Sunday, March 4, 2007

Streetcars and Light Rail Have a Certain Function

There is an article in the Dallas Morning News that is a good start for the DFW region. Basically the director of the NCTCOG which is the MPO is calling for investment in rail transit over only freeways. This is why they are going to beat Atlanta.

There is also an article in the Kansas City Star whereabouts Dave Scott is calling for a realistic light rail plan that is mostly streetcars. While I like streetcars and have been a proponent of them I can't say that I agree with his plan. I think streetcars operate well in really dense environments as circulators and can be applied as line haul systems if when they get out of the CBD they have their own right of way. People won't ride them if they stop every block or at every light outside of town.

We need to get practical in a hurry. Our system will need to be “ultra-light” rail. Heavy-rail and many light-rail systems have required dedicated rights of way, grade separation, large stations, tunnels and bridges — all things we don’t have or can’t afford. Instead, we will need to primarily use our streets for right of way, making our system look more like our old streetcar system than many of today’s more expensive rail systems.

This opinion is probably that of many city leaders. This is why we keep hearing about BRT. "We can't afford it and we want to do it cheap." Whatever happened to doing it right the first time? These are century investments we are talking about here, not just a strip mall that can be redeveloped in 20 years. If they really wanted to do it they would build a system that was bare bones but the essentials and add on later. They could put ADA lifts in the vehicles instead of building large elaborate stations and hold the consultants and engineers accountable for extra pennies and decisions that are not needed. While I agree Kansas City needs light rail, i think they should do it right the first time and build a system that people will ride.

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