Despite the frequent portrayal of long commuting as the norm, only 2.2 percent of the nation’s workers travel 90 minutes or more, one way to work. Moreover, that long commuting is concentrated in and near just a few combined statistical areas (CSAs), the larger the larger metropolitan area definition that combines adjacent metropolitan areas like Bridgeport-Stamford with New York, San Jose with San Francisco and Riverside-San Bernardino with Los Angeles. Figure 1 shows that 17 of the 25 metropolitan areas with the largest share of 90-plus minute commuters are in or adjacent to just four combined statistical areas (CSAs). . . . None of this is surprising, considering that each of these markets is plagued by urban containment land use policies that force up house prices. Harvard research indicates that domestic migration is being driven by the differential in house prices and people have been leaving the New York, Washington and San Francisco CSAs for other parts of the country. Seattle has done better, simply because its expensive housing is still a bargain compared to the much more onerous house costs in coastal California, from which migrants are being drawn.
Transit ridership in the first quarter of 2017 was 3.1 percent less than the same quarter in 2016, according the American Public Transportation Association’s latest ridership report. The association released the report without a press release, instead issuing a release complaining about the House Appropriations bill reducing funding for transit. . . . In most cases where light-rail ridership grew, it did so at the expense of bus ridership. Los Angeles Metro gained 1.66 million light-rail riders but lost 8.73 million bus riders, or more than five for every new light-rail rider. Between the two modes, Phoenix’s Valley Metro lost 23,100 riders; Charlotte 20,200 lost riders; and Dallas Area Rapid Transit lost 193,100 riders. Similarly, Orlando’s commuter trains gained 22,700 riders but buses lost 98,500.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority promises to “achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in construction” and is committed to operate the system on “100% renewable energy” by contracting for “400 to 600 megawatts of renewable power”. These promises may please environmentalists, but they cannot be kept.
The Los Angeles political establishment and media is virtually unanimous in its praise for the now quarter century old rail system. Yet, despite more than $15 billion being spent on rail transit the already meager levels of transit commuting in the city have fallen further, while solo driving has risen to an all time high. Unless platitudes are more important than results, rail’s success is a false narrative. People are driving more and using transit less according to the American Community Survey for 2015.
In a just released poll by the Bay Area Council a majority of respondents indicated an expectation that traffic congestion in the Bay Area (the San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area) is likely to get worse.
It is already bad enough. The Bay Area includes two major urban areas (over 1,000,000 population), with San Francisco ranked second worst in traffic congestion in the United States, closely following Los Angeles.