Commentary

New FTA report exposes New Starts transit programs

A new report released by the Federal Transit Administration examines the performance of 21 transit projects ranging from guided busways to rail projects. While we’re still culling through the 211 page document, two things seem to stand out: 1. Transit projects have become better at forecasting costs, although they still tend to be over budget; 2. Most projects fall well short of ridership projections. Even those projects that meet ridership projections tend to meet their targets by setting low expectations to begin with. Salt Lake City, for example, projected just 23,000 average weekday boardings, far below the 35,000 or more typical of projects proposed in the 1970s and 1980s. We’ll be reporting more on this as we get through the report.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.