Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Night Linkfest

A Democratic Gubernatorial candidate from Georgia doesn't get how transit interacts with land use:
“I think that what we have to do is to elevate light rail over the interstate highways where we already have the right-of-ways. And every so many bridges, you retrofit the bridges to be stations above.”
No, you don't build light rail on freeways anymore. Someone needs to give folks a crash course in what works and what doesn't at stimulating land use change. It's not transit in freeways.
Matt Yglesias thinks about what the next big thing could be to spur the economy such as IT did in the late 90's or the railroad boom did in the 1800s. If we're going to spend a lot of money on an industrial policy, shouldn't we do it with something that we know works. Obviously I agree with his thoughts that building high speed rail and metro subways in the densest parts of cities would be a good start. It's also proven to work, so it seems like a no brainer.
A plan to raise the rails in Houston through the medical center gets a writeup in the Chronicle. It seems to me that the stray current issue has been lots of fear mongering from the opponents of light rail. Also, isn't there something better to spend around $300 million dollars of fixed guideway modernization dollars than on a viaduct for a line that would only be 7 years old? Seems to me there is a $50B backlog that should be addressed first.
O'Toole ghostwrites an editorial page at the Denver Post that has so many holes it might as well be swiss cheese. So tired of beating back stupid.
That's right. Unless we change energy sources or greatly increase light-rail ridership, we should just drive our cars to work instead.
Really? Maybe people should just not use electricity at all and read by the moonlight. It will be much cleaner. What will they come up with next?
An interesting idea to get rail to Marin from San Francisco. Extend the Central Subway to Sausalito. How much would an anchored tube cost from end to end? It would certainly be cheaper than tunneling that whole way. But as Rafael says, you have to contend with the freakishly strong currents.


Bob Davis said...

That "light rail over freeways" (and its illegitimate cousin "monorail over freeways") have been tried in the form of "light rail in freeway medians" here in Southern California, and have been roundly criticized for poor accessibility and noisy platforms. My local light rail service is the Metro Gold Line, and the Sierra Madre Villa terminal is the nearest station for me. It's quite a hike from the parking structure/bus bay to the platform, involving stairs, elevators, and a long bridge over the westbound I-210 freeway. There are two other stations in the middle of the 210, and they're all noisy except when the freeway is really jammed.
The comments on our local transit discussion group, when boiled down say something like "It's better than no rail transit, but certainly not the best way to go." For years we've had one school of thought that advocates "monorails" (usually meaning Disney-style monobeams) down the middles of freeways, not considering how to get passengers to the stations and how to shield them from the noise and fumes of the road traffic.

Matt Fisher said...

Here we go again. Randal O'Toole. Ugh. Always saying that autocentricity is always good for us, and all transit is bad and subsidized. He's just saying we should "stay the course" regarding highways and suburban sprawl.

Matt Fisher said...

Oh, by the way, I've got nothing against rail in freeways, but I don't think they are the best idea.

For instance, in Montreal, the Metro is, except the yards, all underground. Yes, this entails really long escalators down to the station platforms, but it makes it appear all the more useful overall.

Only recently, though, has the Metro started to see elevators at some stations, but only at a few existing stations most recently. The first such are on the new Metro extension of the Orange Line to Laval, which opened in 2007. But then again, it isn't always the best idea.

In closing to my addendum, it sucks that Montreal didn't keep the streetcars as Toronto did (but they are planning to bring a few of those back). One of those streets that once had streetcars was on Blvd. St-Laurent (St. Lawrence Blvd.), which locals have dubbed "the Main". It divides streets east and west, and has my favourite place serving smoked meat, Schwartz's. (I warn you, it can be very busy often.) But this is not an appropriate forum to discuss things related to Montreal here. Sorry, guys.

Anyway, I just used the Montreal Metro as an example to compare to. :)

Adam said...

A new BART line should go down Van Ness or something like that to connect to Marin. And it should be built to standard gauge so they can use off-the-shelf vehicles that don't cost $$$ to make. I think it should continue to Larkspur to connect to the future SMART line.

Building rapid transit in highway medians is a no-no. It only works in cases like high speed rail where stations will be at least 100 miles apart. Fortunately there's nothing in New York like that, even with commuter rail, where it would make more sense to if you're planning to run express service to the exurbs. I don't know what BART or WMATA were thinking in that regard. Even the CTA has some lines like that.

Alon Levy said...

If high-speed rail investment could stimulate an economy, French economic growth would have been above rock bottom. Instead, in the last 15 years it's grown the 5th most slowly of all developed countries, trailing only Italy, Japan, Switzerland, and Germany.

Yglesias is a hack who needs to get off his hobbyhorses.

JimS said...

There's nothing wrong with putting RAIL LINES into freeways, the problem is the stations.

Freeways are the perfect place to put express tracks, and you can also put main lines there if they can detour off the freeway to somewhere useful to put a station.

The freeway-median station, of course, is a horrible idea.

Robert said...

This editorial was written by Bill King, the mayor of Kemah. What in the world does he know about building a mass transit system?

Overheading the mainstreet line through the TMC would be a billion dollar project, easily. It would, in essence, be a complete rebuilding of that section of the line.

If there is stray current, fine -- they should be able to fix that with mods to the existing surface line. Just moving the stray current further off the ground is going to do exactly nothing to fix that problem.

Easy to connect the stations to the existing overhead walkways? In whose world?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Yeah Alon, but how much of an investment have they made compared to what we would have to make in the US. Not to mention the investment we'd have to make in Metro Subways, Light rail and other rapid transit. I don't think he's that far off actually when considering if we are going to spend a lot of money on stimulus, this is something that would create long term growth in terms of proper urban development and a rail industry.

Alon Levy said...

Oh, France made a lot of investment. My entire point is that this investment hasn't led to growth yet. Heaping infrastructure on an area rarely does - southern Appalachia remained poor despite the TVA investment, Marseille remains depressed despite the TGV, East Germany's post-reunification rail upgrades have done nothing to reduce unemployment.

HSR is a good business investment, on some corridors. It's not a good stimulus program. Good stimulus needs to invest in people rather than concrete, be meted out as quickly as possible, and dissipate as soon as the depression ends.

arcady said...

Montreal's Metro is entirely underground (and even the yards are enclosed) because the trains have rubber tires, and rubber tires plus smooth concrete plus snow means trains that can't stop. Their choice of technology has severely constrained what they can build, and probably makes thing more expensive, even when it doesn't really provide any benefit. For example, sometimes a bridge is a more effective way to cross a river than a tunnel, but in Montreal, it would have to be a covered bridge.

Alon Levy said...

Rubber-tired metro works better in places without snow, such as Mexico City and Marseille.

njh said...

Train travel up, record increase in tram use.

Andrew said...

In Montreal there is one place that the metro is on the surface and that is part of the shop complexe at Youville.,-73.646076&z=17&t=h&hl=en

Though Matt is right we should have kept out streetcars, now we fighting to get them back.

Jarrett at said...

Re rail lines in freeways, practically there's often no option if you can't afford underground.

Freeways offer not only free right-of-way, but also access to development that was built around interchanges in the car era, some of which can be retrofitted and made more urban. America has many such places, and we need alternatives to just writing them off.

Where possible, I do think that freeway rail segments (especially those in the freeway median) should be designed so that it's possible, in the future, to deck over the freeway and create a new ground plane above it.

But summarily ruling out rail in freeways will shut down too many interesting options in the real world.

Matt Fisher said...


Thanks a lot! By the way, my brother is named Andrew, and he's 10 years older than me. :)

Yes. I've heard about one of the Metro yards appearing to be on the surface, but I don't seem to notice much. In fact, I read they once proposed to build the Washington Metro by running it on rubber tires. Then again, I'm not a fan of making metros run on such things instead of the traditional steel wheels. There can be some issues about it, i.e. "what if we can run subway trains on conventional railways?".

I wasn't meaning to say that subway trains should run on conventional railways. This practice is already done widely in many Japanese cities and in Seoul (the new Subway Line 9 just opened July 24th). But then again, I'm not saying such practices should be used everywhere. There can be some issues with that too, and sometimes there will be the espousal of "safety concerns". This is why they won't run tram trains like they do in Karlsruhe across North America!!! Way off topic, yes I know, but I just like to make a point. (Of course, such would be really appropriate in a separate post.)

About freeways and rail lines, here are my final two cents: I know it can cost more if we put it in a tunnel, but I want to compare to the Washington Metro re. the route from Rosslyn to Ballston: Who would agree that it would be worse if they put it in the median of I-66 for this part instead, and where it is under now would be too f**king autocentric? I'm sure most of you all would agree. :)

Card-Carrying Brickhugger said...

Regarding transit to Marin, wouldn't it be easier to hang it under the Golden Gate bridge? Seriously; if youre dealing with tunneling that deep, or currents that strong, is it more expensive to hang it from a bridge?

Andrew said...

Though what about the clearence with ships? They might as well ad cantilevers to the side of the bridge.