Apparently, even before the first train starts carrying passengers (sometime in December), Phoenix's new light rail system is already forcing bus fares up. (via a reader)
Before the Valley's light-rail service ever begins, the cost to ride the train and city buses may be headed up.
The issue of raising the Valley's regional fare policy has been brewing for several months as transit officials have struggled to cover
rising gas prices and other increased operation costs, said Greg Jordan, Tempe's transit administrator. Transit and light-rail costs are covered by a half-cent sales tax, which has fallen over the past year.
The real issue is that transit agencies are generally given a fixed pot of money for operating subsidies (in this case the proceeds of a half-cent sales tax) and rail tends to take a hugely disproportionate share of that money, starving out less sexy but more practical and cost-effective bus systems. Even in the that wet dream of rail planners, Portland:
In fact, 9.8 percent of Portland-area commuters took transit to work before the region build light rail. Today it is just 7.6 percent. In a story repeated in numerous cities that have built rail lines, rail cost overruns forced the city to raise bus fares and reduce bus service. That's a success?
This is even more likely in Phoenix, where buses make far more financial sense than rail, given our very low densities, lack of a real downtown area, and numerous commuting routes. In fact, not only is it predictable, but I predicted it:
Rail makes zero sense in a city like Phoenix. All this will do is create a financial black hole into which we shift all of our bus money, so the city will inevitably end up with a worse transportation system, not a better one. Cities that build light rail almost always experience a reduction in total transit use (even the great God of planners Portland) for just this reason - budgets are limited, so since rail costs so much more per passenger, other transit is cut back. But the pictures of the train will look pretty in the visitor's guide.