The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2002

In General, Busway Patronage Estimates Tank Worse Than Rail

From the Cabalmaster:

According to a friend of the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal (in the transit business for more than 50 years), most busway patronage projections have fared far worse, even than that alleged for new rail lines. Trade journals such as Passenger Transport, various Environmental Impact Statements, and newspaper reports provide extensive evidence of busways failing to come anywhere close to their patronage projections.


South Busway Original estimate of 32,000 daily; now about 14,500 daily (–55%)

East Busway, 80,000 estimated, now about 30,000 (–62%)

West Busway, 50,000 estimated, now about 7,000 (–86%)

Los Angeles:

El Monte I-10 (HOV) Busway orginally estimate of 30,000 daily, got 20,000 (–33%)
Now Metrolink commuter rail line runs down median of I-10.

Harbor Transitway 63,000 estimate, now only 4,000 daily (–94%)

Blue Line LRT 54,000 in 1995; currently 70,000 daily (+30%) (3 miles east of Harbor Transitway)

The Wilshire Boulevard & Ventura Boulevard Rapid Bus routes are not on a busway, but rather running in mixed traffic with priorities at traffic signals.

Suburban Philadelphia

Ardmore 3,000 when Light Rail, 2,550 after conversion to busway.


South Miami Busway 8,000 estimated, 16,000 actual but so many accidents, buses must slow or stop for grade crossings. This is a feeder to the Miami heavy rail system from Homestead.

Rail's tendency to carry more passengers than projected is verified by orders for additional cars to carry the overloads. After release of the notorious "Pickrell Report" in the late 1980's, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) ordered changes in the alternatives evaluation process leading to far more conservative patronage estimates for new transit lines, whether rail or bus. Now patronage on new rail lines tends to be consistently underestimated with few exceptions. On the other hand, one new 1990's busway was successful (South Miami); a far more expensive project (West Pittsburgh) flopped miserably.

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