Expansion of mass transit systems has taken on new urgency during the past 10 years as cities struggle with increased congestion, pollution and population. Many cities tout the increase in the number of people using public transportation, but in this New Geography article, Joel Kotkin argues that growth is concentrated in cities that were built around transit, such as New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
For 21st century cities like Los Angeles, Kotkin says, mass rail transit is a 19th century solution that doesn't work for these residents. He points to two main problems with expanding rail transit in cities like Los Angeles: jobs are no longer concentrated in an urban core and services like Uber are making automobile transit more efficient.
In 23 metropolitan areas that have built new rail systems since 1970, transit’s share of commuting — including all forms, such as buses and ferries — has actually slipped a bit, from an average of 5.0 percent before the rail systems opened to 4.6 percent in 2013. The ranks of those driving alone continue to grow, having increased 14.4 million daily one-way trips since 2000, nearly double transit’s overall daily total of 7.6 million, according to Census Bureau data.
Given what we know about the share of commuters using transit in most cities, pumping money into this form of transportation seems doubly wrong while other needs such as roads, schools, sewers and parks are neglected. Rather than try to fit all cities, and all parts of metropolitan areas, into a 19th-century technology, maybe we should look to encourage 21st century innovation.