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Public Transit

Improving transit (esp. efficiency): A couple years ago I tried to start a Transit Riders Union...though around the same time, we had our first child and I started working at Google, so I haven't had much time to develop the organization since then. Realizing that once the Transit Riders Union actually takes off, its opinions might no longer match my own, so I'll be using this site as a dumping ground for the ideas that inspired that work.

In brief, I think it's important for riders to have more input to the transit system, make the system easier to use, and deploy it in a way that uses taxpayer resources more efficiently. In particular, any capital improvement that moves buses more quickly and reliably attracts more riders by becoming more competitive with the private auto, but *also* saves taxpayer funds by providing the same number of bus runs while completing those runs in less time--effectively reducing the number of transit service hours that must be funded.
(Here's the site of the org that I've been trying to develop: http://www.transitriders.org)

Transit agencies need to be more accommodating of people with different needs. One of my favorite transit advocates ("Bus Chick",http://www.buschick.com/) highlights how a mother of two can use public transit exclusively.

Commuter service is expensive (often no revenue on reverse trips) and encourages sprawl. Personally, I think commuter fares should be ~2x higher than other service in order to offset their higher cost; I also think higher prices for commuter service is justified by the value provided to the riders (saving money on parking, and saving time that can be spent reading or working on the bus).

I also envision the Transit Riders Union to push the transit agencies to use their resources more efficiently. For example, we should be asking the state to enable more enforcement of 'yield to bus' laws, which would improve speeds for transit riders and reduce costs for tax payers.

One of my earlier goals for the Transit Riders Union was to encourage transit agencies to be more transparent with their data, enabling 3rd party analysis of performance. They've already opened their schedule data to enable more 3rd party development of tools for transit riders including OneBusAway and Google Transit, which I think is important since clearly Metro has not prioritized improving their Trip Planner in the ~10 years that it's existed...and why make taxpayers pay for something that private parties are willing to provide for free?

Frankly, as a transit rider, seeing the inefficiencies that exist, I'm embarrassed to ask for more funds for transit unless they either (a) enable transit to be more efficient or (b) enable maintenance of existing service levels in light of increasing congestion.

That said, I also believe we need to find new revenue sources that (1) charge the beneficiaries of transit service and (2) reduce the horribly regressive, deadweight sales tax. Specifically, commuter routes should be primarily subsidized with peak-hour congestion tolls and parking taxes, and all-day service should be primarily funded with taxes on the value of the land (not the value of the improvements). The premise is that the transit service provided should increase the value of the land such that the additional tax revenue from the benefitting land owners pays for the service; conversely, those who benefit less from transit service pay proportionally less for that portion of their property taxes.

Interesting websites regarding public transportation: