Transportation Research Board Special Report 257
VI public transit
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Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to the procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
This report was sponsored by the Transit Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Making transit work : insight from Western Europe, Canada, and the United States / Committee for an International Comparison of National Policies and Expectations Affecting Public Transit, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council.
p. cm—(Special report ; 257)
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Local transit—Europe, Western—Case studies. 2. Local transit—Canada—Case studies. 3. Local transit—United States—Case studies. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board. Committee for an International Comparison of National Policies and Expectations Affecting Public Transit. II. Special report (National Research Council (U.S.). Transportation Research Board) ; 257.
HE4704 .M35 2001
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine
National Research Council
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Committee for an International Comparison of National Policies and Expectations Affecting Public Transit
LES STERMAN, Chairman,
East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, St. Louis, Missouri
DAVID J. ARMIJO,
Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, California
Halcrow Fox, London, England
STEPHEN J. DEL GIUDICE,
Frederic R. Harris, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland
HELEN E. GAULT,
Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission, Ontario, Canada
University of Southern California, Los Angeles
CHARLES A. LAVE,
University of California, Irvine
HERBERT S. LEVINSON,
Herbert S. Levinson Transportation, New Haven, Connecticut
JOHN R. PUCHER,
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey
JACK M. REILLY,
Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, New York
BEVERLY A. SCOTT,
Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, Providence
JOEL A. TARR,
Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JEFFREY M. ZUPAN, Transportation Consultant,
Chestnut Ridge, New York
Transportation Research Board Staff
THOMAS R. MENZIES, JR., Study Director
This report is the product of a 2-year study funded by the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).1 The study had its genesis in discussions during 1995 and 1996 by the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee, which were prompted by Louis J. Gambaccini, then General Manager of the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority. A number of TOPS members, including many transit managers, had had the experience of being asked by their customers, as well as their policy boards, why transit usage is so low in American cities as compared with the cities of Western Europe, Canada, and other parts of the world.
Around that same time, teams of transit managers from across the country were returning from tours of public transportation systems in dozens of Western European and Canadian cities. Reports from these tours—documented in four TCRP Research Results Digests2—describe many innovative practices, services, and technologies with potential for application in the United States. The teams often prefaced their reports, however, by noting the distinct differences in the urban environments and transportation policies they witnessed abroad. For instance, they observed the following:
Most Western European residents live in densely developed communities within reach of public transportation corridors that were established long before widespread use of the automobile, thus providing naturally large markets for transit operators.
Motor fuel prices in Western European cities are three to five times higher than in the United States, and many other government taxes, parking regulations, and traffic policies encourage the use of transit, while deterring use of the automobile.
The fragile and physically constrained medieval towns and historic cities of Western Europe compel government actions to discourage automobile use and promote public transit.
The strong national and regional governments in Western Europe, as well as in Canada, allow for the coordination of policies governing urban land use and the planning of highways and transit, offering a means of emphasizing the latter.
Tour participants also observed a wholly different attitude about the role and value of public transportation among both policy makers and the general public. They visited transit systems that were treated as integral components of regional transportation systems. They met with transit managers having a high level of technical competence; professional prominence; and latitude to realign routes, change equipment, and adjust fare schedules as they saw fit. And they learned that innovating was commonplace among Western European transit operators and encouraged by elected officials.
Seeking a more complete explanation of the many factors underlying the above differences, the TOPS Committee asked the National Research Council, under the auspices of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), to convene a committee of experts to compare U.S. public policies and attitudes about urban form, transit, and highways with those of other industrialized nations. The sponsor emphasized that the comparison should be construed broadly to include government policies and institutions; public expectations and preferences; and economic, geographic, social, and demographic factors affecting urban transportation, housing, and land use (see Box P-1 for the project Statement of Task).
The Committee for an International Comparison of National Policies and Expectations Affecting Public Transit, led by Les Sterman, Executive Director, East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, St. Louis, Missouri, included experts in public transportation, economics, public policy, highway transportation, and urban planning. Early in its deliberations, the committee narrowed the study scope to compare the United States with Canada and the largest industrialized nations of Northern and Western Europe. These countries are closest to the United States in affluence, urbanization, and governance. Much of the committee’s attention was focused on Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, which are the most studied, wealthiest, and populated countries in Northern and Western Europe. Where sufficient information and data were available, Austria, Belgium,
This project will compare U.S. public policies and preferences about urban form, transit, and highways with those of other industrialized nations. Public policies will be broadly construed to include tax policies affecting transportation, housing, and land; institutional forms and policies affecting land use regulation and urban form; and subsidies and investment policies affecting transit, parking, and highways. Although national policies affecting funding for transit and ancillary policies affecting transit use will be examined, the impact of those policies will be considered at the metropolitan level. Public attitudes and preferences will be examined on the basis of available public opinion data, travel behavior, and other published sources of comparative information. The project will include considerations of the dynamics and time scale of changes. Considerations of attitudes will not be restricted to transportation per se but will include historical and cultural factors as well. The committee will summarize available information and report its findings regarding the combinations of policies and attitudes that result in different levels of transit use among countries and will apply its judgment regarding the potential transferability of such public policies to the United States.
Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland were also examined. By and large, it is these ten countries that are referred to as Western Europe in the report.
The committee adhered closely to its original charge of examining the broader policies and external factors affecting transit use abroad. The report contains scores of references to publications that document specific transit technologies, operating practices, and fare and scheduling policies outside the United States, and some information of this kind is synthesized in the text (see Chapter 3 and the appendix); however, this is done mainly for explication. The discussion centers on those broader policies and factors outside the control of transit agencies.
The committee was also asked to render its collective judgment about the prospects for transferring the transit-supportive policies of Western Europe and Canada to the United States. However, it proved difficult to judge
the transferability of specific policies to the United States because the same social, economic, political, and other conditions that can make a policy or practice successful in one place can have little, if any, relevance in another. Moreover, conditions can change over time. Thus, instead of offering specific policy advice, the report is intended to inform policy makers and others who are interested in learning more about what has worked in other countries and may have application here.
A number of individuals provided valuable input and assistance during the course of this study. The committee met five times in a 20-month period. At one of its early meetings, Lee J. Schipper, Visiting Scientist, International Energy Agency, discussed his research findings on the effects of rising incomes and motor vehicle and fuel taxation on travel behavior in Western Europe and North America. Bo E. Peterson, former Director of Planning, Stockholm Transit, and Professor of Traffic and Planning, Lünd University, Sweden, joined with David Bayliss, former Director of Planning, London Transport, and a member of the committee, in describing changes now taking place in Western European transit policies and in the way transit is organized, managed, and funded. In conjunction with a meeting in Southern California, members of the committee met with staff of the Orange County Transportation Authority to discuss transit innovations and the challenges involved in offering bus services in a medium-density American urban environment.
The study was managed by Thomas R. Menzies, Jr., who drafted this report under the guidance of the committee and the supervision of Stephen R. Godwin, Director of TRB’s Studies and Information Services Division. Eric Monami, consultant, OGM, S.A., Brussels, Belgium, drafted a resource paper describing recent changes in the delivery and organization of public transportation in the European Union.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge.
The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
The committee thanks the following individuals for their review of this report: David J. Banister, University College, London, England; Lawrence D. Dahms, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Oakland, California; Thomas F. Larwin, San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board, California; Jonathan Levine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Anthony Siegman, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; and Hal Wolman, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Although these reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the findings and conclusions, nor did they see the final draft before its release.
The review of this report was overseen by L.G. (Gary) Byrd, Alexandria, Virginia, and Lester A. Hoel, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
Suzanne Schneider, Assistant Executive Director of TRB, managed the report review process. The report was edited and prepared for publication under the supervision of Nancy Ackerman, Director of Reports and Editorial Services. Rona Briere edited the report. Appreciation is expressed to Heather Allen of the Union Internationale des Transports Publics for providing the photographs used in the report. Special thanks go to Marion Johnson and Frances E. Holland for assistance with meeting arrangements, communications with committee members, and production of the final report.