On September 16, the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) released a study on the optimal supply and demand for transit in Canada. Although I may have slept through the local press coverage, I don’t think that there was much if any as other issues crowded out the story. One might ask why I’m bothering with it now, but I think this is worth talking about even though I don’t agree with the premise of the report.
Only the Executive Summary and Backgrounders are available on the CUTA website, and as a courtesy for copyright, I will not post the full version here. You will have to get it from CUTA if you really want it.
The principal conclusions as highlighted on the CUTA site are:
- The economically and socially optimal level of transit supply in 2006 would have required an estimated 1.7 billion vehicle-kilometres of transit service, or 74 percent more service than actually supplied.
- In 2006, capital investment of $78.1 billion would have been required to bring the supply of transit into line with the optimal conditions of supply in that year.
- Results of the analysis conclude that Canada is clearly underinvested in urban transit.
- Bringing transit to the optimal level of supply would produce several positive economic and social benefits – more than two thirds of these benefits constitute the economic value of reduced roadway congestion.
There is no question that higher investment in transit is required across Canada. However, there is a danger with any calculated “optimal” value that this will be taken as an upper bound. Moreover, the methodology of the study does not address future needs, only the situation that existed in 2006. It is based on average relationships between several economic variables taken on a national basis that almost certainly misstate the micro-level effects in urban areas. Continue reading