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Old December 23rd, 2008, 04:46 AM   #581
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Originally Posted by Somnifor View Post
Minneapolis/St Paul Metro Transit is still seeing record numbers despite the falling price of gas. I was on a high frequency bus today at 1 pm and it was standing room only even though it was really cold outside (0F which is around -17c).
In Edmonton, cold weather means the buses gets the busses super-packed. Probably because people can't wait for the next bus without facing health consequences.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 05:13 AM   #582
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It is surprising to see that there is more use of public transport in the USA. I thought it was common to use private cars rather than public transport. It is going the right way...
Our increases are from a small base in most cities.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 09:36 AM   #583
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Our increases are from a small base in most cities.
What do you mean exactly?
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 11:10 AM   #584
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What do you mean exactly?
I think he means (as always correct me if I'm wrong) that before the gas spike, most cities only had a small number of people using transit. Now we are seeing sharp increases in the amount of people using transit, but because we were starting from such a small base, the number of people using transit now is still small compared to the rest of the world.

Basically this is a good development, but we still have a long way to go.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 06:28 PM   #585
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Thank you for the explanation.

Yes, as I said previously, I was under the impression there was little use of public transport in the USA.

Whatever the improvement is, it will be a good thing. Maybe, the problem is that there was no trust in the system. Now, for whatever reason, they had to turn to Public Transport, and it was there. The more use, the more chances of improvements there will be. That's how it happens.

I hope that this is only the start... and we see that Public Transport in the USA develops further.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 07:34 PM   #586
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Considering that most public transit systems in the U.S. are underfunded and have limited coverage, it is no wonder that usage is so low compared to Europe and Asia.

Expanding mass transit to serve more areas and expand capacity in congested areas will increase risership significantly.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 11:33 PM   #587
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It's interesting what happens as soon as you say the words "parking garage" to developers/financiers. You might see it as a net public good, but they see it as a multi-million dollar money pit. It's very difficult to build a parking garage and not have to subsidize it with the surrounding development; the user fees would be exorbitant if it paid for itself.
Depends where you are. In the major West Coast metros, even suburban malls generally have at least some structured parking. Most suburban office construction outside Seattle has garages, whether below-grade or above-grade.

The reason is land availability and land cost. We don't have 100-acre buildable mall sites, and if we did, in prime areas, they would be prohibitively expensive (land cost) to fill with surface parking.

The last new regional mall near Seattle was built in 1995. I can't remember the last new full-size hospital. Rather, we build smaller new centers (generally mixing uses), and our existing malls and hospitals tend to expand in place within their existing land. Generally that means replacing surface parking with garages.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 11:36 PM   #588
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Chusanch, I confirm that's what I meant.

Most cities have halfway decent transit usage for downtown workers and in-city residents, but the numbers get terrible for people who live and/or work outside these areas.
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Old December 24th, 2008, 12:33 AM   #589
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Well... over here, if you want to move around the city, it's fine... but try to go to a Industrial Estate on a bus... and things are not so pretty as they look...

Only recently, Industrial Estates in Zaragoza are starting to be serviced, with routes that don't take into consideration opening and closing times... but then again, if everything worked, we would not have anything to complain about...
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Old December 24th, 2008, 12:35 AM   #590
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Considering that most public transit systems in the U.S. are underfunded and have limited coverage, it is no wonder that usage is so low compared to Europe and Asia.

Expanding mass transit to serve more areas and expand capacity in congested areas will increase risership significantly.
In the US, the Pentagon has had top priority for military funding, there's not much left over for transit or other basic infrastructure. Crumbling roads & inadeqeute mass transit, that's that's the price that's paid for trying to be an Empire.
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Old December 24th, 2008, 12:47 AM   #591
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I think the problem may be funding as you say... but I feel it is more the way cities are built. Population spreads out, making routes rather long, and making them totally non profitable services, therefore, unless the government subsidises them... (I am not sure what percentage of the service is subsidised, if any) it makes no sense to the operators to run them...

This is a very basic and reduced explanation...
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Old December 24th, 2008, 12:53 AM   #592
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Originally Posted by Chusanch View Post
I think the problem may be funding as you say... but I feel it is more the way cities are built. Population spreads out, making routes rather long, and making them totally non profitable services, therefore, unless the government subsidises them... (I am not sure what percentage of the service is subsidised, if any) it makes no sense to the operators to run them...

This is a very basic and reduced explanation...
I think there is a lot of truth to this, in the older parts of US cities that were built for pedestrians or along streetcar lines mass transit tends to work pretty well. It is when you get to the more spread out areas built after WWII where transit has difficulty providing good services.
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Old December 24th, 2008, 12:00 PM   #593
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In the US, the Pentagon has had top priority for military funding, there's not much left over for transit or other basic infrastructure. Crumbling roads & inadeqeute mass transit, that's that's the price that's paid for trying to be an Empire.
What....? Transit and basic infrastructure don't get federal assistance from "military funding" whatever the hell that is.

So assuming your just angrily rambling, and you mean the US government would rather fund the military much more than the federal transit authority; Yes, the US could do with less military spending and more tax dollars diverted to infrastructure, but keep in mind the issue is a lot more complicated than "throw more money at the problem."

As has been pointed out on other threads, the federal govt's stated responsibility for infrastructure is to facilitate interstate commerce rather than intra-state or inter/intra city. The responsibility for most city transit systems fall on city and state govts.

But because city and state govts are so backed up with road, rail, and other infrastructure problems that should be being handled by the federal govt (they seem to have almost completely abandoned all responsibility for interstate freeways, and amtrak is mostly hanging by a thread, not to mention the US power grid) they have to be frugal somehow.
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Old January 18th, 2009, 11:34 AM   #594
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http://www.planning.org/planning/default.htm

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For a while in the 1980s, Minneapolis was nicknamed the Minne-Apple, a droll reference to locals' New York-like passion for theater and other artistic pursuits. But in planning terms, the Twin Cities area has always more closely resembled Los Angeles than New York.

Doubt it? Just take out your road atlas and compare the metro maps at the back of the book. Look first at eastern cities like Boston and Philadelphia, where the freeway spokes parallel commuter railroads and river valleys. Look next at western cities like Denver and Dallas, which also grew along hub-spoke patterns. Minneapolis and St. Paul look nothing like any of them.

The closest match is Los Angeles, which has no sharply discernable center. Like L.A., the Twin Cities scrapped an extensive street railway system in the 1950s and built freeways on a giant grid that made the downtowns irrelevant. The freeways ran in straight lines, ensuring that the car would be king.

But change is in the air. Minnesotans are finally beginning to accept the reality that the era of auto dominance is ending. There's no better sign of that than last year's dramatic legislative passage, over Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto, of the state's largest ever transportation bill. The measure included a sales tax hike to expand the metro area's lone light rail line into a full-blown transitway system with rail and rapid bus options.

The first commuter rail line will open this year, and a second light rail line is expected in 2014. Others will follow. But the fight has been long and harder than anyone imagined, given the cities' reputation for good planning.

Sprawl capital

The 12-mile-long Hiawatha line, shown here at the V.A. Medical Center station, connects downtown Minneapolis with the airport — and the Mall of AmericaIn planning circles, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has long seemed to do everything right. In 1967, the state legislature created the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis-St. Paul, which used its powers over sewer extensions to guide suburban growth. Later, in passing a "fiscal disparities" agreement to share tax revenues, the council proved to everyone the advantage of pooling metropolitan area resources.

For years, local residents generally felt immune from the crime, poverty, and failing schools that beset other older northern cities. When those problems finally surfaced in the 1980s and early '90s, pushing tens of thousands of middle-class families to the suburbs, the shock was palpable. The Met Council struggled to cope as sprawl leapfrogged beyond its original seven counties and as the six new metro counties (two in Wisconsin) declined to join the regional planning enterprise.

By the late 1990s, the Twin Cities ranked among the nation's fastest sprawling areas, as measured by the Brookings Institution. Between 1982 and 1997, the region added urbanized land at more than double the rate of its population growth. Traffic congestion grew faster than any place except Atlanta, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. With the Twin Cities metro population expected to grow from three million in 2001 to four million by 2025, it became clear that something had to be done about transportation and land use.

Other metro areas with similar problems had begun to act a decade or two earlier, beginning with Portland's growth boundaries and light rail system. San Diego, Sacramento, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City had all made a commitment to light rail. "What happened to you?" asked G.B. Arrington, then head of Portland's transit system, when I visited Oregon in the late 1990s.

What happened was political and cultural paralysis.

In denial

Even as the Twin Cities suburbs became the state's most potent political force, suburbanites were ambivalent about issues like traffic. Many residents had roots in rural areas and preferred to think of their suburbs as independent places, not part of an interconnected metropolitan area. Many considered transit a social service for the poor, something only for big cities. To put it bluntly, many residents seemed to be in denial about their own metropolitan geography.

The whole topic was bound up with politics. Candidates vowed not to raise taxes for transit, forestalling any progress on the issue. Even many progressives associated with the region's vaunted civic and business leadership — the Citizens League, for example, and the newspaper editorial pages — campaigned against light rail as an unnecessary, inflexible, and too-expensive version of the bus. The petty rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul didn't help, either, as the cities fought over the potential location of a rail line. Efforts by rail advocates failed repeatedly to overturn a 1985 legislative ban on rail transit in the state.

Compounding the problem was a smug, exceptionalist attitude embedded in the Minnesota culture. To some, other cities' success with light rail was seen as irrelevant to its workability in the Twin Cities. Critics scoffed at the idea that rail transit could more efficiently reshape development. The term "smart growth" was so ridiculed that proponents stopped using it.

For years, the lack of consensus paralyzed the Met Council's transit agenda, but things improved in 1998 when the council chair, Curtis Johnson, decided to back light rail. To make any progress at all, he says today, "we had to do something dramatic, and rail brought the kind of impact to change the public mindset."

That same year, the unexpected election of Jesse Ventura, the wrestler-turned-governor, gave rail a bigger boost. Although hardly an urbanist, Ventura loved trains and vowed to begin building a light rail system, starting with a line running through the old south Minneapolis neighborhood where he grew up. To accomplish that task, he tapped Ted Mondale, son of the former vice president, to chair the Met Council.

Unlike his more timid predecessors, Mondale was an aggressive politician who openly advocated smart growth and forged a coalition of environmentalists, business leaders, and progressive municipal and county officials from both parties to work for a sustainable metro area. A light rail line from the International Airport and Bloomington's Mall of America into downtown Minneapolis was key to the strategy.

The proposed Hiawatha Line would run 13 miles, mostly along a corridor reserved for a freeway that was never built. In 2000, after a tumultuous campaign, during which the line was ridiculed as a "choo-choo to nowhere," the state legislature passed the project over protests from opponents, including Gov. Pawlenty, who was then leader of the state house of representatives.

"It was not an intellectual discussion," Mondale recalls. "It was a political fight. It was war."

The $715 million line opened in 2004, with double the expected ridership. Since then, more than 8,000 housing units have been built along the line, although the financial meltdown of recent months has taken a toll. The signs are the craters and empty lots of two dozen abandoned condo projects in downtown Minneapolis. Dozens more are on the drawing boards, ready to proceed.

Even with the Hiawatha line's popularity, additional lines have been stymied by the lack of a funding stream. Unlike Denver, Dallas, and other cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul was trying to build a system one line at a time, posing a disadvantage in competing for federal matching funds. The feds preferred dealing with cities that had money lined up.

'Whoever pays controls the system'

Last February's legislative initiative paves the way for a new system. A quarter-cent hike in the sales tax will allow five of the seven inner metro counties to build — and to govern — the new "transitway" composed of light rail, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit lines. The emphasis on governing is important because it shifts power away from the Met Council and toward the metro counties.

Why the shift? Because the Met Council, while planning additional transit lines, never agreed to pay for them. As an arm of the governor's office, the council carries out a governor's policy. If that policy prevents transit funding, then lines don't get built.

"They were just lines on paper," says Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, the principal strategist behind the Twin Cities' transitway effort. "If we [the counties] are going to supply the money," he says, "then we should control the system."

On a white drawing board on his office wall on the 24th floor of the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, McLaughlin has plotted the evolution of the transit lines over the last 12 years. "I'm tickled with the progress we've made," he says. "We're very close to having a system."

Regular bus service will remain under Met Council control, although funding is in doubt. Bus operations are expected to run a $40 million deficit this year despite a boom in ridership and a recent fare increase. Now a political fight is looming over whether to poach money for buses from transitway construction coffers.

"There's a line of thinking that we need to slow down transitways and shore up the bus system," says Peter Bell, the current Met Council chair. Bell also worries about a lack of geographic balance on new rail lines. Market forces dictate that most lines will be built in the West Metro (Minneapolis), which could lessen support for the new tax in St. Paul and the east. It's the curse of rivalry.

A live-work-shop world

In spatial terms, the proposed transitway network lays a new hub-and-spoke pattern over the freeway grid. The idea is to offer a choice to commuters — both in travel and in neighborhood type. Auto-bound suburbs will remain tied to the freeways. But the transit spokes and hub will become a parallel universe — a live-work-shop world where the need for cars is minimized. At least that's the vision.

"There are huge shifts taking place," says Bell. Traditional two-parent households with children have declined to about one-fifth of all metro households. Attached housing constitutes more than half of all new construction. Infill development is gaining popularity. The downtown residential population is rising. Most significant: Transit ridership is at a 25-year high.

The metro's central transit hub is forming on the west side of downtown Minneapolis adjacent to Target Field, the new Twins ballpark that is set to open next year. That's where the North Star commuter line, scheduled to open this year, will connect to the Hiawatha Line. It's also the point from which the Central Line will head east to the University of Minnesota and downtown St. Paul in 2014 and the proposed Southwest and Bottineau lines will eventually extend to the southwestern and northwestern suburbs. In addition, bus rapid transit and high-occupancy auto toll lanes will run to the west, south, and southeast.

Meanwhile, St. Paul is envisioned as the terminus for future high-speed rail service to Chicago and for rapid bus transit connections to towns in the St. Croix River Valley.

Decades may pass before the network is up and running. The bigger problem is retrofitting the city itself — from the current, wide-open, auto-only regime toward a more integrated, efficient, and balanced metropolis. Outdated zoning laws, municipal codes, parking rules, and street guidelines are problems, of course. But even more daunting is finding a way to change the minds of local residents who are hardwired to the old ways.

That retrofitting could start with downtown Minneapolis, which in many ways resembles a suburban office park. Giant parking decks and eight miles of privately controlled, glassed-in skyways have created a climate-controlled second-story city, one that's extremely popular with office workers and noontime shoppers.

The downside is that the skyways promote a bifurcated social atmosphere: office workers and shoppers above; vagrants, petty drug dealers, and bus riders below. Even the once-glamorous Nicollet Mall, an open-air pedestrian promenade, is struggling to hold its retail clients. Altogether, it's a terrible fit for a transit hub and a bad design for a city hoping to remain vibrant in a new century. Jan Gehl, the noted Danish urban designer, has gone so far as to declare downtown Minneapolis obsolete. "I feel sorry for Minneapolis," he told me in 2007.

City Hall has responded with a new transportation plan that tries to inject "community" into downtown. The plan emphasizes transit, walking, biking, and two-way auto traffic. And it hopes for a prettier atmosphere at street level, one, perhaps, that approaches the beauty of the city's parks, lakes, and picturesque residential neighborhoods.

No solution to the skyway problem has yet emerged, however, and the city still has an autocentric mentality when it comes to urban design. Witness the sleek new Walker Art Center designed by the prizewinning Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron along a busy thoroughfare. There's plenty of accommodation for cars but no transit stop. To find your way inside, you must discover a side street, enter a giant underground parking garage, and look for an elevator, which becomes in effect the museum's main entrance — hardly the stuff of walkable, human-scale design. It's a testimony to the Twin Cities' steep learning curve in creating true community spaces.

But people are finally beginning to catch on. More and more, they understand the point of the sign on an apartment complex along the region's busiest freeway segment: "If you lived here, you'd be home by now." Proximity is truly the best possible solution to our transportation and energy problems. As Marshall McLuhan might have put it, transportation is land use.
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Old January 18th, 2009, 07:29 PM   #595
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Chicago's 2008 stats are in:

CTA Announces Increased Ridership in 2008

1/14/2009

CTA Has Now Achieved Ridership Increases in 10 of the Past 11 Years

The CTA today announced that 2008 combined bus and rail ridership increased by 26.8 million rides, a gain of 5.4 percent over 2007 ridership, for a total of 526.4 million rides. It is the highest ridership level since 1992 and the highest single year ridership gain in 34 years.

“The slow zone elimination effort, progress of the Brown Line capacity expansion project and adjustments to provide more efficient service have improved our customers’ day-to-day experience on CTA and are directly related to the growth in ridership despite the struggling economy,” said CTA President Ron Huberman. “New buses, and cleaner vehicles and facilities are helping attract new customers and influencing existing customers to ride more.”

“The healthy growth of ridership in 2008 reflects the fact that our commitment to improving transit is being recognized by our customers despite some of the inconveniences that go with making those improvements,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. “In the long run we are improving our system for our customers and providing service while that work is underway.”

Ridership increased 4.5 percent on weekdays in 2008, averaging 1.68 million daily boardings. Ridership also increased by 7.3 percent on weekends and holidays, showing that many customers are not only riding CTA for their daily commutes but also for their travel needs outside of traditional working hours.

Bus ridership recorded the largest surge with a total of 328.2 million rides provided for the year, an increase of 18.9 million rides, or 6.1 percent higher compared to 2007. CTA made great strides in improving bus reliability over the past 12 months. Ridership increased more than 12 percent on bus routes where reliability improvements were made. In addition, riders along the north lakefront corridor heavily contributed to the growth in bus ridership as many switched to nearby bus service as an option to avoid the congestion caused by three-track train operation at the Belmont and Fullerton stations.

As a convenient option for riders impacted by three-track operation, the #147 Outer Drive Express saw a 15 percent increase in ridership. With the resumption of four-track service in December at Belmont and Fullerton, CTA expects that some bus riders may migrate back to the rail system this year.

Rail ridership increased by 4.1 percent compared to 2007, recording a total of 198.2 million rides provided for the year, an increase of 7.9 million rides over the previous year. Rail ridership in 2008 was at its highest point since 1968.

Ridership increased on all eight rail lines in 2008. Contributing to the increased rail ridership for the Blue Line’s Dearborn subway and O’Hare branch was the completion of the slow zone elimination work which allowed trains to return to normal speeds. Slow zone elimination work was also performed on the North branch of the Red Line and on the Brown Line providing customers with faster travel. In addition, renovation work was completed on six Brown Line stations and CTA introduced eight-car train service during morning and evening rush periods which helped to boost ridership numbers.

The only significant drop in rail ridership was at those stations closest to O’Hare, largely due to the decline in air travel throughout the year. Ridership was slightly down at Midway station however Midway serves as a major connection to bus service. The Yellow Line reported a 21 percent increase in ridership as a direct result of the addition of weekend service. Pink Line ridership also continued to grow, increasing by 12 percent over 2007. The Pink Line has almost doubled its ridership in a four year period.
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Old January 21st, 2009, 03:34 AM   #596
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So President Obama's 850b dollar stimulus package... apparently a good deal of the money will be spent on infrastructure and try to create more jobs. Does this mean we could see even higher ridership with new rail/bus lines and overall more mass transit? In my opinion that would be great i would love to see more mass transit in this country.
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Old January 21st, 2009, 04:37 AM   #597
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So President Obama's 850b dollar stimulus package... apparently a good deal of the money will be spent on infrastructure and try to create more jobs. Does this mean we could see even higher ridership with new rail/bus lines and overall more mass transit? In my opinion that would be great i would love to see more mass transit in this country.
Infrastructure is only 10% of the stimulus bill, and rail transit received only a fraction of that amount. So no, don't expect much improvement in our nation's infrastructure. Expect more useless tax cuts.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 08:45 AM   #598
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The problem I have noticed on nearly all US rail/transit lines is the poor frequency levels. During rush hour, every 4 minutes or better is required and 5 minutes all day til atleast 9:00 pm and every 7 minutes after that til atleast midnight. People don't mind taking transit but they hate waiting for it. If you build it they will come but building frequency will make them come more often because then it will truly be compatible with car travel times.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 04:26 PM   #599
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The problem I have noticed on nearly all US rail/transit lines is the poor frequency levels. During rush hour, every 4 minutes or better is required and 5 minutes all day til atleast 9:00 pm and every 7 minutes after that til atleast midnight. People don't mind taking transit but they hate waiting for it. If you build it they will come but building frequency will make them come more often because then it will truly be compatible with car travel times.

I agree with your points, but the system would lose so much money in the first few months of increased service if the demmand is not there right away. I think thats the major obstacle in getting high frequency for mass transit. However, we should not be so short sighted and make the improvements to public transit now to avoid more costly expenses that car traffic will create in the future.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 06:53 AM   #600
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I agree, build it as soon as possible but as ridership build so should frequency. There also has to be a minimum standard of service level. Rapid transit must be comparable with car travel for the same trip or people won't take it and that includes waiting for the train.
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