And no, I’m not talking about the band.
I’ve been wanting to do this comparison for a while, just to highlight some differences in transportation networks between a mid-sized U.S. city and mid-sized German cities. I’m not sure to what extent this comparison is applicable to other U.S. cities, but I’ll be comparing Cleveland and Leipzig/Dresden as regards my journey from home to university in each city. From 2002-2003 I took classes at Cleveland State University (CSU) while living in Mayfield, an eastern suburb of Cleveland. I took public transportation every day to get to and from school. I currently live in Leipzig and study in Dresden and likewise take public transportation, albeit the regional express, on a daily basis.
From a spatial perspective this is an interesting comparison. Mayfield and Cleveland are obviously part of the same metropolitan region, either the Greater Cleveland Area or Cleveland/Akron depending on how you want to define it I guess. Leipzig and Dresden are part of the Central German Metropolitan Region which includes cities such as Chemnitz and Haale. Leipzig and Dresden each have a little more than 500,000 residents. Cleveland proper has a little less than 500,000 residents and Cuyahoga County about 1.2 million according to the American Community Survey’s 2011 one-year estimates.
So journey time is basically door-to-door travel time, meaning I’m including all transfer and wait times. I put together a couple of Excel tables showing the breakdown. For the journey Leipzig-Dresden I used scheduled travel times as found on the websites of the German Rail and DVB, the public transit agency in Dresden. For trips to and from stations and transfers I used my own experience and for wait times I took half of the headway times (time between buses/trains), which I think is a good average estimate of how long a person would have to wait for the next tram or bus. For the journey Mayfield-CSU I ran the route through Google Transit, which is the trip planning service linked through the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (RTA) website. Just to be certain I checked the times against the route timetables. I noticed a few things have changed since I was riding the bus in Cleveland ten years ago but I’ll get to that later.
The journey times are as follows:
The trip from Mayfield to CSU covers about 14 miles (23 km). From Leipzig to Dresden is approx. 76 miles (123 km). That’s a difference of 62 miles with a difference in journey time of only 25 minutes. The average speed from Leipzig to Dresden comes out to be 35 mph whereas in Cleveland it’s about 13 mph. I haven’t looked up the statistics on number of jobs or universities in each city but I would assume that with the available transportation network in the Central German Metro Region I have access to more employers and educational opportunities than I would in the Greater Cleveland Area with a similar travel time. At some point I’ll follow up with an isochrone map showing differences in accessibility based on available public transportation supply.
I noticed while looking up travel times on the RTA website that the trip from Mayfield to Downtown Cleveland has gotten considerably faster than it was ten years ago. I used to take the 7x, which doesn’t exist anymore, straight down to CSU without having to transfer and that used to take two hours without delays. I assume much of the improvement has to do with the Euclid Ave. corridor. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers what it used to be like when the 6 was running, often waiting 45 minutes just to see three full buses pass me by because they were too full to pick up new passengers. When it wasn’t morning rush hour I would have to take the 9 and transfer to the 6 on Euclid or depending on where I wanted to go either the Red Line or the 38 through Hough, both at University Circle/Cedar Rapid. In those instances the journey time was more than two hours.
Another big improvement, in my opinion, is the extension of the 7 down to Chester and 89th, enabling an easy transfer to the Health Line. It used to be the 7 stopped at Cedar Rapid. The 38 no longer goes to Cedar Rapid. It seems like the downside to that could be the loss of a transfer to the 48.
The best spatial comparison for the distance from Leipzig to Dresden would probably be Cleveland to Youngstown. Google gives me three routes if I were to drive, with an average distance of about 78 miles. The only public transportation option is Greyhound, which would take about two hours not accounting for my trip to and from the respective Greyhound stations.
A comparison of energy consumption is fairly interesting, if only to highlight the fact that living closer to your workplace or university is much more environmentally friendly than long-distance commutes. I took the numbers from this study (pdf) completed for the American Bus Association and converted them from btu (Table 1.1 in the document) into kJ. I used the average that is found in the table. For Intercity Rail, therefore, I come up with 2,206 kJ/pass-mi totaling 167,656 kJ for my trip from Leipzig to Dresden. For Transit Bus from Mayfield to CSU I used 4,478 kJ/pass-mi. meaning a total of 62,692 kJ for that journey. So even though journey time is approx. the same (ten years ago at least) my energy consumption was much less while I was taking the bus in Cleveland. Still, I feel like both journeys are rather unsustainable.
It’s possible that there are (major) differences in transportation technologies being used in Germany and the United States. Energy consumption data for Germany paints a whole other picture. According the table on this website (in German), converted into passenger-miles, the regional express (in the table under “Eisenbahn-Nahverkehr”) Leipzig-Dresden uses around 69,666 kJ and the bus (“Linienbus” in the table) Mayfield-CSU about 19,833 kJ. Perhaps the German bus fleet is a little greener or more trains run on electricity. I don’t have the answers but those are interesting questions. Maybe stuff for a later post.