Two on Green Line / Green Lights

Fred Melo writes in the Pioneer Press about Always Green Traffic Control “Green Line: Inventor proposes using timing, speed to improve travel time

“Ultimately, the decision whether or not to implement a system such as this along the Green Line would need to be made by Metro Transit’s project team,” said Kari Spreeman, a spokeswoman with the St. Paul Department of Public Works.

David Levinson, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in transportation issues, has blogged about “Always Green” on his website, Transportationist.org.

“It’s an interesting idea,” Levinson said. “Even if the total travel time is the same in both cases, it’d be better than going fast and then stopping. You might even save some time. After you stop, you have an acceleration-deceleration loss (in travel time).”

Levinson acknowledged one drawback, however. “It’s never been tested,” he said.

 

Tim Harlow at the Star Tribune writes in his column The Drive: Nick Musachio and the Always Green Traffic Control

David Levinson, a transportation expert at the University of Minnesota, says the Always Green Traffic Control has potential.

“I think it would work best for isolated intersections on rural expressways, but there is no reason it couldn’t work in an urban area,” Levinson said. “Static speed signs have been used for decades on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. Something dynamic should do even better. I do believe it warrants a field test.”

Musachio faces the challenge of getting somebody to do just that. He’s been bending ears of the St. Paul Public Works Department, but so far they have not bitten.

“In theory the system could work, but it has not been tested in a real environment. Until that happens, we won’t consider it,” said city spokeswoman Kari Spreeman.

Previously here and here and here.

Frank-Lyn – Thinking about streets and places in three dimensions. | streets.mn

The development at the intersection of Franklin and Lyndale Avenues in Minneapolis has gotten a lot of attention, but primarily because of buildings proposed at the corners, to replace under-developed buildings at this highly accessible, emerging locale.

The intersection itself has gotten little consideration. It is an at-grade 4-way traffic signal. However, Franklin Avenue finds itself in a valley at Lyndale, such that a 3-dimensional option presents itself.

Urbanists are often aghast at the notion of highway overpasses in cities, and certainly most have been done poorly with no respect for urban form. But that is no reason to throw out the concept altogether.

Using my extensive computer drafting skills, I present two diagrams. The Plan view (from above) and Side view (facing west) illustrate a concept in cartoon fashion. These are, as they say, not-to-scale and obviously not engineering diagrams.

Frank-Lyn conceptual reconfiguration -  Plan View
Frank-Lyn conceptual reconfiguration – Plan View

The top diagram shows how the middle two lanes on Franklin Avenue (the left lanes Eastbound and Westbound) bridge over Lyndale Avenue (the blue bar represents the bridge). Since there are already two lanes, additional land required is only for bridge barriers, and hopefully that is minimal. Lanes can be narrowed as necessary.

This does several things. It gets cross-traffic on Franklin (going to or from Hennepin mostly) off of Lyndale. This reduces pressure on Lyndale itself, reduces traffic delay, reduces pedestrian delay, reduces bicyclist delay, reduces pollution at the intersection, reduces street crossing times for pedestrians on Lyndale going North or South (there are two fewer lanes to cross). A median boulevard could be added to Lyndale (the green bars).

The intersection of Franklin and Lyndale thus becomes an urban diamond.

There would be an option to eliminate some or all left turn movements as well, and make Lyndale more Boulevard like with no at-grade cross traffic from Franklin. The intersection could be just right-in/right-out for motor vehicles. Pedestrians could be given a Hawk signal if they wanted to cross Lyndale, with a median refuge island. The purple bar shows this region.

The downside is making it more difficult to access businesses on Lyndale (e.g. The Wedge Co-op) which are already difficult to access by car.

But even if there were left-turns allowed, traffic would be much lighter at the intersection.

Franklin Avenue at Lyndale Avenue looking Westbound (side view)
Franklin Avenue at Lyndale Avenue looking Westbound (side view)

The second diagram shows a Side view / cross-section. The idea here is not the particular architecture or building heights, but to illustrate that just because there is a 2 lane overpass, the underside of the bridge can have a pedestrian serving business (that is no more than 26 feet wide). (This need not be a cafe, but in every urban rendering I have ever seen, there are cafes, so there must be a reason).

Previous posts have discussed the underside of bridges before (1) (2). We don’t do this well here, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done well.

Most intersections are not situated such that 3-dimensions is such a natural solution, but there are some, and we should consider the possibilities.

Full disclosure: I don’t live very near there, and only use the intersection occasionally as a motorist.

Cross-posted at streets.mn

Interview with the Minnesota Civic Caucus

I was interviewed by the Minnesota Civic Caucus on August 7. This is the result.

The federal government has been spending more money contributing to highway funding than it’s been taking in for a few years. Levinson noted that Congress just passed a patch to highway funding to extend its solvency until May 2015. The question is, he said, what happens after that. The federal question has been in the news for the last few weeks.

 

The state highway funding issue has been discussed over the last year, including during the 2014 legislative session. A proposal called Move MN, which the transportation lobbies have been supporting, would raise and spend additional money for transportation.

 

There are local-level transportation funding issues, as well. Local funding, Levinson said, tends to come from general-revenue, mainly from property taxes. Unlike federal money and most state money, it’s not user-fee based. He said there would be a tax competition battle if cities were allowed to raise money by imposing gas taxes at the local level. That competition is not as bad at the state level, he said, because states are bigger and don’t have as many border issues as at the local level.

 

There is a tension between funding vs. financing. Levinson said the funding question is how we’re going to pay for transportation and the financing question is whether we pay now or later. He said traditionally in the U.S., we’ve been pay-as-you-go at the federal level, while the states have combined pay-as-you-go with some bonding.

 

Gas tax money comes into the highway trust fund, he said, and is spent immediately to build things that will last 30, 40, or 60 years. “If something’s going to last 60 years, shouldn’t future generations pay something towards its construction?” he asked. “We don’t pay for houses or cars out-of-pocket, so why are we paying for other capital expenses out-of-pocket?”

 

Levinson noted that there are deficits at the federal level, which is somewhat like bonding. At the state level, there is some bonding, but there’s no systematic approach to choose which projects are financed through bonding.

 

There is tension among modes: transit, highway, and, to a lesser extent, walking and biking. Levinson noted that more people walk than take transit and walking and biking infrastructure is much less expensive than that for highways and transit.

 

Transit has consumed 20 to 25 percent of federal capital spending over the last four decades, although transit serves only about two percent of all trips nationally. Levinson said there is tension over the question of whether the Highway Trust Fund, which is paid for by highway users, is benefitting highway users when it’s allocated for transit. Part of the reason the Highway Trust fund doesn’t have enough money, he said, is because some highway user fees have been dedicated to pay for transit.

 

Transit usage is higher in certain areas, Levinson said, noting that 40 percent of work trips to downtown Minneapolis are on transit. But regionally, transit in the Twin Cities accounts for only five percent of all work trips.

 

A very small share of people uses transit on a daily basis. That leads to the question of whether highway user fees should be used for transit, Levinson said. He noted that transit ridership has only increased a little bit over the last few years.

 

There is tension between moving freight and moving passengers. Passengers have more clout than freight, because passengers can vote, which is why the discussion is more focused on moving people, Levinson said. Recently, he said, there’s been a significant increase in Minnesota in rail shipments of oil and natural gas from North Dakota. “The capacity utilization has gotten very high,” he said, “which means there’s not much slack in the system.”

 

He noted the delays caused by these shipments have caused almost daily on the North Star commuter train, which runs between Big Lake and downtown Minneapolis. The already low North Star ridership faces higher travel times due to the increasing conflict with freight use of the same rail track, he said. The technical solution is to build more track, but cost is an issue.

 

We should attempt to solve problems by using the dual approach of getting people to behave differently, while also finding technological solutions. Levinson gave the example of reducing air pollution. One approach would be to reduce the number of miles driven, while another would be to reduce the emissions per mile from each car. And, in another example, he said a technological approach to reducing congestion would be the use of automatic cars, because they could drive closer together than is possible today. A behavioral approach would be to use road pricing to reduce demand. “There’s no reason we couldn’t do both of those things,” he said.

 

Minnesota does not need new transportation projects in order to be competitive. Levinson said there are some bottlenecks that could be addressed, but the primary problem is that we’ve been spending too much on new capital projects and not enough on operating and maintaining the existing system. “What we need,” he said, “are better road conditions and, to a lesser extent, better bridge conditions, since bridges have recently gotten a large infusion of money.”

 

We don’t repair the roads frequently enough, so the road conditions are poor.

Levinson said the problem is, in large part, the federal vs. state vs. local tension. “The federal government likes funding capital and doesn’t fund operating expenses,” he said. “The state has a ribbon-cutting problem. Politicians like to cut ribbons and you cut ribbons on new projects. You can maybe cut ribbons on replacement projects, but it’s not sexy to cut ribbons on repair projects.” As a result, he said, there is a tendency to do more capital-intensive things and not to spend as much on operations and maintenance as we should. “Keeping things in good condition now saves us money downstream,” he said. “This is a long-term vs. short-term problem.”

 

Lack of spending on repair is especially a problem on local streets, he said. There are at least four levels of government involved in transportation: federal, state, county and local. “That’s several layers too many,” he said. Some states don’t have municipal road systems and maintenance departments. “We have 192 cities in the metro area and they can’t all be experts at this,” he said. “Why do we have so many levels of government involved in roads?”

 

Air transportation connectivity is very good in the Twin Cities and the state, because we have a hub airport. “The downside of having a hub airport is that Delta has a bit of monopoly power, so the prices are higher than in other places,” Levinson said. It’d be good to bring in more airlines, he said.

 

He believes the current MSP airport is appropriately sized for the level of demand and that we don’t need a second airport. We don’t need to replace the current airport anytime in the next 40 or 50 years.

 

People are driving fewer miles than in the early 2000s, mostly because of fewer trips, not shorter trips. Levinson said the decline in vehicle-miles can be partly explained because there is a lower labor-force participation rate than in the 1990s and because people are ordering more things online today. The trend toward fewer miles driven and better fuel economy has caused a consistent decline in gas tax revenues.

 

There is discussion of moving away from the gas tax to charging fees on a per-mile basis. This may happen as more and more cars become electric, Levinson said. If the per-mile fees become acceptable, he surmised, it might also be possible to differentiate fees depending on the time of day, which could affect travel patterns.

 

The solution to the problem of getting agricultural products from field to market and to processing facilities is to add one cent to the diesel tax to help strengthen rural roads. Levinson said that during spring thaw, the soil around roads is muddy and weaker. Load restrictions require trucks to haul at half weight, or five tons per axle on local rural roads. That creates a cost for the trucking industry during about eight weeks of the year, he said. The solution is not spring load restrictions, but raising money through the diesel tax for strengthening local roads. Load restrictions also affect some suburban roads, which impacts the waste-hauling industry.

 

An interviewer pointed out that moving agricultural products on low-quality roads during harvest season, from August through November, is also an issue. Levinson said there have been proposals to upgrade rural roads, but that’s difficult, because there are so many of them. “If we had half as many rural roads, we could spend our money better on reinforcing the ones that are used more,” he said. He noted that Minnesota has paved a lot of its rural roads and should probably look at selective depaving and gravelization, so there would be half as many paved roads in the rural system. “Obviously, it’s going to be controversial, but the alternative is to pay higher taxes,” he said.

 

One interviewer commented that building roads to handle harvest time is like building a church for Easter Sunday.

 

Spin off the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) into a publicly owned public utility that would rely solely on user fees to fund roads and transit. Levinson noted that for all of our public utilities, we have user fees that are proportional to how much we use: electricity, water and sewer, natural gas, cable, and other forms of telecommunication. “If people thought of MnDOT as a separate organization from government, they would say we should pay for transportation in proportion to how much we use it,” he said. “We could do that with gas taxes and, moving forward, with electronic toll collection and mileage-based user fees.”

 

Because MnDOT is organized as a branch of government, “it falls into the lump of government,” Levinson said. When there was a statewide government shutdown, MnDOT shut down with it. This did not need to happen. “This is part of the dysfunction we have, not just in Minnesota, but everywhere. MnDOT should be a separate organization that is not in the state’s unified budget.”

 

If the organization needed a rate increase for gas taxes, it would go before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and argue for the increase. “You would get more revenue for transportation and there would be less controversy over rate increases,” he said. “You would take it out of the hands of the Legislature.”

 

Levinson said the organization could be owned by shareholders, who would be the people of Minnesota. It would pay a dividend every year. He noted that the Airports Commission funds itself from user fees on airlines and passengers.

 

Transit is subsidized by the public sector from various general revenues, by highway users and by employers and is paid for in part by users. If the riders were charged the full-cost fare, the fares would triple. “If we were to triple the fares, without changing the cost of other modes, we’d have almost no users, so the system would cease to exist,” Levinson said. “People have concluded that would be a poor policy outcome.”

 

We should charge transit riders the full fares and subsidize people who can’t afford those fares out of general revenues. We should be giving money or transit- pass credit to the users, Levinson said. “If you want to subsidize poor people, subsidize them directly,” he said. “Don’t subsidize the provision of the service for them.”

 

We can’t move transit to full pricing unless we move highways to full pricing. Levinson said most European countries charge more for transportation than the full cost. They use the funds to supplement general revenues, instead of having general revenues supplement transportation, he said.

 

He said the gas tax in the U.S., which is typically less than 50 cents a gallon (state plus federal), is very low, compared to around $5.00 a gallon in many European countries.

 

Some European countries have separated out the track from the trains and have trains roll over tracks as trucks run over highways. The problem, Levinson said, is that in the rail system, the intelligence is in the tracks, but in the trucking system, the intelligence is in the truck cab. In England, passenger trains are operated over the national rail system, which is a nonprofit, quasi-governmental organization. The trains are owned by franchisees, who run trains over the public tracks.

 

The U.S. uses many more trains for freight than in Europe, where they use a lot more trucks than we do, he said. “In Europe, they put their passengers on the trains and the freight on trucks and here we do the opposite.”

 

A weight-distance tax would be a good thing. An interviewer pointed out that highways and bridges are built to standards that will accommodate heavy vehicles. Oregon uses a weight-distance tax, Levinson said, and the trucking industry opposes it. He agreed with the interviewer that such a tax makes sense, because it begins to allocate the costs to the beneficiaries.

 

We have spillover benefits in land values from transportation investments, because we’re not charging the users the full cost. If we charged the users the full cost of transportation, Levinson said, there would be a lot less spillover in terms of increased land values associated with transportation. The best way to deal with the spillover that does occur would be a land-value tax, he said, which is politically difficult to implement. There are a variety of other ways to capture the revenue: transportation utility fees, impact fees on new development, joint development, air rights, special assessments and tax-increment financing. All of those are used somewhere, but not all are considered legal in Minnesota. It would be better to do user fees first, he said.

 

Capturing some of the excess increment in land value would be a smart way of creating revenue for transportation, in the absence of increasing user fees.

 

All of the light rails in the Twin Cities are a development game. But it’s a two-way development game, Levinson said, because not only are land owners getting the public to pay for transportation, but also, almost all of the developments are subsidized. Almost all development on the Hiawatha Line have been subsidized and almost all development on the Green Line, to a lesser extent, have been subsidized. “Somebody is chomping on a cigar from this game,” he said.

There’s been a long-term consolidation in the rail sector, dating back to their founding. The number of railroads has steadily decreased over time. If the class I railroads had their way, there’d be a single railroad monopoly in the U.S., Levinson said. “All capitalists want to be monopolists.” The railroads have spatial monopoly powers to some extent already. They’re going to exploit this advantage to make as much money as they’re legally allowed to make, he said.

 


Present: John Adams, Pat Davies, Sallie Kemper, David Levinson, Dan Loritz (chair), Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter. By phone: Dave Broden (vice chair), Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Paul Gilje (coordinator).

 

 

 

 

Privilege or Right

There is a new meme going about mis-using the term “white privilege” (and its cousin “male privilege”) to describe why white males ‘have it better’ than non-whites and non-males. (To be clear, I am not disputing that in the US in 2014, the average white has it better than the average black for a variety of historical reasons. I am also not disputing sexism exists. Lots of other types of discrimination exist as well.)

In general application, the “privilege meme” frames it wrong. The things that whites do that blacks get arrested and tasered for (such as sitting in public spaces in skyways) are not white privilege. They are civil rights violations. Everyone has the right to not be arrested in such circumstances. It is not a privilege not to be arrested for not breaking any laws.

It is a privilege to drive your car on a public roadway. You earn this privilege by passing exams, and being able to buy a car, and not violating any motor vehicle laws subsequently.

It is a right to walk. I don’t need a license to do so.

It is a right to board a bus and sit wherever you want.

It is a privilege to serve your country in public office. You earn this in an election.

It is a right to vote in an election.

It is a privilege to afford an expensive high-powered lawyer. You “earned” this by either earning or inheriting money.

It is a right not to be harassed, assaulted, or raped, or murdered.

It is a right to have an attorney provided for you, if you commit a crime such as harassment, assault, rape, or murder.

It is not a privilege to commit a crime such as harassment, assault, rape, or murder.

It is a privilege to be immune from punishment for a crime such as harassment, assault, rape, or murder. You probably didn’t earn this.

Fresh Data Hints at How to Close Biking’s Gender Gap | Wired

Jessica Schoner’s dissertation work on Bicycling’s Gender Gap got written up in Wired

The researchers turned up three especially interesting findings. The first is that in single-bicyclist homes, men are roughly twice as likely as women to ride. But when you’ve got two or more cyclists living together, that gap disappears. That could be because living with a cyclist encourages people of any gender to starting biking, or because people who enjoy cycling end up in the same home through marriage or friendship. “I don’t know what direction causality goes,” Schoner says.

The second finding is that among people who rode at least once on the day they kept their travel diary, there is no gender gap when it comes to the number of trips taken that day. In other words, women who ride do so just as frequently as men. “This suggests,” Schoner and Lindsey write, “that much of the remaining gender gap can be attributed to a participation gap, not an intensity gap.”

Finally, the 2010 data shows that having kids doesn’t lead to people biking less. That’s a change: In 2000, a parent was only half as likely to be a cyclist as a non-parent. There’s no gender difference here, but because women bear the greater burden when it comes to childcare, it’s encouraging news for those working to shrink the gender gap. “The relationship between having children and bicycling is complex and unclear,” Schoner says, but “having children may be becoming less of a barrier to bicycling over time.”

A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit. http://pedbikesafetyinternationalscan.blogspot.com/2009/05/shared-space-street-in-bern-allowing.html

Safety is a shared responsibility

In the constant exhortations to pedestrians around cars and trains, we hear “Safety is a shared responsibility“. This of course is true. Many crashes are the product of a chain of failures. The driver was too fast for conditions. The driver did not pay attention. The pedestrian did not pay attention. Someone else did not pay attention and braked sharply, and someone behind them swerved because they were following too close and hit a third person. And so on. Yet authorities are often quick to blame the victim, rather than the system design.

The more you hear the exhortation, the less effective it becomes (diminishing returns set in), much like the security threat warnings of the Bush Administration, telling us at the airport we were at threat level orange, constantly.

People are imperfect. They feel they have better things to be doing then looking out for lurking dangers around every corner. They did not evolve to operate in a city with multi-ton machines operating at speeds faster than the fastest land animals. They see meaningless signs and signals and learn to ignore them. Breaking traffic and pedestrian laws may be illegal, but it is hardly immoral – we don’t feel guilty when we conscientiously don’t allow ourselves to be governed by degrading light bulbs implemented by unthinking bureaucracies.

A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit. http://pedbikesafetyinternationalscan.blogspot.com/2009/05/shared-space-street-in-bern-allowing.html
A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit. http://pedbikesafetyinternationalscan.blogspot.com/2009/05/shared-space-street-in-bern-allowing.html

Designs for systems that involve people should consider human imperfection. Ideally systems are forgiving of human error.  Light rail trains, e.g, are much more dangerous than buses. (Cars are too). They are far less tolerant of imperfection, as they can neither brake quickly (due to mass)  nor swerve (due to tracks), and are more deadly on impact (again due to mass).

There are two good strategies for multi-modal travel within a finite space:

  • keep them separated and
  • mix them slowly

(The third strategy: mix them quickly will lead to tragedy as long as people are making decisions, rather than machines.)

The “keep them separated” strategy is why safety on interstate highways is much better than other streets. High speed vehicles are interacting with other high speed vehicles, but low speed vehicles are prohibited. It is far from perfect, but better than the previous alternative. So much so that when speed limits were raised in the 1980s, overall safety went up as drivers were attracted off much more dangerous roads onto the interstate, which was only marginally more dangerous with the higher speed limit, and now less likely to result in a speeding ticket. Security theater that deters people from flying and encourages them to drive is more dangerous than the original threat.

Newer subway systems (such as the shuttle at  MSP airport between the terminal and the LRT station/parking ramps), have glass barriers preventing people from accidentally falling on the track. Despite running one train every 90 seconds or so for over 10 years, I have not heard of any incidents with this system.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul region has chosen, for the most part, not to build grade separated transit systems. They are certainly more expensive, even if more beneficial (safer and faster). That leaves the strategy of “mix them slowly.”

Proponent of shared spaces, the late Hans Monderman has a famous quote “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.”

As the song goes “Signs, signs, everywhere signs”. Each sign and signal degrades  the effectiveness of all the others. Monderman went for a sign and signal-free approach, using design to guide people and vehicles through town centers. In this scheme pavements give people the guidance they need.

While peer-reviewed evaluations of shared spaces have been limited, Kaparias et al. from Imperial College, evaluating Exhibition Road, say: “The results suggest that pedestrians feel most comfortable in shared space under conditions which ensure their presence is clear to other road users – these conditions include low vehicular traffic, high pedestrian traffic, good lighting and pedestrian-only facilities. Conversely, the presence of many pedestrians and, in particular, children and elderly, makes drivers feel uneasy and, therefore, enhances their alertness.”  Subsequent research by the team finds “The results of the comparative analysis indicated a general decrease in traffic conflict rates as a result of the redesign but also highlighted specific issues that may require additional analysis”

Karndacharuk et al. write: “A comparative analysis of the data after implementation highlights the importance of the active frontage in enabling a lower (vehicular) speed environment in relation to the number of pedestrians within the shared space.”

In short, design matters. Over-engineering can be as great or even greater sin than under-engineering. The best design is not necessarily more gadgets, instructions, rat runs, prohibitions on actions, closing of desire lines, or other devices constraining people from their intuitions.

Rather it is running with and shaping travelers natural instincts, so the environment is not chafing but accommodating. Safety is a shared responsibility, and those who diminish the effectiveness of safety tools such as signs and signals by their misuse and excessive exhortations which loosely spend people’s scarce attention are culpable as well.

 

The Free Capital Fallacy: Some observations on capital and operating costs of various transit technologies in the Minneapolis St. Paul region

Much earlier this year The Transit Camera posted operating cost comparisons among Minnesota transit operators (reproduced below). The UMN Transitway (owned by the University, operated by a contractor, with no payment required (i.e. free to ride), subsidized by the University and student fees) had the lowest cost per ride.

LRT came in at $2.66 / ride, Metro Transit bus came in at $3.55. Of course part of this is that the LRT was operating one good (high demand) route, while buses include a mix of high demand and low demand routes.

For the sake of argument, assume the operating cost difference is in fact $0.90 per ride. Assume the capital costs differences for a service are $713,162,915. (This understates the capital costs of bus, but we undoubtedly overstated their operating costs for comparable routes, since there are always economies of density, in both operating and capital costs). There are always arguments about which capital costs should be attributed to what (e.g. parking ramps, road improvements, etc., so this may overstate the actual capital costs of a minimalist train system. These are however the official LRT numbers for Hiawatha LRT (the Blue Line).

The difference in operating costs would not make up the difference in capital costs until there were 792 million rides, ignoring interest rates. At 10.498 million rides per year, this would take 75 years. The life of the facility is probably less than 75 years.

I call the assumption that lower operating costs outweigh higher capital costs the “free capital fallacy”.
If capital were free, and the lifespan infinite, i.e. interest rates were zero and the capital never deteriorated, and demand patterns never changed, only today’s operating costs would matter. The option with the lower operating costs, all else equal, would be the best. Eventually the difference in operating costs would recover the difference in capital costs.

In fact, capital is not free. (Though some bloggers might think so.) Interest rates, while low, and near zero sometimes for the public sector, are not actually zero, or negative.

Thus, we need to trade-off capital and operating costs, and look at Net Present Value.  Depending on the interest rate, sometimes the lower capital/higher operating cost option is better, and sometimes the higher capital/lower operating cost option is better. (Obviously, the lower capita/lower operating cost option would dominate).

It is time once again for my annual Minnesota Dept. of Transportation Transit Report system cost comparison. As before the overall focus of this bit of information is on comparing fixed-route operations from the various agencies across the state. A comparison of 2011 costs can be seen here. This is only a small part of the information contained in the report. If you have an interest in learning more about these and other transit providers in Minnesota I recommend reading the report in its entirety.

2012 Cost Per Ride Comparison for Minnesota Fixed-Route Transit Providers
Provider Operating Expenditures Ridership Cost/Ride
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA TRANSIT $6,080,021 3,197,701 1.90
WINONA TRANSIT SERVICE* $597,320 255,132 2.34
METRO TRANSIT: LRT $27,886,232 10,498,236 2.66
ST. CLOUD METRO BUS $6,295,883 2,230,106 2.82
GREATER MANKATO TRANSIT SYSTEM $1,556,183 449,930 3.46
ROCHESTER PUBLIC TRANSIT $6,083,428 1,739,071 3.50
MOORHEAD METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT $1,533,055 436,285 3.51
METRO TRANSIT: BUS $245,215,781 69,069,539 3.55
DULUTH TRANSIT AUTHORITY $12,390,741 3,155,423 3.93
METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION SERVICES $13,477,072 3,033,902 4.44
MAPLE GROVE TRANSIT $4,220,797 826,879 5.10
MINNESOTA VALLEY TRANSIT AUTHORITY $17,936,636 2,575,363 6.96
PLYMOUTH METROLINK $3,589,498 496,964 7.22
EAST GRAND FORKS TRANSIT*** $266,588 36,847 7.23
SOUTHWEST TRANSIT $7,799,059 998,960 7.81
METRO VAN POOL** $1,416,216 179,013 7.91
LAKER LINES $945,816 96,513 9.80
LA CRESCENT APPLE EXPRESS**** $260,690 25,749 10.12
SHAKOPEE TRANSIT $1,276,055 125,557 10.16
RUSH LINE $385,081 37,015 10.40
RAMSEY STAR EXPRESS***** $567,616 42,263 13.43
TRANSIT LINK** $6,658,057 312,639 21.30
METRO TRANSIT: NORTHSTAR $16,419,740 700,276 23.45
Notes: *Winona operates service under contract for WSU and St. Marys  **Not fixed-route service, included due to being part of overall Twin Cities Metro area system structure  ***EGFT service operated under contract by Cities Area Transit  ****Apple Express operated under contract by La Crosse MTU ***** Ramsey service discontinued with opening of Ramsey Northstar station
Source: 2013 Transit Report – A Guide to Minnesota’s Public Transit Systems (MnDot)
http://www.dot.state.mn.us/transit/reports/reports-publications/report-2013.pdf

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