Generally, one-half or more of the light rail riders formerly rode bus services that were replaced by the rail service. The new ridership attracted to light rail from freeways is in fact quite small compared to the carrying capacity of a single freeway lane. The average freeway lane in US metropolitan areas that have built new light rail systems (since 1980) carries four times as many people per mile as light rail. Even signalized surface streets average twice as many people per mile as light rail.
Breach of Faith: Light Rail and Smart Growth in Charlotte
The mean travel time to work according to the 2014 US Census is 21.5 minutes (Durham County) and 22.0 minutes (Chapel Hill), yet the proposed DOLRT will take 44 minutes (+10 minutes at terminus) . Now include the waiting time for the next train, the time to get to/from the station (via Park&Ride, Kiss&Ride, bicycle, walking, or bus transfer), it will even be LONGER. So how is this faster than the automobile that it is supposed to replace?
Many advocates continue to claim that light rail reduces traffic congestion. However a closer look at the total national ridership statistics collected by APTA (1990 to 2014) reveals that total ridership over a 25 year period of massive investments in light rail development, the total ridership of local travel as represented by light rail and bus service has remained surprisingly flat at approximately 6 billion annual riders. Even with 28% population growth, there is no evidence of increased ridership across these two modes of local public transportation. Evidence suggests that bus ridership has merely been shifted towards the more expensive light rail systems and has had no impact on reducing overall traffic congestion. Reference: Quarterly and Annual Totals by Mode – Collected by APTA
In North Carolina, Eric Lamb, Manager of the City of Raleigh Office of Transportation, is not so sure about the correlation between transit and congestion abatement. 5 He cites South Boulevard in Charlotte which directly parallels that city’s Lynx Blue Line light rail system. Despite the light rail line … there has been no corresponding reduction in traffic volumes along South Boulevard.
David Hartgen, emeritus professor of transportation studies at UNC Charlotte has authored a study concluding that the Triangle project would not reduce vehicle congestion or travel time, the very benefits supporters tout in seeking the outlay needed to fund the project.
The latest revised DO LRT estimates project 23,000 daily boardings (in 2040) during 18.5 hours of daily operation across the 17 mile circuit (at a cost of $1.6 BILLION or $94 million per mile) to serve an average 622 passengers per hour (on each track). While advocates will argue that LRT has higher ‘capacity’, it will not necessarily mean that it has higher ‘usage.’ We should not confuse capacity with usage.
So how does that compare to the much hated highway? Well, not so well. A typical highways can accommodate 2,200 vehicles per lane per hour (human driven), utilizing about 5% of roadway capacity. And you can place 4 lanes within the same 50′ right-of-way required for RLT.
And as autonomous vehicles become pervasive, this capacity will increase significantly, as the vehicles will be able to drive in much closer proximity thereby dramatically increasing the capacity of our existing roadway infrastructure. By using BRT, we will be able to organically add this capacity; whereas with LRT relying on steel rails, we will not, as it will be dedicated to only for the train and we will not be able to share with other autonomous vehicles.
Who can I talk to and have my voice heard?
Some voices carry more than others. Your elected representatives will listen to you. You have the vote! How can I maximize my voice? Phone calls are heard very loud and clear. Hand written letters are the next best thing. Followed by typed letters delivered by US postal. And lastly email. So while most of us use (myself included) email … your elected representatives prefer to hear from you (literally). So if you want to maximize your impact, please call!