Green Line to the airport?

SacRT, and many local politicians, want the Green Line to the Airport to be the next big transit project in the region. I have doubts, and have written about them before (Green Line to the AirportOpen houses on Green Line to the Airportlinking the colleges?SacRT light rail extensions). Jarrett Walker, my favorite writer on transit, has posted Keys to Great Airport Transit, a great analysis of rail and bus transit to airports.

  1. Total travel time matters, not just in-vehicle time: Not sure how the Green Line measures up, but it is indicative that the Green Line to Township 9 (the current destination) runs on an infrequent schedule (60 minutes) during a small part of the day, because it is beyond the area where most people travel. The airport would also be beyond where most people travel, so is likely to have infrequent and short hours service.
  2. Combine air travelers and airport employees on the same train/bus: The Green Line might do OK on this, though light rail already suffers from the perception of higher income people (which is mostly who flies rather than takes the bus or train) that light rail is only for poor people.
  3. Connect the airport to lots of places, not just downtown, by providing a total network: Since the SacRT network fails pretty badly on connectivity already, it is likely that the Green Line will suffer from the same issue.
  4. Don’t interfere with the growth of other services: The Green Line is definitely a negative on this issue. The Green Line to the Airport would gobble up all the construction funds for years, as well as a large slice of operating funds. Fare recovery on the network is 23%, somewhat below average, but the extension would likely reduce this significantly. If distance-based fares (which SacRT has talked about but done no real planning towards) are implemented on the light rail system, the operating subsidy might be less, but it will still compare poorly with the rest of the system.
  5. If you can afford it, go via the airport instead of terminating there: Not applicable to the Green Line because there is nothing beyond the airport except agricultural fields, and a bit further out, sprawling suburbs that would never generate ridership.

I think the right solution for airport access is frequent bus service (15 minute frequency) from downtown to the airport, from 5:00AM to 12:00 midnight, for travelers and airport employees, and less frequent service from midnight to 5:00AM, for employees. The current Yolobus 42A/42B provides infrequent (60 minute) service from 5:30AM (6:30AM on weekends) to 10:00PM. In addition, there would need to be service from eastern Sacramento/Roseville, but I’ve thought less about how that would work.

Save our infrastructure funds for more productive routes!

transit frequency in Houston and Sacramento

Houston has been in the news recently, and will certainly be today, opening day, for their revised transit system which created a network of high frequency (service every 15 minutes or better, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week) transit lines. The map below left shows this new system, only, and clicking goes to the high resolution image on the Houston METRO website. The map below right shows the entire system, with lines that don’t meet the high frequency definition. The system was redesigned with the help of Jarrett Walker, transit consultant and author of Human Transit, which I posted on yesterday and will be posting a lot more in the near future.

Houston METRO Frequent Network

Houston METRO System

So, what’s the story in Sacramento?

Continue reading “transit frequency in Houston and Sacramento”

flipping choice riders and captive riders

choice-captiveI am reading Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities. It is a revelation, and I’ll have more to say about it when I finish. He cautions about using the traditional categories of “choice” riders, those who are not riders but might be if they were better served, and “captive” riders, those who have no choice but to ride public transit. The equivalent is “rich” and “poor,” in that order. I agree with his caution.

But I realized that the categories should be flipped. Choice riders are those who have chosen to live in an area where transit is available, and have chosen not to indebt themselves and their family by owning, maintaining, and operating a motor vehicle. Captive riders are those who have chosen to live in the suburbs and exurbs where they have no choice but to own a motor vehicle, because there is no other way to get around, and no place worth going to, in any case. They are a captive of the choice they’ve made, far less free than someone who lives in a place with transit.