Prop 104: Light Rail Reduces Transit Effectiveness

By: Howard Sprague

The notion that light rail makes a worthwhile contribution to the mobility of persons who depend on public transportation is erroneous. Light rail merely steals bus riders already using transit.

For the 10 years prior to the opening of rail service, bus ridership grew at an average rate of 5.6% per year. In 1997, there were 34.1 million passenger trips. In 2008, there were 61.9 million.

Since rail opened for business in 2009, total transit ridership growth has slowed to an average of 0.3% per year. In 2014, there were 72.1 million passenger trips on buses and trains combined. If previous rates of growth in bus travel had prevailed, there would have been 85.8 million passenger trips in 2014.

What happened? Well, the extraordinarily high cost of building light rail necessitated a reduction in funds available for bus service. Fewer buses could be supported.

Compared to buses, light rail serves a much smaller segment of transportation need. Buses can cover every corner of the city. Rail can cover only a few dozen miles in narrowly circumscribed corridors. Think of that.

Now it is touted that light rail will attract the white collar riders—the downtown crowd of bankers, lawyers, and corporate executives who won’t ride buses. This may be true, but why should the average taxpayer be forced to subsidize the rides of people who can easily afford their own transportation?

Does it make sense for people who depend on buses to have to walk further and wait longer in the burning sun just so the City can provide expensive rides for a few privileged individuals?

Vote No on Prop. 104.


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