PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

The table on the right shows a back of the envelope cost comparison example between an average household of 2.6 persons owning one or two cars.  FHWA 2010 statistics show average miles per light duty vehicle was about 12,500 while per capita VMT was about 9,600.  Based on this data and the Triple AAA cost per mile of $0.60 the annual costs for two vehicles is about $15,000.  Assuming transit use was negligible by the average household, they live in a location-efficient area, and one car is sold, per capita VMT is drastically reduced although miles per car may increase.  Even assuming a 20% increase in mileage on that one car, the household can expect to save $6,000 per year.

 

For the six-state area of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, total transit operating and capital costs for 2010 were about $6.2 billion serving a total urbanized area population of about 38 million.  Per capita annual transit cost is only $163 while typical household per capita vehicle costs are about $5,800 and $3,500 under the respective two and one car per household scenarios.  Assuming one person in the household buys a transit pass at an annual cost of $1,200, the household selling one of two cars is still ahead $4,800 annually.

 

One vehicle per household can be considered optimal as it still affords the mobility advantages of a car but eliminates or moves many trips to other 

modes.  Much of the savings is from fuel costs, money that can be reinvested locally as opposed to exiting the community, thereby increasing employment and per capita income.  As a side, the annual costs of a typical monthly public transportation pass are much higher than the average per capita annual transit cost as frequent users of either bus or rail modes in the six-state region are a relatively small part of the population.

 

Generally, transit operating and capital costs are supported with public subsidies.  A relatively small portion of operating costs are paid for through farebox revenues or user fees.  Perhaps the greatest value of transit is social equity due to mobility and accessibility improvements for those with limited transport options.  Public transportation performance in terms of ridership and farebox recovery rates is enhanced with increasing population and employment densities.  In particular, clustering of the built environment and significant/popular destinations are key to reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips and enhancing alternate modes.  Benefit-cost analysis (BCA) can inform decision-makers and stakeholders about the viability of implementing proposed public transportation projects.  BCA includes typical budgeted costs for acquiring transit vehicles, the construction of any right-of-way, maintenance, labor, fuel,etc.

ROCKFORD ILLINOIS CENTRAL STATION (CIRCA 2006)

 

Additionally, BCA monetizes many elements of transportation projects that may not be readily apparent.  BCA considers the value of changes in:  private vehicle operating costs for those trips converted to transit; traffic accidents and the corresponding costs of deaths, injuries and property damage; vehicle emissions/noise; travel time; health care costs due to the exercise associated with accessing transit; and consumption of non-renewable fuels, among others.  BCA has been conducted (report and spreadsheet) for proposed intercity rail service between Dubuque, Iowa and Chicago via Rockford, Illinois; commuter rail service between Rockford and Chicago; and a combination of both services.  As can be seen from the analysis, there are threshholds that ridership needs to reach to ensure that any of the project scenarios are worth the costs in terms of a BCA ratio well above one.  Expected rail ridership performance in the corridor is constrained by projections for relatively slow travel times, the lack of a dominant destination outside of downtown Chicago, the proliferation of highway-oriented land uses since about the World War II period, and underpricing of vehicular travel on roadways.      

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Information on this web site is based primarily on research and analysis conducted by R. Arkell, AICP.  Apart from the citations, this information including conclusions, interpretations, and opinions does not necessarily represent the interests, views, or position of any other person, organization or agency.