Why Public Transit Doesn't Work In The U.S.

Gas taxes, parking charges, toll roads - these are the ingredients to making transit successful, according to experts who state that it's not enough to offer good transit - driving must become more expensive. Add to that high density land use.
August 10, 2009, 2pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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David Lazarus, business reporter for the LA Times, took a 2-week trip to Japan and took every conceivable form of public transit, from high speed rail to buses, and then questioned transit experts as to why transit doesn't work well in this country.

"Brian Taylor, director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies, said the hardest part isn't constructing the infrastructure for a world-class public transit system. It's creating the necessary incentives to get Americans out of their cars.

"We now keep the cost of driving as cheap as we possibly can," Taylor said. "As long as we do that, we won't be able to make public transportation work."

"David Boyce, an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University, said another key piece of the puzzle is land use. Americans prefer low-density communities and large lots for their homes."

Lazarus came away less than hopeful that making driving less attractive and land use denser were likely to occur, meaning that the billions of dollars spent on improving public transit was not likely to attract that many new riders.

"So don't hold your breath for a public transportation system that rivals what our friends abroad enjoy. It's not going to happen -- at least not until a majority of us agree that we're prepared to accept the trade-offs necessary to bring about such a wholesale change in how we live and travel."

Thanks to Roy Nakadegawa

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Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 in Los Angeles Times
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