Thursday, January 4, 2007

Yet More On The "Invest to Expand" Option

Table 6 of the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan is entitled "2030 Transportation Performance." (Pg. 66 of 219) It sheds additional light on the merits of spending an additional $17.9 billion on the RTA's Moving Beyond Congestion "Invest to Expand" option.

The RTP's projected daily transit service hours in year 2030 range from a low of 21,451 hours under the "System Commitments" scenario to a high of 30,235 hours under the "System Additions" hours, a 41 percent increase. This is consistent with the common sense notion that expanding the transit system will result in an increase in operating expense.

The Moving Beyond Congestion materials do not address the higher operating costs--and hence higher level of operating subsidies required of state of local governments. Nonetheless, a 41 percent increase in operating hours surely will require a substantial increase in the service board operating budgets. A 41 percent increase in the service boards' combined operating budgets is over $500 million each year, although it is quite possible that operating budgets do not increase as fast as increases in operating hours because of some economies of scale at the administrative level. Nevertheless, the operating budget implications of a 41 percent increase in operating hours would be very significant. This annual financial burden must be added to the burden of raising the $17.9 billion necessary to fund the "Invest to Expand" option.

The Moving Beyond Congestion literature suggests that an increased investment in public transit will net savings in energy and environmental costs. Yet, Table 6 indicates that the energy costs devoted to transportation will not vary materially regardless of which investment scenario for public transit the region pursues. Annual energy costs are $7.2 billion under the steady state "Systems Comittment" scenario and $7.2 billion under the "System Expansion" scenario.

Table 6 does show a greater number of daily transit hours traveled when investment is increased over the "System Comittment" level. However, the less expensive "Service Intensive" and "System Intensive" scenarios result in more transit trip hours than the more expensive "System Additions" and "System Expansion" option. Similarly, a reduction in the number of auto hours traveled is realized in full through the less expensive scenarios. These less expensive alternatives also result in a higher percentage of non-motorized trips (e.g., bikes and walking) than do the more expensive scenarios like.

As noted in a prior post, the more expensive RTP scenarios, which equate to the MBC's "Invest to Expand" scenario, are projected to drive a 10 percent drop in travel times for transit users. This appears to be the primary benefit of this $17.9 billion scenario, at least as indicated by Table 6.

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