How about this “travel alternative” that always guarantees a free seat? Here is what the same arrogant WMATA said about the same subject, long after the failure of heavy rail, and the success of slugging, has been apparent to any unbiased observer:
“The random pairing of drivers and passengers inherent in this form of commuting presents risks that most public agencies are not prepared to assume.” (FEIS, page J-6-21).
Technical Note on Federal Subsidy Calculations (details to follow)