Tuesday, January 2, 2007


The previous post utilized data from the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan to question the return on the "Invest to Expand" option for public transit recommended by the RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace and their Moving Beyond Congestion allies. According to the MBC's outline, the "Invest to Expand" option costs $17.9 billion in new capital expense on a standalone basis. This investment is on top of the $5 billion "Invest to Enhance" option, which itself is on top of the $34 billion "Invest to Maintain" option. The grand total is $56.9 billion. Since expected federal funds during the 30 year period are only $19.4 billion, the Moving Beyond Congestion folks are looking for nearly twice that amount--$37.5 billion--from state and local sources.

Table 13 of the RTP, which is entitled "2030 Work Times and Access to Jobs," also casts some doubts on the efficacy of this $17.9 billion "Invest to Expand" approach. (Pgs. 80-81 of 219) As outlined in the previous post, this investment will not increase transit's market share or shorten the travel times faced by the 81% of commuters who will be commuting to work by private car in 2030. The only apparent benefit from the investment is a 10% decrease in average travel time for transit users. This benefit is not insignificant. Everyone surely enjoys 5 or 10 extra minutes each day. The question is whether this benefit justifies an additional outlay of $17.9 billion.

For each of five capital investment scenarios, Table 13 looks at the percentage of highway and transit commutes under 60 minutes and the percentage of jobs reachable within 60 minutes. The results are as follows:


Scenario/ Highway/ Transit

System Commitments 98% 81%
Service Intensive 98% 81%
System Intensive 98% 80%
System Additions 99% 87%
System Expansion 99% 88%


Scenario/ Highway/ Transit

System Commitments 49% 27%
Service Intensive 52% 31%
System Intensive 53% 32%
System Additions 56% 31%
System Expansion 54% 32%

These projections show modest benefits from the "Invest to Expand" scenario. With respect to travel times, there is an approximately 9% increase in the number of transit customers whose trips will be under one hour. If my math is right, this means that less than 2 percent of the commuters in the region (9% of transit's 20% work trips market share) will see their travel times drop from some amount above one hour to some amount less than one hour.

The RTP's projection of the percentage of jobs reachable within 60 minutes indicates that all of the benefits associated with the "Invest to Expand" scenario can be achieved more more cheaply through the "Invest to Enhance" scenario. These benefits are somewhat more substantial, a 15% increase in the number of jobs reachable within one hour via transit. It is not necessary to spend the additional $17.9 billion involved in the "Invest to Expand" scenario to achieve these results, however.

In sum, the RTP does not lend much support to the case for the MBC's "Invest to Expand" option. The review of the RTP is not yet complete, however.

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