Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cut It Out Already!!! Using Cost to Design a System Is Wrong

No no no no no more using existing rights of way to put together a cheap transit system. Stop talking about it in terms of money and stop thinking its a good idea to start out that way! If we want people to take transit we need good transit that connects to places people want to go. And these days there are very few existing ROW opportunities that do that.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article about what the region needs to do. It's a good push but the following should never be the start of a regional system.
Minimizing capital costs by extensively utilizing existing rail rights of way.
Existing rights of way mean commuter rail but before commuter rail is implemented, a good central city system needs to be in place to get people to all of their destinations. We're learning this from systems like Houston where an extensive core system is going to lead to a much more effective commuter rail system. This is also evidenced in the large rail cities like Chicago, Boston, New York, and DC. If you don't have central circulation, the commuter rail doesn't work as well. So cut it out already and do it right. We've learned so much in the last few years, why do we want to keep going down the same path?


Morgan Wick said...

I can't agree with you here.

For one, Seattle built a commuter rail system, opening it with two or three trips each way in marginal commuting hours, and its light rail isn't even open yet, but the commuter rail is still wildly popular. A commuter rail system is helped by local rail, but doesn't need it.

For another, you're kind of preaching to the choir here. To get the political will for transit projects, sometimes you need to make compromises. The pro-transit forces have advanced far but we still need to take baby steps.

arcady said...

Effective center-city circulation can be provided by frequent bus service, assuming the center is relatively small. This is pretty much the case in Seattle, where you can get off the commuter rail and hop on the incredibly frequent bus service to get to downtown proper. And existing rights of way are often useful: they were built where people needed to go, and that doesn't always change as much as you think. LA's wildly successful Blue Line was built on just such a right of way, and now carries some 80,000 passengers per weekday.

I think sometimes it makes sense to use an existing right of way, even if it means a less important line gets built first, but it's also better to build nothing rather than a useless line.

fpteditors said...

The problem is, we are trying to plan top-down while the market is skewed by auto-sprawl subsidy. Make transit free. You will see a natural progression.

M1EK said...

"wildly popular" in Seattle's case means that it carries a tiny fraction of what Minneapolis' or Houston's light rail lines do, even though Seattle's core is far more dense.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Seattle's line carries about 10,000 riders. Houston and Minneapolis as M1ek Pointed out carry 30-40,000 riders. Those are just one leg of the eventual in town network in those cities. When Commuter rail is complete in Minneapolis and Houston, it will be much more appealing because people can get to more places.

arcady said...

A commuter line with only rush hour service carrying "only" 10,000 riders is pretty darn good in my opinion. Look at LA, which does have a subway system and an extensive commuter rail network of 5 or so lines radiating from Downtown and one connecting two suburbs, and a daily ridership of only around 40,000.

Justin said...

GO Transit's Commuter Trains carry around 160,000 riders a day during the peak period.

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