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TheNiche

LRT operating stats from FY2008

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Something was passed along to me from METRO via an intermediary or intermediaries that was never intended to be. Every page is marked "RAW DATA", "UNAUDITED AND UNVERIFIED", and "INTERNAL DOCUMENT ONLY". There are hundreds of pages of raw numbers. It's awesome.

Without further adieu, here are the high points:

HOUSTON'S MISADVENTURES IN LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT

MECHANICAL OR OTHER FAILURES

* Light rail made 1,387 road calls to report failures, comprising 9.8% of all such incidents. Light rail only comprises only 1.4% of total actual vehicle miles.

ACCIDENTS

* Light rail reported 104 accidents, comprising 18.2% of all such incidents. Light rail only comprises only 1.4% of total actual vehicle miles.

SECURITY INDIDENTS

* Of 395 major security incidents reported for the METRO system, 63 (or 15.9%) were related to light rail. Light rail comprises only 1.7% of revenue vehicle hours and 4.7% of passenger miles.

COMPLAINTS

* The total number of complaints associated with light rail users totaled 1,738 out of 23,359, or 7.4% of the total, even though light rail only comprises 4.7% of passenger miles.

I'll leave on a positive note...

MISSED TRIPS (in miles)

* Light rail had 796,908 scheduled revenue miles and missed 1,267 trips in terms of miles, or 0.16% of miles.

* Local buses had 25,611,429 scheduled revenue miles and missed 137,812 trips in terms of miles, or 0.54% of miles.

* Park & Ride buses had 2,720,793 scheduled miles and missed 3,697 trips in terms of miles, or 0.14% of miles.

To put this in perspective if miles are a proxy for trips, then a commuter working five days per week (261 days per year), can expect a no-show from a local bus 2.8 days per year versus 0.8 days per year for light rail or park & ride buses.

Unfortunately, on-time performance is not closely tracked for all the different modes of transit. I cannot make a good comparison.

More to come soon on the abysmal cost dynamics of light rail (and transit in general)!

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Do you think that building these proposed light rail lines would increase transit ridership in general?

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Do you think that building these proposed light rail lines would increase transit ridership in general?

If you use total boardings as a proxy for ridership, then yes. The increase in the average number of transfers per commute will appear to increase transit ridership.

If you ask employees how they get to work, as does the Census Bureau, then no. Only 1.6% of people in the Dallas MSA use public transportation to commute, compared with 2.7% of people in Houston (or 2.3% of people in San Antonio or 2.8% of people in Austin). We crush them even more if you figure in that Houston's METRO administers carpool lanes, which METRO estimated in FY 2008 carried more than twice the number of people as its entire bus system. Even if you narrow it down to just the Dallas half of DFW, it's only 2.1%, still the lowest rate of public transporation use in the state.

Considering how much they've spent to build up their network of light rail, that kind of performance is utterly abysmal. We should not be imitating them.

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If you use total boardings as a proxy for ridership, then yes. The increase in the average number of transfers per commute will appear to increase transit ridership.

If you ask employees how they get to work, as does the Census Bureau, then no. Only 1.6% of people in the Dallas MSA use public transportation to commute, compared with 2.7% of people in Houston (or 2.3% of people in San Antonio or 2.8% of people in Austin). We crush them even more if you figure in that Houston's METRO administers carpool lanes, which METRO estimated in FY 2008 carried more than twice the number of people as its entire bus system. Even if you narrow it down to just the Dallas half of DFW, it's only 2.1%, still the lowest rate of public transporation use in the state.

Considering how much they've spent to build up their network of light rail, that kind of performance is utterly abysmal. We should not be imitating them.

+1 for you young angry canoe paddler of east Texas rivers

any type of fixed route/dedicated route public transportation option needs to move from areas that gather large amounts of people from more distant places to other areas that gather large amounts of people from more distant places.....and they need to move those people from place to place at least as fast if not faster than they could get their themselves on their own

Houston needs to scrap much of the crap they have lined up for light rail and probably the next route needs to go from downtown, right through UH, right past the front of Hobby, and then down to Ellington......it needs to have a stop at each of those places and possibly a single stop in between each of them as well

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We should not be imitating them.

We aren't. You should look up statistics for a city like Denver or Salt Lake city, we are building our system more similar to theirs. Dallas is a commuter rail-type system, ours is within our inner-city.

BTW, both Denver and Salt Lake city have higher transit ridership than us.

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+1 for you young angry canoe paddler of east Texas rivers

any type of fixed route/dedicated route public transportation option needs to move from areas that gather large amounts of people from more distant places to other areas that gather large amounts of people from more distant places.....and they need to move those people from place to place at least as fast if not faster than they could get their themselves on their own

Houston needs to scrap much of the crap they have lined up for light rail and probably the next route needs to go from downtown, right through UH, right past the front of Hobby, and then down to Ellington......it needs to have a stop at each of those places and possibly a single stop in between each of them as well

Not true. There are numerous reasons one might take public transportation. Price, lack of alternative transportation, convenience, wear and tear on personal vehicle, etc. Speed may be one of the criteria for some, but frankly, most transit users expect public transit to be slower than private transportation. The other factors make up for it.

Additionally, public transit agencies have limited resources, and must serve the greatest number of people with those resources. Making the transit faster than private transportation is cost prohibitive in most situations. Only commuter services, such as park&ride, compete with private transportation, but even those are slower, once you take into account getting to the station and parking your car, and waiting for the bus (or train) to leave the station.

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We aren't. You should look up statistics for a city like Denver or Salt Lake city, we are building our system more similar to theirs. Dallas is a commuter rail-type system, ours is within our inner-city.

BTW, both Denver and Salt Lake city have higher transit ridership than us.

Houston has about $490 million in tax revenue of which $150 million is siphoned off by the City of Houston, plus $90 million in capital contributions from federal or state agencies and $64 million in grant proceeds. So we've got $494 million to play with in a city of approximately six million people.

Denver has about $398 million in tax revenue, $93 million in grant operating assitance, and $103 million in capital grants and local contributions. They've got $594 million to play with in a city of 2.5 million people.

Salt Lake City has about $172 million in tax revenue, $60 million in federal noncapital assistance, and $276 million in capital contributions. They've got $508 million to play with in a city of 1.1 million people.

Not exactly a level playing field. This is why I'm comparing to Dallas, a city of very similar population and geography, and that is bound to the same state statutes regarding public finance.

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Houston has about $490 million in tax revenue of which $150 million is siphoned off by the City of Houston, plus $90 million in capital contributions from federal or state agencies and $64 million in grant proceeds. So we've got $494 million to play with in a city of approximately six million people.

Denver has about $398 million in tax revenue, $93 million in grant operating assitance, and $103 million in capital grants and local contributions. They've got $594 million to play with in a city of 2.5 million people.

Salt Lake City has about $172 million in tax revenue, $60 million in federal noncapital assistance, and $276 million in capital contributions. They've got $508 million to play with in a city of 1.1 million people.

Not exactly a level playing field. This is why I'm comparing to Dallas, a city of very similar population and geography, and that is bound to the same state statutes regarding public finance.

That still doesn't mean that the rail system in Houston is designed like the one in Dallas.

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Not true. There are numerous reasons one might take public transportation. Price, lack of alternative transportation, convenience, wear and tear on personal vehicle, etc. Speed may be one of the criteria for some, but frankly, most transit users expect public transit to be slower than private transportation. The other factors make up for it.

Additionally, public transit agencies have limited resources, and must serve the greatest number of people with those resources. Making the transit faster than private transportation is cost prohibitive in most situations. Only commuter services, such as park&ride, compete with private transportation, but even those are slower, once you take into account getting to the station and parking your car, and waiting for the bus (or train) to leave the station.

and you mistakenly believe stopping every two blocks is serving the most number of people

I also am saying that for the same distance traveled public transportation on a dedicated track should be faster than private transportation......if it is not then something is probably wrong......like stopping every other block or having too many disruptions by other forms of traffic slowing or stopping movement

we don't need to run a light rail so that someone can take it 4 blocks to the grocery store they can do that on a bus for a lot less money

we need light rail so that 5K+ people can park at Ellington and ride to Hobby, UH, and downtown in the same amount of time or less that it would take them to drive from Ellington to their final destination.....and then more people can get on at Hobby and go to UH and downtown and a few can park at UH and ride downtown......and then many can ride from downtown to Hobby

taking a short distance rider off a bus and putting them on a light rail is not always a wise use of money....the study posted by Trae and my statements in another thread support exactly what I am saying.....the vast majority of the system in dallas is designed to get people that don't work or have job skills to places where there is very little job growth....and that is why it is an expensive failure

people with few job skills and little motivation don't suddenly become employable because they have light rail to ride and areas that don't provide the size or types of properties needed by present employers don't suddenly become viable for those employers because a light rail runs there

the single metro line in Houston works so well because it serves two viable employment areas, two universities, major entertainment and cultural areas, sports and convention venues and it has a place for people that are coming in from further out of town to park and make good time traveling from where they park to where they wish to end up......and it also carries the movements between all those various venues

if this line had just run from downtown to any of the numerous areas in the same amount of distance that would have passed a ton more residential.....it would have next to zero ridership......because the vast majority of people are not going to travel longer by bus to a light rail line than it would take them to drive to a freeway on surface streets, then ride the light rail for longer than it would take them to drive the freeway stretch, then yet again ride another bus in a period of time that would be longer than it would take them to get off the freeway and drive a surface street to their final parking spot......especially if you add in any decent amount of walking or waiting in inclement weather

driving quickly to a major terminal where traffic starts to become heavy and then taking a ride on the light rail in a similar amount of time right to or very near a final destination is much more preferable and much more cost efficient

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That still doesn't mean that the rail system in Houston is designed like the one in Dallas.

The only perfect comparable is the subject, but using the subject as a comparison to itself doesn't tell you anything.

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The only perfect comparable is the subject, but using the subject as a comparison to itself doesn't tell you anything.

You simply cannot present Dallas's and Houston's light rail systems as similar. Therefore, you cannot expect that Houston's new light rail lines will have the same impact of Dallas's light rail lines.

The goal of these new light rail lines is to increase transit ridership, and improve transit service within the selected corridors, and I believe they will do just that. We can look at insane cost numbers all we want. I can say that before the 2.8 billion dollar (taxpayer money) Katy Freeway expansion, an average of 238,520 vehicles traveled that corridor per day. 2.8 billion dollars later, 268,000 vehicles travel the corridor per day. That comes out to an increase of 29,480 more vehicles, for 2.8 billion dollars. That's over 94,000 dollars PER VEHICLE. So? The point of the project is to improve transit service, and that's it. Light rail expansion costs less than upgrading major highways, and will improve the city of Houston's transit.

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The only perfect comparable is the subject, but using the subject as a comparison to itself doesn't tell you anything.

That still does not mean that the lines are similar. The system in Houston (light rail at least) is more urban rail. DART is more commuter rail because Dallas has some pretty big suburbs that want a piece of the pie, too. The only area of Dallas that our rail lines resemble each other is in Downtown Dallas. Besides that, they don't. The rail in Dallas runs on old abandoned freight corridors and/or parallel to freeways. That puts them away from a lot of people and hard to connect it with jobs (unless you work Downtown, or soon Las Colinas) since the job centers in DFW are much, much more spread out than in Houston. In Houston, the rail is run in the middle of the streets for the most part. Makes it much easier to access, plus with the city's layout, makes it easier to connect the largest employment centers. You have to connect the Inner Loop areas first before bringing in the suburbanites into the city, IMO. The rail in Dallas isn't conducive to make short trips to the store, etc. The stations are built too far away and surrounded by parking lots, something you would rather see for commuter rail stations. Speaking of commuter rail, that's what should be replacing the Park and Ride buses, even though they may be more cost effective. At least with commuter rail, it can run on the weekends and can be used for more than just weekday commuters in the morning/evening. Houston has the perfect setup for light rail in the Inner City and commuter rail coming in from the 'burbs, since the metro area is pretty centralized. It's probably why they predict the University Line alone to double the ridership in Houston. Once the Southeast/University/North Lines are all built, light rail ridership in Houston should surpass Dallas. Before Dallas' recent expansion, Houston had 67% of the riders on just seven miles of track compared to 45. Not sure what the ridership in Dallas is like now with the Green Line expansion though.

Point is, just because both get screwed in transit funds does not mean they are building similar systems. Only thing similar about them is that they both use light rail.

Edit: So, with the new Green Line in Dallas, the rail in Houston has a little over 50% of its riders, on just 10% of the track. We definitely aren't following in their footsteps.

Edited by Trae

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and you mistakenly believe stopping every two blocks is serving the most number of people

I also am saying that for the same distance traveled public transportation on a dedicated track should be faster than private transportation......if it is not then something is probably wrong......like stopping every other block or having too many disruptions by other forms of traffic slowing or stopping movement

we don't need to run a light rail so that someone can take it 4 blocks to the grocery store they can do that on a bus for a lot less money

we need light rail so that 5K+ people can park at Ellington and ride to Hobby, UH, and downtown in the same amount of time or less that it would take them to drive from Ellington to their final destination.....and then more people can get on at Hobby and go to UH and downtown and a few can park at UH and ride downtown......and then many can ride from downtown to Hobby

taking a short distance rider off a bus and putting them on a light rail is not always a wise use of money....the study posted by Trae and my statements in another thread support exactly what I am saying.....the vast majority of the system in dallas is designed to get people that don't work or have job skills to places where there is very little job growth....and that is why it is an expensive failure

people with few job skills and little motivation don't suddenly become employable because they have light rail to ride and areas that don't provide the size or types of properties needed by present employers don't suddenly become viable for those employers because a light rail runs there

the single metro line in Houston works so well because it serves two viable employment areas, two universities, major entertainment and cultural areas, sports and convention venues and it has a place for people that are coming in from further out of town to park and make good time traveling from where they park to where they wish to end up......and it also carries the movements between all those various venues

if this line had just run from downtown to any of the numerous areas in the same amount of distance that would have passed a ton more residential.....it would have next to zero ridership......because the vast majority of people are not going to travel longer by bus to a light rail line than it would take them to drive to a freeway on surface streets, then ride the light rail for longer than it would take them to drive the freeway stretch, then yet again ride another bus in a period of time that would be longer than it would take them to get off the freeway and drive a surface street to their final parking spot......especially if you add in any decent amount of walking or waiting in inclement weather

driving quickly to a major terminal where traffic starts to become heavy and then taking a ride on the light rail in a similar amount of time right to or very near a final destination is much more preferable and much more cost efficient

And you mistakenly believe that adding light rail commuter trains (like Dallas) increases ridership. DART ridership is less today than it was last year, and less than it was 10 years ago. The addition of its Green Line has helped drag it passengers per mile average down to 900 (Houston's is above 4,500). And, most importantly, Houston already has commuter transit from 4 locations around Ellington Field, carrying about 4,000 passengers daily. It is called Park & Ride service, and it carries 32,000 people daily to downtown, the Med Center and Greenway Plaza, who can then use the light rail and local bus, if needed. This does not even include The Woodlands Express, a privately contracted service that brings hundreds more into the city from The Woodlands. And, it did not cost $2 Billion to build it.

Light Rail gets all the press, and is useful in inner city areas. But, when DART spends $2 Billion to build commuter light rail to the burbs, and ridership is weak, the press it gets is bad. Do your homework before bad-mouthing Houston transit. METRO has problems, but following Dallas' example is not one of them.

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You simply cannot present Dallas's and Houston's light rail systems as similar. Therefore, you cannot expect that Houston's new light rail lines will have the same impact of Dallas's light rail lines.

I don't expect that our experience will be the same. I expect that it will be similar.

The goal of these new light rail lines is to increase transit ridership, and improve transit service within the selected corridors, and I believe they will do just that.

Possibly, if light rail is an improvement compared to how we might have spent the money.

METRO's internal numbers indicate that light rail has more mechanical failures, more accidents, more major security incidents, and generates more complaints than buses. Where speed is concerned, METRO calculates an average revenue speed of 12.51 mph for light rail versus 12.37 mph for local buses; there is no meaningful difference.

Reliability seems to be the primary drawback for buses, but don't you think that for $368 million (the cost to build the Red Line) plus its operating expenses, we could've had a reliable bus route that didn't require tearing up the streets for years at a time to install depreciable equipment?

The goal of these new light rail lines is to increase transit ridership, and improve transit service within the selected corridors, and I believe they will do just that. We can look at insane cost numbers all we want. I can say that before the 2.8 billion dollar (taxpayer money) Katy Freeway expansion, an average of 238,520 vehicles traveled that corridor per day. 2.8 billion dollars later, 268,000 vehicles travel the corridor per day. That comes out to an increase of 29,480 more vehicles, for 2.8 billion dollars. That's over 94,000 dollars PER VEHICLE. So? The point of the project is to improve transit service, and that's it. Light rail expansion costs less than upgrading major highways, and will improve the city of Houston's transit.

You have given us the traffic count through a cross-section of freeway (specifically, I-10 near Kirkwood during 2009). Here's your source. However, most users of I-10 do not use its entire length and would not be counted using your approach. Also, TXDoT only measures counts on their infrastructure, so I would have to wonder whether they included traffic in the HOV/toll facility.

I-10 started off as a traffic-snarled six-lane freeway with uni-directional HOV lanes. The HOV took away the inside breakdown lanes and created traffic barriers right at the edge of a narrow lane. Accidents were common and would reduce flow to a creep.

The new I-10 is a freeway with twelve lanes and four lanes of bidirectional HOV/toll. Traffic is very nearly free-flowing, even in rush hour. Lanes are wider, breakdown lanes are wider and are available to the left and the right. Accidents still happen, but are more easily moved off to the side or veered around by drivers using all the extra lanes (or hopping on the HOV/toll if necessary. Not as much traffic diverts onto surface streets.

The 29,480 vpd increase in use that you cite is attributable primarily to employment growth in the Energy Corridor and to cars switching to the freeway that used to take surface streets as an alternative. The reason that demand growth seems so unimpressive is that it's only been a few years. But whereas an upgrade from bus to light rail does not generate an increase in speed, the freeway improvements have more than doubled the typical speed (in my experience). I'm sure that the excess capacity will eventually fill up, but that'll only occur with increased use, which is precisely the metric you're using to justify the benefit of the freeway. And in the mean time, it's faster, which is also a benefit. So...suck on that, won't you?

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I don't expect that our experience will be the same. I expect that it will be similar.

Well considering how our light rail is performing against theirs so far, it's doubtful that it will end up being similar.

Possibly, if light rail is an improvement compared to how we might have spent the money.

Sure, putting something like a BRT system might also increase ridership, but not as much as rail would. On the other hand, putting heavy rail in like Atlanta would increase ridership even more. You get what you pay for, I suppose.

METRO's internal numbers indicate that light rail has more mechanical failures, more accidents, more major security incidents, and generates more complaints than buses. Where speed is concerned, METRO calculates an average revenue speed of 12.51 mph for light rail versus 12.37 mph for local buses; there is no meaningful difference.

Reliability seems to be the primary drawback for buses, but don't you think that for $368 million (the cost to build the Red Line) plus its operating expenses, we could've had a reliable bus route that didn't require tearing up the streets for years at a time to install depreciable equipment?

The 'depreciable equipment' assessment is debatable. Busses have about half the lifespan as rail cars. They also wear out streets faster, causing the need for repavings more often. On top of that, they don't generate nearly as much ridership a rail line would.

You have given us the traffic count through a cross-section of freeway (specifically, I-10 near Kirkwood during 2009). Here's your source. However, most users of I-10 do not use its entire length and would not be counted using your approach. Also, TXDoT only measures counts on their infrastructure, so I would have to wonder whether they included traffic in the HOV/toll facility.

I-10 started off as a traffic-snarled six-lane freeway with uni-directional HOV lanes. The HOV took away the inside breakdown lanes and created traffic barriers right at the edge of a narrow lane. Accidents were common and would reduce flow to a creep.

The new I-10 is a freeway with twelve lanes and four lanes of bidirectional HOV/toll. Traffic is very nearly free-flowing, even in rush hour. Lanes are wider, breakdown lanes are wider and are available to the left and the right. Accidents still happen, but are more easily moved off to the side or veered around by drivers using all the extra lanes (or hopping on the HOV/toll if necessary. Not as much traffic diverts onto surface streets.

The 29,480 vpd increase in use that you cite is attributable primarily to employment growth in the Energy Corridor and to cars switching to the freeway that used to take surface streets as an alternative. The reason that demand growth seems so unimpressive is that it's only been a few years. But whereas an upgrade from bus to light rail does not generate an increase in speed, the freeway improvements have more than doubled the typical speed (in my experience). I'm sure that the excess capacity will eventually fill up, but that'll only occur with increased use, which is precisely the metric you're using to justify the benefit of the freeway. And in the mean time, it's faster, which is also a benefit. So...suck on that, won't you?

And this freeway is going to need to be redone... again. Don't get me wrong, I support any infrastructure project, including this freeway. However, my argument is that if we invest the same amount of money into our transit system (bus, light rail, commuter rail, etc) then more people will ride the transit system, therefore reducing the need for constant freeway upkeep. Or at least prolong the time until freeways need to be re-done.

Edited by mfastx

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And you mistakenly believe that adding light rail commuter trains (like Dallas) increases ridership. DART ridership is less today than it was last year, and less than it was 10 years ago. The addition of its Green Line has helped drag it passengers per mile average down to 900 (Houston's is above 4,500). And, most importantly, Houston already has commuter transit from 4 locations around Ellington Field, carrying about 4,000 passengers daily. It is called Park & Ride service, and it carries 32,000 people daily to downtown, the Med Center and Greenway Plaza, who can then use the light rail and local bus, if needed. This does not even include The Woodlands Express, a privately contracted service that brings hundreds more into the city from The Woodlands. And, it did not cost $2 Billion to build it.

Light Rail gets all the press, and is useful in inner city areas. But, when DART spends $2 Billion to build commuter light rail to the burbs, and ridership is weak, the press it gets is bad. Do your homework before bad-mouthing Houston transit. METRO has problems, but following Dallas' example is not one of them.

I should mention that my documents include a long-term capital budget.

METRO budgets for $1,660,051,000 in up-front capital expenditures on commuter rail and then $75,314,592 per year in operating costs. Projected daily ridership maxes out at 7,118 in the year 2030, although interestingly enough there was no calculation for ridership taken away from existing P&R service when commuter rail comes online.

Compare to $47,404,859 in total costs during FY 2008 for a Park & Ride system that generated 9,285,111 boardings in 2008. That's 25,439 boardings per day at an average cost of $5.10. Not bad. But commuter rail...not good.

Dallas proved that (and keeps proving it), yet we keep budgeting for it.

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Well considering how our light rail is performing against theirs so far, it's doubtful that it will end up being similar.

Yeah, we started with the low-hanging fruit, connecting downtown to the TMC and the TMC to outlying parking lots.

...and now we're building light rail to Harrisburg & 71st Street. ...and Northline Mall. ...and Griggs Road and some railroad tracks. No progress connecting Uptown or Greenway Plaza. WTF!?

Sure, putting something like a BRT system might also increase ridership, but not as much as rail would. On the other hand, putting heavy rail in like Atlanta would increase ridership even more. You get what you pay for, I suppose.

What if you could build several times more BRT or implement many more times the number of Express Buses than you could LRT?

METRO's express buses are getting over 16 mph on average, compared to about 12 mph for light rail or local buses. The express buses and the bus stops are nicer. And they don't even travel in their own guideway, meaning we didn't have to tear up the roads for years at a time. It is a superior technology because it performs better and we could afford more of it.

The 'depreciable equipment' assessment is debatable. Busses have about half the lifespan as rail cars. They also wear out streets faster, causing the need for repavings more often. On top of that, they don't generate nearly as much ridership a rail line would.

They're also less expensive than a rail car, require a less expensive form of pavement, and do not require overhead electrical infrastructure; and if anything might possibly ever make light rail competitive with buses, it will only be the fact that buses deliver people to light rail stops, where they can make a transfer.

I think that you do have a point that rail bias does exist. However, I think that the phenomenon exists on the margins. Most people are just concerned with convenience factors and perceived safety.

And this freeway is going to need to be redone... again. Don't get me wrong, I support any infrastructure project, including this freeway. However, my argument is that if we invest the same amount of money into our transit system (bus, light rail, commuter rail, etc) then more people will ride the transit system, therefore reducing the need for constant freeway upkeep. Or at least prolong the time until freeways need to be re-done.

The previous freeway lasted 30 years. I'm thinking that this one will last about that long, and then will be redone with some minor changes (like the North Loop project). Making I-10 any wider would just not be realistic. There are diminishing returns to adding lanes. Once it's beyond capacity, which should take a fair bit of time, that's where transit has to pick up the slack. And that'll be a bridge we cross when we get to it.

And hey, your faulty stat said that 268,000 people use it per day. (I suspect it's closer to a half-million.) And the average speed isn't 12 mph. That's, um...better than transit. It just is. There's no arguing it.

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METRO's internal numbers indicate that light rail has more mechanical failures, more accidents, more major security incidents, and generates more complaints than buses. Where speed is concerned, METRO calculates an average revenue speed of 12.51 mph for light rail versus 12.37 mph for local buses; there is no meaningful difference.

Numbers from 3 years ago. Accidents in particular have decreased significantly, and having ridden on it the past several years, I can tell you it's simply a more reliable service.

Anyway, it's a pretty cool leak.

Edited by kylejack

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Numbers from 3 years ago. Accidents in particular have decreased significantly, and having ridden on it the past several years, I can tell you it's simply a more reliable service.

I also have the 2005-2007 numbers. Here they are for accidents:

FY 2005 - 41 light rail accidents, 11.8% of total

FY 2006 - 43 light rail accidents, 9.0% of total

FY 2007 - 36 light rail accidents, 6.3% of total

FY 2008 - 104 light rail accidents, 18.2% of total

In FY 2008, accidents with light rail occurred 13 times as frequently per mile travelled as with other forms of transit. Light rail had been in operation for four years. It was my impression that the number of accidents had already fallen off because most of the bad press was from the first couple years of operation, but I guess I was wrong. There were many more accidents in FY 2008 than there had been previously.

Regardless, light rail seems disproportionately prone to accidents. If you have more recent data, I welcome it.

As for reliability, I'm not disputing that. I do think that billions of extra dollars of money could build a more reliable bus service, however.

Edited by TheNiche

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Yeah, we started with the low-hanging fruit, connecting downtown to the TMC and the TMC to outlying parking lots.

...and now we're building light rail to Harrisburg & 71st Street. ...and Northline Mall. ...and Griggs Road and some railroad tracks. No progress connecting Uptown or Greenway Plaza. WTF!?

The previous freeway lasted 30 years. I'm thinking that this one will last about that long, and then will be redone with some minor changes (like the North Loop project). Making I-10 any wider would just not be realistic. There are diminishing returns to adding lanes. Once it's beyond capacity, which should take a fair bit of time, that's where transit has to pick up the slack. And that'll be a bridge we cross when we get to it.

And hey, your faulty stat said that 268,000 people use it per day. (I suspect it's closer to a half-million.) And the average speed isn't 12 mph. That's, um...better than transit. It just is. There's no arguing it.

That portion of 610-290 was fairly recent, more like 15 yrs or thereabouts. I had to make that commute.

Yes, we started with low hanging fruit, according to the mighty WIKI, we are listed #14 in ridership in the states with DART coming at #7, and we have a little over half of the ridership they have, despite the fact that they have almost ten TIMES (at 72.5 miles) mileage of track that we do.

As far as the Richmond/Uptown lines go, blame that on our spineless politicians/bureaucrats that have a tendency to look after their own shortsighted views.

EDIT:

Found this last month's ridership numbers for the METRORail. 37,401 for april.

Edited by ricco67

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That portion of 610-290 was fairly recent, more like 15 yrs or thereabouts. I had to make that commute.

Yes, we started with low hanging fruit, according to the mighty WIKI, we are listed #14 in ridership in the states with DART coming at #7, and we have a little over half of the ridership they have, despite the fact that they have almost ten TIMES (at 72.5 miles) mileage of track that we do.

As far as the Richmond/Uptown lines go, blame that on our spineless politicians/bureaucrats that have a tendency to look after their own shortsighted views.

Hell, that's the reason why the rail line is built the way it is. Metro got no help from the likes of Tom Delay and John Culberson.

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That portion of 610-290 was fairly recent, more like 15 yrs or thereabouts. I had to make that commute.

Yeah, interchanges are a little trickier since expanding one intersecting road typically means replacing the whole intersection. Same with I-10 and BW8.

Yes, we started with low hanging fruit, according to the mighty WIKI, we are listed #14 in ridership in the states with DART coming at #7, and we have a little over half of the ridership they have, despite the fact that they have almost ten TIMES (at 72.5 miles) mileage of track that we do.

Well sure, we connected something that is the size of their downtown (and its outlying parking lots) to something close by that is much larger than their downtown. And then we made a bunch of bus and P&R routes dead-end at it so that it acted like a ridership funnel, requiring additional transfers to access a less safe technology that travels the same speed.

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Yeah, we started with the low-hanging fruit, connecting downtown to the TMC and the TMC to outlying parking lots.

...and now we're building light rail to Harrisburg & 71st Street. ...and Northline Mall. ...and Griggs Road and some railroad tracks. No progress connecting Uptown or Greenway Plaza. WTF!?

Um.. do you not realize that connecting Uptown and Greenway plaza is the main line of the expansion, and had it not been for NIMBYs and such, might be already under construction?

METRO's express buses are getting over 16 mph on average, compared to about 12 mph for light rail or local buses. The express buses and the bus stops are nicer. And they don't even travel in their own guideway, meaning we didn't have to tear up the roads for years at a time. It is a superior technology because it performs better and we could afford more of it.

Well I disagree there. It is not a superior technology. Yes, we could afford to build more of it, but like I said earlier, you get what you pay for. Building BRT lines would not have as much increased ridership as far as I can tell, and I have yet to see an example of a few BRT lines making the same impact that LRT lines would.

They're also less expensive than a rail car, require a less expensive form of pavement, and do not require overhead electrical infrastructure; and if anything might possibly ever make light rail competitive with buses, it will only be the fact that buses deliver people to light rail stops, where they can make a transfer.

I dont' see what your transfer point is. Many people (like myself) make a transfer from one bus to another. I have had a bus take me to another bus stop, then waited 45 minutes for that bus. Its the same thing there is no point in the transfer argument. There will always be people transfering, no matter what mode of transportation they're using. Besides, the form of pavement buses require need to be repaved every 20 years or so (thats being generous). Also, buses do not have the same farebox recovery that rail has, their farebox recovery rate is lower (because less people ride buses, due to things like reliability and speed). You can't compare the speed of the whole bus system to one inner-city rail system. If we get commuter rail, however and have some rail lines that are more spread out (higher speeds) then it is a more accurate comparison. Maybe you should compare a bus route like, say the number 1 from downtown to the TMC, that would be a more accurate comparison to our rail line (which is also between downtown and the TMC).

Once it's beyond capacity, which should take a fair bit of time, that's where transit has to pick up the slack. And that'll be a bridge we cross when we get to it.

But why wait? Why let it get to capacity without doing anything? Why not improve transit in other areas so that no mode of transit ever gets to that point? Look at cities with extensive rail systems. You will find that their highways are tiny compared to ours. That is because they do not have the same need to keep expanding (or in some cases, even build) their highways due to the fact that many people use the transit system. In transit, you are always going to have to spend money, there is no sense in arguing about efficiency, costs, etc. because in one way or another, money has to be spent. Money needs to be spent to build the streets that the METRO buses ride on. Money is going to be spent one way or another, there is always going to be an argument against every argument. That's why my argument is focused on the quality of the transit, rather than the cost. Only a good quality transit system is going to get people out of their cars here and we can't be afraid to spend the money.

And hey, your faulty stat said that 268,000 people use it per day. (I suspect it's closer to a half-million.) And the average speed isn't 12 mph. That's, um...better than transit. It just is. There's no arguing it.

Of course, the personal vehicle will always be the best form of transit, and I'm not arguing that at all.

As for reliability, I'm not disputing that. I do think that billions of extra dollars of money could build a more reliable bus service, however.

Well if we really had billions to spend, we would probably be better off building heavy rail. That would attract the most riders, and be the most reliable service. Light rail is the next best thing, and if we do end up being fortunate enough to see these 5 lines completed, we would realize that it vastly improves public transportation in Houston. BRT does not carry the same amount of riders that LRT does, that is why we are building LRT, to get more riders.

Edited by mfastx
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Um.. do you not realize that connecting Uptown and Greenway plaza is the main line of the expansion, and had it not been for NIMBYs and such, might be already under construction?

I await the sight of orange barrels. I'm waiting... Still waiting...

Well I disagree there. It is not a superior technology. Yes, we could afford to build more of it, but like I said earlier, you get what you pay for. Building BRT lines would not have as much increased ridership as far as I can tell, and I have yet to see an example of a few BRT lines making the same impact that LRT lines would.

Do you offer anything more than uninformed speculation? Show me the money.

I dont' see what your transfer point is. Many people (like myself) make a transfer from one bus to another. I have had a bus take me to another bus stop, then waited 45 minutes for that bus. Its the same thing there is no point in the transfer argument. There will always be people transfering, no matter what mode of transportation they're using. Besides, the form of pavement buses require need to be repaved every 20 years or so (thats being generous). Also, buses do not have the same farebox recovery that rail has, their farebox recovery rate is lower (because less people ride buses, due to things like reliability and speed). You can't compare the speed of the whole bus system to one inner-city rail system. If we get commuter rail, however and have some rail lines that are more spread out (higher speeds) then it is a more accurate comparison. Maybe you should compare a bus route like, say the number 1 from downtown to the TMC, that would be a more accurate comparison to our rail line (which is also between downtown and the TMC).

Transfers are to be expected. However, many bus routes that were previously more lengthy now dead end at the light rail, forcing an additional transfer where previously it had not been necessary.

Why do you think that only buses create wear and tear on infrastructure?

How do you measure farebox recovery on a transit system where one ticket is good for multiple transfers? That's something that I had tried to look at in my numbers, but METRO cannot calculate that from their data.

I can compare the speed of different types of transit. I have METRO's very own data. Light rail averages the same speed as local buses, within some number of tenths of a mile per hour of difference. Express buses are faster. P&R buses are much faster. I can also compare issues of mechanical reliability, where LRT performs poorly. I strongly suspect that LRT is more reliable in terms of on-time performance; however it also generates significantly more complaints from its users. Are you disputing METRO's own data? Are you saying that they are so incompetent that we can't trust anything they say, and therefore we must trust that they're operating their transit systems well? I don't get it. What don't you understand?

But why wait? Why let it get to capacity without doing anything? Why not improve transit in other areas so that no mode of transit ever gets to that point? Look at cities with extensive rail systems. You will find that their highways are tiny compared to ours. That is because they do not have the same need to keep expanding (or in some cases, even build) their highways due to the fact that many people use the transit system. In transit, you are always going to have to spend money, there is no sense in arguing about efficiency, costs, etc. because in one way or another, money has to be spent. Money needs to be spent to build the streets that the METRO buses ride on. Money is going to be spent one way or another, there is always going to be an argument against every argument. That's why my argument is focused on the quality of the transit, rather than the cost. Only a good quality transit system is going to get people out of their cars here and we can't be afraid to spend the money.

Why not wait? If the issue is not a high priority then do not spend money on it! There are lots of higher priorities, in terms of transportation or just in general.

Let's look at an example of a city that is of similar size to ours and that is affected by the same regulations where public finance is concerned, but one where they've built out extensive rail-based transit. Let's look at Dallas. Explain Dallas.

Well if we really had billions to spend, we would probably be better off building heavy rail. That would attract the most riders, and be the most reliable service.

METRO has plans to do just that. Didn't you see the numbers that they're budgeting and the abysmal ridership forecasts that I posted earlier? How do you respond to that?

Light rail is the next best thing, and if we do end up being fortunate enough to see these 5 lines completed, we would realize that it vastly improves public transportation in Houston. BRT does not carry the same amount of riders that LRT does, that is why we are building LRT, to get more riders.

Well if you're talking about the benefits of design capacity as opposed to the benefits of actual use by humans, then I suppose you're right. That's a really screwy way of looking at it, though.

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Funny that The Niche mentions Harrisburg, Griggs, and Northline to show the idiocy of our current expansion but fails to mention what will be connected in a few years time.

With the current line and ones under construction, we'll have the majority of the "center" city's destinations on-line. From work hubs (Downtown and Texas Medical Center) to cultural centers (Theater District, Museum District, Hermann Park, Houston Zoo) to campuses (University of Houston, Texas Southern, UH Downtown, South Texas College of Law, Baylor Med, UT Health Science Center, Prairie View ATM, Texas Woman's U, Houston Community College Central campus) to sports meccas (Reliant Stadium, Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park, Dynamo Stadium, Rice Stadium, Reckling Park, Robertson Stadium, Autry Court, Hofheinz Pavilion, Cougar Field, TSU's Arena) to Convention Centers (GRB and Reliant Park) to some of the most transit dependent inner city neighborhoods.

He is right though, Greenway Plaza and the Uptown/Galleria area need to be connected as well but it's not as if METRO and the voters haven't tried.

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I await the sight of orange barrels. I'm waiting... Still waiting...

You and me both. If it were up to METRO construction would already be under way.

Do you offer anything more than uninformed speculation? Show me the money.

What do all transit systems in the United States with higher ridership than METRO have in common? A rail system.

Transfers are to be expected. However, many bus routes that were previously more lengthy now dead end at the light rail, forcing an additional transfer where previously it had not been necessary.

This is true, however I don't think that the actual number of increased transfers is enough to cancel out the benefits of the project.

Why do you think that only buses create wear and tear on infrastructure?

It's not just buses, however buses certainly create more wear and tear than an average automobile.

How do you measure farebox recovery on a transit system where one ticket is good for multiple transfers? That's something that I had tried to look at in my numbers, but METRO cannot calculate that from their data.

I guess you can't. However, I do recall an article mentioning that farebox recovery has gone up from about 13% before the light rail, to around 20-ish% after the light rail opened. However, I am guessing that may be also due to other cost saving measures.

I can compare the speed of different types of transit. I have METRO's very own data. Light rail averages the same speed as local buses, within some number of tenths of a mile per hour of difference. Express buses are faster. P&R buses are much faster. I can also compare issues of mechanical reliability, where LRT performs poorly. I strongly suspect that LRT is more reliable in terms of on-time performance; however it also generates significantly more complaints from its users. Are you disputing METRO's own data? Are you saying that they are so incompetent that we can't trust anything they say, and therefore we must trust that they're operating their transit systems well? I don't get it. What don't you understand?

Perhaps it generates more complaints due to the higher ridership of light rail relative to buses? Throughout my experience, I certainly have had more complaints about buses. Perhaps these complaints stem from a higher expectation due to it being "rail" rather than a bus? Who knows, but like I said earlier, light rail has proven to be more reliable, and it also carries a higher volume of riders.

Why not wait? If the issue is not a high priority then do not spend money on it! There are lots of higher priorities, in terms of transportation or just in general.

Sure. Let's just leave Houston the way it is. It'll do fine, but why not make it better? Perhaps the future will be better with improved infrastructure? So do you take this same approach to the 290 renovation? Its fine now, it certainy isn't stopping Northwest sprawl, if it ain't broke, don'f fix it, right? Sorry but I would rather go foward with the 290 project, even if Northwest Houston is fine as it is.

Let's look at an example of a city that is of similar size to ours and that is affected by the same regulations where public finance is concerned, but one where they've built out extensive rail-based transit. Let's look at Dallas. Explain Dallas.

Sure, I'll explain it for you. Dallas is building a commuter rail system with light rail technology. Not the best idea, and as a result, Dallas's ridership has (slightly better than) commuter rail-type numbers.

METRO has plans to do just that. Didn't you see the numbers that they're budgeting and the abysmal ridership forecasts that I posted earlier? How do you respond to that?

No.. METRO has plans for commuter rail. Heavy rail in the sense I am talking about is similar to MARTA's rail system. Heavy rail technology which is completely grade seperated, using a third rail, etc. You know what I'm talking about. You see, Atlanta built their heavy rail system and as a result they have almost double the transit ridership we have, simply because heavy rail (NOT commuter rail, which is what METRO has planned) carries the most riders. Followed by light rail, BRT, buses, etc, etc.

Well if you're talking about the benefits of design capacity as opposed to the benefits of actual use by humans, then I suppose you're right. That's a really screwy way of looking at it, though.

I guess our main difference is that I am concerned about building for the present as well as the future, but you are concerned with only building what (you think) is best for the city NOW. Yes, building an extensive BRT network would certainly improve our city's public transit, but bulding LRT would improve those corridors even more, while allowing them to grow in density, population, etc. more than they would if their main transit line was a lower capacity BRT line.

Edited by mfastx

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I'm just curious to know what the complaints are about.

Is it about the lousy braking and acceleration that some drivers have?

No "personal space" on trains at times?

Dirty cars?

were they upset that the train took off without them?

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Yeah, we started with the low-hanging fruit, connecting downtown to the TMC and the TMC to outlying parking lots.

...and now we're building light rail to Harrisburg & 71st Street. ...and Northline Mall. ...and Griggs Road and some railroad tracks. No progress connecting Uptown or Greenway Plaza. WTF!?

I really wonder who is at fault for that? METRO? The people who live along Richmond? The businesses that don't see the long term benefit through the short term economic loss due to construction? Bad management by a previous director?

They're also less expensive than a rail car, require a less expensive form of pavement, and do not require overhead electrical infrastructure; and if anything might possibly ever make light rail competitive with buses, it will only be the fact that buses deliver people to light rail stops, where they can make a transfer.

and as we see, a pothole in the road may ruin the road, but not make it undriveable, we just have to deal with broken road. broken rail, stops the train, in its tracks (as it were). As someone who doesn't use public transit all that much, I would much prefer to see the rail broken, than have to dodge potholes for 5 years before a street is redone, so I can drive on it pothole free for a year before the potholes return.

The previous freeway lasted 30 years. I'm thinking that this one will last about that long, and then will be redone with some minor changes (like the North Loop project). Making I-10 any wider would just not be realistic. There are diminishing returns to adding lanes. Once it's beyond capacity, which should take a fair bit of time, that's where transit has to pick up the slack. And that'll be a bridge we cross when we get to it.

The basic structure lasted that long, however, how many times was it patched, resurfaced, or worked on? Lots, that wasn't free.

And hey, your faulty stat said that 268,000 people use it per day. (I suspect it's closer to a half-million.) And the average speed isn't 12 mph. That's, um...better than transit. It just is. There's no arguing it.

The average speed prior to upgrade wasn't 12 mph either, but I bet the average speed changed by less than 12mph.

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The average speed prior to upgrade wasn't 12 mph either, but I bet the average speed changed by less than 12mph.

Considering that the average speed during rush hour NOW is in the low 20 mph range (not "very nearly free flowing" as Niche claims), maybe it did average 12 mph pre-reconstruction.

A quick look at Transtar will confirm this.

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Considering that the average speed during rush hour NOW is in the low 20 mph range (not "very nearly free flowing" as Niche claims), maybe it did average 12 mph pre-reconstruction.

A quick look at Transtar will confirm this.

They were even saying during reconstruction of I-10 that it was not going to relieve congestion during rush hour. It would still be bumper to bumper, but there won't be backups at all times of the day.

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They were even saying during reconstruction of I-10 that it was not going to relieve congestion during rush hour. It would still be bumper to bumper, but there won't be backups at all times of the day.

I-10 is starting to get that way already.

I was very surprised by how bumper to bumper it was for as long as it was.

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I'm just curious to know what the complaints are about.

Is it about the lousy braking and acceleration that some drivers have?

No "personal space" on trains at times?

Dirty cars?

were they upset that the train took off without them?

Excellent question, as I've had each of the complaints listed at one time or another.

Another, less easily addressed complaint has to do with the conduct of some passengers (loud, vulgar talking, eating, feet on seats, etc.) With a bus, there's at least a faint chance that the driver might exert some control over the shenannigans.

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I ride the lightrail to work everyday and the only thing that has ever bothered me is when people clip their finger/toe nails.

Edited by infinite_jim

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I noticed that the number of rail accidents in the information provided to TheNiche is exactly twice the number reported in METRO's own FY08 summary:

FY2008 Year End Fiscal and Management Report See p. 35.

Not sure why that is, but interesting.

That is odd. The spreadsheet I have indicates 104 light rail accidents as the total for the year, but if I add up each of the months, it comes out to 52.

What is also odd is that the total number of METRO accidents excluding light rail are indicated as 472, however the report you linked to indicated 524...which is precisely 52 more. And those numbers do tally from the monthly totals correctly.

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That is odd. The spreadsheet I have indicates 104 light rail accidents as the total for the year, but if I add up each of the months, it comes out to 52.

What is also odd is that the total number of METRO accidents excluding light rail are indicated as 472, however the report you linked to indicated 524...which is precisely 52 more. And those numbers do tally from the monthly totals correctly.

That is even more interesting. :blink:

Is it a difference between the two reports as to what is defined as a rail-related accident? And if so, why is it off by exactly half (or twice, depending on your perspective)?

To make it clear: I take every report generated by Frank Wilson's METRO with a huge grain of salt. But I don't know anything about the people who provided your data either. I am not passing judgement, just noting a peculiar discrepancy.

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