Monday, May 21, 2007

London, Paris, Chicago: Transit Funding

Siemens AG has published a study entitled "Megacity Challenges: A Stakeholder's Perspective." The study found that investment in transportation infrastructure is the highest infrastructure priority of most cities and that rail transit typically receives the highest level of investment.

An earlier post looked at the operating funding levels for public transit in three such cities, Paris, London and Chicago. The Siemens study provides additional data against which we can benchmark this region's level of support for public transit against two urban areas in similarly developed countries:

Population: 9.2 million
Area: 2600 sq. kilometers
Transit operating funding (2005): $4,986,000,000
Funding per person: $542
Funding per sq. kilometer: $1,917,695

Population: 7.6 million
Area: 1600 sq. kilometers
Transit operating funding (2005): $7,804,000,000
Funding per person: $1,027
Funding per sq. kilometer: $4,877,500

Population: 9.2 million
Area: 8000 kilometers
Transit operating funding (2005): $1,685,000,000
Funding per person: $183
Funding per sq. kilometer: $210,625

This data indicates that on a per person basis this region's operating support of public transit would have to increase threefold just to reach Paris levels and roughly sixfold to reach London levels. I guess quality transit systems are nice places for we Chicagoans to visit but we sure don't want to pay for one here.

I wonder if our failure to invest as heavily in public transit as London and Paris harms the economic competitiveness of this region, as the SEPTA system study suggests, or whether we are better off using the money we don't spend on public transit on other things?


Anonymous said...

Look at the density. Chicago area has 1/4 the density of the other 2. Low density = difficult to serve market for transit.

Moderator said...


I agree that the lack of density in most of the Chicago metropolitan area makes public transit marginal in most areas.

The fact that the taxing base of the RTA region includes many area where public transit is marginal makes inevitable the political dynamic of suburbanites complaining about how little transit they get for their money. Recall that all of the collar counties rejected the referendum that created the RTA.

Anonymous said...

Density is the "simple" view. Look to Activity Centers for the way to Sustainable Regional Transit.

The problem (a really big one)is that there are 3 major activity centers in the region with more or less equal trip generation values. One is extremely well served-- downtown. The other 2--- the first Shaumburg/Elk Grove/O'Hare and second Oak Brook/I88 aren't. Now what? Shall we fake it? If you're gonna go for more money for transit, then you gotta get more transit for money.