The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Anti-transit myth #4: Transit does not relieve congestion

Myth 4: Transit does not relieve congestion.

Excerpted from Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation by Paul M. Weyrich and William S. Lind.

Transit can and often does relieve congestion. St. Louis’s MetroLink light rail line provides a good example. MetroLink’s singe 18-mile [line] carried 14.2 million passengers in 1999. According to a 1997 riders’ survey, 69 percent were commuting to work. Most were doing so in rush hours, when highway congestion is at its worst. And only 27 percent of MetroLink’s riders either did not drive of had no car available.

The fact of the matter is that some kinds of transit have a strong effect on highway congestion, but other kinds do not. In general, buses running on city streets have little effect on congestion, because they do not prove a better level of service than the autos that impede their flow.

One study after another shows that high-quality transit, especially rail transit, can reduce congestion.

And what about the myth that a rail transit line has less capacity than a single lane of freeway or even a major arterial road? The facts are clear enough:

The basic problem with urban/suburban freeways is that they take a up so much space for the capacity they deliver. At 1500 cars per lane per hour, a six-lane freeway’s maximum capacity is about 11,000 people per hour…within a 300 foot right of way. Urban rail systems can deliver as much more capacity in 100 foot or less [right of way]. The Dallas light rail line when completed to Garland and Richardson will be able to deliver at least 20% more hourly capacity than a six lane freeway (13,760 people per hour) at 14% less capital cost per mile. Heavy rail systems like the Washington Metrorail have five times the capacity of a six lane freeway in about one third the space and cost about the same per mile as the Century Freeway in Los Angeles.


One response to “Anti-transit myth #4: Transit does not relieve congestion

  1. YoBusDriver September 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I wish I had seen this when Tampa was fighting for light-rail a year ago. I like the post, full of facts not opinions.

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