Why don’t more people take mass transit?

Minneapolis is a fairly dense city, Alex Cecchini writes on streets.mn, but Minneapolitans don’t seem to use mass transit to the extent one would expect.

He found 55 percent of the people in the zip codes he analyzed work within five miles of where they live, which should allow for a commute of 30 minutes or less by mass transit.

So why is that number drastically different than reality? The latest 3-year averages from the American Community Survey put mode shares at [Walk: 6.3%, Bike: 3.6%, Transit: 14.2%] for a grand total of 24.1% – a far cry from the potential.

Why is this? A few thoughts:

  • Parking is “free” (deducted from your salary) at many job sites, even in the city
  • Parking can be cheaper than 2-way transit fare in parts of downtown (thanks to city-subsidized lots/on-street spaces and low property tax rates on private garages)
  • Buses are slow relative to cars (ie not given the dedicated space they deserve, particularly at rush hours)
  • Buses are slow (ie not given proper station design, ticketing, and bus boarding/alighting methods)
  • Buses are confusing and are sometimes inflexible for users, a barrier to entry
  • Daily needs (day cares, groceries, etc) aren’t near transit or easy to handle by bus or bike as designed (example: no strollers on the bus, which makes bringing even one infant to daycare difficult)
  • Short-distance trips to suburbs from Mpls are not well-served by transit or quality bike infrastructure
  • Many parts of town (especially downtown) are at best highly unpleasant to walk or bike by
  • Certain modes are cheaper than they might otherwise be if they paid external costs
  • It gets both cold/snowy and hot/humid in Minnesota
  • Jobs sprawled away after population and highway investments. Barring complete abandonment of low-intensity land-uses in the suburbs, transit/bike/walk-accessible jobs will always have a capped (even with reverse-commuting possibilities)