Cato Institute, Oct. 2017: “…transit as we know it will go extinct within 15 years, and many transit agencies will leave behind a mountain of debt that local taxpayers will be obligated to pay.”

Article: Have U.S. Light Rail Systems Been Worth the Investment?

A study of the five light rail systems built in the U.S. in the 1980s

Article linked below is an analysis of the five (5) light rail projects built in the 1980s: Buffalo, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Jose.

In four of the five cities, in a study of Census data from 30+ years, regional workers riding transit DECLINED. In two cities, Buffalo and Portland, from 1980 to 2012, after having light rail for 32 years, total transit ridership DECLINED; and ridership declined at the same average rate as 15 other U.S. cities that DID NOT HAVE LIGHT RAIL. Yes, in two cities with light rail for 32 years, transit ridership DECLINED. See below

Below, first is two excerpts from the article about the above information. Then, the link to the article.

“Yet it doesn’t take much digging to find that over the past thirty years, these initial five systems in themselves neither rescued the center cities of their respective regions nor resulted in higher transit use — the dual goals of those first-generation lines. The other city, San Jose, had a 0.25% increase in the percentage of workers using transit. The data and study covers 32 years, from 1980 to 2012.”

“According to an analysis of Census data, in four of the five cities with new light rail lines, the share of regional workers choosing to ride transit to work declined, and the center city’s share of the urbanized area population declined, too. San Jose was the only exception, seeing a quarter of a percentage increase in the percentage of workers using transit and a 6 percentage point increase in its center city’s share of the urbanized area. Read article about San Jose’s facing potential bankruptcy due to the city’s financial problems.”

“Two of the initial light rail metros, Buffalo and Portland, had significantly higher transit mode shares in 1980 (7.9 and 9.7 percent, respectively) than they did in 2012. As shown in the following graph, Buffalo’s share of transit commuters fell at a rate very similar to the median of the 15 non-rail cities with transit mode shares of above 7 percent in 1980. Though Portland did better, its ultimate transit mode share in 2012 was lower than that of Atlantic City, Boulder, Honolulu, and Iowa City — none of which built light rail during this period.”

A must-read: “The Coming Transit Apocalypse”

Randal O’Toole, Cato Institute, Oct 2017

“…transit as we know it will go extinct within 15 years, and many transit agencies will leave behind a mountain of debt that local taxpayers will be obligated to pay.”

“Across the nation, transit agencies are in financial trouble as ridership declines while costs rise. But these troubles merely foreshadow the real problems the transit industry will face in the next few years. It is quite likely that, outside of New York and possibly a handful of other cities, transit as we know it will go extinct within 15 years, and many transit agencies will leave behind a mountain of debt that local taxpayers will be obligated to pay.”

“Outside of New York, transit is not vital to urban economies and in most urban areas is barely perceptible except as a tax burden and a source of congestion.”

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

falling oil prices; rising maintenance costs; unfunded obligations, transit agencies going under (bankrupt); ride-hailing services

Article: “Eight Myths of Light Rail Transit,” revealing that bus service, if properly managed & so forth, is more effective than light rail. Remember, light rail is 15 mph max, slows w/ stops, requires transport to & from the stations/rail line & other hoops to jump through to ride it…

1.) The Speed Myth: Rail transit is rapid transit.

The Reality: When the time needed for station access, transfer, waiting, and delay is taken into account, rail travel times are longer than the time required for the same trip by bus.

2.) The Capacity Myth: Rail is high-capacity transit.

The Reality: Bus corridors, which consist of several parallel lines operating on urban streets, have vastly more capacity than any single rail line. Even a single-line dedicated bus right-of-way has greater carrying capacity than a light rail line. Only the most heavily used heavy rail trunk lines have greater capacity than busways, and these have significantly higher costs.

3.) The Decongestion Myth: Rail will decongest roads by converting automobile drivers into mass transit riders.

The Reality: Rail is not a decongestant. Support for rail voiced by drivers is based on a hope that others will use rail transit and open up the road, and in fact rail riders are taken out of buses, not cars.

4.) The Cost-Effectiveness Myth: Rail transit is cost-effective.

The Reality: Rail is economically inferior to conventional bus service.

5.) The Urban Form Myth: Rail promotes superior urban form.

The Reality: The urban planners’ idea of “superior form” — high densities of both residences and places of employment — is counter to the values of the populace. In any event, rail cannot overcome the forces pushing for decentralization.

6.) The Low-Income Myth: Rail transit benefits low-income people.

The Reality: The switch to rail imposes heavy costs on low income people.

7.) The Jobs Myth: Rail construction provides jobs.

The Reality: Bus systems provide more jobs per public dollar expended, and more local employment.

8.) The “Free Money” Myth: Capital investment in rail will be paid for with non-local funds that cannot be used for other purposes.

The Reality: While funds requested for rail must often be spent on rail, localities may seek funds for a variety of purposes and have considerable discretion over how local transportation funds are spent.

Austin’s Commuter Rail is a Monument to Govt Waste

Austin’s rail is one line, 32 miles long

Light Rail is the Wrong Choice for Cities

“Rail advocates don’t like to admit it, but buses can carry more people, more comfortably, and to more places, for far less money, than light rail.”

“The high costs of building and maintaining light rail, which usually serves middle-class neighborhoods, often force transit agencies to cut bus service to low-income neighborhoods, making light rail as bad for transit riders as it is for taxpayers. It’s also bad for drivers since it often runs in streets and usually causes more congestion than is relieved by the few cars it takes off the road.”

“The willingness of many transit advocates to support such wasteful and expensive lines reveals they really don’t care about transportation. Rail manufacturers and contractors just want to make money. Urban planners use rail as an excuse to redevelop neighborhoods to higher densities.”

The 10 Metro U.S. Rail Systems that Lose the Most Money Per Passenger


The 10 U.S. metro rail systems that lose the most money per passenger


Mass Transit Expansion Goes Off The Rails In Many U.S. Cities

Forbes: Mass Transit Expansion Goes Off the Rails in Many U.S. Cities

Honolulu’s Rapid Transit Crisis

Honolulu is one of the recent cities to build rail transit. Read about their rail crisis here. Rail has increased their public transit ridership by 1% – yes, that’s right, 1%. Their rail system is a massive govt quagmire and waste project, which began at $5.2 billion and is now $10 billion to $13 billion.

The 50-Year Disaster of Government Transit Monopolies

“That’s right: after receiving a massive and disproportionate share of taxpayer funding, totaling trillions of dollars, transit’s share of commutes declined.”

Portland, Oregon MAX Rail System – failure. Portland is famous for sustainable commuting, travel and more.

Another article, link below, about the system’s failure. An excerpt: “The city has spent 40+ years building mass transit light rail. Yet, all studies reveal that their rail transit system has had no effect on car commuters. In fact, in the 40-year period since 1980, transit’s share of work commuting has actually DECREASED by 25%. Light rail has squeezed out funding for their bus system. Rail commute times are FAR GREATER than car commute times.

The author writes: “As a resident of a suburb of Portland, I can personally attest to the uselessness of light rail. I live within a 4 block walk of one MAX stop, and used to work in a building right at another stop. Yet I was unable to commute via mass transit, because I had children to take to school, various other stops to make along the way, and a need to get to meetings outside my work hours that required me to have my own personal vehicle. What light rail proponents fail to consider is what we like to call “real life”, where errands are run and groceries are bought and kids are brought to soccer practice and violin lessons. The stats bear this out. It’s a wonder that planners even still consider these to be viable options.”

The 50-Year Disaster of Govt Trains, Buses & Streetcars


According to the 2002 Urban Mobility Report, traffic congestion in American cities both with and without light-rail transit has steadily increased since the 1980s. The report presents roadway congestion indices for 75 cities from 1982 to 2000. Cities with light-rail transit, such as St. Louis and Portland, have all experienced a continued increase in traffic congestion.

Citizen Preferences: Rail vs. Car

It is not too surprising that most Americans prefer automobile transit to light-rail transit. Autos offer people personal space and a sense of independence. The fact that people choose to pay higher gas prices, gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, repair and maintenance costs, and the price of the car rather than ride rail transit all reveal the value that people place on their autos. The value people place on auto transit over rail transit is even more pronounced when one considers that rail transit fares can be less than a dollar a day.

Furthermore, rail transit is much more limited than auto transit because trains must follow tracks. This could certainly increase the time cost of rail transit relative to automobile transit. To ride rail transit to work, for example, people may have to drive to a rail station, board the train and then, upon exiting the train, walk several blocks or more to reach work. The time taken to complete a rail ride may be longer than commuting by automobile. Given the opportunity cost of time, especially during work hours, it is expected that many people choose not to ride rail transit.

This is comical – an article from 2001, “Light Rail: the Solution to No Problem” states:

“Offering no speed or capacity advantage over buses, new light rail systems are simply obsolete, like the latest advancement in horse cars.”

“Over a decade ago, a US federal government study by Don Pickrell found that new light rail lines carried only a fraction of their projected ridership.”

“Few automobile drivers are attracted to light rail systems, and traffic congestion has not been materially reduced in any corridor. This is not surprising. Planning studies that justify new light rail virtually always predict at best nominal results. This facts do not, however, deter light rail aficionados, who relentlessly mislead the public to believe that light rail reduces traffic congestion and air pollution, suggesting that up to 12 lanes of freeway traffic will be carried. This is absurd. In the United States, new light rail lines carry, on average, less than one-quarter the volume of the a single freeway lane. Misrepresentation of this magnitude would violate consumer protection laws in the commercial sector.

Since light rail does not reduce traffic congestion, it cannot reduce air pollution. The great advances in clean air have resulted almost completed from improved on -board automobile technology.

Advocates also claim that light rail is less costly than new highways, This is alleged by comparing the cost of a light rail line per mile to that of a six or eight lane freeway. This is an invalid, because the freeway carries such an enormously greater number of people. An eight lane freeway carries, on average, 16 times the volume of a new light rail line. In fact, total costs, public and private, per passenger mile of light rail averages seven times that of new urban freeways. This does not mean that new freeways should be cut through American cities. It is, however, testimony to the fact that light rail and traffic congestion are wholly unrelated subjects. It should be added that new light rail’s failure to impact traffic congestion does not provide an argument for tearing down the systems that exist.”