Saturday, February 10, 2018

Most working people in the US need cars

SCAG: Southern California Association of Governments

[Later: I changed the hed on this post to reflect the reality]
This recent headline brought the bad news to Streetblog LA's readers: New UCLA Study Examines Transit Ridership Decline, Blames Increased Car Ownership:

While the diagnosis is far from conclusive, and nearly no prescriptions are offered, the report attributes the Southern California region’s falling [transit]ridership to increases in car ownership, especially among folks who have historically tended to ride transit: low-income immigrants, especially Latinos.

Immigrants and other working people understand that cars expand their job search to a a wider area and then make commuting to a job easier than on public transportation.

Streetsblog SF found the news so disturbing it didn't pick up the LA story. 

A report a few years ago by The Urban Institute---"Driving to Opportunity"---reached the following conclusions:

The importance of automobiles arises not because of the inherent superiority of the mode, but because public transit systems in most metropolitan areas are slow, inconvenient, and lack sufficient metropolitan-wide coverage to rival the automobile.

Cars facilitate searching for and commuting to jobs and therefore increase the likelihood of finding and retaining employment. Conversely, employment can provide households with the necessary resources to purchase automobiles; income is one of the strongest correlates of automobile ownership. 

In general, automobile ownership is associated with higher employment rates, weekly hours worked, and hourly earnings. Automobile ownership also reduces racial disparities in employment rates and unemployment duration.

Automobiles can be particularly important for low-income women who often juggle paid work with household-serving responsibilities and would benefit greatly from the flexibility offered by driving.

None of that is true when you only own a bike and don't have a car.

Randal O'Toole's interpretation of the UCLA study:

...But FTA data show Los Angeles Metro increasing rail service as it decreased bus service, with increasing rail ridership offset several times over by decreasing bus ridership. It is not hard to imagine that the growth in higher-income riders is mainly on rail while the decline in low-income riders was mainly on buses. The agency apparently made a conscious decision to sacrifice low-income riders so it could gain more high-income riders. My conclusion is that keeping fares low helped maintain ridership in the face of increasing auto ownership before 2007. But a stiff fare hike in 2008 led to a vicious cycle of declining ridership and service cuts that mainly affected low-income bus riders.

Driving to Opportunity

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