Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Transportation Factoid of the Day

This is not anything new, but there are a lot of fascinating little factoids in the Census' 2002 Fast Facts for Pennsylvania including:

  • Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) registered in Pennsylvania increased 40 percent between 1997 and 2002.
  • Pennsylvania has one SUV for every 9 licensed drivers.

    A longer profile of transportation data the state is produced by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. From this you can learn:

  • Total number of highway bridges in Pennsylvania: 22,092
  • Total that are structurally deficient: 5,418
  • Total number that are functionally obsolete: 4,022
  • Total functionally obsolete or structurally deficient: 9,440 (42.7% which is higher than all but Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.. but all 4 together have a total of 7,049 bridges, so less than a third of PA.)

  • Total miles of track in the Philadelphia area rail-transit systems: 1,151.5
  • in Pittsburgh: 44.5

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    How bad does that make Pittsburgh? Let's say Pittsburgh is one-fourth the size of Philadelphia, does that mean we should have three hundred miles of track? How feasible would that be? How many dollars per mile? How much subsidy per rider? What are the maintenance costs? When do we start?

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006 10:02:00 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Not very.

    I don't think it's particularly useful to benchmark regions on length of rail service, and it's particularly misleading to assume a linear relationship. Philly is mostly flat. It takes a larger population base to support any rail system. Presence of rail is heavily influenced by historical decisions; you wouldn't start building it now if you didn't already have the base. You plan your transit system that works for you based on cost, technical constraints, development patterns, etc. We don't build rail lines here - we build busways, which provide more flexible service and if I recall are about 10 times cheaper per mile to build than light rail.

    Percent of commuters traveling by (all forms of) transit is approaching a more useful measure. That captures all modes regardless of what specific technology works in different cities, and focuses on the population for whom transit is generally designed.

    On this measure, we don't look too different from Philly (19% to 16% in the 2000 Census.) Ours - by design - happen to almost exclusively ride the bus, where Philly has a greater mix of options. I forget the numbers but Chris can remind us how we rank among (if not the) top for percentage of commuters to our *central city* that come by transit.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006 11:00:00 AM  
    Blogger C. Briem said...

    ok... sure.. but the 26:1 ratio is striking no matter whether you control for everything one ought to. but the high cost of new rail construction does explain why there will not be some huge amount of rail built in future but it does not really explain why there is not rail here now. Most rail in Philly is legacy rail I would imagine, but we also had a lot more rail here once. So it's the evolution of how regions got rid of rail that is interesting. The historical decisions that have impacted rail here over the years are numerous. Skybus kind of blew up most transit planning in the region for a decade or more. All of the Busways we have now were planned to be rail for the most part and it was not really cost that did them in as much as political infighting. Then you have Patrain and other commuter rail lines which collapsed. but going forward.. yeah, bus always wins the cost battle. We will have to see if the movement for the avrr or some variant thereof really gets any support.

    I thought we rank ok in terms of public transit use but pretty bad in the trends in public transit use. I will have to look it up. Always key to differentiate stock from flow data.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006 12:35:00 PM  

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