By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 28, 2013
New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman just posted a blog that links to a National Bureau of Economic Research paper, finding that while public transit carries only a small share of American commuters, it has a disproportionate effect in reducing congestion.
[C]ommuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes. So even the small number of people taken off the roads has a surprisingly large effect in reducing travel delays.
These results are particularly relevant for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, given the relatively small modal share of transit here, as it addresses the argument that unless large numbers of people switch to transit it won't have an impact on congestion.
Congestion is a non-linear phenomenon, so relatively small shifts can have a big impact especially if the road network is close to capacity. This is what they saw in Stockholm, where modest highway tolls led to a significant modal shift and free-flowing roads during rush hour.
Note the dig at conservatives who hate transit because they see it as collectivist and inhibiting freedom. That would be the freedom to be forced to pay lots of money for a car because there are no other options; the freedom to waste huge amounts of time traveling from place to place because of sprawl or sitting in traffic jams because of congestion; and the freedom to be forced to subsidize a government built and run road network.
Apparently Margaret Thatcher refused to take the train for this reason.
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