DALLAS, Texas – Despite spending more than a billion dollars to promote mass transit and build new systems such as “light rail,” the share of Dallas County residents who used the transit system has fallen over the last decade, according to an analysis of numbers released through the US Bureau of the Census.
Texas Public Policy Foundation senior fellow Wendell Cox says the numbers are not surprising to those who understand the complex issues involved with traffic, congestion and transportation issues.
“It’s not that transit is bad, it’s irrelevant,” said Cox, a member of the federal Amtrak Reform Council and recognized expert on transportation issues.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2000 supplemental survey, public transit’s work-trip market share fell 13.3 percent over the last decade, despite the opening of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s light rail line. The just-released data disputes claims of the proponents of light rail in Dallas who said the line would remove traffic from the roadways.
Between 1990 and 2000 there was an increase of a mere184 work-trips on transit, representing a drop of 13.3 percent in work-trip market share when examining all modes of travel. By contrast, the number of single-occupant car trips increased over the same time period by 109,695 – 600 times the growth of transit. Even the number of people working at home outpaced transit ridership by nearly 50 times (8,734) , while those walking increased 57 times as much as transit, at 10,568. (See the chart below)
Cox says the reality is that mass transit can only have a limited amount of success due to modern employment and residential patterns.
“Transit can only help in a downtown area, but less than 10 percent of the employment in Dallas and Houston is found downtown,” he said. “Using mass transit, it is possible for fewer than 5 percent of the employment market to reach jobs in less than 40 min – that’s double the average commute time.”
The message for the future of taxpayer-subsidized light rail is clear, according to Cox: “You spend nearly $1billion and you get no return.”
Cox said the people of Dallas County, and any locale considering outlaying the billions needed for light rail or other mass transit projects, should be asking why there is a demand to spend so much money on projects that do not adequately address the transportation needs of average workers.