Well - 400 million fewer miles of driving? Curious as to where they came up with that number. My guess is the major contributor is likely higher unemployment numbers during the study period from 2006-2011 (people who don't work tend to drive fewer miles - as our daily commute makes up the bulk of time we spend behind the wheel). In fact, area unemployment climbed from ~4.5% to 8.25% from 2006 to 2011 - so the decrease in miles driven makes sense because people aren't going to drive to/from their former place of employment.
Additionally, during that time, it's likely that people started driving less by combining trips to the store to save on increased fuel costs - which rose from about $2.50/gal to $4.00/gal from 2006 to 2011. I'd say yes, that's a travel habit change - but mainly out of economic necessity to try and stretch what less disposable income they have.
Again, travel choices aren't being dictated by "doing the right thing" for the environment - but out of fiscal necessity. Fewer people are working and the cost of fuel is increasing.
Unfortunately, RGRTA and GTC are attempting to capitalize on these numbers to justify their own existence and funding by saying "hey - more people are choosing to ride the bus" (they're not - the bus they've been taking all along is now being provided by someone), or "hey - more people are taking their bikes". Again - where do these numbers come from? Very few people are taking their bike to work to begin with, especially in February. So this .4% increase probably means 10 more people are now biking to work increasing the very small pool of a few hundred existing bike commuters (if that) - most of which are doing it because they are unable to drive a car for reasons in my last post. A handful more people out of a very small minority opting to do so doesn't signal a major habit change.
These numbers and charts look impressive in press releases and board meetings to justify more funding (disclaimer - I used to work for RGRTA... so these aren't pie in the sky assumptions). But in reality the shift in travel habits is very insignificant. You'll see a corresponding increase in miles driven as unemployment numbers decrease, along with a corresponding increase as fuel prices either decrease or stabilize.
RGRTA's numbers are misleading. The reason for the significant jump in ridership is due to a long-term contract with Rochester City Schools to transport students who previously got to/from school with a private yellow school bus company. Also factor in the contracts with area colleges for local transportation that was once provided by private, college and/or student government provided transportation. The only thing changing here is the provider of transportation, and not travel habits.
Take away the school and college kids and the actual increase in discretionary ridership (i.e., those who opt to leave their car home and choose to take public transit) is actually quite insignificant. Public transportation will always be primary the carriage of choice for those who do not have the means to afford or acquire other sources of transportation due to financial hardship, criminal sanction (i.e., loss of driving privileges due to DWI), and/or physical disability.
Sure, these numbers are good for RGRTA's public relations and bottom line who has increased revenue from sources other than state transit operating assistance dollars - but let's not go to lengths to say travel habits have voluntarily changed either. The numbers who voluntarily take the bus or bike to work is statistically insignificant.
Two lessons learned here:
1.) In states with Stand Your Ground laws, bad guys need to be put on notice that they can and will be shot if they try to harm or kill someone without provocation. The intent is to create a deterrence. I hope the bad guys in Florida have taken notice. Even in states with higher bars for the use of physical deadly force for self defense, such as NY, 1 to 3% of the population around you is armed with a legally registered and concealed weapon at any given time. In states with more relaxed gun laws, those numbers are higher.
2.) The question to black-on-black homicide - which represents around 95% of all homicides with black victims, has yet to be answered. The Martin/Zimmerman brouhaha was nothing more than a side show to detract from the real problem of violence against black people perpetrated by other black people, to which no one can seem to find a viable solution. Going after George Zimmerman and his brethren is a solution in search of a problem that doesn't really exist. The real problems are socio-economics (i.e., inner-city poverty), single-parent households, "ghetto" culture, a generous social services system, and a weak criminal justice system that gives offenders light slaps on the wrist and too many 2nd chances. However, fixing these problems are inherently politically incorrect and goes against the grain of Democrat politicians who rely on the disadvantaged to sustain their political careers.
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