Should there be a National Transit System Redux?

I posted last week, asking: Should there be a National Transit System?

Apparently some work has been done on this question, though it has not previously been available online. Paul Bay emailed me the linked file (converted to a single PDF file) which is some preliminary rationale and criteria in favor of a National Transit System.

China’s Bad Growth Bet

Nouriel Roubini at Project Syndicate writes about: China’s Bad Growth Bet :

“The problem, of course, is that no country can be productive enough to reinvest 50% of GDP in new capital stock without eventually facing immense overcapacity and a staggering non-performing loan problem. China is rife with overinvestment in physical capital, infrastructure, and property. To a visitor, this is evident in sleek but empty airports and bullet trains (which will reduce the need for the 45 planned airports), highways to nowhere, thousands of colossal new central and provincial government buildings, ghost towns, and brand-new aluminum smelters kept closed to prevent global prices from plunging.
Commercial and high-end residential investment has been excessive, automobile capacity has outstripped even the recent surge in sales, and overcapacity in steel, cement, and other manufacturing sectors is increasing further. In the short run, the investment boom will fuel inflation, owing to the highly resource-intensive character of growth. But overcapacity will lead inevitably to serious deflationary pressures, starting with the manufacturing and real-estate sectors.”

No More Commuter Rail Starts

The Overhead Wire, a very pro-transit blog, says: No More Commuter Rail Starts: “”

“If there is one thing we’ve learned over the last few decades, suburban political forces are a drain on cities. For everyone wants to be connected into the downtown and its vibrancy but at arms reach. So the wall was put up many years ago, you must have a car to get there. Now many are wondering if there is an easier way to get back downtown, wherever downtown is. And then they say, well it’s too congested to drive, how can we get downtown to pay and appease the folks that want transit but aren’t quite sure what it is they need. Then the answer comes, commuter rail.

It’s a perfectly acceptable form of transit and has its place in the hierarchy, but for some reason regions get stuck on building rail and they look at what it will cost to do the first part right and they balk. How can we appease our overlords in the suburbs so they will give us something we in the city want in the future? Why do I say overlords? Because Metropolitan Planning Organizations and transportation providers as well as the congress is stacked with people who want to suck money out of cities and into their suburban and rural districts. The safe bet is to appease them right? Wrong.

What we’ve seen over the last ten years is the monumental failure of commuter rail to do any regional work of value as a first line. The millions of dollars for a couple thousand riders at best is disheartening to those of us who want to see regional transit systems, not just a one and done. I’ve started to think about this with more clarity as the research comes in and I believe that the places who really are in it to win it will build destination based regional transit that connects a major employment corridor in the region. The headways need to be frequent and the line must run up the gut, not on the perimeter.

Look at these lines according to the Q4 ridership numbers, you can quibble with these a little bit as the agencies have different numbers in the news recently but 500 +/- riders isn’t going to make a huge difference.

Recently Opened Commuter Lines

1. Northstar Twin Cities – 2,000

2. Capital Metrorail Austin – 800

3. Rail Runner New Mexico – 3,800

4. Music City Star Nashville – 800

5. Frontrunner Salt Lake – 5,400

6. Portland WES – 1,400

7. Oceanside CA – 4,100