Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Transit saves you money

When looking at the benefits of a transportation project, planning types usually use the value of time as an indicator of economic benefit. Example:

Let’s say that time is worth $20 an hour or 33₵ per minute. If 200,000 people-a-day save 5 minutes-a-day for a year, you can say that Project G has an economic benefit of $120 million a year. (PS: this is what was done for the Gateway Program.)

Sadly time savings may not be as important to people as we think. (Otherwise people would be living closers to where they work and commuting less which is not the case save for Vancouver) Todd Litman from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute looked a the real economic benefit of providing high-quality transit. First off, there are two kinds of transit users: captive users (travelers who lack alternatives) and discretionary users. Basic transit does not attract discretionary users. He found that:
This report uses data from U.S. cities to investigate the incremental costs and benefits of high quality transit service. It indicates that high quality public transit typically requires about $268 in additional subsidies and $104 in additional fares annually per capita, but provides vehicle, parking and road cost savings averaging $1,040 per capita, plus other benefits including congestion reductions, increased traffic safety, pollution reductions, improved mobility for non-drivers, improved fitness and health.
Click table to enlarge

So high-quality transit saves $664 per capita annually in actual cash that you can put back in your pocket. Remind me again why we aren’t building more transit?

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