Monday, March 10, 2014

Journalism by press release: "Fundamental shift" to public transportation?

The story was in both this morning's Chronicle (Public transit ridership at record highs) and the New York Times, apparently based on a press release from the American Public Transportation Association, which of course lobbies for public transportation.

The head of that organization sings for his supper:

"People are making a fundamental shift to having options" aside from a car in how they get around, said Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the public transportation association. "This is a long-term trend. This isn't just a blip...People want to work and live along transit lines," Melaniphy said. "Businesses, universities and housing are all moving along those corridors."

He would say that, wouldn't he? Just like the Bicycle Coalition claims there's some kind of fundamental shift to bikes in San Francisco. Special interest groups tend to inflate the significance of the role they play in society because, well, that's what they do.

Take a look at the graphics below by Wendell Cox at New Geography:


















No "fundamental shift" detectable here. Cities like New York and San Francisco have always had more people using public transportation:

Graphic by DPAUL BROWN

What about commuting by bicycle nationwide? Not very impressive:

In most areas, cyclists accounted for only a small share of all commuters. Last year, they made up an estimated 0.56 percent of U.S. working adults, a rate that has remained relatively stable in recent years. Cyclists accounted for 0.53 percent of commuters in 2010 and 0.55 percent in 2009, according to the survey.

But what about an increase in commuting by bike in San Francisco? Not very impressive, either: the Transportation Fact Sheet (page 3) tells us that 2.1% of city residents commuted by bike in 2000, and 3.6% did so in 2012, a gain of 1.5% in twelve years, not exactly a "fundamental shift." The Bicycle Coalition would call that a 71% increase, but anyone looking at the actual numbers won't be impressed.

What about the population shift from the suburbs to cities that the new urbanists are touting? Nope. The opposite seems to be the reality. The death of the suburbs has been exaggerated by the new urbanists, because they live in cities.


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9 Comments:

At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"From 1995 to 2013, transit ridership rose 37 percent, well ahead of a 20 percent growth in population and a 23 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled, according to the association’s data."

Of course, what these figures don't show is the huge amount of pollution this increase caused due to making cars wait while the slow buses crawl around our nation.

 
At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "report" is simply boosterism for Big Transit and its cronies as you correctly identified it. If they actually wanted to give an accurate portrayal of transit has declined over the years, they would have stopped collecting data in 2010, just as honest researchers like Wendell Cox do. It's well known that numbers after 2010 cannot be trusted for serious research.

 
At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

There's no indication that the last few years make much difference to the overall picture: except in some cities, public transportation isn't of much significance in the US.

 
At 11:47 AM, Anonymous sfthen said...

Those articles seem like poor versions of this:

Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation . . .

where they embody the last two words of the full title.

 
At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"except in some cities, public transportation isn't of much significance in the US."

It's a good point. Just like except for the cities, Obama lost both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections. Real Americans don't take public transportation, and they don't vote for Obama, either.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, "for others." Same thing with bikes. City leaders roll out for the Bike to Work Day photo-op, but very few actually ride much.

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Just like except for the cities, Obama lost both the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections. Real Americans don't take public transportation, and they don't vote for Obama, either."

No, it's simply a matter of population density. Public transit makes more sense---and is used more---in cities. I voted for Obama, I live in a city, and I take public transportation. What you really hate is that people in the US rely a lot more on cars than public transportation---and bikes.

 
At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Presidents Romney and McCain were swept into office overwhelmingly, except for some cities.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

And your point is...?

 

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