The only public transit agency in the world* which makes a steady profit is the MTR in Hong Kong. To get a handle on Hong Kong’s population density, imagine moving the populations of Chicago, Aurora, and Joliet into Naperville — and, oh, cutting a really deep harbor through the middle.
Urbanized area of Hong Kong Island: 16.1 sq. mi.
Urbanized area of Kowloon peninsula: 18.1 sq. mi.
(Note: the above two areas are separated by one of the world’s busiest harbors, with just six fixed crossings, half of which are run by MTR.)
Population of above urbanized areas, 2005 est.: ~3.28 million
Total urbanized area: 34.2 sq. mi.
Population of Chicago, 2005 est.: 2,842,518
Population of Aurora, Naperville, and Joliet, the next three largest cities in the area (2003-2006, est. and Census): 443,176
Combined population of four largest Chicagoland cities: 3.285 million
Area of Naperville: 35.5 sq. mi.
You can either have profitable transit or suburban sprawl; drivers who say “hike the fares” can’t have your sprawl and eat it, too.
Oh, and 63% of MTR’s profits (and thus the funding for its capital costs, although many of its capital costs are also directly paid for by the government; note the financing sources for the line extensions mentioned at SEC EDGAR) come not from operations, but from real estate development — just like the old streetcar empires of yore.
Speaking of real estate values, nice quote in a Crain’s piece by Brandon Glenn:
“Whatever makes it harder for people to get to their jobs is bad for the city,” said Tom Kirschbraun, managing director of the real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle Inc… Chicago’s hub-and-spoke transit system gives it a competitive advantage over most other U.S. cities, Mr. Kirschbraun said. “If you start dimming its effectiveness bit by bit, that competitive advantage starts to dwindle bit by bit,” he said.
* Tokyo’s privately owned subway systems are also profitable. I’m not sure about the public systems outside Tokyo.
Left at Hyde Park Progress.
Actually, curtsy, your facetiousness has grounding in reality.
Vancouver increased its downtown population from 47,000 to 85,000 residents from 1991 to 2005. In 1992, 62% of people entering downtown did so in cars; 23% aboard transit. By 2004, only 39% of people entered downtown by car, with 30% arriving on transit. (In fact, despite the growing number of people, the number of cars declined!)
The really astonishing growth, though, was in walking and cycling, which doubled from 15% to 30% of entries in just 14 years. What were eerily quiet streets are now bustling with commerce. [figures from Vancouver presentation to SLC gov’t; slides 30-34]
I might also mention that the world’s one profitable subway is in Hong Kong — and most of its profits come from real estate adjacent to the stations rather than from fares. (It also serves an urban area nearly ten times as dense as Chicago.)
[Ten times as dense. Think about that for a moment: where you see three apartments today, imagine thirty. That forgettable four+one down the street? Imagine one of Presidential Towers’ towers there instead.]
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