One major claimed benefit of the Greenlight Pinellas proponents is that the train will decrease congestion on our local roads and highways. However, this claim is entirely false and data from a variety of cities prove that rail systems are associated with increased congestion. Furthermore, when rail lines are constructed, they are known to take actual paved lanes away from cars and money away from roads, both of which increase congestions. The recent No Tax for Tracks TV commercial urging a “No Vote” on Greenlight Pinellas pointed out that it was “FALSE” that rail will decrease congestion. Here is data that supports that assertion. (Can Greenlight Pinellas show any facts that prove that traffic congestion decreases with rail? We are all waiting.)
- More Cars riders with Portland Light Rail. In the first 12 years (86-97) after Portland’s “Max” train began operating, Portland saw more people transported by car while train passenger volume remained fairly steady. As economic upturn occurred in Portland (90’s and 2003-2006), traffic volumes went up even in areas also served by trains.
- Tampa-St. Pete Cars Faster than Similar Cities with Rail. Average Traffic Speeds during peak travel hours are faster in the Tampa-St. Petersburg Area compared to comparable sized cities with rail. (Tampa 59.1 MPH, Portland 49.2 MPH, Minneapolis 54.3 MPH, Charlotte 58 MPH, Denver 50.9 MPH). Despite similar highway speeds, travel times in Charlotte (with train) are 10% longer than in Tampa-St. Pete. In Denver (with train), travel times are 37% longer in a city with rail! (Page A-17 of report.)
- Tampa-St. Pete Cars Faster than Very Large Cities with Rail. Average Traffic speeds during peak travel hours are faster in the Tampa-St. Petersburg Area compared to “Very large” cities with rail, all of which are between 49.4-57MPH. (e.g. Tampa 59.1 MPH, Chicago 53 MPH, Houston, D.C.-49.4 MPH, L.A.- 48.6 MPH, Miami-56.7 MPH). (Page A-17 of report.)
- Rail Does Not Move People out of Cars. Light rail does NOT prevent people from buying or using cars. In Britain, the rate of car ownership and desire for cars actually continued to increase despite ample rail lines to serve the community.
- Roads Carry FAR More People than Rail. Detailed studies cited at the Transit site “The Public Purpose” shows: “The average freeway lane in US metropolitan areas that have built new light rail systems (since 1980) carries four times as many people per mile as light rail. Even signalized surface streets average twice as many people per mile as light rail.”
- Light Rail Systems are too slow to be an alternative to cars. Per “the Public Purpose”: “Light rail has a particular disadvantage in travel time. On average, during peak travel periods, light rail operates only slightly faster than buses and barely one-half as fast as automobiles.”