Is Your City Making Full Use of Existing Transit Investments?

In Chicago, fewer people are living near transit, even though rising rents say demand is high. Graph: Metropolitan Council
In Chicago, fewer people are living near transit, though rising rents indicate demand is high. Graph: Metropolitan Council

Chicago’s rail transit infrastructure has a lot of unused capacity, Yonah Freemark wrote last week on the blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council, and making use of it might be cheaper and easier than expanding the system.

Some of Chicago’s most transit-accessible neighborhoods are barely growing, but rents are rising fast, Freemark reported, an indication that additional transit-oriented housing could be supported. Unfortunately, zoning laws limit new construction in these areas, says Freemark, so countless would-be transit riders move to the suburbs or other regions, outside the reach of transit service.

Inspired by that article, David Levinson at Streets.mn looked at how much additional capacity there is on Minneapolis’s new Green Line — one of the biggest transit success stories of last year — which carries about 38,000 riders daily. Depending on how you calculate capacity, there’s actually quite a bit to work with, says Levinson.

This measures capacity in terms of daily boardings. Daily miles traveled is another measure, and is independent of the length of trips. To calculate this we use the following equation:

Capacity = (Hours of Operation)*(Trains/Hour)*(Cars/Train)*(Capacity/Car)*(Stations – 1) * (Trip Length) * (Directions Operating).

At any rate, the attached table shows some surprisingly high numbers, up to 7 million (under the admittedly silly unconstrained scenario (A) where people only ride the train for 1 stop before alighting, trains run for 24 hours a day, and people are standing at near crush capacity), with more plausible numbers in the 255k territory, assuming everyone gets a seat, but you can run at 5 minute headways (C). Here we are limited by capacity in one section (downtown Minneapolis), which does run at 5 minute headways, but splits the capacity between the Green and Blue lines.

The main point is that there is a lot of capacity on the Green Line yet to go, even if you only run 18 hours a day, and you expect everyone to have a seat, and run at today’s 10 minute headways (which is all today’s fleet can support, to increase headway we either need to increase speed greatly or add vehicles), and assume the average trip is 7 stations (Aaron Isaacs informs me it is 3.5 miles, which at 1/2 mile spacing is about 7 stations) (83,314 – scenario D). At the other end of the spectrum, if everyone expected a seat and was riding from Union Depot to Target Field, the capacity would only be 32,400 with today’s frequencies.

Since Minneapolis has additional capacity on its new rail line, and there’s a lot of developable land along the corridor, Levinson wonders: “Why are new corridors being subsidized for development?”

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Wash Cycle shares a photo from San Francisco showing how a bump-out makes a handy spot for a bike corral. BicycleLaw.com discusses the stubborn resistance to bike transportation in Georgia. And Prince George’s Urbanist evaluates efforts to make a rail hub at New Carrolton, Maryland, more urban and transit friendly.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Is Your City Making Full Use of Existing Transit Investments?

|
Chicago’s rail transit infrastructure has a lot of unused capacity, Yonah Freemark wrote last week on the blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council, and making use of it might be cheaper and easier than expanding the system. Some of Chicago’s most transit-accessible neighborhoods are barely growing, but rents are rising fast, Freemark reported, an indication that […]

As Chicago Forges Ahead With BRT, Congress Holds Up Key Rail Project

|
The transportation news has been flying out of Chicago lately. Last week, in a 41-9 vote, the City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which will be used to build projects with private financing. Earlier this week, Emanuel and transportation commissioner Gabe Klein just unveiled a plan for a downtown bus rapid transit loop […]

Why Creating Meaningful Transportation Change Is So Hard

|
Cross-posted from City Observatory. At his blog, The Transport Politic, Yonah Freemark pushed back this week on the idea that we’re seeing a revolution in the way people get around cities and suburbs, largely thanks to new transit-and-bike-friendly Millennials. In fact, he cites one of City Observatory’s posts as an example of a narrative he doesn’t […]

Can Transit-Oriented Development Lift All Boats?

|
Streetsblog San Francisco reported earlier this week that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has made a $10 million funding commitment to a mixed-use affordable housing project in the Tenderloin neighborhood, a convenient two-block walk from the nearest Muni stop: The development at 168 Eddy Street would provide 153 new apartments reserved for low-income families and space […]

Talking Headways Podcast: A Positive Vibe For Chicago TOD

|
On this week’s podcast, Yonah Freemark of the Metropolitan Planning Council (you may know him from The Transport Politic) shares the scoop on transit-oriented development in Chicago. In a recent post, Yonah writes that in order to break the pattern of slow growth but ever-increasing demand, more development should happen near Chicago’s extensive transit system. We talk about why […]

Salt Lake City, Rising Transit Star

|
On the roster of cities making progress on green transportation in the western U.S., you have the usual suspects like Portland and Denver. But in terms of building track miles and adding busways, the city on the fastest pace might just be Salt Lake City, Utah. Over the last decade, the capital of the reddest […]