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the urban politician Oct 15, 2008 1:16 AM

Gas prices are dropping. I'm guessing these ridership gains may not be sustained

alex1 Oct 15, 2008 4:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3855946)
Gas prices are dropping. I'm guessing these ridership gains may not be sustained

Some will go back to their cars but I'd be surprised if not a majority of new riders stay on mass transit.

The trend definitely seems to be on the side of mass transit. For reasons ranging from environmental, road overloading to weening off our dependence on foreign oil. Price is a huge part of the whole equation but not the only one.

Ch.G, Ch.G Oct 15, 2008 7:36 AM

^ I think once people get past that barrier of unfamiliarity with mass transit they're more likely to continue to use it. I mean, it's not like gas still isn't expensive. Still, it'll take a drastic and sustained increase to really push ridership numbers (and, consequently, pressure on the pols) up to where we want them to be...

nomarandlee Oct 15, 2008 11:48 AM

Quote:

http://www.suntimes.com/news/transpo...-hov15.article

Blagojevich wants to establish 'free-flow' toll lane
TOLLWAYS | Gov wants to set aside ‘free-flow’ lane for those who share rides, drive hybrids — or pay more

October 15, 2008

Are tollway drivers ready to carpool?

Gov. Blagojevich thinks so.

He will announce a plan today to allow people who carpool or drive hybrids to use specially designated express lanes on Illinois tollways.

Under the plan, the Toll Authority will introduce "Green Lanes" into the busiest segments of the tollways. The idea is to reduce congestion and create "free-flow" lanes that would reduce braking and acceleration, thereby cutting emissions.

If approved by the tollway board, the lanes -- to be designated from existing lanes -- could be in place by 2010.

Carpool lanes are in use in more than two dozen urban areas around the country, including New York, Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles, so Illinois is coming late to the game.

"This would be an important tool for congestion relief," said Joseph Schwieterman, DePaul University transportation expert. "It's inexplicable why our region hasn't tried these techniques before."

The lanes are not always popular, though, especially when carved out of existing lanes. In California in the 1970s, angry drivers dumped broken glass and nails onto the Santa Monica Freeway to protest new high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

Since then, California politicians have only approved HOV lanes when they add to a highway's capacity, said Martin Wachs, an HOV lane expert.

The HOV lanes have increased carpooling and reduced congestion in Southern California, but one San Francisco-based study found HOV lanes actually made congestion worse in the Bay area.

The Illinois proposal appears to capitalize on a new twist in carpool lanes, high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes that allow solo drivers to use the lanes -- if they pay more.

In the proposed Green Lanes, solo drivers would be charged a yet-to-be-disclosed premium rate above the existing cost of a toll for the right to use the lane.

But cars with at least two people inside -- as well as buses, hybrids and electric or fuel cell vehicles -- would pay the current I-Pass rate.

Tolls would be deducted electronically from vehicles, although details on how the tollway would differentiate between types of cars or count how many people are inside were not disclosed.

Carpoolers would drive in the left lanes, which would be marked with stripes or diamonds but not walled off from the regular lanes.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero noted there is technology in other states that uses heat sensors to count car occupants.

Also to be announced today are plans for new interchanges, including an interchange between I-294 and I-57 in the south suburbs.

The Green Lanes and interchanges are budgeted at $1.8 billion, to be financed by bonds backed by a toll increase for commercial vehicles in 2015 and new toll rates for single-occupant vehicles in the Green Lanes. Those new rates weren't revealed.

In California, solo drivers pay up to $10 to drive 11 miles in a HOT lane of one L.A.-area freeway. The premium price fluctuates in an attempt to keep the express lanes at optimum traffic levels.

The lanes have been derided by some as "Lexus Lanes," but they help pay for themselves with the higher rates and give drivers an option, albeit a costlier one.

"They have been extremely successful, but it's only been done in relatively few places," said Wachs.

The idea for carpool lanes in the Chicago area has been studied in the past -- and rejected. In 1994, a plan to add HOV lanes to the Stevenson Expy. was killed. Mayor Daley at the time said the state's plan would have diverted money away from city streets.

JUMP INTO THE HOV

Aimed to relieve congestion, High Occupancy Vehicle lanes are exclusive to those who have more than one person in their car. Those drivers on Illinois tollways riding alone would pay a higher toll.
on Urb's point about gas prices I am also a bit concerned. It is such a catch 22. When the economy gets bad you are likely to have lower gas prices and when the world economy (and likely U.S. economy by extension) are good they prices will tend to be higher. Pick your poison I guess. I liked Thomas Friedmans idea about setting a price floor for gas though as a solution. Otherwise prices are just seem to volatile to set macro policies and initiative solutions around.

http://www.charlierose.com/guests/thomas-friedman
@ 15:00 min. in

the urban politician Oct 15, 2008 1:41 PM

^ The fine print about the new HOT lanes:

It's essentially raising tolls. (cheaper lanes get more congested b/c there are fewer of them, thus more and more people are tempted to use the HOT, thus paying higher tolls. The HOT lanes eventually get more congested but remain just a little bit LESS congested than the regular lanes, enough to continue to attract drivers who pay the higher prices.) And yes, I'm sure it will encourage at least a percentage of people to carpool.

I'm glad Chicagoland is finally doing this. It certainly has the congestion in place to justify it.

One other note:

High gas prices are also partly the reason why Metra couldn't afford to increase frequency of services, etc. Perhaps the lowering of gas prices will finally open a window to make that possible?

VivaLFuego Oct 15, 2008 2:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3856750)
High gas prices are also partly the reason why Metra couldn't afford to increase frequency of services, etc. Perhaps the lowering of gas prices will finally open a window to make that possible?

Of course not! :)

alex1 Oct 15, 2008 5:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nomarandlee (Post 3856641)
on Urb's point about gas prices I am also a bit concerned. It is such a catch 22. When the economy gets bad you are likely to have lower gas prices and when the world economy (and likely U.S. economy by extension) are good they prices will tend to be higher. Pick your poison I guess. I liked Thomas Friedmans idea about setting a price floor for gas though as a solution. Otherwise prices are just seem to volatile to set macro policies and initiative solutions around.

http://www.charlierose.com/guests/thomas-friedman
@ 15:00 min. in

prices aren't set by the conditions of the economy. Instead, they are loosely set by OPEC by calculating a risk/reward scenerio by dictating amount of production. I'm sure the clout oil companies have on government in the U.S. is also a point of negotiating the final price.

So, at what point does the price of oil encourage a society to really challenge how we pursue future energy policies? Current trends have pushed to see where those boundaries lie.

Marcu Oct 16, 2008 1:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nomarandlee (Post 3856641)
on Urb's point about gas prices I am also a bit concerned. It is such a catch 22. When the economy gets bad you are likely to have lower gas prices and when the world economy (and likely U.S. economy by extension) are good they prices will tend to be higher. Pick your poison I guess. I liked Thomas Friedmans idea about setting a price floor for gas though as a solution. Otherwise prices are just seem to volatile to set macro policies and initiative solutions around.

http://www.charlierose.com/guests/thomas-friedman
@ 15:00 min. in

I disagree with Thomas Friedman and especially with the idea that price floors are necessary since crude prices are too volatile to set macro policy. Friedman's approach deceptively makes sense, but in reality it is a highly oversimplistic view of the market. It also relies on the fact that 90%+ of the American public has never heard of futures and has no understanding of basic economics.

Most institutional users, including airlines and bus fleets, buy gas futures for the exact reason that they do not want to deal with the volatility of gas prices. Further, macro policy is long term and is therefore based on aggregate data. A renewable energy startup surely doesn't rely on day to day crude price changes in their financial models. In addition, the volatility Friedman is talking about is just as great, if not greater, with every other commodity, including gold, corn, and every other raw material in the world. Policy makers don't seem to have a problem setting macro policy with regard to every other issue in the world and startups don't seem to have any problems adjusting. So why with oil?

Friedman's issue is he sees energy startups spring up when prices are high (every summer) only to fold when they are lower (every winter). Of course in reality, the startups will have to be able to compete long term with oil without massive subsidies if they are to have a chance anyway. So Friedman is simply asking the public to subsidize the less efficient and less necessary startups with the most inefficient and regressive subsidy possible.

ardecila Oct 16, 2008 3:18 AM

How is a price floor a subsidy? I suppose the reduced gas sales and increased supply will lead to a loss of tax revenue for the government, but it's not exactly like the government is spending money to support an unprofitable business.

Marcu Oct 17, 2008 9:30 PM

^ It sets a minimum floor price at which gas producers have to sell their gas. So producers aren't forced to price compete and are able to take profits that resemble those of a monopolist rather than an actor in a competitive market. It also results in excess supply of gas, or surplus, that gets pumped and refined but not sold since too many producers are willing to produce at price levels higher than the equilibrium. So producers are taking higher profits, consumers are paying more, and we got a surplus of product.

whyhuhwhy Oct 18, 2008 12:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by alex1 (Post 3856320)
Some will go back to their cars but I'd be surprised if not a majority of new riders stay on mass transit.

The trend definitely seems to be on the side of mass transit. For reasons ranging from environmental, road overloading to weening off our dependence on foreign oil. Price is a huge part of the whole equation but not the only one.

I think a lot of people are trying out mass transit and realizing that Chicago will become colder than a witch's tit pretty soon here, and will go back to their cars rather than standing outside in arctic weather. I started taking transit again two weeks ago because it just made sense to me and I already have a bad cold unfortunately from standing outside in the cold mornings, which is not good when you are a doctor. This cold weather is only going to get worse. It would be different if the El system was all underground but it is well exposed to perhaps one of the coldest cities on earth.

On the subject of "price flooring" to help out gas price volatility, isn't that why companies buy futures in the first place?

Edit: Marcu already said it.

VivaLFuego Oct 18, 2008 6:36 PM

^ As far as the trains are concerned, most if not all outdoor stations have heat lamps.

Also, transit ridership is usually measured as year-over-year, since both routes and systems have their own cyclical variations. It gets cold every winter, so that alone probably wouldn't account for much of a year-over-year decline in ridership unless it's unseasonably cold/awful, which has little to do with oil prices or CTA service.

Jaroslaw Oct 19, 2008 9:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3863034)
^ As far as the trains are concerned, most if not all outdoor stations have heat lamps.

Also, transit ridership is usually measured as year-over-year, since both routes and systems have their own cyclical variations. It gets cold every winter, so that alone probably wouldn't account for much of a year-over-year decline in ridership unless it's unseasonably cold/awful, which has little to do with oil prices or CTA service.

I doubt the heat lamps are working yet. And the bus stops are of course the majority of public transit stops in Chicago.

This has nothing to do with year on year changes... it has to do with the new condition of higher gas prices, a one-time event, i.e., an unexpected new variable, leading people to try out rapid transport. Moreover, you use the year on year statistical perspective to obscure the fact that one reason for the low popularity of public transit in Chicago is the inconvenience or hardship of using it in the winter.

Your persistence in denying or explaining away any criticism of public transit is ultimately counterproductive. You do not engage the real-life, practical experience of transit users; your arguments seem to come out of a bureaucratic void. For transit to catch on, we have to do better than this. Instead of your PR-like, "Oh, there are heat lamps"--if whyhuhwhy is a doctor, one should give him credit for having tried out the heat lamps--the more productive answer would be, "Yes, the elevated el stations are exposed to wind because often they are open to the elements. The el platforms should be shielded from the outside, as they are on above-ground lines in Asia... this is unfeasible in Chicago because of X and Y, and this is what we should try to change."

Nowhereman1280 Oct 19, 2008 6:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jaroslaw (Post 3863954)
I doubt the heat lamps are working yet.

Actually, they are working already, the ones on at red line for sure were on last night. Its unusually early for them to be on, but sure enough they were...

ardecila Oct 19, 2008 8:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jaroslaw (Post 3863954)
The el platforms should be shielded from the outside, as they are on above-ground lines in Asia... this is unfeasible in Chicago because of X and Y, and this is what we should try to change."

A retrofit program would be quite expensive, but building all new aboveground stations with a system of platform doors would eliminate this problem, and make platform heating possible. For example, I would like to see the new Morgan, 18th, and Cermak stations built with platform doors. These stations, because they are surrounded by mostly 1 and 2-story buildings, would receive quite a bit of wind. Also, the stations with roofs, like upper Clark/Lake or Merchandise Mart, would be relatively cheap to retrofit with platform doors.

Also, if the North Main Line ever gets rebuilt like the Brown Line was, it too should have these installed.

Or, what about much cheaper measures, like wind-breaks? A plexiglass wall on the outside edges of the platform would cut down quite a bit of wind.

Jaroslaw Oct 20, 2008 2:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3864604)
Or, what about much cheaper measures, like wind-breaks? A plexiglass wall on the outside edges of the platform would cut down quite a bit of wind.

That's exactly what I had in mind...

Mr Downtown Oct 20, 2008 1:50 PM

Are there any station platforms that don't already have clear acrylic windbreaks?

dbrenna5 Oct 20, 2008 2:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 3861759)
^ It sets a minimum floor price at which gas producers have to sell their gas. So producers aren't forced to price compete and are able to take profits that resemble those of a monopolist rather than an actor in a competitive market. It also results in excess supply of gas, or surplus, that gets pumped and refined but not sold since too many producers are willing to produce at price levels higher than the equilibrium. So producers are taking higher profits, consumers are paying more, and we got a surplus of product.

A price floor would decrease profits by decreasing the quantity demanded. They would still have to compete with each other; producers have to compete at any price unless they have more market power. A price floor would not necessarily increase any producer's market power and would not increase profits to producers.

VivaLFuego Oct 20, 2008 4:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jaroslaw (Post 3863954)
Your persistence in denying or explaining away any criticism of public transit is ultimately counterproductive. You do not engage the real-life, practical experience of transit users; your arguments seem to come out of a bureaucratic void. For transit to catch on, we have to do better than this. Instead of your PR-like, "Oh, there are heat lamps"--if whyhuhwhy is a doctor, one should give him credit for having tried out the heat lamps--the more productive answer would be, "Yes, the elevated el stations are exposed to wind because often they are open to the elements. The el platforms should be shielded from the outside, as they are on above-ground lines in Asia... this is unfeasible in Chicago because of X and Y, and this is what we should try to change."

I'm not trying to be difficult. I think my 1000+ rides annually on CTA (not to mention the many transit trips taken while traveling) give me plenty of perspective to critique CTA service. I just don't see how winter this year will impact ridership any more than winter does any other year.

I'll give your point a shot, though. One of the problems with the heat lamps at rail stations is that they're so high. On the coldest days (e.g. <20F) they are too high to adequately provide warmth for people standing on the platform below - at a few stations there's a bench nearby that people inevitably wind up standing upon to get closer to the heat. In Chicago, this is necessary because if the heat lamps are reachable by hand, the heating element and metal grating will be stolen instantly, just like anything else that isn't bolted/welded down (and bolting only works if you use an obscure drive type e.g. Torq/Torx and apply enough tightening force that machine power is necessary to unbolt it). Between the theft risk and the maintenance involved, this is also why heat lamps are unfeasible at bus shelters, though I could imagine it's the type of idiosyncracy Daley could latch onto and have installed at downtown shelters.

VivaLFuego Oct 20, 2008 5:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3856750)
High gas prices are also partly the reason why Metra couldn't afford to increase frequency of services, etc. Perhaps the lowering of gas prices will finally open a window to make that possible?

Getting back to this topic, Metra actually will be increasing service... by adding three roundtrips on Saturdays on the SWS line. Half funded by Metra, and half by additional discretionary funds from RTA.


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