Cab medallion prices continue to rise

Fifteen months ago, I noted that Chicago taxi medallions were selling for about $77,000.  Now, per the May ’08 issue of Chicago Dispatcher,  the median price increased in April (based on data thru April 22) to $125,000.  That’s a 62% increase in 14 months– with no increase in fares (altho a gas surcharge which was allowed subsequently doubtless was anticipated).

Of course the medallion owners, as such, contribute nothing to the provision of transportation, but they do impose a cost on passengers and/or drivers.  Limiting the number of cabs doesn’t increase the earnings of drivers.

News search engines; transit and traffic too

Last night I decided to avoid Red Line delays by taking route 147 north instead.  Everything was pretty fine until we approached Loyola.  All traffic was diverted in both directions.  Cars were going west (to where?).  Buses were just sitting there.  Although there seems to be plenty of room to u-turn and reroute to Clark Street, apparently cta wasn’t able to do this. Or maybe Clark was too congested.

I got off the stopped bus, walked up to the blockage, the entire street was closed off with yellow tape, tho sidewalks were open.  No indication of what happened, so I went upstairs to the red line (which was performing its own delays, but restored service after a few minutes).  So why was the street blocked?

This afternoon I used and to answer that question.  Searching for “sheridan” and “loyola”, google was unable to come up with anything relevant, while yahoo linked to four articles (well, actually four copies of two articles) which explained that pedestrian had been killed crossing the street.   (Even googling for the name of the victim yielded nothing.) Which doesn’t explain why buses could not have been allowed thru while the investigation was conducted.

Bus Rapid Transit and Land Values

Network effects seem to be the main impact of bus rapid transit on land values, at least according to a Lincoln-supported study of Bogota, Colombia.  The analysis suggests that an extension of BRT service in 2003 may have had little impact on land prices in the area of the extension, but greatly increased land costs in an area which was already served by BRT previously.   The explanation could be a network effect– as the area served by BRT expands, the value of access to the system also expands.  A 15%- 20% increase in “property” value was found.   Obviously if one were looking only at land value, the percentage would be higher. Also, the data source was asking prices rather than actual transactions.

The study is described here (free registration required, or use bugmenot) , and a more detailed working paper is here (ditto).  The basic finding is that, yes, you can expect to fund transit from a land value tax, and it can be appropriate to use systemwide funding sources to pay for extensions.

I would have said that there is no “bus rapid transit” service in Chicago, but I can’t refute the wikipedia claim that the McCormick Place Busway is BRT.  For regular transit passengers here, however, there are no bus routes which are isolated for any distance from automobiles and other traffic.

Legitimate academic to study transit funding

Lincoln Institute reports that they have granted a fellowship for work on Sustaining Mass Transit through Land Value Taxation: A Case Study of Chicago. Lincoln requires registration (free) to read the article that says the project will focus on the South Chicago USX site but will also “estimate the impact of transit accessibility on land values in the Chicago metropolitan area.” MIT Graduate student Shan Jiang will work with Prof. P. Christopher Zegras on the project.

From what I can find, Zegras has done quite a bit of work on transport funding, mainly in Latin America, and doesn’t seem to have any particular interest in land value. Although I have already estimated that RTA-funded rail transit alone generates something over $1.3 billion land rent annually, Zegras will have greater financial and technical resources and should be able to develop a better estimate. We shall see.

Transit funding will cost >80,000 jobs

That’s the estimate I came up with in the revised and quite enhanced version of HGS Research Note 5a. I’m using parameters estimated several years ago in a study of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Maybe the actual number here would be a lot more; I wish someone would do the analysis. This loss is expected to occur by 2014; further losses would follow.

If RTA really needs the funding, I estimate we could do it with a land tax that would cost the typical homeowner maybe $40/year, with renters essentially paying nothing. For $290/year, the homeowner could do away with all transit taxes, and fares too. No jobs would be lost; some would be gained.

By comparison, Chicago Metropolis 2020, in their surprisingly thoughtful study Time is Money, estimate that fully funding all the transit spending that RTA wants, plus some “smart growth” changes in land use arrangements, would add 22,307 jobs by 2020. They do not discuss how the funds would be obtained, although the study does note that a doubling of gasoline prices– which might be achieved thru taxation– would have great benefits for transit use.

Underground Woman: My Four Years as a New York City Subway Conductor

Why does the Chicago Public Library have five copies of H Roger Grant’s history of the demise of the Erie Lackawanna? And why are all five copies in the HWLC (main library)? I have no idea, but they really were all on the shelf when I looked. I borrowed only one, browsed around a bit, and found Marian Swerdlow’s book referenced above (1998, Temple University Press). Swerdlow was (and apparently remains) a labor activist, and was among the first women to work operating jobs for the NYCTA. Not an elegant or well-edited book, but very absorbing for anyone interested in the subject. Because Swerdlow’s transit career ended more than 20 years ago, some of the information– but probably not much– is doubtless out of date. Continue reading Underground Woman: My Four Years as a New York City Subway Conductor

More on transit delays and funding

The good news is that, since October 4, not a single CTA bus has broken down while I was aboard (and yes, I have been riding buses, not every day but often).

The less good news is that this morning a minor fire (or at least smoke) aboard Purple Line Run 503 delayed inbound service 20 minutes during the AM peak.  The problem was aboard a 3200-series car, CTA’s newest.  I don’t know the specific details of the fire, perhaps it was unavoidable, but it doesn’t seem to be due to the age of the equipment.

RTA prefers parking to transit

Whoops! Update from Sick Transit– RTA can tax only fee offstreet parking, and would have to eliminate its sales tax to do so.  Still might not be a bad move…

Earlier post was:

Yes, the RTA has authority to impose and collect a parking tax, per 70 ILCS 3615/4.03 . As one commenter stated at Sick Transit Chicago, RTA chose “a service meltdown over exercising the authority it does have” to tax parking.

I don’t consider a parking tax the best way to fund transit, as its economic objectives could be more efficiently obtained thru a land tax. But it’s better than a sales tax, and it’s already authorized. If RTA’s main purpose were to support and improve public transportation, this would have been done.

How transit can fund itself

It’s simply a matter of retrieving some of the benefits that transit creates.  I have (finally!) put together estimates of land value and transit funding desires, to show how a land value tax for transit might work.   It looks as if a typical homeowner, for $290/year, could get all her transit paid for– not just the subsidy, but the fares, too.  Other options are cheaper.  Details here.

Why can't CTA maintain buses?

Earlier I wrote about how Pace maintenance seems much more competent than cta’s. Since June, five cta buses have broken down while I was aboard. Two were the small Optima buses, none more than a year old, and three were articulateds that I think are about three years old. Pretty clearly, cta is either unable to maintain their buses, or perhaps unable (or unwilling?) to figure out how to purchase equipment that will hold up.

Today’s breakdown was the first that happened right on Lake Shore Drive. The driver managed to pull over safely, invited everyone to get off, and waited to flag down a follower. The condition of buses was discussed. He, not I, pointed out that Pace buses don’t break down.

So I repeat my proposal: Let Pace take over one cta bus garage.