A whole-system approach to evaluating urban transit investments
New transit capital expenditures are typically evaluated in isolation from the transit/transport systems to which they belong. Problems with reporting performance elements such as ridership and costs are discussed. A focus on evaluating the total transport systems impact of new transit project implementation is called for. On this basis, new US rail transit systems have generally performed poorly. Total transit ridership has generally shown only minimal improvements and, at times, has declined. Financial performance has been disappointing in most cases, particularly when understood in the context of the additional system costs imposed through the reconfiguration of bus networks to serve the new rail systems. Low-cost approaches to improving basic transit services can often be more effective than either rail or bus capital-based projects. An obsession with technology leads to the wrong questions being asked. We should instead start inquiry with the study of needs.
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