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Poll results: Do you use commuter rail service?

Voters
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  • Yes, I currently use commuter rail service (heavy or light rail)

    8 28.57%
  • No, I'm not using commuter rail at all

    11 39.29%
  • I only use rail service for vacation and weekend entertainment

    5 17.86%
  • This isn't 1890, I'll stick to my Hummer thank you very much!

    4 14.29%
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Thread: Commuter rail station thresholds

  1. #1
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Commuter rail station thresholds

    Looking into the future, my specific South Florida community might need to fight for a commuter rail stop. The competition will be fierce from another community just about 3/4 to 1 mile from us This assumes that two stops within 1 mile is one too many What is a typical distance between stops?

    What kind of factors will play a roll in determining who might get the future commuter rail stop? If anyone has specific links to criteria used in the past in various communities around the country, that would be helpful

    Got a story about a community competing for a rail stop and what turned out to be the winning move in close decisions?

    Total Population?
    Overall population density?
    Proximity of TOD's 25 du/acre to Ndu/acre?
    Potential and willingness to develop a station...multi-modal center
    Availability of parking...
    Proximity of destination employment sites & jobs....
    Proximity of employee users of the commuter system....

    Any others ideas?

    POLL Do you currently use commuter rail service?
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Rule of thumb for commuter rail is 3-5 miles, depending on technology (I think South Florida RTA came up with this number...I found it while doing research a year or so ago).

    Austin, on the other hand, has stops that are 2 miles or less apart (two are only one mile apart) for its planned commuter rail. The technology, though, is going to be such that the cars will accelerate more rapidly so this shouldnt be too much of a problem.

    (The minimum distance between stops being decided by the acceleration/top speed of the rail technology, ignoring other factors in the SFRTA case).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I do have a train within a block of my work. However, it is not commuter rail. It is designed to circulate people around downtown for major events, getting from one office to another, or shopping.

  4. #4
    SEPTA has a bunch of regional rail stations that are w/in a mile of eachother, and used to have even more that have been closed over the years. They were built before the era of "park-n-ride" though, when everybody walked to the station. Newer systems (like the outer reaches of the DC Metro) are decidedly more tailored to highway access instead of town centers, and they aim to pull people from auto-dependent suburbs instead of walkable satellite communities. You need to assess what kind of built environment you have (and what environment you're trying to cultivate). I think station spacing in sprawling, unwalkable suburbia is typically greater than it is in the walkable little suburban cores. I wouldn't go with any magical formula, because station placement needs to address what's already there.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    What kind of factors will play a roll in determining who might get the future commuter rail stop? If anyone has specific links to criteria used in the past in various communities around the country, that would be helpful
    If you go here you can see some of the criteria and research I dug up.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by passdoubt
    I think station spacing in sprawling, unwalkable suburbia is typically greater than it is in the walkable little suburban cores. I wouldn't go with any magical formula, because station placement needs to address what's already there.
    This is the pattern of light rail in SLC (many stops in the urban core, with fewer stops and longer distances in the suburbs), and will be the pattern when the heavy rail commuter line is completed in a few years. I think stops will be roughly 5 miles apart.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    On the Chicago Metra, like the SEPTA regional rail there are many stations that are very close together. Especially on the Rock Island Suburban Service and the BNSF line. On BNSF, there are two stations that have the same platform.

    Of course, the Metra is a very old system and many of these are legacy. Each station has a pre-war little downtown around it (a New Urbanist's dream!) and often very little parking. Also, on those two lines, Metra runs express or limited trains during the rush that skip most of these stations. Without the express trains, it would be well over an hour to get to Naperville on the BNSF, for instance.

    passdoubt is right that the current focus on rail transit is "getting people off the highways" rather than fostering walkable environments (which is where rail transit really excels). Therefore, new commuter and outlying rapid transit stations are built with large parking lots, with the idea that everyone will drive (or perhaps take a feeder bus) to the station, rather than live next to it. Stations are kept very far apart (seems like a minimum of three miles) so that the train will move quickly to be more competitive against driving on time.

    Quote Originally posted by FueledByRamen
    Austin, on the other hand, has stops that are 2 miles or less apart (two are only one mile apart) for its planned commuter rail. The technology, though, is going to be such that the cars will accelerate more rapidly so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
    Probably the technology being used is called DMU, or Diesel Multiple Unit. DMU trains have been popular in Europe for years but they're still pretty much just talk in the United States. They work like Electric trains, in that each individual car can drive itself (it has a small diesel generator in it that powers electric motors on the wheels) but because the cars have their own generators, the line does not have to have electric third rail or catenary, which is expensive and interferes with freight traffic. Because each car is driving itself rather than being drug along by a locomotive, the train can accelerate much more quickly.

    The One: Is your community hoping to use the rail station to build or revive a functional downtown? If so, I'd use that to differentiate yourself from the Town Next Door. Make a presentation with plenty of "TND" type buzzwords. Let them have the traffic from a parking garage and let you get the economic boost from a retail district.

    It's seemed that Metra has been happy to service new stations at the behest of villages or even developers! provided that the village or developer agrees to pay for the station so that is a tactic you might also want to use. If the trains use conductors, then a station is a very cheap thing. All you need is a platform, and probably not a raised one either if the train is using an active freight line. You could build a station/heating house to make things nicer but that's completely optional. All you need in terms of upkeep is clearing the sno----er.. repainting the safety lines when the sun boils them off. If you have space for a few dozen parking spots the station might pay for itself (although the TA will probably want a cut of the parking revenue).

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ah...yes, but....

    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    The One: Is your community hoping to use the rail station to build or revive a functional downtown? If so, I'd use that to differentiate yourself from the Town Next Door. Make a presentation with plenty of "TND" type buzzwords. Let them have the traffic from a parking garage and let you get the economic boost from a retail district.

    It's seemed that Metra has been happy to service new stations at the behest of villages or even developers! provided that the village or developer agrees to pay for the station so that is a tactic you might also want to use. If the trains use conductors, then a station is a very cheap thing. All you need is a platform, and probably not a raised one either if the train is using an active freight line. You could build a station/heating house to make things nicer but that's completely optional. All you need in terms of upkeep is clearing the sno----er.. repainting the safety lines when the sun boils them off. If you have space for a few dozen parking spots the station might pay for itself (although the TA will probably want a cut of the parking revenue).
    Good idea, but both communities are in the process of reviving downtowns, complete with higher density developments within 1/2 mile of a potential station site. Sadly, both communities are divided by water and a hellacious, Massive Arterial Roadway that complicates connectivity Space for a station with parking could be a problem for both communities, but since we're the only game within 3 miles in either direction, that shouldn't be as important. Oh and our population density is in the area of 7,000+ ppsm But we don't have a big employment center or significant draw (yet) to the downtown . Train type is TBD.
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Well, stations can be very small if the train has conductors because the conductors can "cut out" certian doors so that ony a few of them open, so the platform does not have to be as long as the train, it may only be a few cars long. If the trains are one-man operated, then it's too much for him to cut doors in and out and drive the train, and also there's nobody to collect fares on the train so the station has to have a fare-paid zone with turnstyles, a station attendant, and all that jazz.

    As far as parking goes, most Metra stations only have a strip of parking that can hold maybe 20-30 cars. Even if all you can spring for is parallel parking you can still fit some cars in there and meter it for commuters. You'll want a place though for "kiss-and-ride" (people being dropped off at the train).

    Personally, I think that if two towns want stations for TND and the locations are good and will foster that, then there's no reason why they shouldn't be that close. Especially if the trains are DMU, but the TA might have a different mindset.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Probably the technology being used is called DMU, or Diesel Multiple Unit. DMU trains have been popular in Europe for years but they're still pretty much just talk in the United States. They work like Electric trains, in that each individual car can drive itself (it has a small diesel generator in it that powers electric motors on the wheels) but because the cars have their own generators, the line does not have to have electric third rail or catenary, which is expensive and interferes with freight traffic. Because each car is driving itself rather than being drug along by a locomotive, the train can accelerate much more quickly.

    Yep, thats what we're putting in. The cars come from the Swiss company Staedtler. They look pretty slick and have so far only been used somewhere in Italy. Each train has two cars with an engine in the middle which contains two bus-sized diesel engine.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Station spacing of 1-2 miles isn't that big of a deal for EMU commuter rail, especially if you have high level platforms.

    It becomes more impractical with low platforms and a diesel, push-pull consist.

    NJ Transit (in north jersey) is a mostly electric (catenary) system and the station spacing is more less in the 3-5 mile range. The Atlantic City line stations average more like 10 miles apart.

    SEPTA, for the regional rail lines that operate within the city (and urban parts of Delaware County) , the stops probably average about 1.1 miles apart. On the suburban lines they are closer to 3 miles apart.

    NJ Transit's RiverLINE between Trenton and Camden uses DMU light-rail cars and operates (time-separated) on a freight ROW with average station spacing of about 1.25 miles with some stations as close together as .25 miles
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    P.S. - heavy rail is a subway/el/metro system - like Metrorail

    Light Rail is light rail as seen in San Francisco or San Diego or Portland

    Tri-Rail is commuter rail.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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