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2011-09-04 14:36:05.888523+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

In 2009, transit motor buses moved 18 billion passenger miles, using 421 million gallons of diesel, 138 million gallons of natural gas, 5 million gallons of other. That's diesel, so the carbon load is higher than gasoline. In practice, a bus is less efficient than Charlene's 5 passenger station wagon with a single occupant. http://www.bts.gov/publication...statistics/html/table_04_24.html

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-11 20:46:35.043789+00 by: jeff

The problem with public transportation is that it introduces huge (explicit)opportunity costs to travelers who could arrive at their destination using their own transportation.

How do we measure those opportunity costs? Obviously they vary by individual; hence we make our own decisions whether to use public transportation.

In most cases, we don't (use public transportation).

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-05 20:38:53.070041+00 by: ebradway

I have a bus pass through the University, so out of pocket expenses on the bus are negligible. I also drive a 1998 Ford Ranger with 200K+ miles on it, so the out of pocket expenses there are less than $.60 per mile.

But it's not a question of cost - it's more a matter of "do I want to spend six hours on the bus/side of the road for a three hour job?" or "do I want to spend two hours driving for a three hour job?" When the equation involved only four hours on the bus/side of the road, the trade off boiled down to costs. I typically would take the bus.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-05 19:54:00.50461+00 by: Dan Lyke

So what are your relative out of pocket expenses for transit vs $.60 per mile for car?

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-05 11:20:24.509599+00 by: DaveP

Similar thing applies for me. Due to the hub & spoke layout of the MSP transit system, it would take me about an hour, best case, to bus to work. Driving my own car, it takes 12 minutes if traffic is good, which it usually is because I commute earlier than rush-hour both directions.

If the commute were only a half-hour, which would be possible if I didn't have to go downtown and then turn around for the first leg of the trip to work, I'd probably bus in at least half the time, since I could use that time for reading.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-09-04 16:51:39.306187+00 by: ebradway

One of the challenges in public transit is that the service needs to run at less efficient times in order to provide a service that is utilized more often.

For instance, I just drove to South Denver to teach my GRE Prep Class rather than take the bus. Before the recent schedule changes, I was able to catch the bus at my house at about 9:30am, transfer in Boulder and again to light rail in Denver, arriving here around 11:30am. It takes me pretty much an hour to drive the same trip given no traffic issues (it's Sunday morning, so traffic is usually light).

RTD changed their schedule recently. The 9:30 bus from my house arrives in Boulder five minutes AFTER the transfer to Denver. I would have to wait 25 minutes for the next transfer to Denver. If the delay transferring to Light Rail in Denver was the same (it's sporadic), I would regularly be late for my noon class. And because it is Sunday morning, the bus from Longmont to Boulder only runs every hour. To catch the next earlier bus from home, I'd have to be out on the side of the road at 8:30am.

The point is: there is a level of service necessary to make public transit a feasible option for people who have a choice of driving. I've complained before that RTD doesn't understand this equation (or, more likely, the Front Range taxpayers don't understand it as RTD is subsidized largely through taxes levied based on referendum). The service dropped just enough to lose my ridership on Sundays.

The problem is amplified by the fact that if the service level is too poor on one leg of my travel, I don't use it for any legs. I could have driven to Boulder and got on the bus there - but I was already settled into my car and decided just to roll on the rest of the way.

It is easy to measure fuel efficiency per passenger but it's harder to measure (or model) demand patterns that would increase ridership (and ultimately efficiency).