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Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
2004 Conditions and Performance
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Chapter 4 Executive Summary

Operational Performance: Transit

Average operating speed in 2002 was higher than in 2000, but below its 10-year average. Average vehicle utilization levels were lower in 2002 than in 2000, but the utilization of rail vehicle modes remained high in 2002 relative to the 10-year averages. Buses had the smallest decline in vehicle utilization from 2000 to 2002.

Average operating speed is the average speed that a passenger will travel on transit rather than the pure operational speed of transit vehicles. In 2002, the average operating speed for all transit modes was 19.9 miles per hour, up from 19.6 in 2000, but below the 10-year average of 20.1. The average speed for rail was 25.3 miles per hour in 2002, up from 24.9 in 2000, most likely due to a decline in vehicle utilization and shorter vehicle dwell times. The average speed of nonrail modes was 13.7 miles per hour in both 2000 and 2002.

Transit operating speeds, 1993 to 2002. Line chart plotting miles per hour over time for two categories of transit and total. The plot for nonrail transit operating speed starts slightly above 10 miles per hour and trends flat from 1993 to 2002. The plot for rail transit operating speed starts slightly below 30 miles per hour and trends flat from 1993 to 2002.

Most passengers who ride transit wait in areas that have frequent service. The 2001 National Household Travel Survey found that 49 percent of all passengers who ride transit wait for 5 minutes or less for a vehicle to arrive, and 75 percent wait 10 minutes or less. Nine percent of passengers wait for more than 20 minutes. To some extent, waiting times are correlated with incomes. Passengers with annual incomes above $65,000 are more likely to wait less time for a transit vehicle than passengers with incomes lower than $30,000. Higher-income passengers are more likely to be choice riders; passengers with lower incomes are more likely to use transit for basic mobility and to have more limited alternative means of travel.

Vehicle utilization is measured as passenger miles per vehicle adjusted to reflect differences in the passenger-carrying capacities of transit vehicles. Capacity-adjusted vehicle utilization levels in this edition of the report are based on revised capacity-equivalent factors, and, with the exception of buses, are not comparable to utilization levels reported in earlier editions. The revisions to capacity-equivalent factors did not affect year-to-year changes in utilization rates. On average, rail vehicles operate at a higher level of utilization than nonrail vehicles. Commuter rail has consistently had the highest vehicle utilization rate, and demand response the lowest.

Vehicle Utilization:
Passenger Miles per Capacity-Equivalent Vehicle
Mode Utilization
2000 2002
Heavy Rail697675
Commuter Rail863831
Light Rail546528
Vanpool577539
Bus393390
Ferryboat305294
Trolleybus257246
Demand Response188178

Passengers by waiting times. Bar chart plotting percentage values over five categories of wait times. For wait times of more than 20 minutes, the value is 9.1 percent. For wait times of 16 to 20 minutes, the value is 6 percent. For wait times of 11 to 15 minutes, the value is 9.8 percent. For wait times of 6 to 10 minutes, the value is 26.6 percent. For wait times of 5 minutes or less, the value is 48.5 percent.
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