Mass Transit Investment Grows as High-Tech Solutions Fall Short

Mass Transit Investment Grows as High-Tech Solutions Fall Short

The 2007-2009 recession inflicted massive damage to state and local government budgets and hampered investments in mass transit across the US. At the same time, the launch of transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber Technologies in 2010 and later Lyft, the potential of hyperloops, and promises of self-driving cars gave many public officials hope that the problems of urban transportation could be solved by technology. However, small and large hiccups along the way have shown that technological solutions could take much longer and deliver relatively limited solutions towards fixing the ailing transportation systems of many US cities.

Learning the Limits of Technology

Revenues for the US taxicab and limousine industry – including ridesharing services – saw 11% annual growth over the 2010-2017 period. This growth was fueled by the expansion in the number of drivers willing to provide ridesharing services. The number of nonemployer taxi and limousine establishments expanded strongly from 2010 to 2017, highlighting the growth of independent driver contractors that provide rides using the technology provided by TNCs. However, while many consumers have benefited from new and convenient ridesharing services, it may have worsened traffic problems in many cities. Furthermore, fully autonomous self-driving cars that could serve as taxis 24/7 and reduce the need for car ownership – proposed as a potential solution to urban traffic problems – are not likely to reach critical levels of usage in the near future or even to become available for unrestricted use on city streets, because the technology faces many obstacles for urban driving. Finally, hyperloops – trains that travel in underground tubes at very high speeds – also face major feasibility questions.   

Cities Expanding Mass Transit

In the face of growing traffic problems, many cities are attempting to address the capacity shortage in mass transit systems as well as trying to catch up on needed maintenance. For instance, a relatively large investment is taking place in Los Angeles, where the city is expanding the geographic reach of its subway and light rail system, with an expected completion date of 2028, as the city will host the summer Olympics that year. In December 2018, TexRail will begin to operate passenger service from Fort Worth, Texas to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. In 2021, Boston plans to begin service on its 4.7 mile Green Line light rail extension; ground breaking occurred in June 2018. Looking forward to more proposals, Houston officials plan to ask voters in November 2019 to pass a ballot initiative that provides $3 billion to institute two-way bus service along many freeways and funds a light rail expansion.

Learn More

For more insights into the US public transport industry, see Public Transport: United States, a report published by the Freedonia Focus Reports division of The Freedonia Group. This report forecasts to 2022 US public transport revenues in nominal US dollars. Total revenues are segmented by type in terms of:

  • scheduled and chartered air
  • taxicab and limousine, including ridesharing services or TNCs
  • cruise and ferry
  • sightseeing and charter bus
  • mass transit, including commuter bus, commuter rail, light rail, mixed-mode, monorail, subway, and tramway (also referred to as trolley or streetcar)
  • intercity rail (e.g., Amtrak)
  • intercity and rural bus
  • other passenger transport services such as employee, paratransit, school, senior, and shuttle

To illustrate historical trends, total revenues, the various segments, the number of firms and establishments, and employment are provided in annual series from 2007 to 2017.

The scope of this report includes the revenues of employer and nonemployer establishments. Revenues represent the transportation of passengers and their belongings; freight is excluded. Rental of light vehicles, bikes, or scooters is excluded from the scope of this report.

This report includes the results of a proprietary national online consumer survey of US adults (age 18+). This Freedonia Focus Reports National Survey has a sample size of approximately 2,000, screened for response quality, and representative of the US population on the demographic measures of age, gender, geographic region, race/ethnicity, household income, and the presence/absence of children in the household.

Key macroeconomic indicators are also provided with quantified trends. Other various topics, including profiles of pertinent leading suppliers, are covered in this report. A full outline of report items by page is available in the Table of Contents.

Related Focus Reports include:

About the Author

Leon Mengri is a Senior Market Research Analyst with Freedonia Focus Reports. He conducts research and writes a variety of Focus Reports, which offer concise overviews of market size, product segmentation, business trends, and more.