Skip to comments.Defining Success: The Case against Rail Transit
Posted on 03/26/2010 8:48:02 AM PDT by BfloGuy
In 2002, the Vermont legislature funded a commuter train from Burlington to Charlotte, 13 miles away (see Appendix A for definitions of terms such as commuter rail, light rail, and streetcars). To ensure funds were effectively spent, the legislature set targets for the service and asked for an audit after one year.
The audit found the rail lines capital costs were more than twice the projected amounts; the operating costs were nearly three times projections; the trains carried less than half of the projected riders; and fare revenues were less than a third of projections. The audit also found that the environmental benefits of the project were nil: the diesel locomotives powering the trains used more energy and emitted more pollution than the cars the transit service took off the road. The legislature cancelled the train.
(Excerpt) Read more at cato.org ...
Rail advocates are quick to complain that the government subsidizes roads and airports, but at least people use those. In fact, they flock to them. Passenger rail just loses money -- tons of it.
Detroit-Ann Arbor rail line project delayed due to funding shortage.
For the most part those areas are NOT in the United States.
BUT THEY WILL DO BETTER ON HEALTH CARE!!!
Paging Mr. Green, Mr. Willie Green, please come to the red courtesy Bat Phone.
Obummercare is Amerika’s high speed train to bankrupcy.
“government subsidizes roads and airports” for one purpose. That purpose is to support the military, not the general public.
Here’s my problem with commuter rail... I live in the DC area, on the Maryland side, and work in Arlignton county in Virginia.
In order to get to work, I would have to drive or take a bus some 8-10 miles to the nearest Metro station, take the train downtown, switch to another line, and then walk a few blocks to my destination.
That last part isn’t a hassle, but the rest of it is. By the time I deal with driving to the Metro station, I’m through the worst half of my commute in (and going into the worst half of my commute home), I have to pay for parking, and the whole trip takes my roughly 75-80 minutes each way (as opposed to the 45-50 minute average of direct driving at off-peak times).
If I take a bus to the Metro station, it simply adds extra time, though bus fare would be cheaper than Metro parking.
If I could enter “the system” within a few blocks walk of origin and destination AND take less than hour to get from point A to point B, I’d be doing it. But I can’t, and therefore I’m still driving 30 miles each way.
The biggest problem is that the cost of acquiring land and building a system from the ground up makes almost any rail transit system cost-prohibitive. Add in the limited passenger capacity even in the most heavily-utilized systems due to signal system specifications, safety requirements, minimum train spacing, etc.
I'm kind of surprised that rail transit is getting a lot of attention at all these days. Over the last couple of years a lot of transit agencies have come to recognize that a well-operated bus system -- including bus rapid transit (BRT) routes that could be as ambitious as a fully grade-separated or barrier-separated busway alignment -- is far more cost-effective when it comes to moving large numbers of people along defined transportation corridors.
The Vermont Train was called the “Champaign Flyer”. TENS OF MILLIONS of tax dollars were spent to refurb the cars that came from the Virginia Commuter Rail, and now they sit rusting, outside of Guelph, Ontario.
The problem is that while bus service may be more efficient, most people say if I’m going to take a bus, I might as well drive.
And in Most inner-cities, unionized bus drivers make more than most AIRLINE PILOTS, with incredibly huge retirement packages.
Actually, almost every one of those areas are in the third-world, in places where there's no decent road network and very little private vehicle ownership.
Almost all of those passenger rail networks in europe and asia lose money & require subsidies from the taxpayer to remain in operation.
What do you think of the potential of raised-rail PRT systems? I know there's a regulatory issue with how closely the cars can run together, but if they can get around that, does it make such a system viable?
Obviously, a few lucky people benefitted financially from the project, and a few other lucky people got their enviro-whacko warm fuzzies from the project. Taxpayers got ripped off as usual, as they have learned to enjoy. Everybody's happy.
For the train project, Cato Institute clearly points out the obvious reality versus the false-advertised benefits.
Why can't Cato Institute display the same grasp of reality, and tell the truth about how the anti-American manipulated global trade deals, the offshore outsourcing, the importing of visa workers, and the open borders invasion of illegals, have brought our economy to collapse, because of free and cheap labor, not in spite of it?
I've been to Europe and you'd better believe there are areas where you couldn't add another lane of road.
The third-world doesn't need rail ~ the level of commerce isn't sufficient to support shipping people around. What they need are trucks with large tires!
The strategy among the train boosters was one of incrementalism. Built one line, no matter how puny, and, golly gee whiz, we can't stop there, can we? Once we've started down the track, so to speak, we have to keep going. In Charlotte, NC's case, the South Line is up and running -- all 9 miles of it, with station platforms long enough to accommodate trains of -- wait for it -- two cars.
The South Line runs from downtown toward the south (at least they figured out what to name the line) but stops short of the I-485 loop, and is therefore useless for suburbanites. More importantly, though the clamor is on for more lines into downtown, there is no central station, and no plans for any interface between the lines.
But the biggest problem is one inherent to all rail systems: the rails are fixed. Trains are really good at taking people from where they're not to where they don't want to go. Bus routes can be changed as residential areas and employment centers pop up in different locations; train routes, not so much.
I realize that huge cities like New York, London, and Tokyo need rail transit. Charlotte, NC and Charlotte, VT do not.
I rode the rails to work for about 7 years. Before that I commuted by "slug line" ~ which I originally called "Northern Virginia Commuter Pickup Point" ~ but "slug line" won the popularity contest.
The "slug line" is free.
I'm thinking about bus service along the lines of an exclusive bus lane where buses operate outside the normal flow of traffic. I've posted a few examples below.
One reason why bus service is usually so poor in many urban areas is that the buses operate in mixed traffic and the process of picking up and dropping off passengers makes it all so time-consuming. These systems as I've shown here help the buses operate far more efficiently than your typical city bus.
Interestingly . . . transportation systems like these have to be viewed in the context of all urban infrastructure. What you'll often find is that a city will often face other constraints long before it reaches the kind of size and density that makes some of these transportation systems feasible.
This is a very good point, but there's also a flip side to the statement you've made here.
The flexibility of bus service is often seen as a disadvantage from the perspective of someone who is looking to develop property or locate a business in an area that is served by a bus transit system. Someone who takes advantage of a property that is well-served by buses has a higher risk of losing value due to the curtailment or elimination of the bus service than someone who is located on a fixed-guideway transit system like commuter rail or light rail. It is far less likely for a public agency to spend a fortune on an LRT system only to shut it down a few years later, but bus routes and schedules change all the time.
This is why rail transit systems make the most sense when they serve "fixed" land uses that have their own "critical mass" of passenger demand -- such as dense downtown areas, airports, sports stadiums, tourist attractions, etc.
Your comment about residential areas and employment centers "popping up" illustrates the basic challenge any urban planner faces: Should transit systems be built in response to land use patterns, or should land use patterns be established around transit systems?
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