Saturday, March 14, 2009

Never the Freeway Median

I think we've discussed this before but we need to really stop building transit lines on freeways. I'm not talking about allowing buses to use the HOV lanes but rather building new light and heavy rail lines along the side or in the center of freeways. If we want to create the most value out of these investments, existing ROW needs to be thoroughly examined for its benefits, which includes existing freight ROW as well.

The South Corridor in Charlotte is a good example of using the existing ROW because it runs a close parallel to the main south arterial street. However lines such as the Baltimore light rail line are really poor applications of existing ROW. The line there completely misses the downtown of Towson which is a major regional destination. BART is a huge example of rail transit designed for the auto age. Why didn't they run the Pittsburgh BayPoint Line under Broadway in Oakland instead of along the freeway median to Rockridge?

I think we need to think about how we can move away from focusing solely on the Interstate system that is built out as well as believing that since the interstates are there, they are the best routes for transit. They are the worst routes for Urbanism as freeways are not urban.

10 comments:

arcady said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with building transit lines in freeway medians. There are, however, many things wrong with building transit stations there. Freeways are through routes, not destinations.

Erik said...

It's a lot easier and cheaper to build above-ground tracks in an existing and unused ROW than it is to tear up a street and put it back.

Jay Heikes said...

I will agree that stations in the medians are pretty bad. However it doesnt necessarily mean that redevelopment will not occur. MARTS's Buckhead station in the median of 400 has spurred several hgih desnsity developments in its immdiate proxmimty along Lennox and Peachtree. Granted some of that is result of Atlanta's sprawl near Lennox Square, but the density does seem concentrated around the station.

Jonlin said...

I agree, building transit lines to the suburbs in the freeway medians with little jogs off the freeway for stations can work. In Seattle, the light rail will go along the freeway north of the city. But this is okay because most of the suburban development up there is along the freeway, maybe just a couple blocks away.

Anonymous said...

It can work in a median.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzENECOgaF4

boothy443 said...

I agree to a point. However The Light Rail line in Baltimore north and south of the downtown area is built on former rail ROW. I am guessing however that you are talking about the section that runs parallel to the Jones Falls Expressway, that section of ROW significantly predates the expressway by decades, was part of the North Central Rail Road. A line, Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, did exist, apparently is was still their as of the 50's as a map i have shows it's location, that ran from the main train stations in the city north threw Wyman Park and into downtown Towson, believe that it was an interurban line during the 20's. This line however has been decommissioned and removed, with the 90% or so of the ROW redeveloped for other uses. To restart this line would be next to impossible, imho, de to the NIMBYism present in Towson, especially so in the community this ex line ran threw.

During the planning for the Light Rail, their was discussion of planning a station of the fringe of Towson the in the Ruxton-Riderwood community along Belona Ave, no lack of room. But apparently this proposal faced strong community opposition, the area is considered affluent, and was dropped; no real discussion on an infill station has been made since.

While i for one would love to see a line, an effective one at that, to Towson, i am not keeping my hopes up on that one. As for making lines more urban and lees freeway median, yeah i think it would be great if it can be done. However both serve different types of commuters, the freeway stations, at least in the DC Baltimore area, are more geared to the park and ride crowd, so they are needed, especially on the fringes, however if you going to use a freeway station to promote an urban place, you need to freeway to be close to that urban center, which isn’t all that likely, so that it is an easy walk or offer some kind of incentive, free shuttle, to attract to the urban center.

arcady said...

Anonymous: It can be done, but you end up having to heavily rely on transfers of one sort or another. It's either park and ride, or else you need a very good feeder bus network. And park and ride doesn't really scale well.

BruceMcF said...

In order to make really effective use, you either have to have very long runs between stations ... which is to say inter-regional rail transport such as bullet trains (and even the Rapid Rail class of HSR is often better off in an existing rail ROW) ... or a system that is very effective at jumping off the freeway ROW to get to the station.

One might think that a Aerobus-like system would do, with much less obtrusive pylons than monorail, and longer runs between pylons ...

... but then the light clicks on ... if its so good at jumping out of the freeway ROW and back in, its because it has a low ground level footprint, which means it can be installed along a main urban street without any need to jog back and forth.

And so it settles down to ... include freeway medians and ROW margins as options for bullet train alignments, pretty much anything regional or local transport rail is probably better off leaving the freeway alone.

Bob Davis said...

The rail transit line I ride most often is the LA Metro Gold Line from Pasadena to LA Union Station. Three of the stations are in the I-210 median and they are very noisy. Also, the terminal at Sierra Madre Villa is on the north side of the freeway and it's quite a hike from the parking structure to the platform. The freeway median was used because the line follows a former Santa Fe Ry. route that was included in the freeway project back around 1970. Before the freeway was built, Santa Fe trains followed a route laid out in the 1880's, running past people's back yards with about two dozen grade crossings. When the Gold line was first planned, there were some alternate routes through Pasadena proposed, such as Colorado Blvd (a non-starter because of the Rose Parade), a "couplet" of streets on either side of Colorado (too slow), and the present route. Before the Santa Fe line became available, there was some discussion of following the Pacific Electric Pasadena Short line route, but that would have stirred up a load of NIMBY sentiment in South Pasadena even worse than the bellyaching that the current line caused.

John said...

I don't like waiting in the medians on Chicago's Red and Blue lines much either, but it's better than not having the lines at all. Why can't they find a way to enclose the station so there is less noise and exhaust? As far as the urban design aspect, maybe freeway caps can help?