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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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Jim Vesely
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Jim Vesely
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Lee Moriwaki
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Eric Devericks
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Bruce Ramsey
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Kate Riley
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Lynne Varner
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Ryan Blethen
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September 16, 2005

Transit's Market Share


Monorail: What does it matter? To transportation, not a whole lot. Here is an excerpt from “The Tax Base of the Seattle Monorail Project,” a report to the Monorail board by ECONorthwest, its economic consultants, in December 2003. On page 19 it raises the question of financing rail by taxing cars. What if rail transit is so successful that fewer people buy cars? Won’t the Monorail undercut its own source of financing?

The consultants say:

With this concern in mind, ECONorthwest has reviewed data on trends in transit share of transportation in metropolitan areas in the United States.

In general, the ability of transit investments, per se, to increase dramatically transit shares over the long term is rather limited. Across the US as a whole, in fact, transit mode share has fallen dramatically over the past 40 years even as spending on transit improvements and operations has increased. Between the 1960 and 2000 U.S. censuses, for example, the public transit share of all work trips fell from 12.1% to 4.7%…

Seattle and Portland, regions with strong planning and transit programs designed to reduce automobile use, enjoyed modest increases in transit mode share at the metropolitan level between 1990 and 2000 as transit services were extended to non-core areas. In general, however, the available evidence suggests that the prospects for further, significant increases in transit mode share in core areas such as the city of Seattle are limited.

Weirdly, the report then says that this should not be taken as an “indictment of the Monorail,” because, it says, the Monorail may be a “countervailing force” against the natural tendency of people to use their cars even more.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at September 16, 2005 04:07 PM



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