The amazing success of public transport system – not the Edinburgh tram
I’M always a little surprised by the people who shout that we’ve got to spend much more on rail. On trams. On properly integrated public transport systems. For they ever so rarely bother to look at the actual numbers.
This has been tried before, of course, most notably in Portland. How well did it work there? In 1980, under the old bus-transit model, transit carried 9.8 percent of Portland-area commuters to work. By 2010, with seven different rail lines and scores of transit-oriented developments, transit carried just 7.1 percent of the region’s commuters to work.
OK, sure, that’s an American city. But who thinks that Edinburgh’s tram system is going to do any better?
What rail than tram lines are very good at is getting people in and out of a city centre. Everyone’s going in the same direction at one time of day then reverses at a second. And cities which have such transport systems do tend to have workforces which do that: London being the obvious prime example.
But cities which didn’t build such systems a century ago don’t have that commuting pattern: so why would building the infrastructure to allow a travel pattern that doesn’t exist help?