Posts Tagged: Modal choice



Three Eye-Opening Papers On How We Build Transit

The other day I discussed how modal choice often has less to do with the intrinsic qualities of a technology and more to do with extrinsic factors. Those comments caused something of a stir with people coming out saying a variation of the following:

  • Light Rail is a scam.
  • Light Rail is awesome.
  • It depends. (Note: This is the camp I tend to fall in.)

Within the comments I disagreed with a commenter who referred to a “Light Rail Scam” but also admitted that “LRT has been foisted onto places that didn’t need it and probably shouldn’t have been built. But that’s not the case everywhere.”

Which prompted frequent commenter Matt the Engineer to question “What LRT lines weren’t needed and shouldn’t have been built?”

Very good question, Matt.

For readers interested in this issue, there are three essential articles they should look to (Note: clicking on the title of the article will allow you to download it):

The Pickrell piece is insanely readable for something as mundane as transit ridership forecasting. If you only have time to read one, this is the one you should look at. It gives a rather disturbing insight into how public transit is planned, funded and built in North America.

The Flyvbjerg piece, meanwhile, is a little more technical but nevertheless eye-opening. In fact, most of Flyvbjerg’s work is essential reading for anyone interested in how we (in)effectively conduct mega projects in the developed world, particularly in regards to public transit. If you take the time to work through his materials, you’ll come out the other end with a different mindset than when you entered.

The FTA piece, lastly, is boring beyond belief. But is great as a reference point to see how this all comes together. In it, you’ll find out which LRT systems in the US are the star performers (they’re not the ones you think), which are the true dogs (they probably are the ones you think), and which ones are middling at best (a few surprises).

If you’re a transit nerd, you need to read these.

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