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Rising Public Transit Quality in Big U.S Cities

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 10:24
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I take public transit to USC each day.  I have also written several papers about public transit.  Two of the best known are available here and here.   In Los Angeles,there is wide news coverage that the city is expanding the transport network. I do think that the Expo Line which runs East-West is great.

I’d like to discuss some innovations that have raised the quality of public transit.   First, having cameras on board on the trains reduces crime and public craziness.  Second, the introduction of the “tap card” means that people are no longer loading pennies into bus fair boxes slowing everyone else down.  The rise of the tap card has meant that revenue collected per ride has increased and this will increase service quality.  The Expo line trains are clean and don’t smell bad.  The next step will be adding free wi-fi on these trains and buses.  The possibility of connecting to Uber to go the “last mile” makes public transit quite desirable.In LA, the 10 freeway can become quite congested.  The Expo line allows commuters to avoid the 10 and get off at their stop and then take Uber or a Bus north or south to their final destination.   There are great synergies between public transit and uber.

Past work by Ken Small has documented that the middle class will use public transit as its quality improves. Manhattan is a clear case where this is true.

Can a smart young economist quantify this extra consumer surplus we are now enjoying? As crime falls, perhaps we can share public space.


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