Urban Fold

More Criticism of Transit Record Claims

A pair of articles pushes back on a recent study that claims public transit use in the United States is reaching record levels.

David King, Michael Manville and Michael Smart pen an op-ed for the Washington Post regarding the recent report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) that celebrated a record 10.65 billion transit trips in 2013. (The Washington Post op-ed follows another article by Wendell Cox, who also found flaws in the narrative presented by the APTA about the surge in transit ridership.) 

The opinionators make it clear that they support public transportation, “but misguided optimism about transit’s resurgence helps neither transit users nor the larger traveling public.” The crux of their argument: “Many numbers look impressive without denominators, but anyone who examines transit use as a rate — whether as trips per person or share of total travel — will find that transit is a small and stagnant part of the transportation system.” They focus on the deficiencies of the nation’s transit systems, and the negative externalities caused by the dominant mode of driving. “No one should pretend these problems are spontaneously solving themselves because Americans have decided en masse to ride transit instead of driving.”

In a separate article, Eric Jaffe also picks up the pieces of the uncritically exuberant response to the report by focusing on a reason for the continued transportation dominance of cars in the United States: “Incentivizing transit use will only go so far without disincentivizing car use.” Jaffe also reminds advocates not to get caught up in futuristic transit solutions. “Many of the tools to ease the mobility problems facing cities can be found right here in the present.” Moreover, “the practical truth is that good public transit must be in place before metro areas can realistically think about making it more expensive to drive.” 

Full Story: Use of public transit isn’t surging


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