America's Costly and
New Commuter Rail
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Following Summary Reprinted from Policy Digest (National Center for Policy Analysis, 3 June 1999)
NEW COMMUTER RAILS ARE COSTLY AND INEFFECTIVE
Cities have viewed new commuter rail systems as a way to attract
automobile drivers to public transportation, thereby reducing
traffic congestion and the need for highway construction.
Transportation expert Wendell Cox says the new systems have
failed to attract travelers, and are more costly than other modes
of public transportation or highways.
For decades, commuter rail has performed an important function in
transporting people in cities such as New York, Boston,
Philadelphia, Washington-Baltimore and San Francisco.
o Approximately 97 percent of the nation's commuter rail
ridership is on these historic systems.
o But relatively few commuters using the newer systems --
25,000 daily in Los Angeles and only 1,900 in Dallas.
o Each day, 750,000 commuters in New York alone use the
system, with 325,000 in Chicago, reducing congestion
significantly in both cities.
Furthermore, the cost of these systems is high in comparison with
traditional public transportation or highway construction.
New commuter rail has been unable to attract meaningful numbers
of automobile drivers.
Alternatives, such as high occupancy vehicle (HOV) and high
occupancy toll (HOT) lanes carry substantially more person trips
than commuter lines operating in the same urban corridors.
The new commuter rail, therefore, has not been an effective
alternative to highway construction.
Source: Wendell Cox, "America's Costly and Ineffective Experiment
with New Commuter Rail, Part I: Lessons for the Austin/San
Antonio Corridor," 1999 Texas Transit Opportunity Analysis,
February 1999, Texas Public Policy Foundation, P.O. Box 40519,
San Antonio, Texas 78229, (210) 614-0080.
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