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Secrets of success: assessing the large increases in transit ridership achieved by Houston and San Diego transit providers

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  • Kain, John F.
  • Liu, Zvi

Abstract

This paper summarizes and updates the findings from an earlier study by the same authors of transit systems in Houston (all bus) and San Diego (bus and light rail). Both systems achieved unusually large increases in transit ridership during a period in which most transit systems in other metropolitan areas were experiencing large losses. Based on ridership models estimated using cross section and time series data, the paper quantifies the relative contributions of policy variables and factors beyond the control of transit operators on ridership growth. It is found that large ridership increases in both areas are caused principally by large service increases and fare reductions, as well as metropolitan employment and population growth. In addition, the paper provides careful estimates of total and operating costs per passenger boarding and per passenger mile for Houston's bus operator and San Diego's bus and light rail operators. These estimates suggest that the bus systems are more cost-effective than the light rail system on the basis of total costs. Finally, the paper carries out a series of policy simulations to analyze the effects of transit funding levels and metropolitan development patterns on transit ridership and farebox recovery ratio.

Suggested Citation

  • Kain, John F. & Liu, Zvi, 1999. "Secrets of success: assessing the large increases in transit ridership achieved by Houston and San Diego transit providers," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 33(7-8), pages 601-624.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:33:y:1999:i:7-8:p:601-624
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    Cited by:

    1. Fullerton, Thomas M. Jr & Walke, Adam G., 2012. "Border Zone Mass Transit Demand in Brownsville and Laredo," Journal of the Transportation Research Forum, Transportation Research Forum, vol. 51(2).
    2. Siman Tang & Hong Lo, 2010. "On the financial viability of mass transit development: the case of Hong Kong," Transportation, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 299-316, March.
    3. Nelson, Peter & Baglino, Andrew & Harrington, Winston & Safirova, Elena & Lipman, Abram, 2007. "Transit in Washington, DC: Current benefits and optimal level of provision," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 231-251, September.
    4. Small, Kenneth A, 2004. "6. Road Pricing And Public Transport," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 133-158, January.
    5. Lane, Bradley W., 2008. "Significant characteristics of the urban rail renaissance in the United States: A discriminant analysis," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 279-295, February.
    6. Currie, Graham & Delbosc, Alexa, 2011. "Understanding bus rapid transit route ridership drivers: An empirical study of Australian BRT systems," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 755-764, September.
    7. Poudenx, Pascal, 2008. "The effect of transportation policies on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission from urban passenger transportation," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 42(6), pages 901-909, July.
    8. Miaoyi Li & Lei Dong & Zhenjiang Shen & Wei Lang & Xinyue Ye, 2017. "Examining the Interaction of Taxi and Subway Ridership for Sustainable Urbanization," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(2), pages 1-12, February.
    9. Shen, Qing & Chen, Peng & Pan, Haixiao, 2016. "Factors affecting car ownership and mode choice in rail transit-supported suburbs of a large Chinese city," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 31-44.
    10. Xiaohong Chen & Xiang Wang & Hua Zhang & Jia Li, 2014. "The Diversity and Evolution Process of Bus System Performance in Chinese Cities: An Empirical Study," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(11), pages 1-17, November.
    11. de Grange, Louis & González, Felipe & Muñoz, Juan Carlos & Troncoso, Rodrigo, 2013. "Aggregate estimation of the price elasticity of demand for public transport in integrated fare systems: The case of Transantiago," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 178-185.
    12. Ted Balaker & Cecilia Joung Kim, 2006. "Do Economists Reach a Conclusion On Rail Transit?," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 3(3), pages 551-602, September.
    13. Kuby, Michael & Barranda, Anthony & Upchurch, Christopher, 2004. "Factors influencing light-rail station boardings in the United States," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 223-247, March.
    14. G. Currie & A. Ahern & A. Delbosc, 2011. "Exploring the drivers of light rail ridership: an empirical route level analysis of selected Australian, North American and European systems," Transportation, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 545-560, May.
    15. De Bruijn, Hans & Veeneman, Wijnand, 2009. "Decision-making for light rail," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 349-359, May.
    16. Taylor, Brian D. & Fink, Camille N.Y., 2003. "The Factors Influencing Transit Ridership: A Review and Analysis of the Ridership Literature," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt3xk9j8m2, University of California Transportation Center.

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