Transit Reality Versus Transit Hope

In my most recent post at (Nov. 2, 2011), I recount some of my experiences taking public transit and bicycling in Tallahassee. After nearly three months of quiet experimentation, the results aren’t pretty, for public transit. As I report:

“So, what about the bus? If the bus is running on time and on schedule, my door-to-door commute can be about 20 minutes. But, that’s the problem. The bus is rarely on-time or on-schedule. The buses run on 20-minute headways, so the consequences of missing the bus can be pretty severe for anyone trying to make class or a meeting. I have to arrive at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive in the morning because it often arrives about 5 minutes ahead of schedule. In the afternoons on the return trip, buses have completely missed the stop (and I’m not sure where they’ve gone). Within the last week, I’ve walked home after waiting 45 minutes for a bus, and in another case I was left at the bus stop for 40 minutes. So, in order to adjust for the uncertainties of bus travel, I typically have to arrive at the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus arrives in the morning, and I have to plan for waiting 15 minutes to 40 minutes in the afternoon for the return trip.”

In order for transit to compete seriously with other modes, transit operators will have to undertake serious perfromance-based reforms that improve reliability and quality. Otherwise, public transit is destined for continued marginalization and declne.

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.