Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Next Poll: Bad Rail Projects

So these polls seem to be popular. I think the next one will rank the worst rail or fixed guideway projects that are in planning. But you all have to help me out and list some in the comments so I can put them in the poll. The current poll ends tomorrow so vote up if you haven't already.


Anonymous said...

The Montreal area's "Train de l'est" project.


In transit, Andrew

Loren said...

From what various transit advocates have objected to:

* BART to San Jose (too low-density to be worth all the necessary downtown tunneling: A Series on BART to San Jose)

* San Francisco Muni Metro's Central Subway (a lot of expense with not much gained: Central Subway: Visionary Project or Colossal Boondoggle?)

* Los Angeles Gold Line to Montclair (Foothill Extension; too low-density for a light-rail line: The Gold Line Foothill Extension)

Justin said...

In Toronto: The Spadina Subway extension that is currently under construction. 2.6 Billion for a subway line to fields, and a Wal-Mart.


arcady said...

The Gold Line all the way to Montclair is really pushing it in terms of density and cost-effectiveness, I agree, but there's definitely a case to be made for a shorter extension, to Irwindale or even Azusa. And it's an operationally important extension for Metro, since it would let them build a large maintenance facility at Irwindale, which would go a long way toward alleviating the shortage of space caused by future extensions and service increases.

Alon Levy said...

The 7 extension in New York. Originally, it was intended to have two stops: 41st/10th, serving Hell's Kitchen, which has no subway except one north-south line at its far eastern margin; and 34th/11th, serving a convention center and a railyard Bloomberg would like to slap an urban renewal project on. They've since dropped the first stop, making this a $2 billion project that does not serve any existing transportation need.

The Silver Line in DC is a pure sprawl-inducer. It will run in the median of a freeway. It won't even have any new construction in DC, or the urban parts of Northern Virginia; it'll serve Tysons Corner, Dulles Airport, and a couple of highway intersections.

rhywun said...

I have to second the nomination of the 7 train extension in NYC--another one of Bloomberg's vanity projects.

But for sheer dollar-to-person wastage I have to nominate the East-Side Access plan to bring the LIRR into Grand Central. The intent is to save suburban commuters from the crushing burden of having to transfer to a subway or bus for the five minute trip crosstown from Penn Station. The plan involves building a tunnel underneath and following existing Metro North tracks and building another level underneath Grand Central. Cost: over $7 billion dollars. Which will almost certainly balloon way above that.

Reid said...

I second the Silver Line. There's no possibility that it will induce TOD beyond Tysons, and in the mean time, it will put too much burden on the inner-system (i.e. Rosslyn tunnel). Anything beyond Dulles should be accessed by commuter rail, not a subway (and I'd rather see Dulles accessed by commuter rail besides)

Also, while it's much smaller than the others listed, the proposed Anacostia streetcar to Bolling Airforce is a waste of money (although it may be off the drawing board right now, it's tough to tell for sure). It doesn't go through dense neigborhoods and probably won't be used by many people to get to the base.

AJ said...

Central Subway, 7 Extension

Anonymous said...

The LAMTA Gold line to Montclair IS a total waste of money. The Gold line trains would share stations with Metrolink anyway, so why not build the line to transfer to Metrolink. I am sure this is what the MTA will be planning. The SGV deserves nothing more than this anyway.

jon said...

The ARC Tunnels

NARP is trying to rally up support to kill it.


Anonymous said...

Since BRT is "rail-like", and a "stepping stone" can I nominate the BRT line up US36 to Boulder from Denver? Adding dedicated bus lanes to the center of a decently quick moving highway that will parallel a light rail line that will actually travel through populated areas seems redundant and wasteful.

JimS said...

The sad thing is that the Central Subway would be *TOTALLY USEFUL* and worth every penny if it just had a wye to connect it to the Market St. subway. A one seat ride from the Sunset to Chinatown would be useful to TONS of people who currently have a slow hike or an even slower transfer to the 30 Stockton.

It would also make more sense if they got rid of the Union Square station and ran the perpendicular line through the mezzanine level at Powell (like the Blue line at Metro Center station in L.A.). Transfers wouldn't suck then and Union Square is close enough to walk.

Regarding BART to L.A., the density argument doesn't hold water. Yes, San Jose is sprawled and empty, but the downtown areas and the 880 corridor are actually VERY dense. Not downtown SF/Oakland dense, but denser than most of the rest of the BART system. To put it another way, it will have better connectivity and twice the population density of Balboa Park station, which sees no shortage of ridership!

See population density map:


Loren said...

As to BART to San Jose, I've seen so many rhetorical brickbats thrown at that project by transit advocates that I thought that it deserves a mention. Though I agree with JimS that it is less horrible than what some of its critics think -- downtown San Jose is a big urban center. And connecting to the Diridon station is a good idea.

And thanks for mentioning the ARC and the 7 extension in NYC.

The 7 extension is halfway-reasonable, but scrimping on the Hell's-Kitchen station is not. If I had a choice, I'd prefer putting the money into expanding the Second Avenue Subway construction.

ARC into that deep tunnel seems like a bad idea. Why not some extra tunnels alongside the existing ones? In fact, I'm wondering if this project has this configuration out of some petty political reason, like having some NJT-controlled facility in Manhattan.

Josh said...

Here here, JimS: Wye all the way

But I suspect this may have been a little Freudian: "Regarding BART to L.A. ..."

Alon Levy said...

Loren, there are two reasons why ARC is so bad. First, like with the 7 extension, the idea didn't begin as a transit need; it began as a way of naming something after Daniel Moynihan, and using space at the old Farley Post Office. The most expensive part of the project is the new deep-level station; from our pro-transit perspective it's redundant, but from the perspective of the people who started the project, it's the main reason to do anything.

And second, Penn Station is already used inefficiently: every train terminates there, except for Amtrak trains, which dwell for half an hour. Right now its 21 station tracks are at capacity, giving people an excuse to build more tracks. The solution to this problem is to have some NJT trains continue east as LIRR, on the model of the SEPTA, which will reduce the number of tracks needed from 21 to 4 and make a simple four-tracking project feasible. However, despite pleas from certain riders' groups, no transit official in NY or NJ has seriously considered through-running.

I agree that the current ARC project is crap, but I still think it serves a legitimate transit need, albeit badly. The 7 extension takes the cake in having no use at all.

JimS said...


Argghghgg... I *did* type BART to L.A. didn't I. >.>; That would be a long ride. XD

Obviously yes I did mean S.J., I just kept typing L.A. after mentioning the Blue Line. >.<;

Although L.A. certainly has the density to support a subway system too. We think of it as sprawled, but a lot of that sprawl has become pretty darn dense over the years.

Anyway, my original point was that I think BART to San Jose will be a success, albeit an expensive one. If you go to Cal but want to hang out with your SJSU friends, your options are to try to time a BART trip to the Stadium, run across the pedestrian bridge to the distant Capitol Corridor station, then transfer to Light Rail at Diridon. Orrr use the awful bus shuttle from Fremont BART.

That's the core problem with upgrading the legacy railroads -- you'd need extensions in every location to get them to go to prime downtown destinations. BART already goes to them and only needs one extension.

I do think we should extend Caltrain to downtown SF and downtown SJ (giving Santa Clara county three intermodal BART/Caltrain stations!) -- also expensive projects, but I don't think you'll see Capitol Corridor extended to downtown Oakland or Berkeley.

I *am* in favor of the proposed CME-plan intermodal Union City station. It would work much better than the current Coliseum one.

Matt Fisher said...

Well, I can certainly say that busway projects are ones I don't support. But as to RAIL projects, though I don't oppose them, here are some of my favourite choices:

*The BART extension to San Jose
*The Silver Line to Dulles Airport
*The Gold Line Foothill Extension

Though Caltrain does appear to, IMHO (you know what it means), come close to Downtown San Jose, I can agree it isn't totally close.

In all these cases, it would be much better to have electrified commuter rail. To quote Charlie Brown, "AAUGH!!!"

Oh, and there used to be a rail line in Northern Virginia to Leesburg, one that could have been good to preserve, and extend to Dulles, but is now a trail, the Washington & Old Dominion. Anyone know about this? I'd prefer to take the Silver Line up to Tyson's Corner anyway. Unfortunately, it won't be easy, and the Washington & Old Dominion doesn't go up by what is now Tyson's Corner.

Anonymous said...

Miami's Metrorail North Corridor by a landslide. It's an elevated heavy rail extension on a corridor that can barely be justified for BRT. Mismanagement and prioritization of lousy corridors like this is why transit in Miami remains in the dark ages.

I'm surprised to see the harsh criticism of the NJT ARC and LIRR East Side Access projects here. Yes, there are some issues with both projects in the details, but both concepts are extremely sound. And getting from Penn Station to the thousands of jobs on the East Side takes at least 15 minutes no matter what mode. (Subway to Times Square Shuttle, walk to Times Square Shuttle, walk to East Side, or extra pokey crosstown bus) These two NYC area commuter rail projects are far from the worst rail projects out there.

arcady said...

Oh yes, the deep caverns in NYC are a waste of everyone's time and money, both the GCT and Penn Station one. East Side Access and ARC are fine projects without the deep caverns though. The 7 extension is a waste of money, I agree. I'd propose a pair of slightly different extensions there: the first one would be superficially similar to what they're building, but it would link the 7 to the existing High Line structure on 10th Avenue and get the train all the way to 14th St (unfortunately, it's been demolished south of that). The other one would take the line into the north tube of the Lincoln Tunnel, and extend to some point in New Jersey, probably all the way through the Palisades and to a park-and-ride on the Turnpike.

And incidentally, the Penn Station one has nothing to do with Moynihan, that was a separate project initially for Amtrak but later for NJT to move across 8th Avenue to the post office, and use that to access the existing platforms at Penn. But NJT now has their own area on the east end of the platforms, and I suspect that plan isn't going to go anywhere, ever.

anon said...

The *long-term* East Side Access plan was to free up slots in Penn Station for Metro-North, Amtrak, and others.

Unfortunately those freed-up slots can't be used for much unless New Jersey Transit does its side of the bargain and builds two new tunnels under the Hudson *TO PENN STATION* rather than to their mega-expensive deep cavern station. Or unless NJT and LIRR manage to cooperate and do through-running of trains. Which should have been done, oh, about a century ago. So, really the problem with ESA is more of a problem with ARC....

Although the *stupid* part of the ESA scheme is building a new station under Grand Central rather than going into Grand Central proper, at vast additional expense. In both the case of ESA and the case of ARC, the stupid parts are the deep caverns.

But those are also the *really really expensive* parts. The wasted money on those deep caverns together is more than the sum total of money to be spent on pretty much all the other other stupid transit projects in the country.

martin said...

Why all the negativity?
If we want to talk worst, lets talk about road projects. I think the worst transit project is infinitely better than the best road project.