Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Re: why Metrorail ridership is declining and scary results on transit use declines resulting from a two-day strike on the London Underground

Previous entry, "Why Metrorail ridership is down."

A box filled with leaflets detailing alternative travel options is left outside a tube station
Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Economists studied the impact of a two-day strike on the London Underground on ridership behavior and found that one out of every twenty riders changed their routes to one that was more efficient ("The Benefits of Forced Experimentation: Striking Evidence from the London Underground Network," Larcom, Rauch & Willems, 2016).

This led to a 5% drop in ridership as a result from a two-day change in commuting patterns.

Routine had kept them using their normal method/route, even though it was less efficient ("London Tube strike produced net economic benefit," Cambridge University).  From the press release:
Analysis of the London Tube strike in February 2014 has found that despite the inconvenience to tens of thousands of people, the strike actually produced a net economic benefit, due to the number of people who found more efficient ways to get to work.

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, examined 20 days’ worth of anonymised Oyster card data, containing more than 200 million data points, in order to see how individual Tube journeys changed during the strike. Since this particular strike only resulted in a partial closure of the Tube network and not all commuters were affected by the strike, a direct comparison was possible. The data enabled the researchers to see whether people chose to go back to their normal commute once the strike was over, or if they found a more efficient route and decided to switch.
As a piece in GGW ("Sorry, Metro. I've been seeing someone else") which recounts how one Montgomery County resident has shifted from using Metrorail to the MARC Commuter train, more people will shift their commuting routine significantly as a result of the long term degradation in Metrorail service.

A notice informing commuters of the RMT union's tube strike is displayed in Clapham Common station on day two of the strike. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images. Note the discussion of alternative modes, including cycling and walking.

Anecdotally, it sure seems like during rush hour there is a lot more motor vehicle traffic in the vicinity of the Takoma neighborhood as evidenced by much longer queues of traffic at major choke points:

-- Blair Road/Piney Branch Road/Cedar Street
-- Blair Road and Aspen Street (which is a cut through for Maryland commuters)

My sense is that this is derived from the long term service declines of Metrorail which are perhaps leading to a critical mass of commuters coming to the decision to use other modes.

The issue is that individual utility and community utility are different measures.  For various reasons, sustainable mobility choices are more optimal systemically.

But long term, since the Metrorail system is polycentric, not monocentric, and because of the relatively high cost of using transit on Metrorail or combined with Metrorail, Metrobus, and local bus services, ridership is likely to plateau for some time, although the coming Purple Line will offer an opportunity to stoke overall increases, as the shape of the sustainable mobility changes and is expanded.

Philadelphia commuter rail.  Relatedly, it will be interesting to see how much of SEPTA's ridership declines from reductions in commuter rail service from July-September will be recaptured as the system is now back to its normal schedule ("Philly rail system back to normal after 3 month headache," USA Today).  From the article:
SEPTA announced over the July 4 weekend it discovered cracks in the suspension systems of 120 rail cars. The agency had enough cars to operate its weekend schedule but was forced to cut back its commuter schedule. SEPTA estimated its trains shuttled about 65,000 people each way on a normal work day, a number that dropped to fewer than 40,000 at the height of the crisis.

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