Forecasting patronage: it’s easy, isn’t it?

We’ve seen some high profile examples in recent years of how hard it is to forecast patronage on new transport infrastructure.

The Cross City tunnel in Sydney and the Clem 7 in Brisbane, for example, have both performed well below forecasts. Even when it was free, the Cross City tunnel did not approach the forecast volumes of 90,000 vehicles per day. Traffic volumes on the cross-river tunnel in Brisbane fell from almost 60,000 during the free period to around 20,000 in the first week of tolling.

Click to enlarge interactive map

California’s planned $42 billion High Speed Rail (HSR) project provides another example of the difficulties of forecasting demand. Although there are important differences between the design of the California HSR system and proposals for a Very Fast Train (VFT) between Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne, the former nevertheless has important lessons for us. I have previously discussed the VFT here, here, here and here.

A new analysis by the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Berkeley, found significant problems with the demand modelling and analysis undertaken for the California project by Cambridge Systematics (CS) “that render the key demand forecasting models unreliable for policy analysis”. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycling and walking on the rise in US

This graphic is from GOOD and is titled The Rise of Walking and Biking (click to enlarge). The supporting text says “You may be seeing more people out on the street walking and biking. But it’s not just because the weather is nice. There are more people walking and biking year round, and the Department of Transportation is responding by dramatically increasing the amount of money spent on projects for pedestrians and cyclists”.

The increase in walking and cycling has comfortably out-paced population growth. Nevertheless, the ‘headline’ message is the increase in expenditure by the US Department of Transportation on sustainable forms of travel – it has risen much faster than either walking or cycling (from $6 million in 1990 to $1.2 billion in 2009), particularly since President Obama appointed former Republican House of Reps Member, Ray LaHood, to the position of Secretary of Transportation.

$1.2 billion looks good, but bear in mind that President Obama’s budget request for FY 2010 is over $3.5 trillion.