You are here

Boston Choking on Transit Subsidy

Error message

Deprecated function: Required parameter $app follows optional parameter $decorators_applied in include_once() (line 3532 of /home/ethepmkq/public_html/drupal7core/includes/

I enjoyed wasting a lot of time playing the original version of SimCity. It simply but reasonably modeled the basic problems in city planning. As my town’s population grew, roads got so congested that commerce started to fail. So, like a good planner should, I would build transit lines.

Using cheat codes to give my plans an essentially unlimited pile of tax revenue to spend, I built block upon block of high-density buildings. Eventually, all the roads were replaced by transit lines. That allowed further increases in density, but, eventually, even the transit lines were choked by all the demand for traffic.

What I saw on my computer screen in 1990 is happening to Boston today:

Surging T ridership and booming construction around transit stations, the study from the Urban Land Institute found, are poised to overwhelm the MBTA, potentially limiting future development and slowing the regional economy.

Developers are clamoring to build in areas near public transit, and real estate trends, state and local policy, gas prices, and highway traffic are causing demand for the MBTA to grow faster than the regional population.

It’s just the same as in highway construction. No matter how much capacity is built, people will eventually overburden it. Capacity is a function of both the infrastructure and people’s tolerance for delay and congestion.

Communal transit boosters claim their mode offers an escape from traffic jams. It just pushes them into the future.

It is also worth noting that communal transit riders receive a far higher per-trip subsidy than auto drivers. If a trip on the T cost the rider anything close to the true costs of operation and infrastructure, this problem of over-demand would be decades away.