mindstalk: (Earth)
I've been reading a bunch of kchoze posts the past couple days. This one is on the economics of transit, and transit efficiency.

'if transit is economically inefficient, why are third world cities dominated by transit and not by personal cars? Why do the Japanese pay 10% of their income on transport versus 20% for Americans and Canadians?'

There are some numbers, and discussion of cost per mile vs. cost per trip. But there's one thing which I sort of gut felt that he spells out: transit friendly cities are denser, so they're more walkable as well.

Let me spell that out. In a sprawling car-centric city, up to 100% of trips may be taken by car. Actual numbers are more like 90%. [Caveat: that's share of trips to work, not all trips.] But you'll never see a city that's 90% transit mode share. (Some cities listed do get up to 70% transit, but again, that's commuting to work.) A city that has lots of transit is a city with lots of walking, too, especially if uses are decently mixed.

(I'm sort of imagining a degenerate case where there's no point to walking around one's residential neighborhood, not even for groceries or school or church, and having to catch transit elsewhere...)

So the reasonable target is not getting transit share really high, but car share low, with the slack being taken up by a mix of transit, walking, and bikes.

This has an extra economic effect: in Sprawlville, the cost of cars (roads, parking, cars, gas...) can be spread over almost all trips. Naively, the cost per trip of transit is doing to have a smaller denominator, only 40% of trips rather than 100%, even though the other non-car trips are part of a coherent dense system that must include transit.

MBTA passes math

2017-Apr-30, Sunday 08:11
mindstalk: (Default)
Say you're a regular commuter, taking transit at least twice a workday. 10 trips, which would cost $22.50 if you're using a CharlieCard. A 7 day pass is $21.25, so it totally makes sense to buy one, then ride the T whenever you want. Even if you somehow had a 4 day workweek, having a couple more trips would be likely.

Four 7 day passes would be $85; a monthly pass is $84.50. So that makes sense too. Or does it? Say you have three weeks of vacation, and leave town for them; maybe you'd save money by just cycling 7 day passes, and skipping the weeks you're gone.

I approached the math from a couple different angles, but this presentation seems best: a month pass costs about the same as 4 weeks, so 12 monthly passes covers the year for the cost of 48 weekly passes. Even if you skip 3 weeks, you'd still have to buy 49 passes... plus covering that extra day (or two, if leap) in the year. So go monthly!

Though, having been using 7 day passes, I noticed that they actually shuffle forward. If I buy one on Monday morning, the next Monday I can leave a bit earlier and still use it, buying (or activating) my next pass Monday evening. And so on. The effect is that you end up covering 30 days for the cost of 4 passes, as each one picks up an extra "half-day" commute. And if you shuffled into buying a pass on a weekend, well, maybe you could skip travel that day and save an extra day.

Of course, there's a week's worth of 31 day months, so there's that -- you're not quite getting a month's worth for 4 passes.

It's nice doing estimations in my head, but at some point you have to turn to a calculator for precision. A year's worth of monthly passes is $1014. If you cover 30 days with 4 weekly passes, that's $85 per 'month', and $1020 to cover 360 days, with 5 more days to finagle. OTOH, if you can skip 3 weeks, you'd spend just $956.14 in a year, saving $57.75. Or $42.57, if you threw in 5/7 of another pass for the extra days.

Of course, that assumes you can maintain the shuffle. Weekends offer skipping a day, but a regular weekend thing might pin you down. Say I activate a pass at 8pm Sunday to go to Grendel's; the next week I might leave earlier, but I'd still have to activate a new one at 11:30 to get home. The week after that I could leave Grendel's a bit earlier, activating the next pass on Monday morning... okay, it still works, though Sunday feels a bit sticky due to the short 'commute'.

Of course, the monthly pass means not having to buy stuff every week, nor worry once a week about the timing of when you do things. OTOH, saving $40 to 60... well, it's not a ton, but it's not trivial either; 40/1014 is 4%.

Extra thought: if you really use the weekends on your one-week vacations, you could save another 2 days each, or 6 days total, in effect skipping another week.

As for me, if I had today off I'd probably just go monthly. Annoyingly, I probably have 4 or 5 trips to make today. Cash today and monthly tomorrow, or weekly today?


Meanwhile, the $12 daily pass is hard to justify unless you run around a lot. Even for a tourist spending $2.75 per trip via CharlieTicket, it costs more than 4 trips -- though if you're doing train/bus transfers that becomes a lot easier to justify, since the Tickets don't give a free transfer. But even then you'd d need bus/train, bus/train, and one more trip. For a Card user you'd need to make 6 independent trips to make a day pass economical. Most likely use case would be having to make multiple quick trips along a train line.
mindstalk: (Default)
One possible categorization of train stations:

* You emerge, and are immediately in a business district or otherwise interesting area. Examples: Central, Harvard, Porter, and Davis Squares on the Boston Red Line, along with Charles/MGH and Quincy Center; Kimball on the Chicago Brown Line; almost any downtown station, at least in a healthy downtown during the workday; Maverick, Orient Heights, and Beachmont on the Boston Blue Line.

* You emerge, in a parking lot or bus station or other thing that involves a fair bit more walking, but at least can see where to go toward something interesting. Examples: Fields Corner on the Boston Red Line, where you're at a long bus stop but can spy businesses; Assembly on the Boston Orange Line, where I think you'll have to walk a block but you can see the TOD from the station; maybe Wellington, where IIRC you have to walk through a big parking garage to the TOD, but there might be signs telling you to go.

* You emerge, and see no reason not to turn around and catch another train somewhere else. Examples: some Jamaica Plain Boston Orange Line stops, where you come out to a bridge surrounded by traffic; some stops on the south branch of Chicago's Blue Line, where the train runs in a freeway median, and you come out onto an overpass, and there's nothing around; Braintree on Boston's Red Line, where after two minutes on a ramp I still hadn't even left the station yet, and couldn't see anything but giant boxy buildings; I suspect Malden Center on Boston Orange, where you're not far from Malden's center but I'm not sure you'd see it; likewise Sullivan Square on Boston Orange, where the most interesting part I know of is hidden over a rise.

Note that can include "there is stuff but you don't see it" and "there's pretty much nothing around, for real."
mindstalk: (Default)
http://www.vox.com/2015/4/29/8513699/future-of-commuting has all the links.

Some notes:
* building more roads just induces more traffic (old news, but still.) Building transit may not reduce congestion either -- suck commuters into transit, more people drive to fill up the road. No substitute for congestion charges.

* Bike share users are whiter, wealthier.

* Drivers are less happy, less healthy (well, more obese) than other commuters. Pretty much anything else is correlated with being healthier; walking, biking, and intercity (commuter?) rail dominate in happiness.

* In the 1920s there were 27,000 km (17,000 miles) of streetcars in the US. The "GM conspiracy" doesn't explain their disappearance. Neither does simple commuter choice of driving in a vaccum. Cars caused gridlock and poor service, and legally low fares hurt the companies' ability to maintain roads that were being damaged by cars.
mindstalk: (Default)
My definition of decent bus service is "every 10 minutes", frequent enough you can go wait for it, especially if you have to make transfers. *Good* would be every 5, but never mind. When I moved to Boston, I took one look at the bus frequency table on the map and lowered my standards to every 20 minutes, all times outside of late night; even so, only 13 lines out of one or two hundred qualify. MBTA agrees with me that they're important, calling them "high-value" bus lines (unlike all the low-value ones?), though for some reason they include the 116/117, with crap frequency.

They even, I found, have a map:
cut for pixel size )

handily confirming what I already suspected.

Cambridge has 5 of the 13 lines: the 1 and 77 provide backbone service along Mass Ave, along with connections to Boston or Arlington; the 71 and 73 go to other suburbs like Watertown and Belmont, and the 66 connects through the interesting part of Brookline and back into Boston again. In addition, we of course have the Red Line serving as our backbone, plus the Green Line dipping into Lechmere. Compared to other cities this is amazing service for a suburb -- but then, Cambridge is actually denser than Boston overall, so lots of transit makes sense.

But you know who else is even denser than Cambridge? Somerville. And what high-value service do they have? Nothing. Not a single bus. Trains aren't much better: the Red Line dips into Davis on the west. I'd thought the Orange Line ran up the east side, but technically not a single station is in Somerville -- Sullivan is in Charlestown, Wellington in Medford, and it goes on from there. A new Assembly Square station in Somerville is being worked on, and a Green Line extension to Union Square is supposed to happen some decade now (well, 2018, if it doesn't get postponed *again*) but right now there's nothing serving the bulk of Somerville, the densest city in the state. If you live near one edge of the other you can walk to the Red or Orange lines, but if you want to get across in a timely fashion, tough luck.

Oh, there are some buses going through, but no high-value ones, nothing you'd want to go out and just wait for. As the MBTA doesn't quite come out and say, Somerville is low-value to it.

Why would this be? I can't help noting that Cambridge is rich and with two "high-value" universities, while Somerville is poorer and immigrant-heavy. You'd think that'd mean they could use good transit *more* -- but hey, the MBTA previously tore down the Washington Elevated to Roxbury, promising first a light rail replacement, then BRT, and finally delivering nothing more than a bus with a fancy name and fewer stops. Roxbury, I note, also has Somerville-level density and even deeper poverty -- and to be fair, most of the rest of the "high-value" buses and the Orange Line through part of it. Still, keeping promises of high service to poor areas is obviously not an MBTA priority.


The map's odd in other ways. No good buses to Medford, Malden, or Everett (Orange goes to a bit of that, but not much); Everett is a big desert for any good transit, despite being as dense as Boston. Most of Brookline and Newton are unserved (branches of the Green Line do fill some of that in, though apart from the D they're hardly better than buses themselves.) This despite the 32 going way the fuck south... we can also see a gap to the west of that, and in South Boston, though there's some Red and Silver line access to the latter. Granted, most of those areas are notably less dense, so not as obvious candidates as the densest city in the state.

We can also perhaps blame Somerville's government; it's big enough to have its own bus service, unless the MBTA is sucking up all the available federal subsidies. Bloomington Indiana had about as many people and various every-30-minute bus lines; a town with five times the density should be able to have some high-frequency circulators.


2013-Mar-27, Wednesday 17:27
mindstalk: (Default)
I've been trying to reset my sleep schedule to something more in tune with society. So far I'm just massively jet lagged without the fun of having gone anywhere.

Snooze buttons are bad for you or at least can be, especially if you actually fall asleep you again; sleep has phases, and you can fall into a deeper phase than you were initially. This might also explain something I found during my orals prep: for two weeks my body refused to sleep more than 3 hours a night, and I was tired all the time, but trundled through my studied. The day of my exam I set my alarm, got woken up after three hours, and felt like nauseous crap. There's a difference between three hours because stupid body wakes up and three hours because alarm.

Another column on how teens naturally sleep at 11pm for 9 hours despite US insanity of having high schooler start earlier than elementary school.


NY Times takes on the Senate, the least democratic legislature in the developed world. 66:1 ratio in power between WY and CA. Why do the 500,000 people of Wyoming deserve more power (and federal money) than the 500,000 people of Fresno?


Cosmic ray bit flips a growing problem?

Cracked on gun myths or weird facts: gun ads are weird, there's no typical mass shooter, making suicide harder does work to reduce suicides, there's weird gun/god association, violence is down, guns get collected like expensive Barbie dolls, maybe all the gun porn and violent games reduce overall violence while increasing mass shootings. Maybe.


social mobility of food services, and contribution of liquor to urban vitality

Las Vegas female bartenders. Another profession gets sexualized and off-limited for the non-young.


Transit has big benefits. Even if a small %age of trips is via transit, those will be disproportionately trips that otherwise would have been on congested roads, so the benefit is larger than one might expect. I always said drivers should welcome transit subsidies as reducing the competition for road and parking...

Productivity minimum wage would be $22/hour. Inflation-linked would be over $10.50
mindstalk: (lizsword)
By Donald Shoup. I haven't read it, but I've seen some reviews:

High Cost of Free Parking reviews
parking subsidy

"For instance, after including construction and land costs, he measures
the value of a Los Angeles parking space at over $31,000"
"Yet 99 percent of all automobile trips in the United States end in a
free parking space, rather than a parking space with a market price. In
his book, Professor Shoup estimated that the value of the free-parking
subsidy to cars was at least $127 billion in 2002, and possibly much
more. "

And this one is a 2005 essay by Shoup himself:


"Paving an entire state for a parking lot sounds outrageous. But because
there are at least three parking spaces for each of the 230 million
vehicles in the United States, the total space devoted to parking in
America amounts to an area about the size of Connecticut. "

"Studies of cruising in downtowns have found that up to 74 percent of
traffic was searching for parking, and the average time to find a curb
space ranged up to 14 minutes. "

"Most cities require commercial buildings to provide a parking lot
larger than the floor area, and for restaurants the parking lots are
often at least three times the size of the dining area. "


2012-Aug-04, Saturday 00:07
mindstalk: (lizsword)
Costs of national prestige projects, and Whitey On the Moon http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/08/03/prestige_projects_why_big_countries_waste_money.html
Portland light rail http://actsofminortreason.blogspot.ca/2012/07/tunnel-visions-portlands-max-light-rail.html
Portland's urban freeways http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/08/03/portland_s_urban_freeways.html
The recent invention of tacos http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/humble-taco-is-subject-of-new-research/2012/08/03/3beaef00-db8f-11e1-8ad1-909913931f71_story.html?hpid=z5
Mexican rebellion against illegal loggers http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/03/world/americas/in-mexico-reclaiming-the-forests-and-the-right-to-feel-safe.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
Zoos and their animals: contraception or euthanasia? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/03/science/zoos-divide-over-contraception-and-euthanasia-for-animals.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
Australia's experience with gun control http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/08/02/did-gun-control-work-in-australia/
Orctivism! http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/08/01
Long analysis of Pixar's Brave. Starts off interesting. http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/just-another-princess-movie/
USA doctor shortage. Because we have so many as it is *cough* http://theweek.com/article/index/231267/is-america-running-out-of-doctors
Defense of air conditioning http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/08/air_conditioning_haters_it_s_not_as_bad_for_the_environment_as_heating_.html

Obama's failure to trust-bust cable companies. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technocracy/2011/12/american_broadband_service_is_dreadful_why_won_t_obama_do_anything_about_it_.html
'A study for the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School found that “some
form of open access regulation has at this point been adopted by every
country in the OECD except the United States, Mexico, and the Slovak
mindstalk: (glee)
Privilege as difficulty level: straight white male is playing life in easy mode

Argument that libertarians should be friendly to train, which were fine and profitable until crushed by government subsidies of roads and airports. It notes a 1935 law barring US electric utilities from owning streetcars, despite their natural connection.
Tangentially, I've amused myself for a long time with the thought that US libertarians tend to be rural or suburbanites fantasizing about dispersed living, but actual 'Libertopia' would look like a handful of zoning-free megacities with few and expensive services in the rural hinterlands.

me on libertarian countries

On balance bikes. Also links to an old book on bicycle and tricycle designs, and bicycle physics. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/05/training_wheels_don_t_work_balance_bikes_teach_children_how_to_ride_.single.html

witch fighting fertility cult

George Lucas to build low income housing in revenge

lighting efficiency

break up sitting
mindstalk: (Default)
Free parking, possibly $300 billion/year
Fourth power rule for trucks: http://thatmansscope.blogspot.com/2009/10/trucks-and-fourth-power-rule.html

In most of the US public transit is explicitly a social service like welfare, providing options for people who can’t drive; complaining that it doesn’t support itself is like complaining food stamps don’t. And, being meant for poor people, the options provided are crappy. A train system that ran every 10 minutes instead of every 30 would seem to cost 3x as much, but might attract many more riders by virtue of being frequent enough to be useful. (Also, it wouldn’t cost 3x as much, since the rails would be a fixed cost. The more you use the rails, the cheaper per ride they get.)

Also, traffic accident rate is a lot higher than the transit accident rate, killing 30-40,000 people a year, for a social cost of $200-300 billion a year. Add that to an estimated $300 billion/year subsidy of free marking, and unknown health and pollution costs, and we’re talking a lot of money.

Also, transit subsidies are (a) small compared to road expenditures and (b) help drivers. At least where a decent fraction of commutes, even 10%, are by transit, those are people who aren’t driving, who are off the road and not competing for parking. If you’re a driver in a remotely congested area you should *want* people taking transit, out of your way.

Hard to monetize, but driving is also supported by non-inevitable decisions to prioritize driving. Used to be roads were open to all, a mess of pedestrians and horses and carts, then bicycles and streetcars. Then cars came. They could have stayed mixed with everyone else, crawling along at safe speeds; they’d be a lot less attractive then. But instead we decided to clear the roads of other users, despite having priority, for them and let them zoom along. And pretty much everything that makes cars faster makes roads more hostile and dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists (not that those two always get along either.) Pedestrians want short blocks and narrow streets with lots of stop or at least yield signs and jaywalking rights; cars want long blocks with limited control and lights with long switch times.

Apparently, car safety also wants road - sidewalk - trees, to be forgiving of cars somehow leaving the road. Better to hit people than trees, I guess. Pedestrians would want trees between them and the road. This is actually a thing
mindstalk: (angry sky)
I used to think that the deregulation of the US airlines was one of the successes of deregulation, cutting service quality but at least getting prices down. Looks like I was wrong! It's failing at that and killing cities too.


Longish article. The industry has had trouble staying profitable. Services are being cut to bigger and bigger cities, like Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, and where they aren't fares are monopolistic and high.

At first, the program—which was, naturally, embraced by many free market economists and the incoming Reagan administration—seemed to pay off. To be sure, many communities instantly lost air service, and the industry rapidly restructured into the hub-and-spoke system that still exists today, leading to the elimination of many direct flights. But the early years of the new regime also saw a burst of competition and price cutting in the airline industry.

What both policymakers and the public generally missed, however, was that any positive effects that occurred would be temporary, and that many of them would have occurred without deregulation. The price of energy, for example, cratered in the mid-1980s, making it possible to cut fares and even expand service on many short hauls. But that wasn’t an effect of deregulation; it was the result of a temporary world oil glut. Indeed, after adjusting for changes in energy prices, a 1990 study by the Economic Policy Institute concluded that airline fares fell more rapidly in the ten years before 1978 than they did during the subsequent decade.

Except for a period after 9/11, when airlines deeply discounted fares to attract panicked customers, real air prices have fallen more slowly since the elimination of the CAB than before. This contrast becomes even starker if one considers the continuous decline in service quality, with more overbooked planes flying to fewer places, long waits in hub airports, the lost ability to make last-minute changes in itineraries without paying exorbitant fares, and the slow strangulation of heartland cities that don’t happen to be hubs.

Despite the lack of explicit roads or railroads, the high costs of getting a plane into the air, and of running airports and traffic control, make flight a natural network monopoly like other forms of transportation and utilities, one which left to its own devices will shed marginal communities until it's restricted to the most profitable runs between giant cities.

It has amused me to realize that many libertarians probably picture a Jeffersonian yeoman idyll but their policies would actually lead to teeming megacities and wealthy estates. Perhaps they envision being on the estates.

transit thought

2011-Apr-17, Sunday 01:28
mindstalk: (Default)
...you know, given our later financial straits and loss of car, it's really fortunate my parents had bought a house 1.5 blocks from the train. I suppose the fact that my mother never learned to drive safely might have been a factor.

Of course, I got spoiled. Friends in high school talked about walking a mile to the train (or to the school, for one), and I was all "walking a whole mile! that's so far!" That seems ridiculous now, but I honestly hardly ever had a reason to walk a whole mile anywhere. Bus half a block away, train 1.5 blocks, library and supermarket 3 blocks, restaurants 5 blocks... little reason to walk more than a quarter mile at a time. School recesses, PE classes, and occasional zoo or museum visits were probably the longest times I was on my feet. Oh, summer camp, maybe, barely remember it.
mindstalk: (Default)
LJ inflicts upon me awareness of a light rail vs. subway fight in Toronto, which puzzled me for a long time, since I've thought of e.g. Chicago El and subway as light rail, in contrast to the heavy commuter rail of Metra or Caltrain. And maybe that usage is out there. But I finally found the right readings to make sense of Toronto. And as I like drawing things up in boxes, and some of you may as well, here's my current understanding, plus capacity estimates, minus costs, and with all the rock solid reliability of a tertiary source based on secondary source web pages; if readers know more please correct.

Read more... )
mindstalk: (Default)
Expanding on some bus discussion in the comments of my May Day post, and probably repeating some old calculations:

Read more... )


It would probably just take a few hundred $million to restore at least daily bus service on all cut Greyhound routes, so people could at least get out of town. Hourly service to all population centers could cost $5 to $60 billion/year, depending on estimation method, and probably closer to $5 billion. Total Mass Transit (Bus) could cost more on the order of $300 billion for something I'd consider reasonable, to $2.7 trillion for massive overkill. Big savings if you ask most people to walk a few blocks to the stop. Also possibly big savings from using different numbers (or more light rail) but I try to be conservative.

Americans would like more public tranport. Even small town or Republican people.
mindstalk: (lizsword)
* Zero fare public transit
* The Nation's shifting stance on public transit.

* Rolling Stone on AIG. Long and alarmed. And Salon on new populism. "A 2003 Gallup poll found that 31 percent of Americans believed they would become "rich" someday, including more than 20 percent of people who made under $30,000 a year." "In 2005, the top 1 percent of Americans made almost 22 percent of the nation's reported income, and the top 10 percent made half of it." "In 2007, the average S&P 500 CEO made 344 times what an average worker made. The top 50 investment fund managers made 19,000 times more than the average worker."
* The missing millionaire tax bracket. Plus household debt.
* Sweden's strong support for research, and willingness to let Saab fail. Who's the socialist country?

* Charles Schumer switched to supporting gay marriage.
* ACLU sues DA over "child porn" charges.

* An Afghan TV station was raised for not censoring "uncovered" women.
* Israel using white phosphorous in Gaza.
* Scalia's homophobia
* Morocco's crackdown on feminists, gays, Shiites

* Malnutrition in India
* Racial gap continues

* Darwin, statistics, and experimental design
* Voting rational -- if you're an altruist. My first thought was that this means most voters are altruists or out for their local benefits. Bad news for libertarians.

* Interesting links on myths about medieval Europe and the Renaissance

* Exalted sesseljae: "puppies that swim through organs".

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