I get asked occasionally why I blog, and why I blog about transit. I’m not going to bore you with self-analysis on whatever psychic rewards I get out of this, so instead, here’s a brief Boxing Day summary of why I think transit, and rail transit in particular, is important:
- Cost effectiveness: A 4-car light rail line running (800 passengers) at 7.5 minute frequencies can carry 6400 people in each direction. At 2.5 minutes, it’s 19,200. According to FHWA, highway lane of traffic at capacity can carry 2,200 people in single occupancy vehicles under ideal conditions. Given that regional growth will continue, what’s a more plausible way to expand capacity in, say, the I-5 corridor? North Link, or 16 new lanes on I-5?
- Positive Societal Effects: There are a bunch of societal drawbacks to driving, some well-understood and others not: air pollution, water pollution, trade deficits from oil imports, sedentary lifestyles, traffic deaths, hideous parking-lot-oriented architecture, sprawl, personal transportation costs, and congestion. Widely available transit is a partial antidote to all of these.
- Quality of Life: We usually talk about the other things because they’re more quantifiable, but ultimately it comes down to quality of life. In major cities around the world, rail is simply the best way to get around. As Seattle enters that class of metropolis, residents shouldn’t tolerate the lack of such an important amenity any more than they would tolerate the absence of parks and libraries.