A few more transit stats
- The Department of Transport transit infrastructure spending numbers I found were off by an order of magnitude, included vehicles, or were otherwise wrong.
- My statistics were old (around 2000), and it was All Different Now, because ridership was up following the increase in energy costs.
- It would be Even More All Different after peak oil, when transit would magically become Much More Effective in the US than it seemingly was hitherto.
These guys see capex on infrastructure as a little less than $10b/yr, and rolling stock as $3-4b/yr. Their numbers are not consistent with the BEA derived numbers the other day, but are in the same ballpark. Transit spending has been increasing sharply.
This has increased capacity in just about all forms of transit. For example, the total amount of light rail service available roughly doubled in the decade 1995-2004.
Bus service went up by a more modest 18% or so.
Available vanpool service more than tripled:
In response to all this increase in capacity, total passenger trips increased 19% over the decade.
Light rail for example, where available service miles went up 100%, saw an increase in passenger trips of 40%.
So that must mean that ridership is growing slower than the increase in capacity, right? Yup:
If we breakdown this number (the passenger trips per hour of service provided), we find that the utilization is dropping in most modes. It's particularly serious in light rail, but nothing is doing much better than holding it's own. The best is perhaps heavy rail (but that may be in part because heavy rail service increased less than others - only 20% or so).
Operating costs per trip started climbing about five or six years ago. I assume this is mainly due to the increase in fuel prices.
With costs per hour of service going up, and ridership per hour of service going down, the amount of operating costs covered by fares, never good, is falling:
Thus the operating subsidy per passenger is going through the roof (and this doesn't include costs of capital):
So, in summary, during this pre-peak run-up in energy prices, we invested more and more heavily in transit. The effect of that was to increase capacity, but lower utilization. Operating expenses increased, and thus the overall financial performance of transit systems degraded significantly, requiring much larger subsidies per passenger (and the number of passengers increased). Overall, we got diminishing returns from this strategy suggesting that the best transit opportunities are already in use, and newer ones are more marginal. Light rail seemed to degrade the worst of any of the modes.
Under the assumption that the post peak-oil period involves still further rises in energy prices, if we invest even more heavily in transit, it would appear to me that we are likely to get even more diminishing returns.