Have we reached peak transit?

Here’s the last interview, for now, on Sacramento Regional Transit, Measure B, and the future of public transit.

This interview is with Greg Thompson, a transportation researcher who has been working with the local government watchdog group Eye on Sacramento. Thompson was a professor of urban planning at Florida State University, served on the national Transportation Research Board, and worked as a planner for those early light rail systems in San Diego and Edmonton.

We talked about the reasons for RT’s steep ridership declines, and what fixes might help the system to win back riders. (Hint: more buses.) I ask if we’ve reached “peak transit” or if we can regain the ridership levels of a few years ago. Thompson thinks we can, but maybe not.

We also talked about Measure B, the transportation sales tax measure that’s on the ballot next month. Thompson is opposed, because he says it spends money on things like light rail extensions and streetcar, which are wasteful when the systems is cutting back basic bus service. And we even talked about the future of urban transit districts like RT as networks Uber, and, possibly, self-driving cars, begin to change urban transportation.

Further reading:

Here’s a taste of the kind of work Eye on Sacramento does, a report on Regional Transit’s spending.

Thompson’s history of light rail, pretty interesting

A look at how transit agencies are starting to integrate transportation network companies, like Uber, into their systems. Is this the future, or the end, of public transit. (Or both?)

And just for old times’ sake, here’s the ambitious Transit Action plan of a few years ago. RT leadership envisioned a much more robust system, with more and more frequent buses, bus rapid transit, several light rail extensions and streetcar lines. How hopeful RT was back then. Sigh.

You can hear other interviews on Sacramento Regional Transit and Measure B here and here.

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