Decline in transit ridership

Discussion in 'Commuter Rail and Rail Transit Discussion' started by MARC Rider, Jan 14, 2019.

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  1. Jan 14, 2019 #1

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    I was at the Transportation Research Board annual conference today in DC and during a talk about "decarbonization" (i.e., reducing GHG emissions), the speaker showed this slide.

    20190114_104112.jpg

    With the exception of Seattle, transit ridership fell in all of the listed cities in 2017.  The speaker suggested that this might be a combination of low gas prices and competition from ride sharing.  I wonder about the ride sharing.  During a subsequent talk when I started to get bored, I pulled up the Uber app and priced a mid morning ride from the Convention Center to Union Station.  This can be done on Metro for $2.60 and on the Circulator bus for a dollar. UberX was quoted for about $8, Uber Express Pool was about $4, and Uber Pool was in between.  While UberX is very competitive with a taxi, I don't see why one would prefer Uber Express Pool to the bus or Metro.  It costs more, you have to share your ride, and you have to do contortions getting in and out of the car.  Plus you have to walk to the pickup point and from wherever they drop you off.  Plus Uber is selling information about your riding habits to who knows what kind of companies.

    Its also kind of interesting that even though everyone here in DC has been moaning about the decline and fall of WAMTA, they are by no means the worst performing transit agencies in the Nation.  That honor seems to go to SEPTA and Miami.
     
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  2. Jan 14, 2019 #2

    Bob Dylan

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    Did you forget about NJT??? <_<
     
  3. Jan 15, 2019 #3

    MARC Rider

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    I didn't make up this slide.  Perhaps NJT is part of the New York figures, even if the do run buses from Philly into South Jersey, plus the River Line and Atlantic City line.
     
  4. Jan 15, 2019 #4

    jebr

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    Ride sharing is almost certainly cutting into those transit markets. Sure, the cost is higher, but I don't have to wait for the bus/train to arrive, I don't have to walk to the bus/train stop, I don't have to walk from the bus/train stop to my final destination, and I don't have to transfer between buses or trains. A $4-$5 Uber Express sounds a lot better than a $2.60 bus ride if I'm needing to take a route that requires a transfer, the frequency is poor (say, every 30-60 minutes,) and/or the time to take the bus/train is a lot longer than driving (a local bus or streetcar vs. an Uber on the highway.) A two-block walk on each end is pretty normal or even short for most bus or train riders, so Uber Express is likely either neutral or still a small advantage there (if the walk to or from the bus is 4-6 blocks instead of 2.) As for selling your data, most people either don't know about it or don't really care; I doubt that factors in much to most rider's equation when choosing what to use.
     
  5. Jan 15, 2019 #5

    Anderson

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    Frequency is the big problem.  In many cities, Uber effectively has a five minute frequency (i.e. in many areas you don't have to wait more than about 5 minutes) and service outside of "normal" hours.  Add in not (usually) needing to transfer and you have a major problem for suburban bus services with 30-60 minute operations.

    For longer trips, Uber will also tend to clobber transit on speed even if it loses on cost.  For example, I'll admit that while I'll take transit from the airport, I rarely take it to the airport because of concerns about connections and reliability (especially in places where the local transit isn't conveniently colocated at the airport...LAX, IAD, I'm looking at you).
     
  6. Jan 15, 2019 #6

    fairviewroad

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    Someone in town for a convention will likely prefer Uber since they are already familiar with the platform, and don't have to "figure it out" or buy a special card for a one-time trip, or download a local transit provider's app, etc.

    But convention-goers and tourists must account for a relative small percentage of overall transit trips. I'm guessing that many former transit users have simply turned to private automobiles, with the decline in fuel prices and the overall good state of the economy making vehicle ownership within reach of more people. (NYC being the exception, where I'm guessing many car-free folks use Uber for local errands that otherwise would have required two subways, or a subway+bus...but NYC is really a different beast altogether)
     
  7. Jan 15, 2019 #7

    cpotisch

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    New Yorkers really don't use car services for errands. Either you live in a very out of the way area deep in Brooklyn or Queens, and need a car of your own, or you live in a busy enough area with plenty of local stores, in which case cars are just unnecessary. Remember that a five block walk with a ton of groceries is much easier for someone who spends their day to day life walking everywhere or taking the subway/bus than someone out in the suburbs who drives everywhere. There are exceptions to this, such as elderly or disabled residents, but even those tend to have their groceries delivered, instead of paying for expensive ride share services to pick stuff up themselves.

    Point is, for the average New Yorker, cars (whether their own or through a car service) really aren't necessary or particularly helpful for stuff like errands.
     
  8. Jan 15, 2019 #8

    Devil's Advocate

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    Where are you finding $5 UberX rides?  I'm ten minutes away from the local airport and that's almost always a $15-$20 trip.  Even with discount codes it's still more than double the cost.  Just for kicks I tried to price an UberX ride under $5 and even walking distance rides couldn't match that rate.
     
  9. Jan 15, 2019 #9

    jebr

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    From the OP (bolding mine):

    Uber Express Pool is a distinct product from UberX - it's basically a shared UberX where you are picked up at a street corner Uber directs you to once you've booked the trip (based on what their website indicates.) The distance given is about a mile, so on the cusp of walking range, though there's likely traffic time accounted there as well. An $8 UberX trip here is probably around 4 miles, which is far enough that walking isn't an option and could easily require a bus transfer to get between. I'm not sure what an Uber Express Pool $4 trip would look like here (we don't have that option in MSP,) but I'd surmise it'd be around that same 4 miles if the relative cost stays the same.
     
  10. Jan 24, 2019 #10

    sttom

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    Part of why I figure why people would choose Uber over the bus, I choose Uber over taking the bus for trips to certain towns near me where I know parking is either going to suck or I am going to be drinking and the buses don't run directly between me and where I am going or I will be out past the time they are running. Where I live most of the buses stop running at 8 pm on week days and have all stopped by then on weekends and the latest a bus runs any day is 9:30. But for longer trips for me who lives in the East Bay suburbs of San Francisco, taking BART is cheaper and easier than taking Uber even in off peak hours. I've taken Uber pool during off peak times and they still cost nearly $1 per mile and a night out would have the added cost of $8-$11 each way. A trip to San Francisco would run $30 on way if I was lucky and BART is about $6 one way. It depends on the distance and the cost. Uber will likely take away from trips between 5-15 miles where a train probably doesn't run and an indirect bus line might not be worth someone's time. More than 20 miles and there is probably a train in a bigger city or an express bus line. 
     
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  11. Jan 24, 2019 #11

    VentureForth

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    Uber Express Pool is only in a very limited market.  Uber Pool is in most markets shown in the OP's image.  Jebr's post is accurate.  Express will get you in the vicinity of your destination.  Regular Pool rides will get you door to door.  In regular UberPool markets, the ride is MUCH faster for little more money than transit, and gets you to your door.  Uber Express Pool generally tries to get you within a block of your destination; I think a mile is stretching it a bit.  A mile is a very long way to walk.  Manhattan is 2 miles wide.
     
  12. Jan 24, 2019 #12

    Devil's Advocate

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    Fair enough.  I've never seen or used any of the pool offerings.  Seems quite reasonable for the cost.

    Where I live a typical DUI/DWI offense is estimated to cost the violator around $20,000 per infraction.  You'd think some of that money could be used to help subsidize cheap and easy rides home for the benefit of everyone.  We actually have a free ride service for inebriated drinkers, but as with most of our social safety net only military members are allowed to actually use it.

    To an American maybe.  In every other country I've visited a mile isn't even long enough for a grandmother to bring up in bad weather.
     
  13. Jan 24, 2019 #13

    cpotisch

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    This. I can EASILY handle a mile walk with bags, and I think the same can be said for the vast majority of other longtime New Yorkers (including my 78 year old grandmother). Occasionally if I have the time, I walk the five or so miles home from school (with a backpack) instead of the subway, since a large portion of it is next to the water or over the Brooklyn Bridge. I wouldn't want to do those five miles with a suitcase or more, but one mile would be totally fine.
     
  14. Jan 26, 2019 #14

    Trogdor

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    I agree that most folks around these parts have an unreasonably short walking range, but it also depends on where you are and how the infrastructure was designed.  In older US cities, and in big cities in most other countries, streets were generally designed around a human scale. Proper pedestrian accommodations are a key element of the walkability of cities.  In too many places in the US, the pedestrian environment is extremely hostile because things were designed under the assumption that the goal of any transportation infrastructure is to move as many automobiles as possible, as fast as possible.  That makes walking in those areas unpleasant at best, and downright dangerous at worst.
     
  15. Jan 27, 2019 #15

    Devil's Advocate

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    Most Americans gave up on walking long before American cities stopped building infrastructure for nonexistent pedestrians.  Where I live we still have sidewalks and even bike lanes all over the city.  What keeps me from using them is the knowledge that Texan drivers will simply mow down a pedestrian or bicyclist who dares to get in their way.  We also suffer from pro-sprawl zoning laws that keep much of our housing segregated from our employment areas and from our shopping areas.  This does indeed saddle many potential trips with unrealistic walking distances that are genuinely unsafe.  In theory you could change the zoning laws and increase awareness and punishments for people who hit pedestrians but I'm not sure that would actually change anything at this point.  When the medically relevant and ideologically benign "Let's Move!" campaign was first announced it was lauded by educators and health experts alike.  Finally someone was openly addressing America's growing obesity epidemic.  Then came the endless partisan attacks and corporate subversion.  Now we know what happens if you try to push average Americans to walk and exercise again.  They fight it tooth and nail with all their might, which is kind of ironic when you think about it.  Seeing such a simple and obvious solution go down in flames gives me little hope this is a correctable problem.
     
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  16. Feb 11, 2019 #16

    seat38a

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    In some cities, having to buy a transit card has made taking public transit less appealing. In December when I was in London, buying 3 Oyster cards would have cost  me 15 pounds just for the card and when you add in say 25 pounds per card, now we are at 100 pounds. I spent a little more than that taking London's Taxi for 3 days.

    In case of LA, I've stopped taking the system because the trains and buses have become shelters for the homeless and mentally ill. Nothing like getting on the train and seeing someone on there just screaming and pacing back and forth on multiple trains before one gives up on it.
     
  17. Feb 11, 2019 #17

    cirdan

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    I am not sure that I agree with this. Maybe out in the deep suburbs where there aren't any sidewalk, this may be true. But I am always surprised when walking around downtows of US cities that there are typically pedestrian crossings at every crossroads and that you don't have to wait forever for the walk sign to light up. I know European cities that are far more hostile in that respect, with dark and stinking underpasses. What makes US cities comparaitively hostile though is that European cities typically have shop fronts along all downtown streets, and they are typically decorated, so you have eye candy to look at and don't feel totally vulnerable. Many US cities don't have more than a handful of shops like that  and entrance lobbies to offices and such are often designed to be as sterile and unfriendly as possible. And then you get things like parking lots and other hostile and ugly uses of land so that basically you feel lost between a busy road and a concrete wall.
     
  18. Feb 11, 2019 #18

    jis

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    I have had an Oyster Card fir over a decade, but these days it is just a collector’s item. I don’t take it with me when I go to London. I just use my Apple Watch Apple Pay instead. TfL will accept virtually any NFC capable payment instrument including plain old credit cards thus equipped, and what is more they will also correctly apply the day pass maximum. Provided you use the same payment instrument and card.

    Admittedly many US systems are yet to catch up. But for example, I have successfully used Apple Pay without buying anything additional in Portland.

    Of course if you are against all NFC devices you are probably out the cost of acquiring one specific to the system.

    US systems are more hostile to poorer people than many NFC or RFID payment systems. For example in India they sell single ride “tokens” that can be used once and then become worthless. These do not cost any more than just the fare. In systems like Delhi’s they come packaged in plastic casing that is inserted in a slot and is captured by the gate for reuse or disposal.

    When there is a will there is a way. In the US there is a dearth of will.
     
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  19. Feb 11, 2019 #19

    cirdan

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    I think you can tap in with any standard issue credit card or debit card these days. I've found even some of my older cards of which i didn't even realize they had any smart functionality in them work perfectly.
     
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  20. Feb 11, 2019 #20

    jis

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    Yes. One equipped for NFC/RFID with the ((( mark on it. It needs the RFID to match all transactions from the same card to do the max out at day pass thing.
     
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  21. Feb 11, 2019 #21

    cirdan

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    I think one of the reasons many transit systems are not able to grow beyond their captive customer bases (that is, the people who cannot aford to travel any other way) is that they are not actually attempting to be attractive to a broader ridership and to people who have a choice.

    A huge change in thinking is still required.
     
  22. Feb 11, 2019 #22

    Devil's Advocate

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    I often bring international transit cards home as cheap souvenirs even when the deposit is refundable.  After spending thousands on airfare and hotels an extra five or ten dollars on local transit barely even registers.  As for your recurring complaints about CA service I wonder what you attribute as the root cause and what you think the long term solution should be.

    I'm confused as to what you're disagreeing with.  Downtown areas that were built before the automobile became ubiquitous are often quite walkable for pedestrians.  I don't think anyone is disputing that.  It's the rest of the city and suburbs (the other 90% of land area) that's the issue.

    Public transit in America also has to be mindful of not creating too many powerful enemies by impacting private land and vehicles.  That's one of the reasons our transit systems experience so many twists, turns, and bends under, over, and around our clogged streets and thoroughfares.  By the time our transit systems have done whatever they can to avoid antagonizing anyone with deep pockets there isn't as much of a benefit left to sell.
     
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