My Twitter feed has been abuzz again this weekend. This time with news of a study that shows a reduction in auto traffic (and emissions) following startup of a light rail line (in Salt Lake City).

This is apparently a first. Not having a demonstrated result like this has always been an arrow in the quiver of rail skeptics. I’m sure they’ll find ways to dispute this study… or just call it an outlier.

While I’m happy to see this, I’ve always thought this was an elusive thing to show, primarily because any passengers diverted from their cars were likely to be replaced from a pool of latent demand (I strongly suspect that Highway 26 in the Portland region works this way). So High Capacity Transit’s big benefit was in absorbing new demand in a corridor, not in diverting existing demand.

But maybe, and I’m just guessing here, in the light of declines in driving nationally, the pool of latent demand is diminished and we can actually show HCT taking demand away from SOVs. Wouldn’t that be nice!

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