commuter rail

Sorry for the short layoff loyal readers.  After a summer working for Boston’s MBTA I am very familiar with the fact that the T provides 1.2 million rides daily.  That’s an impressive sum, but still not the highest in the country.  Here are the most total rides per day (for the first quarter of 2009), according to the American Public Transportation Association.

  1. New York (MTA/Long Island Railroad/Staten Island Railroad): 10,758,600
  2. Chicago: 1,635,700
  3. Los Angeles (MTA/DOT/RRA): 1,608,300
  4. Washington, DC: 1,421,200
  5. Detroit (including Flint): 1,322,100
  6. Boston: 1,217,500
  7. Philadelphia: 1,145,100
  8. San Francisco: 1,060,900
  9. Atlanta: 487,900
  10. Seattle: 449,700
  11. Baltimore: 408,900
  12. Miami: 349,900
  13. Portland: 323,000
  14. Houston: 307,700
  15. Denver: 292,100

It is exciting that there are eight metropolitan areas in the United States transporting over 1,000,000 rides per day.  However, there are several major metropolitan areas that are missing from this list.

The following are the top 17 largest metropolitan areas and their populations according to Wikipedia.  I cut off at 17 as these are all metropolitan areas of 3,000,000 people or more.

  1. New York: 19,006,798
  2. Los Angeles: 12,872,808
  3. Chicago: 9,569,624
  4. Dallas: 6,300,006
  5. Philadelphia: 5,838,471
  6. Houston: 5,728,143
  7. Miami: 5,414,772
  8. Atlanta: 5,376,285 0
  9. Washington, DC: 5,358,130
  10. Boston: 4,522,858
  11. Detroit: 4,425,110 0
  12. Phoenix: 4,281,899
  13. San Francisco: 4,274,531
  14. Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario: 4,115,871
  15. Seattle: 3,344,813
  16. Minneapolis:  3,229,878
  17. San Diego: 3,001,072

The cities from the population list that are most conspiculously missing from the ridership list are Phoenix (214,000 rides per day) and Dallas (217,000 rides per day) as well as Houston’s low ridership.  These three cities represent the worst of car culture in America.  They were built around the car and without public transit in mind.  However, there is certainly hope in both Dallas and Houston as they build up their respective public transit systems.

Public transit is a necessary growth item across the country, but if it is to be successful, it should be aimed at the largest metropolitan areas first.  These areas have the best captive audience seeking to get to work and other downtown or central areas.  The country as a whole is in need of more transit options.  However, the culture of transit must occur in our largest cities first.  New York is doing its part as is Chicago and Boston (not that there isn’t room for improvement).  More energy needs to be focused on America’s heartland cities, that do not have the culture and were largely built up in the age of the automobile.