Tag Archives: public transportation

Riding The Bus, The Subway, The Streetcar: U.S. Transit Use At Its Highest Since 1956

Streetcar1By Micheline Maynard

During the past year, American gasoline prices dropped and more people went back to work. But they also did something else: jump on public transportation.

More people rode public transit in the United States last year than at any time since 1956, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Some 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, which is up 1.1 percent from 2012. That surpassed the most recent peak of 10.59 billion in 2008. It’s the eighth year in a row that Americans took more than 10 billion transit trips.

Moreover, public transit growth over the past two decades has risen 37.5 percent, outpacing population growth, which was up 20 percent from 1995 to 2013.

There’s a ton of great data in the report, and we’ll be breaking it out for you over the next few days. Meanwhile, did you use public transit in 2013? Did you use it for the first time? Let us know your transit stories.

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The Results Are In! How You Told Us You’re Getting Around In 2014

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

By Micheline Maynard

Back on New Year’s Day (a mere month and three days ago), we asked our Curbing Cars audience to tell us how you planned to get around in 2014. We got a terrific response and now we’re sharing the results with you.

We’re ambulatory. Most of us still use cars, but not as much as we use other types of transportation in the mix of the ways we get places. The number one way Curbing Cars readers get around is on two feet. Almost 80 percent of respondents say they get around most frequently by walking. That was followed by public transportation, used by 69.7 percent; cars, used by 58.1 percent and other modes of transportation, which included running, Zipcars or car sharing programs, and taxis.

Several people told us that they use of a mix of transportation in a single day. “I walk to work every day, bus in bad weather, bike for some errands in spring/summer/fall. use my car mainly for weekend shopping and for getting out of town,” replied one survey participant.

In fact, I’m doing more walking this winter in Phoenix, where I’m a Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. I walk to school every day from my home downtown, and I’ve walked to the farmer’s market, the movies, to drinks and dinner, and to the Phoenix Opera in the month since I’ve been here. Even though I walked frequently in Ann Arbor, I am doing even more daily walking here. (And of course, the weather is much better…)

We’re pleased with our choices. People seem to be pretty satisfied with the mix of the ways they get places. About 60 percent of you said you were happy with your transportation mix. About 24 percent said they’d like to change it, and the rest said they would like to change it, but couldn’t for various reasons. Continue reading

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Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, car sharing, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, Poll, public transportation, Uncategorized, walking

Getting Around On Maui, Where Locals Want More Transit Options

map_of_mauiIn this two-part report, Curbing Cars intern Matt Varcak transports us away from dreary weather and takes us to Hawaii, a surprising hot spot for public transportation. Today, he looks at Maui.

By Matthew Varcak

Hawaii’s third most populous island, Maui, is also its second-largest at roughly 727 square miles. And in the past dozen years, the demand for public transportation has exploded.

The Maui Bus program began in 2002 as a pilot program to accommodate the increased need for affordable transportation. By the end of 2003, the program had 101,508 passenger boardings, and by the end of 2004 that number had grown to 117,490.

For the fiscal year 2013, 2.51 million passengers boarded the Maui Bus system.

And these are not all tourists. According to Marc Takamori, deputy director for the County of Maui Department of Transportation, 80 percent of the passengers are locals. Takamori also said there is a demand from riders to increase the frequency of service in addition to adding more routes into areas not currently served. Continue reading

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A Growing Demand For Public Transit: How People Get Around In Hawaii

Honolulu once abounded with streetcars. Now, public transportation is in strong demand across Hawaii. Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Archives

Honolulu once abounded with streetcars. Now, public transportation is in strong demand across Hawaii. Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Archives

In this two-part report, Curbing Cars intern Matt Varcak lifts us out of the weather doldrums and takes us to Hawaii, a surprising hot spot for public transportation.

By Matthew Varcak

If you visit the Hawaiian Islands, you will likely enjoy beautiful weather, pristine bodies of water, ancient grounds, delicious food and happy people. I was lucky enough to be one of these people this past summer when I visited the Island of Hawaii (The Big Island).

What struck me the most — beyond that — was how affordable and extensive the mass transit was. Hawaii once had streetcars, and it soon will get a light rail system. Meanwhile, the main way people get around is on buses.

At roughly 4,000 square miles, the Island of Hawaii is the state’s largest island, but it is the second-most populous island behind Oahu. Its major cities are separated by long stretches of winding highways wrapping around Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of Hawaii’s volcanoes, which stand at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.

With a general fare only costing $1, it soon became clear that it would be much more affordable to ride the Hele-On Bus, Hawaii County’s Mass Transit system, rather than drive myself everywhere. Continue reading

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Filed under cities, Driving, infrastructure, public transportation, Travel, urban planning

From Paris, Getting Around With — And Without — A Car

Paris traffic.

Paris traffic.

Bertrand Rakoto is a marketing intelligence manager for R.L. Polk. For the past decade, he’s been focused on the electric car industry and electric car services. In the first of a series of guest posts for Curbing Cars, he writes about the way people get around Paris.

By Bertrand Rakoto

Paris has a very extensive public transportation system. This might look presumptuous to begin with, but honestly, it’s quite realistic. Prior to any explanation, I must describe how the French capital city is trying to change back from cars to mass public transportation. Paris is not huge when compared to other Megacities in the world, but it’s European-big.

It’s distributed into three concentric areas. The smallest one is the inner city of Paris. A little over 2.2 million people live in the 20 administrative subdivisions (or “arrondissements”), which are shaped like a snail. When it comes to France, clichés are never very far off. The city is an expensive place to live in and numerous Parisian workers commute to downtown Paris.

However, living in the inner city is a great choice for urban lovers, with lots of cultural events, bars and clubs. And most of all, you don’t need a car when living downtown.

The second concentric area is called “Petite Couronne”. It represents 4.4 million inhabitants, divided in three departments (Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne). In this area, you can live without a car, but it’s more convenient to have one for weekend activities outside Paris and grocery shopping. You can avoid the daily drive for cost efficient public transportation. But in some case, it can become necessary to commute to work despite the traffic jams.

The last, largest, and third concentric area is the “Grande Couronne”. Over 5 million people live in the four remaining departments of the Ile-de-France region (being Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, and Val-d’Oise). In this area, a car is mandatory, or else freedom of movement is quite reduced.

 Now that you have the big picture, let’s have a look at the public transportation network. Continue reading

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The Best Way To See A New City? Try Public Transit

 

Never be afraid to try public transportation when you visit a new city.

Never be afraid to try public transportation when you visit a new city.

By Micheline Maynard

Curbing Cars hasn’t spent much time bringing you stories about travel. But this weekend, our research director Rick Meier and I decided it’s a subject we should be writing about, for this reason.

When you visit a new city, the best way to see it is often the same way its residents get around: by public transit. In fact, that’s the advice I gave Christopher Elliott, the veteran traveler advocate, for his new series called The World’s Smartest Traveler.

It was flattering to be invited to take part — and I also welcome the idea of helping people feel comfortable when they’re away from home. I don’t think visitors should confine themselves just to rental cars and taxi cabs. Travelers ought to be able to get out and about, in an affordable and environmentally friendly fashion.

But, what’s the best way to feel secure getting on an unfamiliar transit system? Ah, I thought you might ask that. So, here are four tips so that you can get the most out of public transit when you’re on the road. Continue reading

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Filed under Curbing Cars, public transportation, Travel

Do We Really Have To Get Rid Of All The Cars?

photo(14)By Micheline Maynard

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about something I spotted on The Atlantic Monthly’s website. It’s called, “The Case Against Cars In 1 Utterly Entrancing GIF.” You can take a look at it here.

Basically, the animation shows a street full of cars, flashing to their drivers seated on the road. Then those people are grouped, and loaded onto a streetcar. The point of the GIF is to show how public transit reduces congestion.

Since Curbing Cars launched this summer, I’ve been struck by the polarization in the discussion over transportation use. At one end are people who think cars are evil and to be avoided at all costs. At the other end are those who love automobiles and think the people who despise them are crazy.

There’s very little discussion about the middle ground, which is where I think many Americans are heading, and will be heading in the next few years. That is, cars as part of a mix of personal transportation, but not the only option. It’s what the Livable Streets Coalition calls “driving light,” and which others call “living car light.”

That seems to make perfect sense, and yet, as with many moderate points of view, that thought seems to be getting overlooked. Continue reading

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Filed under cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

How Placemaking Can Boost City Transportation

A summer day in NYC's Bryant Park, a stand out example of placemaking.

A summer day in NYC’s Bryant Park, a stand out example of placemaking.

By Micheline Maynard

All around the world, urban planners are coming up with new ways to encourage people to get more out of their cities. One of the biggest trends is “place making” (or placemaking, as people in the field call it).

That’s taking a public space, and adding new elements so that people want to come there. There are dozens of successful placemaking projects across the United States. Think of Bryant Park in New York City, Eastern Market in Detroit, and Guerrero Park in San Francisco.

All of these places have been around for years, but they’ve all seen a revival in the past decade or so, thanks to what takes place in them. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have written a major new white paper on placemaking, which you can read here.

One of the biggest benefits of placemaking may wind up being what it does to the way people get around. Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces, says placemaking can boost public transportation, and encourage people to get out of their cars.

“If there’s one thing, you’re going to drive to it,” he told me for a story in Forbes. “If there are 10 of them, all of a sudden, you’re connecting them, and it’s a whole point of not needing your car.” Continue reading

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In New Orleans, The Streetcar Is More Than Just For Tourists

Streetcar1Our latest student-written story comes from John Owens, a political science student at Tulane University in New Orleans.

By John Owens

Streetcars are as much a part of New Orleans as beignets, Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Saints. Rolling down the most well-known streets in the city, the unmistakable whir of their electric power and sound of the old-fashioned suspension fills the air for blocks around. The wooden seats hark back to a time when craftsmanship ruled over mass-production. Streetcars are an institution here.

Recently, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has poured millions into revitalizing the aging rails that underpin the system. It tore up track bit by bit, starting before the 2013 Super Bowl and continuing through now. It is the kind of investment that implies a commitment to a long future with the streetcar in New Orleans.

In the run up to the Super Bowl, the RTA even added a 2.8 mile spur with 13 stops. It took less than a year to complete, an unusually quick project by New Orleans standards.

With streetcars running down more streets and on better tracks, it begs the question: are streetcars a viable transit solution, a tourist attraction or both? Continue reading

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A Day In The Life Of Sao Paulo’s Transit System

By Micheline Maynard

We recently showed you a day in the life of Montreal’s transit system. Here, with some catchy music, is a day in the life of the transit system in Sao Paulo.

Now, you might wonder if anything ever moves in Sao Paulo, which has been nicknamed “the city of 18 million traffic jams,” referring to its population.

Sao Paulo actually has the world’s most extensive, and complex, bus system. It operates 26,391 buses, 1,908 lines, 34 transfer stations, and 146.5 kilometers of dedicated bus lanes. One in every five residents takes a bus every day to work, school or other places. Overall, 10.5 million people ride a bus daily in the metropolitan area — equivalent to moving the population of Belgium.

In the bus transit world, Sao Paulo is the equivalent of Montreal in the bike sharing world. City officials from everywhere descend on Sao Paulo to see how the city manages all those people. So sit back, and marvel at the masses of people moving through Sao Paulo mass transit.

 

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