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On Wed, 10 Nov 2004, John Birrenbach wrote:

As I read and re-read this and what I posted yesterday the more and more I began to realize that what was built for Ireland, by Lowry, is what started the urban sprawl to begin with, and is the root of the whole metro area's current transit problems. We are sprawled out, not up.

I happen to believe that you are precisely correct. We can assign blame to people or organizations or technologies all we want, but the simple fact is that this is, outside of my immediate 'hood, a sprawling prairie with few natural barriers like those Manhatten has. We were simply destined to keep going until we hit some kind of limiting size that made the lenght of commute unreasonable.

And, I happen to think we are hitting that wall right about now. That's why it's time to act and start changing things, while we have a chance to experiement and learn.

Another part of the problem that really needs to be talked about is the density of population per acre. It is my general understanding that those Rail transit systems that work, not only for the consumer but are also less of a drain on limited tax dollars, are those in area's of extreme population density.

I dunno about extreme, but high for sure. But you have to look at this as a dollars per rider thang. If we don't have the net ridership, we have to keep the dollars down. That's why I stress cheaper alternatives. It's like any other buiness. We don't have the density to operate a Wal-Mart high valume system. We have to have one that is more carefully targeted to the right audience, and really meets their needs. In the end, it can be much more rewarding, IMHO

I look at who is gonna end up paying for the vast majority of this. I wonder what the rider costs vs the actual costs of setup and running are going to be. Anyone know what the costs per passenger are for the Hiawatha line vs the ticket price?

Typically, LRT costs 35 cents a mile to operate. This particular line was expensive to build, but I do not think an appropriate amortization is included in that 35 cents so do with that figure what you will. This compares with 40 and more cents for a car (on average) and 53 cents for a bus (ouch!).

The amount riders pay for mass transit is a stunningly consistant 12-15 cents per mile, regardless. This is roughly equal to the variable cost of a car, which is to say maintenance and gasoline, but NOT purchase, inurance, etc. In other words, riders pay about the same as what it would cost to fire up the car, but they still have one.

That means that for LRT there is typically 20-23 cents to make up, and I think Hiawatha is no different than average on that. Special arrangements and other income generate 6 cents average nationally, so the pot from government is about 14 cents per mile -- 5 from the Feds and 9 from state and local sources. Again, these are more national averages, but what I've seen of Hiawatha was right in line.

The net subsidy to the car that I've been able to calculate is 3 cents per mile, incidentally.

I have to agree with Eric that serious leadership needs to come from the County, serious money too if they want us to run outside the city. At the same time those other communities everyone is so quick to say the eventual routes will run through need to be involved as well... we don't need another 35E unconnected in the middle for three decades do we?

Thanks. The County has done a good job really, but they always have it farmed out to consultants who really don't get in touch with the 'hoods enough, IMHO. They wind up with a pretty report, like the Red Rock one, and no one behind it. Sometimes, they have good ideas but sometimes they just tick people off. I think the real leadership has to be grassroots, which hasn't happened yet.

Some sources:

Erik Hare [EMAIL PROTECTED] Irvine Park, West End, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, North America, Earth

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