Tagged: Transit Referendum

Peer reviewed studies and the transit referendum

This is a copy of a comment I’ve left at Northern Insights, which is pending approval, in response to this post:

Speaking of without evidence, I note you’ve been pressed a number of times on Twitter to provide links to the studies above. I believe I may be able to help you here, with at least with 2 of those:

The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US cities
By Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner September 08, 2009

Evaluating Public Transit Investment in Congested Cities∗
Justin Beaudoin, Y. Hossein Farzin and C.-Y. Cynthia Lin November 27, 2014

I’d like to highlight some passages from them:


The fact that increases in public transit do not reduce traffic does not imply that such improvements are not in the public interest. While we are not able to perform a welfare calculation to evaluate extensions to bus based public transit, we suspect on the basis of earlier research (Kain, 1999, Duranton and Turner, 2008) that improvements to bus-based public transit are often welfare improving.

Together, these findings strengthen the case for congestion pricing as a policy response to traffic congestion.


Overall, our analysis indicates that the congestion-reduction effects of public transit supply warrant a higher level of public transit investment than would be provided on the basis of the isolated valuation of public transit ridership; this effect would be larger still if the additional negative externalities of auto travel were incorporated into this framework.

“Expanding transit and subsidizing fares has limited impacts on automobile congestion, given relatively modest own-price elasticities for transit… Nonetheless, urban transit fares are heavily subsidized…Improving service quality (e.g. increasing transit speed, reducing wait times at stops, and improving transit access) may be more effective in deterring automobile use.

While there is modest evidence that public transit’s reputation as a ‘green’ policy instrument is justified, the results also reaffirm the theoretical and empirical argument that traffic congestion can only be adequately addressed by devising economically and politically accepted approaches to efficiently pricing auto travel across the U.S.

I think one can be forgiven into thinking that perhaps the reason you haven’t provided links to these reports is they don’t really say, particularly the UC-Davis study, what you say they do.

But more importantly, I think you might be hesitant because both endorse road pricing.

Which is, in fact, in the Mayor’s Plan.

The Mayors’ Council is committed to implementing a more consistent region-wide approach to pricing road usage as the most fair and effective way to reduce congestion.

To tackle congestion and to make sure that the significant new road capacity we have added in this region doesn’t soon get swallowed up in traffic jams, there is only one tool that has a proven track record. It’s the tool that we use to allocate scarce resources everywhere else in the economy: pricing.

Maybe the missing World Bank study (the one’s I’ve found actually endorse public transit investment in specific cities – link available upon request) provides a strong case against transit investment. But in terms of these two studies, both actually significantly undermine your case.

The Red Herring Referendum

“One thing that we have learned however is that the best thing to do to make your transit agency worse off is to de-fund them. That taking away money from them in order to demonstrate frustration only punishes the people who are reliant on the transportation system.”

Jeffery TumlinNelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates

How making those with low incomes, students, new immigrants and the elderly wait longer for the 99 B-line will induce Christy Clark to give Translink executives a salary haircut is a mystery to me.

Stuart Parker makes a similar point here.

Let’s be clear: the BC government already doesn’t care about low-income people, transit riders and families forced to suburbanize due to the affordability crisis. If our lives get worse by our own hands, it’s just going to broaden the smile on our premier’s face. What so many “no” supporters are missing is that hostage situations only work if the people you’re threatening care about the hostages.

Indeed. People, including some progressives, seem to be under the mistaken impression the Premier wants a Yes victory.

UPDATE: Stephen Rees has another of his always useful posts:

In fact most of the problems that beset Translink at the moment all have their genesis with the provincial government. Christy Clark has done one brilliant job: she has deflected all the criticism of her failure to authorize adequate resources for running the transportation system in BC’s largest metropolis onto an organisation that she herself controls. It is an appointed Board – with a bafflingly complex system of appointment to disguise the very limited range of qualifications of its appointees. No-one represents the users of the system, and there are only two of 20 Mayors on the board, both very recent appointments.

Voting NO is not going to change anything.