"The decline means Americans are consuming less fuel and emitting less CO2 (tailpipe emissions), which is a positive development," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in an interview with Reuters. "But it is a challenge to how we fund transportation today."Hmmm...
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Mr Pečený’s view is shared by the man currently redesigning Wenceslas Square, Jakub Cígler. The Prague-based architect says that reintroducing trams would transform the ‘dead-end space’ into a ‘living thoroughfare’. Indeed, streetcars did historically wend their way up and down the boulevard, until as recently as the 1980s.I didn't get a picture when I was there, but here's one to set the scene.
Flickr by TJFLEX2
Linda Johnson questioned Nixon's light rail talk during her answer. "I think we need to get real here," she said. "The economy today is in a crisis, so the bottom line is, where's the money coming from?"
Why not from money that would usually go to freeways to nowhere? Seems to me if the economy is shot, you're not going to need those freeways for a while anyway. With more people taking transit and gas getting more expensive, its time to shuck the excuses.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
But the highway mentality and misunderstanding of investments for people versus cars are still out there.
Jeanne Whitworth, wearing a dark blue jacket and skirt, settles into a Sprinter car at the Oceanside Transit Center, awaiting the four-stop ride to Rancho del Oro, where she lives. Whitworth, who works in downtown San Diego, commutes weekdays on both the Sprinter and the Coaster, a conventional Amtrak-style train, which intersect at Oceanside.
The two trains take an hour and a half. Whitworth, 42, could be home 15 minutes earlier if she drove there from Oceanside. "But I don't have to fight the traffic," she says, and she's saving a tank of gas every month. "It's like getting a raise."
Cooke, a retired Marine Corps major-general, contends that $500 million would have been better spent adding two more lanes to six-lane Highway 78. He's also critical of the train's taxpayer subsidy, saying that everyone riding the Sprinter "is getting a free ticket to some degree."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Looks like a nice tram no? Maybe a bit like a caterpillar or worm. Well Skoda has come out with a T15. Not to be confused with Luke Skywalker's T16 which bullseyed womprats, I'm not a huge fan of this new offering. At first look, it reminds me of the Peugeot my parents had when I was a kid and looks kind of like a bus rather than a train. Obviously with all the "bus that looks like a train" comments on BRT going on out there I'd like for trams and LRVs to be destinctive. But decide for yourselves. What do you all think?
The most recent entrant? Salt Lake City
Fresh from a Northwest transit tour of Portland, Seattle and Vancouver with 28 city and business officials, Mayor Ralph Becker says a new streetcar network, beginning in downtown, is a priority for his freshman administration.This is in addition to plans for Seattle, Minneapolis, Portland, Washington D.C., Ann Arbor, and a study starting soon in Fort Worth.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Parker wants to bundle three projects. The first is an 11-mile extension of the Lynx to University City, which is now projected to cost $900 million. The commuter rail line to the Lake Norman area could cost between $250 and $310 million. CATS is also penciling in $50million to improve the existing light rail line. It wants to extend station platforms to handle three-car trains and also wants to buy additional rail cars.It seems like these package deals are starting to catch on as regions are seeking to build more than one line at a time. The FTA is going to get more of these after they made the deal that they did with Salt Lake City paying for 20% of their four lines.
In August 2007, FTA and UTA executed a Memorandum of Understanding to set forth their mutual expectations for Federal financial participation in two of five projects that comprise UTA’s “Transit 2015 Program.” UTA was seeking a combined $570 million in Section 5309 New Starts funding for the Mid-Jordan and Draper LRT extensions. In return, UTA made a commitment to build, by 2015, the West Valley City and Airport LRT extensions, as well as the South Front Runner (commuter rail) extension without Federal financial assistance. The current total capital cost estimate for the five projects in the Transit 2015 Program is $2.85 billion.Now CATS will try a similar deal getting more out of the process. What this tells me is that the process that exists now doesn't really work for regions. They are looking to fill in the gaps that were missing in the last 60 years and there is just not enough money from any source to do it.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
"Amtrak loses $2 billion a year subsidizing food," Mr. Coburn said. "There are a lot of great reforms in this bill, but you're missing $2 billion. Nobody's going to not ride Amtrak because a beer costs a dollar more."I have a feeling it has to do with his hate of rail transit. I'm sure like his other colleagues he doesn't mind subsidizing roads. He's also blocking Metro funds. Never seen that before from him.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Now Prop 5 from the time sounds awfully familiar as well. Ripping out all those tracks sure did help traffic in San Francisco.
The subway steps they are walking up are right in front of my office. They were filming one day and I didn't know what it was for. Now I know, and I like the result. More biking = healthier lifestyle.
Monday, September 22, 2008
WYCK: George, the quailifications for this scholarship were suppose to be… largely academic.
GEORGE: I'm sure we're all aware of the flaws and biases of standardized tests.
WYCK: These aren't standardized tests - these are his grades.
GEORGE: Besides, Steven Koren has the highest of aspirations. He wants to be (pauses for effect) an architect.
WYCK: Is that right?
STEVEN: Actually, maybe I could set my sights a little bit higher.
GEORGE: (Laughs) Steven, nothing is higher than an architect.
STEVEN: I think I'd really like to be a city planner. (Sits down, addressing the entire foundation board) Why limit myself to just one building, when I can design a whole city?
A subway under Geary downtown and through the Western Addition, surfacing at Steiner Street, was proposed as early as 1936. It would have used conventional streetcars, and, had it been built -- at a then-projected cost of $13 million -- it might have forestalled the automobile expressway.How much would a similar subway cost today? In the billions of dollars. It's needed but expensive. If we don't do it sooner, it will have to be done later, and at an even greater expense. Such is the cost of waiting. If we had done it before, the tunnel would be there for good and we wouldn't have to lay down billions.
I also suggest reading Transbay Blog's excellent write up.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
* An industry-high 81% of automobile were shipped by rail, the most fuel-efficient means of product transportation.
* CO2 emissions from automobile transport were reduced by 5,493 metric tons though the use of more fuel-efficient Auto-Max rail cars.
Mayor Mufi now faces Kobayashi in the November election and it has been billed as a Rail vs. BRT showdown. On the ballot is a yes or no question of whether to go with steel wheels on steel rail. It's possibly the silliest transit question on any ballot ever, but its there and people are going to vote. A more pressing question in a city denser than most others in the United States should have a rail system, however the technology for the rail should be a bigger question. An automated guideway like Skytrain in Vancouver which is under discussion or a typical metro or light rail system that could be operated using interchangable parts that are not proprietary. I'd personally like to see more of that discussion.
The fact of the matter is that with a higher turnout it is likely that Mufi will win and the rail will pass. The reason being that most people support the rail transit solution and a defeat will only come when numbers are diluted or rail backers do something stupid, which isn't out of the realm of possibility. The next vote however will be on whether they should go with adamantium or steel for the rails themselves. After that, the voters will decide on whether the computer chips in the trains will be Intel, AMD or an abacus.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
St. Louis - An election is being held to give Metro a half cent more in order to keep up with operating expenses and expand Metrolink, the region's light rail system. It's called Proposition M.
Santa Fe - A Sales Tax to extend Rail Runner into the city from Albuquerque.
Oakland/Berkeley - AC Transit is looking to raise the parcel tax $48 annually to pay for operations. This measure is called VV. KK is also on the ballot and would allow AC Transit to build BRT on Berkeley streets.
Los Angeles - This would be a half cent sales tax for capital expansion. It's called Measure R.
Sonoma Marin - SMART will go back to the polls to ask for an 1/4th cent sales tax to build a commuter rail line. It is called Measure Q.
Honolulu - Island residents are being asked whether they approve of a steel on steel transit system. (Crazy huh?)
Kansas City - A half cent sales tax is on the ballot to build a starter light rail line.
Seattle - Prop 1. I'm not going to be covering this as much except for some crucial updates. I'm sure the boys at STB got it covered.
High Speed Rail - $9.9 billion dollar bond for a statewide high speed rail line. This one is Prop 1a.
If I am missing something let me know. I'll be live blogging into the night until we get the Hawaii results. It's still a bit of time away. But I'll be reminding everyone every once in a while to keep your minds off the presidential election.
Examples of the meme recently:
And "light rail" was and continues to be aimed as a partisan, fear-laden phrase against Milwaukee and its urban, Democratic majority on conservative talk radio and in some Republican-dominated suburbs.Mayor Barrett:
"I think it's driven by conservative talk radio," Barrett said. "There are many people who are suffering because of ideological opposition to rail. ... If you listen to conservative talk radio, you'd think having some sort of rail in Milwaukee is the end of Western civilization as we know it."Letter to the Editor:
Maybe the service cuts down the road will wake people up. The year 2010 promises a 30% cut in bus service and elimination of the freeway flyer service. The proposed 1% sales tax is the most feasible answer to saving our bus system. The Milwaukee County Transit System is the only system of its size that totally relies on property tax. A sales tax increase would be paid not only by county residents but anybody who visits Milwaukee County. We are not in the hell-hole talk radio talks about.
And that money, at least historically for big transit projects, comes from familiar coffers: the federal government, which supplied the bulk of funding for previous MetroLink expansions. Plesko said many blame Metro for not wanting to build in Madison County, when in reality it's the lack of federal support preventing it.I often complain about the federal process and the new starts program because Todd Plesko is right, they are awful. But so are MPOs. They have enormous power to program more money for transit and less for roads than they let on, but people have been so lopsided in focus on automobiles that if you dare take away thier highway money you're the devil.
Plesko said the Bush administration has severely sliced funding for light rail projects in recent years, forcing cities hungry to expand systems to lobby heavily or chalk up the cash themselves. "If you want federal funds, then you must compete for them. The current administration makes it really hard to get light rail," Plesko said.
Yes the feds could help out a lot more than they are and they should (This means you congress, not just the FTA). They should be at the forefront of a national transit movement, especially now. And I honestly don't see how with a wonderful system like Metro in Washington people still can't see the benefits of capital transit investments. They must be rather blind. But we must get more money out of the MPO and somehow fix it so that regions stop spending on the periphery and start spending in the core.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The proposed system involves a 100 percent fare box cost recovery. Imagine: no subsidies for operation and maintenance costs.Because why build one to see if it works as advertised when we have computers!
The much-touted San Jose light (sic) rail recovers just 10 percent of its O & M costs. A.C. Transit recovers just 30 percent. BART recovers so little, it survives on a $250 million annual subsidy.The CyberTran System, already off the design boards and proven feasible in numerous computer simulations, is ultra-light and involves no grade crossings. Instead, the few intersections encountered are all safely grade-separated. Why? Speed and safety.
An August 2007 study by the Federal Transit Administration entitled “Contractor Performance Assessment Report” compared average weekday boardings for completed projects with the predictions made during the EIR process. Of 19 New Starts projects (mostly light rail), 16 had boardings below the forecasts, with some as low as 20-30 percent of forecast figures.First off, the busways in this study were either in freeway right of ways like Houston or built on an existing freight right of way as a new road like in Pittsburgh. These bear no resemblance at all to the arterial running Oakland BRT plan and should not be compared to them as much as I think these first generation busway projects show that buses are no replacement for rail.
Ridership forecasts for busways performed even more poorly, according to the report, where “none of the available busway forecasts proved to be accurate. It appears from the limited sample that forecasts of ridership on busway projects . . . will not exceed 41 percent of the forecasts.”
This is a document that was done a number of years ago but recently cleaned up and released by the Bush administration folks under Ma Peters. It was a follow up to the famous Pickrell Report which was used by wingers and libertarians alike to say that transit was worthless. But as Todd Litman notes, you can't take the start number and compare it to the end when you have design changes in the middle of the plan among other things.
Studies by Pickrell (1992) and Flyvbjerg (2005) suggested that many earlier rail transit projects exceeded projected costs and failed to achieve first-year ridership predictions. But much of what Pickrell classified as cost overruns where actually adjustments due to design changes...The FEIS numbers are also from the late 80's early 90's when ridership models for transit were still being honed due to the fact that we had just started building transit projects again after a long time off with a few metro subway lines in between. I'm not going to say things were perfect and there were some mistakes made, but I feel like now the FTA is starting to overcompensate for that. Recently ridership has been going over estimates like Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis etc etc. In this report, the ridership estimates are extrapolated which make it look a bit worse if you look at the numbers without looking at the year they were forcast for. I'll also note that building automated guideways was a bad idea back then. 6% of ridership is really bad.
Ridership forecasts are developed to reflect trips in a particular year. For eleven of the twentyone projects included in this study, the ridership forecast year remains in the future (as of this writing).
The Capital Costs aren't anything different from what you would find with major freeway projects. Some over and some under the final estimate. But my main problem is using this report against transit at all, especially since the processes are completely different now. I know this report will get used again against transit at some point in the future, but I really wish it wouldn't, because without context, its worthless.
But on to the report. Here's the first zinger.
It is possible that HSR can serve legitimate public and environmental purposes and be a financial success in California. However, the current CHSRA proposal cannot achieve such objectives.I'm not sure what other CHSRA proposal they were referring to, like they were proposing another one? Perhaps we should wait 20 years right? Because it will be so much cheaper. Why do they even say this when they don't even believe it.
Here's another favorite:
It should give pause that previous HSR projects have been halted in three states—California (for Los Angeles–San Diego), Texas and Florida. The federally sponsored HSR program for Boston– New York–Washington serves only a fraction of its projected ridership and carries a fraction of the passengers that European and Japanese lines carry.Because you can compare real high speed rail with a line that barely gets over 100 miles per hour. Apples to Apples right? And how about the Texas comparison, where HSR was stopped by airline lobbiests for Southwest Airlines, because they were so scared of what it would do to thier business.
I could go on but you really don't want to read my rant. If so inclined you can read the report for yourself. It's pretty gross and has a lot of generalizations.
And yes...they play the fear card.
Terrorism against rail targets is a concern considering the extent of attacks that continue to occur on rail systems around the world.Typical of current culture warrior thinking. When you can't win with the facts, try to scare people.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
H/T Mike Lydon
Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
"This project is nothing but a black hole on the backs of the taxpayers," said Robert Dean of the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance.Project Name - Verb - Black Hole
Eighty-six percent of transit zones are either more economically diverse, more racially diverse or more diverse on both points than the average census tract (when the comparison area is either the average of all central city tracts in the region if the given transit zone is in the central city, or the average of all suburban tracts in the region if the given transit zone is in a suburb). This is especially true in regions with extensive transit systems — Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco — but is not limited to these cities. Diverse transit zones are present in all transit regions, including Dallas, Cleveland and Syracuse. Furthermore, 59 percent of residents near transit are people of color.This backs up my point that in order to increase income diversity around transit, we need to have more extensive transit systems. That way, it doesn't become such a niche market. A few other findings from the report:
Diversity is found in central city transit zones and suburban (non-central city) transit zones, suggesting that the low transportation costs and the increased accessibility that transit offers supports diversity in both urban and suburban contexts.I suggest reading it, but those are the basics.
Neighborhoods near transit provide housing to a greater share of the region’s lower-income households than regions overall.
Transit zones support important segments of the population in terms of both housing tenure and household size.
Transit zones have a greater than average proportion of homeowners who spend more than 30 percent of income on housing: 35 percent versus 31 percent.
Transit zones provide important mobility opportunities — and the economic benefits that accrue from it — that allow people to live with fewer cars. In three-quarters of transit zones, households have one car or less. In some small transit systems, fully 100 percent of transit zones house a majority of households with one car or less. This low rate of auto ownership is true for higher-income households in transit zones as well as lower-income ones.
Transit zones provide important environmental benefits given their high rates of non-auto travel to work and low rates of land consumption per household.
In the next car, Biden told another passenger that “If we get elected, it will be the most train-friendly administration ever.”Actions are always better than words, but this is the right direction.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Bruce Wayne: Did you build this train, Dad?
Thomas Wayne: Gotham's been good to our family, but the city's been suffering. People less fortunate than us have been enduring very hard times. So we built a new, cheap, public transportation system to unite the city. And at the center...Wayne Tower.
Bruce Wayne: Is that where you work?
Thomas Wayne: No, I work at the hospital. I leave the running of our company to much better men.
Bruce Wayne: Better?
Thomas Wayne: Well...more interested men.
That said, I got to work today by . . . riding my bike. And I got to work Friday by . . . riding my bike. Indeed, I commute to work on my bike most every day. And to buy groceries. I use it, in other words, to transport myself from place to place. That sounds a lot like transportation to me.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Mr. Galipeau said the city has been fixated on short-term bus solutions for years, when the long-term answer is to build rail to major population centres. "Buses are a Band-Aid solution. I think they're dead-set on buses. I don't think they really believe in light rail," Mr. Galipeau said.
So here I'm about to toss out another crazy idea that I'll need help from my economist friends to see if it is really possible to do. I'll use the Minneapolis streetcar network plan as an example. We know there is not enough funding to do it all at once. If we use Detroit's recent fundraising success from local businesses as seed money, one corridor exists to fuel the others. The fueling is in real estate transfer taxes off of the increase in value that is created by the new streetcar line. Since infrastructure such as the streetcar has been seen to add value, it's only fair that some of that value be reinvested in other areas that will receive similar infrastructure. So bear with me here as I go through the process.
1. Do an initial study to figure out the streetcar network. Once completed this will serve as the base funding area for engineering. A basic TIFF district for the whole in town streetcar network would serve as a base for the rest of the plan. The district boundaries will stay because they will be used later.
2. The Detroit instance shows that businesses and foundations are interested in their cities future. They have raised 75% of an initial $100 million in Capital Costs for a new line down Woodward. The first line should try to pull in money from outside entities and use that line to feed the others.
3. Before the first line is constructed though, a baseline is set on real estate costs in the area defined by the very small increment TIF district that was initially used for the engineering studies. This baseline would be used to calculate a real estate transfer tax that allows the streetcar network to capture the value of rising real estate values along the line. There should also be a transportation fee for new square footage. I believe that San Francisco for a long time had a fee that went to Muni at 5$ for every new square foot in a building. These linkage fees could be tied to parking reductions so its not as much of a burden on the developer, and leaves money for other endeavours such as affordable housing.
4. After completion of the first line using funding raised locally, the rising coffers funded by the transfer tax and linkage fees from the first investment go into the construction of the second line in the district. Once the second line is complete, the real estate around that line goes to the third line and so on starting off a chain of funding that creates the network. Over a 20 year period, I believe it would be possible to build each line.
I also think that if a plan like this was created, it would create more incentive for the federal government to help out if this were tied to a national strategy. So there is the idea. Funding one line at a time by fueling one line at a time as a primer for the next one.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
This is related to decisions we make in the United States to invest in future infrastructure. Just as my old coach decided it was a good decision for his future to take a head coaching job, it is a good decision to build high speed rail for the future. My point in the comparison is that there will never be a good time to make such a decision for some people. There will always be concern trolls that say well it's a good idea but we have other obligations. Decisions aren't easy. I learned long ago with the help of my parents that at some point you have to make them. And putting them off sometimes makes things worse in the long run.
Comments like this from assembly candidate Danny Gilmore will always be made: "I am in favor of high speed rail, but I don’t think this is the time for high speed rail" For him and others who oppose the project, there will never be a good time, which is why we need to make this decision now, to support investment that will help us in the long run, because as I said, putting off a decision now, will create more problems in the future. As some of you might have found out in college, procrastination is always the strategy of last resort. As Robert always says, the Cost of doing nothing is not zero.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
There's a bit of a problem though, If Austin's commuter line skirts downtown and comes in on the edge, this line doesn't even come into San Antonio's downtown. If this is what is envisioned, it would be a horrible idea. I've said this before and I'll say it again, just because there are tracks, doesn't mean passenger rail should be on them. I wish we would stop being cheap about infrastructure. Go where the people want to go. Below the newspaper cutout, is a map of the rail line and the main part of the Riverwalk downtown. You can see how far and how many obstacles separate the line from the people.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
In fact, one doesn't have to be concerned about climate change at all in order to support such policies; values of fiscal conservatism and localism, both key to Republican ideology, can be better realized through population-dense development than through sprawl. Tom Darden, a developer of urban and close-in suburban properties, said Wednesday, "I'm a Republican and have been my whole life. I consider myself a very conservative person. But it never made sense to me why we would tax ordinary people in order to subsidize this form of development, sprawl."This is something I've always thought, if so concerned with fiscal conservatism, why is sprawl so pervasive? Part of the problem perhaps was communism in the 50's. Whenever you read opposing blogs or "conservative" thought in the comments, you always hear communism. I often wonder, if Moscow and Eastern Europe didn't have high rises and expansive transit networks, would we hear a different argument for sprawl? Probably. But who knows.
I do know that Representative Mica has been pretty supportive in the past. And its heartening to hear his comments. The FTA isn't helping.
But the federal government is a hindrance as often as a help, Mica admitted, throwing years worth of bureaucratic red tape in front of states that want to construct light rail lines. "As the federal government, we're a very unreliable partner, and we haven't decided what our policy is," Mica said, adding that he has been working since 1989 on building one light rail line in his central Florida home district, and expects to see grandchildren before the project is completed.This is what causes cost overruns. Of course things are going to go up in cost when it takes 10 years to build a light rail line. You should blame that on the FTA and the political appointments of Bush, rather than the transit agencies that want it done quicker.
But they can't do it alone. TOD needs transit. It needs a well connected network, one that most cities don't have. I think that TOD in cities with good transit has proven its worth. New York, Washington DC, San Francisco. But we can't expect cities to have inexpensive TOD everywhere when its a niche super hot market that is under built and there is no T. It's starting to look promising since the space race is heating up, but there's a long way to go.
This post was a reaction/commentary on Steve Hymon's TOD posts.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require building of a hyperspatial express route through your system, and regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for destruction. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.
Oh, there’s no point acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years. You’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint, and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now.
Find your light rail city here.
Find your heavy rail city here.
Find your commuter rail city here.
Nothing of big interest. The next quarter is going to be where the sparks fly. But Portland and San Diego are at 113,000. Not bad for 3 line systems. Imagine 6 lines and a streetcar network. Then we're getting somewhere closer.
Walker told The Milwaukee Journal in a 1999 story that it would be OK with him if multiple, major transportation projects in a package that might include Milwaukee rail had to die together to keep light rail from being built.
I'll think of other ways to help folks out in this way. I'm sympathetic. But I also like the black and red.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Ron Utt, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said transit is "inconsequential in terms of reducing congestion or greenhouse gases" and that people who want to use transit should simply pay more. Citing the example of a Washington-area commuter rail, Utt said: "If more people want to use that and more people have to stand, I don't know why that should place a financial burden on people in Iowa."Sure Ron, that's why almost a million people per day take Metro in DC. I have a really great idea, how about people pay the true cost of gasoline or roads or airlines. Let's also make people pay directly for air traffic controllers and the highway patrol. And why should I pay for a rural road in Iowa? All transportation is subsidized, let's stop the favoritism towards one mode and pretending that cars pay for themselves.
Typewriter Typewriter Typewriter!
Then there is our favorite cipher, Randal O'Toole. His most recent call is to cancel the Denver Fastracks program claiming it's bad for the environment and social engineering. You know, the usual junk.
Environmentally, light rail is a disaster for the region. For every passenger mile carried, light rail consumes four times as much land as Denver-area freeways. It also uses more energy and emits more greenhouse gases, per passenger mile, than the average SUV.I don't know where he gets this one. But as Mr. Setty at PublicTransit.us reminds us, transit actually reduces passenger miles overall. Randal's twisted logic lumps in the construction of the line when he never talks about the construction losses of highways and the vehicles that drive on them. What about the construction of all those parking garages?
O'Toole, many academics and other anti-transit activists understandably do not wish to discuss the wider, systematic impacts of transit on transportation patterns and land use. One key study estimates that for every passenger mile on transit, slightly more than two urban vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is suppressed or foregone. This study documents the connection between transit and lower vehicle usage that has also been documented in dozens of other studies. This effect is particularly significant when less than 40% of U.S. residents have easy access to transit at the present time.But what annoys me the most is that stupid no one rides transit argument. Well no one has the option to take it! New York City has transit, people take it. Washington DC has a rather good subway system, people take it. But when the green argument for him fails, he can always fall back on social engineering. You know, the kind that took place from 1950 to the present when cities built roads only and subsidies were funneled to development related to roads.
The other support for FasTracks comes from those who want to socially engineer Colorado lifestyles. They use light rail as an excuse to build tax-subsidized high-density housing projects on properties taken from their owners by eminent domain near planned rail stations. Yet few Americans aspire to live in such dense housing, and such compact development makes little sense in a state that is 97 percent rural open space.Hmm. No one in Colorado wants open space, just build on it. I'm sure John Denver wouldn't mind. And no one wants to live in high-density housing projects, that's why TOD commands such a low price premium with buyers. No one ever wanted to live in LoDo right? What about all those road, pipe subsidies.
Cars Cars Cars. Sprawl Sprawl Sprawl. Sounds like Drill Drill Drill.
see more pwn and owned pictures
How many of you have seen this type of bad building in your cities around transit? This example above isn't directly transit related, but it shows how sometimes we just aren't doing it right. I took a class in college where my professor discussed universal design, whereby we create places that are accessible for people with disabilities, without having to make special accommodations. It's as easy as making the front door level with the ground without putting in a step.
In the transit world, this means low floor buses/trains and lower ramps. The Portland streetcar and its ramp is a perfect example, it doesn't take a huge lift to get wheelchairs into the vehicle, and it doesn't take 10 minutes to load someone up either. As far as I know, low floor light rail vehicles are now the norm rather than the exception. Some places are even ultra low floor such as this Siemens ULF in Vienna I got to ride.
A leading energy specialist has reported to the California High-Speed Rail Authority that the state's proposed high-speed train system can run with zero greenhouse gas emissions. The zero emissions strategy report was presented by Navigant Consulting Inc, a leading consultant on the energy, electric power and natural gas industries at the Authority's most recent board meeting held in San Diego. At the meeting, the Board adopted a renewable energy/zero emissions strategy for the high-speed train project.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
A lot of people I have talked to seem shocked by this whole focus on oil when things are coming forward that would allow us to help the environment and save us money, or at least keep the money we spend in the local market. This in a way can be related to what Joe Cotright said Portland experiences in their green dividend.
H/T Think Progress
Saturday, September 6, 2008
However Amtrak makes you get off at Richmond if you want to BART into the city. There is also a bus from the Emeryville Station but that isn't so direct and could be eliminated with better service. What would be nice to see is a direct link from Amtrak to the West Oakland Station or BART extension to Emeryville. Emeryville is emerging as a dense city willing to go up because it has no other choice. It also attracts lots of retail and major employers because of its inexpensive tax burden compared to Oakland or Berkeley. This is a no brainer connection that would increase BART's reach while also increasing Amtrak's reach. You can see the current transfer and how indirect it is removed Emeryville is below.
I think a more comprehensive metro system would be better to connect all the places but the MTC and others haven't been talking a lot about real core capacity increases like they should. The easiest would be to build a small loop track for Amtrak next to the West Oakland BART station. There's room and you could even use the aerial rights to pay for the small improvement and transfer station. This would pay off huge. West Oakland is the best connected station in the East Bay with more trains coming through than any other station. With the Amtrak Connection, you could get from Sacramento directly downtown without much waiting, considering the 2 minute headways into San Francisco at West Oakland in the mornings. Also, its a faster way to Oakland than from the Richmond Transfer, which is good if you're going to Berkeley. This would be a very cost effective option in my opinion to make Amtrak more attractive and might even create the need for even better service.
Ma Peters derided earmarks as the reason for the shortfall. I think earmarks have gotten a bad name in the transportation world and is a catch phrase used by all for waste. However, its hard to complain about earmarks when they are actually being used to circumvent awful policy, such as the one discussed below where highways get 80% funding and transit projects less than 60% funding.
Yeah there are some bad earmarks, but I bet she would lump in bad transit earmarks with ones that are made because of her awful New Starts policy.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Last year, in response to language contained in appropriations committee reports, FTA instituted a policy favoring projects that seek a federal New Starts share of no more than 60 percent of the total project cost—even though the law allows projects to seek up to 80 percent—in its recommendation for FFGAs. According to FTA officials, this policy allows more projects to receive funding and ensures that local governments play a major role in funding such projects. FTA describes the 60 percent policy as a general preference; however, FTA’s fiscal year 2005 New Starts report suggests that this policy is absolute in that projects proposing more than a 60 percent federal New Starts share will not be recommended for an FFGA.They will not fund anything over 60%. That is unless you make a deal like Salt Lake City where they will pay 80% for one project but it will equal 20% for all projects. Hopefully this helps folks realize that while highways still get 80% and bankrupting their funding account, the mass transit account has only been allowing 50% or less matches over the last 4 years. It's actually been lower in certain instances with Dulles asking for 30%. Why the feds are able to kill that project when they aren't even close to the majority financial stake is beyond me.
According to statistics, China plans to build 65 urban rail lines with a total length of 1,700 km through pouring a huge sum of CNY600 billion into UMT construction through 2015, In light with its near term UMT development layout. In the past several years, the three Chinese metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou all have advanced in a rate of building 30 to 50 km annually.50km (31 miles) annually?? Per city?? Imagine if we built 50km of subways annually here. Obviously they have some issues with environment and antiquities but this type of investment and movement is surely amazing to the United States which takes ten years to build a line.
But it can help both if planned appropriately. If you know what happened in previous situations, you can plan for accommodating all parties. The value captured due to the infrastructure investment could pay for the transit, or even new affordable housing offsets. This is the possibility in Calgary, where property values rose 628%. That is double what housing prices rose in general. Amazing.
H/T to PC
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Toronto is planning a $55 billion dollar transit investment. Our cities are hardly discussing a few billion per region in transit over the next 20 years, yet Toronto is planning a steady $2.2 billion a year for 25 years. Some of it is quite controversial such as an east west subway line, but its interesting that they are talking about a multi-year investment for a single city that is larger than the federal share of funds for all cities in the United States.
Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, calls it an example of the "West Coast offense." The approach, which Morris says is used in some western states, calls for pooling money from various revenue sources for use on whatever transportation projects are most needed. Currently in Texas, each source of money is dedicated to a specific use, such as motor fuel taxes being devoted to build highways.Expect to see more "West Coast offense" in North Texas, especially if the Legislature approves a plan being assembled by local officials to finance a regional rail transit system.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Houstonians will still lack a reliable, affordable public transit option to get to the region's two major airports. Such links are a primary function of commuter rail in other cities.It's nice to have a link to the airport, but they aren't the primary function. But let's talk about the reality of airports in an energy constrained future. Given that flights are having trouble currently with gas prices, I can't imagine what would happen when it gets even worse. Building lines to airports just to go to the airport seems a bit silly to me, at least when people are fighting over such small amounts of funds as it is and shorter flights could diminish extensively. If we were a place like Vienna with an existing extensive transit network, we can build lines directly from the Airport to the major subway transfer station downtown.
But for Houston, the North Line could be eventually built to have an express train on tracks that serve the neighborhoods to the North. But hopefully by that time there will also be High Speed Rail in Texas. Now we're just voting on it here in California, but if it were to happen in Texas, it would not stop at the airport but downtown at the commuter rail and light rail hub. And when you get off of that train, it is more important to have a network that gets you to all of the major job centers (orange below) and places of housing density in the core of the region rather than have an easy link to the airport. Christof always has wonderful maps...
Now they are looking into commuter trains and complaining that the inner-city network is shortsighted. Well what happens when those people get to the hub downtown on those commuter trains without a circulation network? I would guess less ridership because their trip ends there, they aren't going to hop on a bus to get to other parts of the city. It seems to me they are actually quite smart in fixing up the light rail network.
Long-distance commuter rail lines could relieve growing traffic congestion on area freeways, but there is no single agency empowered to plan and build them. Some major roadway projects, such as the recent Katy Freeway expansion, include no provision for future rail systems.Not that commuter rail isn't needed on some corridors, but Houston has rather good express buses that take HOV lanes downtown from the far flung suburbs. My dad took one of these downtown to work every day which brought me more appreciation for transit. In addition to these existing facilities though, commuter rail could prove to quicker to get through the process of construction than light rail making the initial city circulation network genius. The issue of networks and overlapping service needs to be addressed more extensively, because we keep having these suburb, urban debates when we need to bring every different type for their strengths and build them all together. As discussed before, you wouldn't build a freeway without arterial and local streets, so why would we do that with transit modes?
Of course its going to take a large chunk of green to make this happen but how else are you going to build people moving capacity for increased density along the line. Here's the badge again, if anyone wants to use it.
Monday, September 1, 2008
I take the line at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. That’s not bad for a guy in a suit and tie. We’re a rare breed on the busways of Los Angeles and a segment of the population that the MTA wants to attract. I live near one end of the line at the Chandler subway in North Hollywood and work at the Business Journal at the other end of the line in Warner Center.So he's even reverse commuting away from downtown Los Angeles but to another major job center that is surely growing. Yet the end to end run time is getting slower. As said before, the Gold Line is the same length and 15 minutes faster. It's also been able to take the ridership hit because of two car trains and now we see ridership jump to 27,000. Over the last year, that's a 39% increase versus the constrained 8% of the Orange Line.
And the buses seem to be getting slower. It’s supposed to take 45 minutes to cross the Valley on the Orange Line. It’s five minutes longer than that many times. That may not seem like much, but if I’m spending 50 minutes traveling I might as well be in my car and in control.Sure the Gold Line was a bit more expensive to build but the Orange Line won't be able to take much more growth, so something will have to be done soon that will make the Orange Line much more expensive than it had to be. Hopefully things will get fixed before more people start talking like this.
The point of all this: I don’t really want to ride the Orange Line anymore under these conditions. A champion of the service has become disillusioned. And considering this city’s track record on mass transit, I’m skeptical things will be fixed.