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  #81  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 12:39 AM
miketoronto miketoronto is offline
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Originally Posted by pdxtex View Post
i wouldn't exactly call it the new outside mall. sure some cities might appear to jumping on a bandwagon but their intent is the same, expanding transit options and giving people another transit choice. that in effect i think we can all agree is a good idea. whether or not its a fiscally sound idea probably depends on the city where the line is being built. gas aint getting any cheaper. that is a fact.
Most cities are looking for a quick fix. They build a LRT line and let the bus system which serves like 95% of riders, continue to stagnate.

Portland is one of the few cities that built LRT and expanded the bus system, offering a true choice to people.

But the way most cities are doing it, just is not working. For a lot of cities it is a toy, and what they expect is the key to their revival.
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  #82  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 6:06 AM
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As usual, Mike, your "most cities" pronouncements are misconceived, to put it nicely.
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  #83  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mfastx View Post
I agree. I think that light rail is not the best way to go, especially in inner cities. The best way to transport people in large cities is heavy rail/subway. However, thay aren't as cheap as light rail (hey, you get what you pay for), so I think the days of building subways (at least in the US) are over.
Same here in Toronto. We have a drastically under built subway system. Madrid, a city approximately our size, has about 8 times more subway than we do. Many Torontonians want a much bigger subway system, but the tax dollars get funneled to other things like roads instead. Roads still come first here.

What's left for public transit is pocket change. Our only option is LRT. We either build lots of LRT or congestion will bring Toronto to a grinding halt in the not too distant future. We're literally in panic mode trying to avert a transportation catastrophe here. 20 years of neglect has backed us into a corner.

I've already given up on public transit in the spring/summer. I can't get into the downtown easily and I live close to the core. It's far quicker to use a bicycle. Even roller blading gets me there quicker most times of the day.
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  #84  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 1:53 PM
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What's left for public transit is pocket change. Our only option is LRT. We either build lots of LRT or congestion will bring Toronto to a grinding halt in the not too distant future. We're literally in panic mode trying to avert a transportation catastrophe here. 20 years of neglect has backed us into a corner.
Would this have anything to do with Mike Harris and the 'common sense revolution'? Nothing like promises of unrealistic tax cuts to seduce the voters to trash our cities, our schools, our hospitals and our transit systems. It was all a mirage that we will pay for forever.
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  #85  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 5:01 PM
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Originally Posted by isaidso View Post
What's left for public transit is pocket change. Our only option is LRT. We either build lots of LRT or congestion will bring Toronto to a grinding halt in the not too distant future. We're literally in panic mode trying to avert a transportation catastrophe here. 20 years of neglect has backed us into a corner.
That's precisely the reason a lot of cities choose LRT over HRT, even though ridership could probably justify subways or elevevated rail in some of the cities building LRT. There is no question that subways are extremely expensive. Cities are not building LRT because its some shiny new toy, they're building LRT because something has to be done to avoid gridlock, and LRT is all they can afford. Waiting to "do it right" will result in waiting literally forever in a lot of cases. No, LRT is not the ideal solution in a lot of places, but it's a whole hell of a lot better than nothing, and that's the realistic alternative outside of a select few cities.
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  #86  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 5:08 PM
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One can always integrate the commuter rail tracks into the local system for additional rapid transit making use of the tracks that are already there, like the London Overground system for instance, and/or integrated fare system.
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  #87  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 6:54 PM
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Originally Posted by lrt's friend View Post
Would this have anything to do with Mike Harris and the 'common sense revolution'? Nothing like promises of unrealistic tax cuts to seduce the voters to trash our cities, our schools, our hospitals and our transit systems. It was all a mirage that we will pay for forever.
"Common sense" usually means "stuff that only sounds good on talk radio and bumper stickers."

In other words, populist ideas that are often terrible in reality.
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  #88  
Old Posted Jul 7, 2010, 11:42 PM
miketoronto miketoronto is offline
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That's precisely the reason a lot of cities choose LRT over HRT, even though ridership could probably justify subways or elevevated rail in some of the cities building LRT. There is no question that subways are extremely expensive. Cities are not building LRT because its some shiny new toy, they're building LRT because something has to be done to avoid gridlock, and LRT is all they can afford. Waiting to "do it right" will result in waiting literally forever in a lot of cases. No, LRT is not the ideal solution in a lot of places, but it's a whole hell of a lot better than nothing, and that's the realistic alternative outside of a select few cities.
But most these systems in American cities are not helping remove cars from the roads, etc. And if they are, it is a very very small amount.

The reason is a lot of these LRT systems are so slow, due to not being fully grade seperated, that people are not going to ride in large numbers.

We have to look at ask the question of how many people are we not attracting by not spending the money now to build proper rapid transit.
The excuse we have no money is an excuse. There is always money for highways. And if the USA and Canada wanted they could fund subways.

I know in Vancouver, they actually looked into the different modes and found that LRT would attract less than half the amount of riders the Skytrain attracts. Reason? The Skytrain operates at faster speeds and can compete with the car.

There are some really good LRTs like St. Louis. But when you get into building an LRT like St. Louis, you basically have a subway. Only difference is, it is mostly above ground and the power comes from above.
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  #89  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 1:25 AM
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mike gets a lot of flak here. there are a lot of people who criticize him for being tautological, or idealistic, or being unwilling to read others' posts.

but he has studied this and makes some good points here. a long lrt line through a heavily traveled arterial in toronto may be the best compromise of a limited budget, but it's really not going to change much. at-grade lrt works in smaller centers with less traffic, or on shorter lines. unfortunately that's not the case here. it's not all doom and gloom, as anything is better than the status quo. it'll be an incremental improvement, as grade separation will eventually be needed if/when the city has the budget/motivation to break the grip of the car.

it's not that toronto doesn't have money. for the past several decades, toronto's urban form has been dictated by the car and the development industry. money was disproportionately spent on roads and infrastructure out into the wilderness, sprawling out via relatively low density for its population, and rendering it prohibitively expensive to service via public transit. even if the public transit systems of well functioning, similarly populated cities overseas were overlaid over toronto, things still wouldn't work as well, as it's inherently more difficult to service larger areas through transit.

you could argue that toronto has tiny lots. while that may be true, it also has a huge metro population that spreads far into the horizon. ideally the areas outside of old toronto's historical core (hint hint most of north york, etobicoke, scarborough) would have been progressively upzoned to higher densities. no one should preserve postwar balloon frame housing, as it was never intended to stand forever. the population would then be living in denser areas that are also closer to the core and thus more easily serviced by transit. that ship has sailed, but one can always dream.
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  #90  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 2:11 AM
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Many of the newer LRT lines do absolutely pitiful ridership numbers. One of the newer ones out west for example is only doing 19,000-20,000 boardings on a 14-mile line. You can talk about it "not serving dense areas outside downtown blah blah blah", but that is an anemic number even for a system that were to serve NO dense areas at all (ie., not even serve the downtown).

I'm all for LRT, but it needs to be part and parcel of an overall development/transportation plan, so you don't end up with 14 mile lines carrying 19,000 people. It was known several years before the line opened where the line and it's stops were going to be. The powers-that-be should have rezoned for and encouraged high density development around every station, and re-routed the non-freeway bus routes to serve LRT stations instead of continuing to run downtown. They then could have had high frequency service right from the start instead of 5+ years down the line.

When massive amounts of money are spent on systems that do anemic per mile ridership numbers, it just gives the anti-transit folks ammunition to further their argument.
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  #91  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 4:44 AM
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The Bay Area has added miles of both light and heavy rail in recent years, and the criticisms made of LRT in this thread are also valid for HRT. Sometimes that magic third-rail bullet just doesn't hit the mark. BART is one of the only continuously expanding heavy rail systems in the US, but the agency's SFO extension is woefully below projected ridership.
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  #92  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 4:48 AM
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Originally Posted by J. Will View Post
Many of the newer LRT lines do absolutely pitiful ridership numbers. One of the newer ones out west for example is only doing 19,000-20,000 boardings on a 14-mile line. You can talk about it "not serving dense areas outside downtown blah blah blah", but that is an anemic number even for a system that were to serve NO dense areas at all (ie., not even serve the downtown).

I'm all for LRT, but it needs to be part and parcel of an overall development/transportation plan, so you don't end up with 14 mile lines carrying 19,000 people. It was known several years before the line opened where the line and it's stops were going to be. The powers-that-be should have rezoned for and encouraged high density development around every station, and re-routed the non-freeway bus routes to serve LRT stations instead of continuing to run downtown. They then could have had high frequency service right from the start instead of 5+ years down the line.

When massive amounts of money are spent on systems that do anemic per mile ridership numbers, it just gives the anti-transit folks ammunition to further their argument.
Portland's Eastside MAX line (15-miles) had ridership of 19,000-20,000 when it opened, too. Now the system is one of the most well-used LRT systems in the US.

I assume you're talking about Seattle, where the starter line is, in fact, part of an overall transportation plan. Higher density takes time to build up around stations like those south of Seattle's downtown. The fact that "it was known for several years where the line would be" was likely of little comfort to potential TOD developers, at least those who knew anything of the history of Seattle's monorail project (not talking about the tourist one from the Space Needle to downtown). The fact that the line opened in the middle of the recession didn't help spur TOD either. Not saying Seattle doesn't have some work to do, I'm just saying give it time.

When the U-link opens in 2016, connecting the University of Washington and the already dense Capitol Hill neighborhood to downtown Seattle, ridership should take off (an additional 70,000 projected from that segment alone - just 2 new stations - by 2030). North Link after that, and East to Redmond and Bellevue and Seattle will be approaching 200,000 daily boardings by 2030.

The point is - the 14-mile line (ditto starter LRT segments everywhere) is not meant to be a stand-alone thing. It's something to build from. LRT is pretty much the only option available for high capacity transit in US cities with US densities and US federal funding rules.
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  #93  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 6:26 AM
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^ Clearly J.Will means Seattle.

TOD rezoning was completed in 2001 and is in the process of being updated. There are some projects that have been built and others that are under construction, but the recession has clearly had a big impact. There has been a lot more development around stations in areas that were already gentrifying (Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Columbia City) than in the neighborhoods further south.

I'd like to see the ridership higher but it's not far off estimates when you factor in the recession. The estimates were enough for the voters to approve (in November of 2008) the expansion of the system to a total of 53 miles.

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  #94  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 8:46 AM
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There is an enormous issue being over-looked here when it comes to light rail in the United States and it isn't strictly a financial issue. Heavy rail can be quite economical given the right infrastructure is in place.

Light rail is typically exempt from the most onerous of the Federal Railroad Administrations CFR's as light rail operates in a world all its own. A Siemens S70 will never be obliterated by a GE AC4400 Locomotive. If one is building from scratch going the light rail route allows a transit operator to keep things simple from a regulatory perspective.

Should you already have conventional rail resources available to you it might be worth while to go into the heavy route and take all the lumps that go with it.

It isn't that the FRA is unreasonable - indeed they are extremely accommodating provided a request isn't ridiculous. But heavy rail brings with it a load of issues that just don't come up in light rail systems.

As far as Calgary goes, the success of the C-Train is largely a geographic and economic accident. The river and CPR create a well defined core that is inevitably dense and suffers from limited access because of those barriers. In this dense core land values are high which kills off surface parking while hydrological issues limit potential underground parking. All the while there has been a great deal of parking available around C-Train stations allowing large numbers of people to catch the C-Train without first catching a bus. The C-Train also had the benefit of taking hold at a time when Calgary really didn't suffer from much vagrancy. There were people who thought it was stupid but there weren't too many "You wouldn't believe what I saw on the C-Train" stories in the 80's.

It isn't exactly a set of circumstances easily emulated,
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  #95  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 3:44 PM
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Charlotte does light rail right


25 Jun 2010

By Mary Newsom

Read More: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-06...ght-rail-right

Quote:
Charlotte is car-loving NASCAR country, a vast suburbia of cul-de-sacs and strip malls. Yet its new light rail line is a national model for success, outstripping ridership projections and inspiring millions of dollars in high-density development. How did sensible transportation planning come to sprawlburbia? Not by appealing for "sustainability," that's for sure. In the end, the winning pitch that sold voters on light rail was none other than Charlotte's love of growth. The development it lured -- several thousand condos and apartments, dozens of new restaurants and stores, and roughly half a billion dollars in private investment -- showed skeptics that light rail is more than just transportation. The city created transit-oriented zoning districts and station area plans, allowing for increased density along the rail line.

Other players in this success story included a mayor who took leadership, a restored vintage streetcar, and plain old lucky timing: A decade-long real estate bubble fed the transit-related development, not bursting until after the Lynx light rail debuted in November 2007, followed quickly by 2008's record-breaking high gas prices. Today, with the North Carolina textile industry long dead and Charlotte's famed banks weakened, the city's leaders look to position it as an emerging "green" metropolis. Its transit triumph makes for compelling evidence.



Residential units under construction near the Lynx Blue Line in Charlotte Photo: Willamor Media via Flickr






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  #96  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 4:34 PM
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Seattle's starter line has been increasing its ridership generally over 5% every month...not only without much density, but also with only one park-n-ride. Most systems have one or both of those things.

If the growth continues, it's on track to meet the original 1/1/11 (or thereabouts) projection of 26,000 passengers per day, even with less frequent service than originally planned, which is due to the difficulty of coexisting with buses in the Downtown Transit Tunnel. Last report was nearly 22,000.
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  #97  
Old Posted Jul 8, 2010, 6:31 PM
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^^That ridership still seems very low for a city "doing it right".

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Originally Posted by miketoronto View Post
But today's planners are stuck on the light rail ideal and deride all other options.

The fact of the matter is that we have to think about the future and not just now. Places like Atlanta did a great in building subway from the start. But if they were building today, it would almost for sure be an LRT. And it would not be carrying half as many people as the MARTA subway carries. That is just one example.

When light rail is done right as in Edmonton, you are approaching the level of building a heavy rail system. Only difference is they use old railway right of ways, etc, which helps lower costs.

Light rail really is the "downtown mall" of the 2000's. Every city needed a downtown mall in the 90's. Now it is light rail that everyone wants.
It is a fad. It makes sense in some places. But it for sure does not make sense in all the cities building it. And in some of the larger cities like Toronto, it really does not make sense. But it is being built because that is what everyone else is doing.
Well thanks for complimenting my city, but outside the underground "subway-lite" downtown/University portion our LRT isn't awfully different from many other systems. We also have the problem right now that Edmonton's stations can't support a higher amount of LRV's because of the smaller platforms compared to those of HRT systems you think Edmonton is close to. This wouldn't be a problem but during rush hour 4-car trains are now jam packed since our SLRT opened, and it's expected to get much worse once University starts back up in full swing.

I'm surprised at what such a tiny extension in the grand scheme (especially when you look at the massive expansions planned over the next 5-10 years) has brought in enormous usage. Also, only the NE leg of our LRT actually uses old railway ROW's. Once you hit Churchill Station underground, it's all brand new track (even once you go above ground again at Health Sciences/Jubilee).
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  #98  
Old Posted Jul 10, 2010, 2:59 AM
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>If Atlanta was building transit from the start today, I bet they would be doing LRT, instead of subway.

Atlanta would *have* to do light rail. You guys are acting like this is some kind of choice, but there is no choice. The FTA has not funded heavy rail new starts since the $10 billion provided by the Urban Mass Transit Assistance Act of 1970 was exhausted. Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, Los Angeles, and the Buffalo subway LRT were all funded with this, as well as the Second Avenue subway work in New York and the Harvard - Alewife extension in Cambridge, MA.

Don't blame the cities, blame the Reagan-era cutbacks. LA and some of the mid-80's construction was still funded by the funds allocated in the 1970's. Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, etc. have had to expand one station at a time due to the underfunding of rail post-1982. If you are a city without heavy rail and you submit a heavy rail proposal to the FTA, it will be rejected. End of story.
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  #99  
Old Posted Jul 10, 2010, 3:25 AM
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^^That ridership still seems very low for a city "doing it right".
"Doing it right" is one of the reasons it's not higher. Many systems start with park-n-rides, which tends to be effective in drawing passengers but is of questionable benefit if the goal is to give people an alternative that doesn't require a car at all. The Seattle line has one small park-n-ride.

Another factor is that at the only high-density stops, i.e. the Downtown Transit Tunnel, the line has a built-in disadvantage. Traveling between the tunnel stations on a bus is free, but doing the same thing on light rail costs you a fare (they buses use the same lane as the tracks). Even if the train is right there, you simply wait a minute and a platoon of free buses will go by.

A third factor is that having the buses and rail coexist in the same tunnel is more complex than expected, which has resulted in less peak-time frequency for the train. (Buses and trains are separated for some reason. Also, one wheelchair on a bus can set the whole bus/train system back significantly.)

The train is standing room only at rush hour. Today I took it south from Downtown at 4:30. It was more than standing room...at the two southern Downtown stations, people couldn't get on at all. Some of this was apparently a timing problem, as they were announcing that another train was coming along momentarily with less people on it. But on my return trip Downtown at 5:00 (which had room to sit), the other trains we passed had a lot of standing passengers too.
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  #100  
Old Posted Jul 10, 2010, 4:34 AM
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Lightbulb

Each city has different obstacles to build around because the surrounding geology is different. Light rail is popular today because the tracks can be laid above, below, and at grade; in exclusive corridors or in shared corridors (usually streets). The fact that light rail can run at grade on share corridors can save transit agencies hundreds of millions of dollars during construction.
It's not the type of train that determines patronage, it's its frequency of service, capacity of each train, and density within its corridor that does. Light rail trains capacity (length) is usually limited by the size of city blocks. But that's with at grade tracks, that limitation is eliminated once the agency decides to grade separate the light rail lines. Golly, you wouldn't have to grade separate the entire line, you'll only have to grade separate the train stations to eliminate train length limitations by city blocks.
Commuter Rail and Heavy Rail aren't as flexible as light rail, which make overcoming obstacles far more expensive. Street running Streetcars are just too slow for lengthly corridors, but are the easiest to run in very crowded areas.

Let's take a look at recent developments in Denver. They're building more light rail lines, and will be building EMU commuter rail lines too. Their EMU trains are basically strengthened heavy rail (subway) trains. Looks like to me they have chosen to use EMU trains on corridors they expect higher ridership (able to use longer trains) and on corridors that also share tracks with freight trains. Usually, commuter rail is ran on shared tracks, but Denver will be building a whole brand new rail corridor for EMU commuter train to the airport. One would think EMU trains would have been the preferred train to south Denver paralleling I-25, but it was the street running in downtown Denver that forced light rail trains on those corridors.
So, even in the same city, light rail isn't always the best choice for every corridor.

Last edited by electricron; Jul 10, 2010 at 4:45 AM.
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