Trams attract more passengers than buses

The following from Ed Tennyson, who is the foremost transit expert and historian in the USA, is a reply to a news story that Seattle suburban residents like the LRT but do not particularly like buses very much.

Buses, for what ever reason, just do not attract much new ridership and BRT, which in most cases refers to a tarted up express bus, suffers from the same malaise. As one transit expert in the UK told Zwei; “A bus is bus, just is a bus.”


Ai??Ai??First, there is the Transportation Research Board Special Report
# 1221 of 1989 that reported that Light Rail most often attracted 35%
to 43% more riders than buses when conversions were made,
usuallyAi??from rail to bus but occasionally from Bus to rail back then.
Ai??Ai??The TRB Report suggested that reasons included the certain route
confirmed by the tracks. To many modern people all buses look alike,
Router numbers Ai??mean little to most of them and they fear ending up
far from where they intended to go. Rational, maybe not but real.
Ai??Ai??Second, my brother’s best friend Ai??could not Ai??ride buses as the exhaust
madeAi??him sea sick. Ai??Other people could stand the smell but did not like
Ai??Ai?? Thirdly, APTA’s Annual FACT BOOK reported that from1948 to 1975,
asAi??buses replaced most Ai??Street Car lines, bus ridership dropped 72%
The end of gasoline rationing had something to Ai??do with it maybe
half the loss, but from 1953 to 1972, the Light Rail Line in New-
arkAi??grew as Public Service buses lost huge volumes of riders,. Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai?? .
Ai??Ai??The Street Cars on Market Street in San Francisco lost no riders
after maybe 1953, until 1972 when Market Street was shut down
to build BART. Years later when Street Cars were restored, they
attracted more passengers than ever.
Ai??Ai?? Fourth, they built the downtown Seattle Bus Subway with Breda
all-serviceAi??vehicles that broke down a lot and cost too much .
Ai??Ai?? Fifth, Seattle had too much experience with “good” busAi??service.
The Ai?? 2011 FTA National Transportation Data Base reported Bus
Rapid Transit in Seattle cost 96 cents per passenger-mile to
maintain and operate. Seattle Light Rail that year was new and
cost $ 1.08 per passenger-mile but with full operation in 2012 with
costs well below bus service. Motorists fear BRT will get some of
Seattle’s jammed street space Ai??but at least some Light Rail will get
its own newAi??space.
Ai??Ai?? Sixth, Seattle is strong for Clean Air. Ai??They do not think buses will
help much with that. Light Rail will. Ai??The National Transit Data Base
saysAi??buses get only 32 passenger-miles per gallon Ai??but Light Rail
gets in Ai??between 40 and 50 depending on how high their load factors
Ai??Ai?? Ai??Since Light Rail does not use oil, the textbook conversion rate is
13.5 kilowatt hours Ai??is equal to one gallon of dieselAi??fuel. Ai??That costs
about five cents per passenger-mile by LRT Ai??but 11 cents by diesel
Ai??Ai?? Seventh, back about 1962, I think it was, Seattle bus Ai??management
asked for money to scrap the trolley-buses and replace them with
modernAi??flexible diesels. The Professional Engineers of King County
organized a strong political pitch to keep the faster on hills and least
costly trolleyAi??coaches. Voters went for the cleaner, less costly trolley
buses, butAi??did not expand them much, just renewed them. Ai??Bus
management claimed cost per bus-mile was less than cost per trolley
coach mile which was true, but trolley coaches got the slowest hilly
routes and the shorter routes close to downtown so were slower.
The Professional Engineers showed that Bus drivers are paid by
the hour, not the mile Ai??and make more stops per mile. so hourly
costs,Ai??not mileage cost should be used. That favored trolley
coaches. Ai??They went through that same exercise about two
yearsAi??ago and trolley coaches won again.


One Response to “Trams attract more passengers than buses”
  1. Haveacow says:

    Had a feeling this was going to happen, (it was far too quiet) as of today (May 15, 2014) due to budget considerations (2 new bridge projects not originally part of program have been included) tunnel station platforms will only be 120 meters and non tunnel station platforms shrink to 90 meters on the Ottawa Confederation Line. This is the second time stations have shrunk in size. This also lowers the potential maximum of the lines capacity to 24,000-26,000 pphpd. according to my modeling system. Oh well have to change the graphic for you Zwei.

    Zwei replies: Oh, the life of a transit consultant. Still 24,000 to 26,000 pphpd is about 10,000 more than what the SkyTrain lines can carry and fits in quite well with today’s max capacity for LRT.

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