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Questioning the Wisdom of Light Rail in the Sun Belt States

As Houston, Dallas and other sun belt cities build out their light-rail systems, some are asking if the investment is worth it.
October 20, 2015, 7am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Jeffrey Beall

New Geography’s Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox are skeptical of the continued investment into new light rail systems in places like Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, and Dallas. Citing statistics that show that ridership for the light rail systems has either stagnated or dropped in most cities, the pair ask if investment dollars could be better spent.

In Dallas, for example, the pair notes that work patterns have shifted making the traditional model of transit (bringing commuters from the outskirts to the city center), is no longer valid. "More than twice as many Dallas workers are employed at home than ride transit, and do not require the massive capital and operating subsidies of light rail."

So where should these cities be investing? In addition to expanding bus systems into more diverse neighborhoods, Kotkin and Cox suggest a focus on 21st century transit tech and the sharing economy. "Working at home is likely to increase substantially and automated vehicles promise to increase mobility while reducing traffic congestion. Companies like Uber could offer other private-sector based solutions."

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Published on Monday, October 12, 2015 in New Geography
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