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The New Streetcar Insanity

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
Although much cheaper than building a subway or other heavy rail, light rail does little more than busses currently do, aside from the fact that it's on rails, which for some bizarre reason means middle and upper class white people are much more likely to use it....

Cities across the country have jumped on the light rail bandwagon. While they gain something cool to look at (see photos below), they do not gain a viable alternative transportation mode. simply saying, "we need a light rail line" will do nothing to address the fundamental transportation and planning problems present across the United States.

photos of various light rail 'systems' around the country (from lightrail.com)

baltimore

cleveland

dallas

denver

los angeles

pittsburgh

portland

sacramento

st. louis

salt lake city

san diego
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
But, the better designed systems do have certain advantages.

They can have fixed stops/stations, which CAN serve as focal points for development (of course, not nearly as much as a heavy rail system). Some systems do not share traffic lanes, so you don't have the "bus stuck in traffic" problem-and you definitely don't have the bus merging back into traffic problem (a major annoyance, imo)

And, as a "middle class white person," I would agree that I do prefer trains/tram systems and would probably not ride a bus unless I absolutely had to. Light rail trains are nostalgic and kinda "cool" technology-which may lead you to dismiss them, but if your potential riders are unwilling to jump on the bus,???There is no aesthetic or nostalgic value associated with a stinking diesel bus-and electric buses (like San Francisco) festoon the city with ugly overhead wires.

Give me a tram, anyday.
 
Messages
5,353
Points
31
Light rail's viability depends from city to city. If a line is placed where there are no logical connections between neighborhoods, existing transit lines, etc., then yeah, it's viability is questionable. It shouldn't be considered a panacea to fundamental transportation problems, but I wouldn't rule it out as one of many solutions.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
We need to focus once more on the only completely perfect transit system - the Monorail.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
I'll wait for the invention of the personal transporter a la Star Trek. :)
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Or how about those glass tubes that whisk people around the city? (Like in Futurama.)
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Now, Irish, if there were, say, a transporter malfunction, and non-organic materials disappeared during the transport,-then you are talking!
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
Michael Stumpf said:
We need to focus once more on the only completely perfect transit system - the Monorail.
perfect? uh, no. more like a pie in the sky dream for suburbanites who wouldn't use transit even if they could, and don't wanna pay tax to support it. the privitized, profitability myth gets knocked over really quickly. nowhere in the world is there a comprehensive monorail transit sytem. it works well shuttling folks between las vegas hotels and the theme parks of disneyworld, and between airport terminals.
 

Mud Princess

Cyburbian
Messages
4,896
Points
27
Riding the bus (which I did for years) always made me nauseous. The fumes, and the stop-and-start-and-stop-and-jerk-forward ride of the bus were awful. I'll take a train over a bus anyday.... although I've had my share of experiences riding in a urine-scented subway car in NYC (ick).
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
ah, i see. hard to detect sarcasm in writing sometimes.

i wish i could find an audio or even video of the monorail song...that would liven up my day a bit
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
streetcars/trolleys and light rail aren't the same thing. Streetcars are lighter cars that can run on a lighter rail. They don't go as fast as light rail cars and generally don't carry as many people. They're also a heck of a lot cheaper than light rail.

Philly is in the process of restoring an 8.5 mile trolley line replacing 85% of the old track sections and trolley wire and constructing platforms that were never there before as well as 18 new or fully refurbished vehicles. Total cost - $37 million. That would pay for about two miles of light rail on a good day.

Streetcars still kick the crap out of buses in terms of on time performance and they're 17% faster than buses on the same route. One of our Kawasaki cars carries just as many people as one of the articulated buses (those buses ain't cheap) and in general operating costs are lower and mostly because the quicker trip times allow for shorter headways with the same number of operators as a bus route.

Light rail lines have much greater capacity than trolley lines and most light rail cars do the work of 3 or 4 buses. Plus light rail stations are trip attractors in their own right. It usually takes the convergence of several bus routes for a bus stop to offer the same kind of traffic.

Sure there's no point to putting light rail lines on a route that won't support it but then again is there a point to building a freeway along a route that can't support it?

P.S. - you're kidding yourself if you think that buses can do the same work as a light rail line. We don't have any light rail that come into the CBD but at our AM inbound peak (the hour between 8and 9) we have 15 bus lines coming in from the north
carrying a total of about 4,000 passengers. These are all very crowded buses operating on 5 minute headways. In the same hour Broad St Subway carries 7,000 people operating on 7 minute headways. The actual peak for the subway is an hour earlier carrying closer to 8,000 people. So more or less the Subway is doing work equivalent to 25-30 bus routes. Even if compare the subway/bus totals for the day the results are the same.

A light rail line carrying only 20,000 trips a day is still doing the work of 10 bus routes operating at capacity. There is simply no comparison in terms of costs of maintenance or operations. Even with longer headways light rail wins hands down.
 
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Markitect

Cyburbian
Messages
110
Points
6
bestnightmare said:
ah, i see. hard to detect sarcasm in writing sometimes.

i wish i could find an audio or even video of the monorail song...that would liven up my day a bit
You can downlaod a .WAV file of it here: Eye on Springfield: Simpsons Sounds

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like a genuine,
Bona fide,
Electrified,
Six-car
Monorail!
What'd I say?

Ned Flanders: Monorail!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

Patty+Selma: Monorail!

Lyle Lanley: That's right! Monorail!

[crowd chants `Monorail' softly and rhythmically]

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...

Lyle Lanley: It glides as softly as a cloud.

Apu: Is there a chance the track could bend?

Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.

Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?

Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.

Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.

Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.

I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!

All: Monorail!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

All: Monorail!

Lyle Lanley: Once again...

All: Monorail!

Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...

Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!

All: Monorail!
Monorail!
Monorail!

[big finish]

Monorail!

Homer: Mono... D'oh!
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
http://www.sunspot.net/news/traffic/bal-te.md.rail01may01,0,3539008.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

in baltimore, they made two mistakes with their light rail line - one obvious, the other less so. The first mistake was single tracking for much of the line. This forces 17 minute gaps in service even during rush hour, which I find unacceptable. The other is that the MTA tried to have their cake and eat it too - having the light rail serve as both a downtown street car line, as well as a suburban rail line. it performs neither function very well.

from lightrail.com




 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
it's funny that you mention them trying to use the line as a streetcar and as a commuter line.

The last time I took the train down to DC I was going to visit friends in Vienna, VA so I got off in New Carrolton, MD and took the Orange Line from one end to the other. The Amtrak ride from Philly took 90 minutes and the ride on Metro took 65 minutes. Man did my ass hurt by the time I got to Vienna.

Anyway, It occured to me on that trip that the Metro was designed to get people in and out of the District but outside of the downtown area the stations are too far apart to be used as a convenient way to get around within DC.

Don't get me wrong, Metro is by far the nicest system i've seen in this country (and better than anything i've seen in europe) it just struck me as a system that was trying to be a subway and commuter rail at the same time but really only coming up strong on the commuter side . . . but you live there - I could be way off
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
I checked it out and it costs us $37 and change per mile to operate a light rail or trolley car and $14 and change per mile to operate a bus. The capital costs are also a little more than double for light rail operations.

. . . but you can do the math to figure out what kind of ridership would be necessary to make light rail more cost effective than buses keeping in mind that salaries/benefits are the most expensive part of the operations budget.
 

bestnightmare

Cyburbian
Messages
61
Points
4
jresta said:
it's funny that you mention them trying to use the line as a streetcar and as a commuter line.

The last time I took the train down to DC I was going to visit friends in Vienna, VA so I got off in New Carrolton, MD and took the Orange Line from one end to the other.

Anyway, It occured to me on that trip that the Metro was designed to get people in and out of the District but outside of the downtown area the stations are too far apart to be used as a convenient way to get around within DC.

Don't get me wrong, Metro is by far the nicest system i've seen in this country (and better than anything i've seen in europe) it just struck me as a system that was trying to be a subway and commuter rail at the same time but really only coming up strong on the commuter side . . . but you live there - I could be way off
jeez! i coulda told you not to do that! next time take the train all the way to union station before hopping on the metro. it takes about 40 minutes just to drive from new carrolton to vienna on the beltway, and that's with zero traffic (unlikely).

true, metro does try and function as a subway and suburban rail (even though d.c. is already served by MARC and VRE). it's great for going inbound and outbound, but only good for 'crosstown' trips downtown...granted, downtown washington is fairly large. the bus system fills in the gaps, and d.c. is compact enough to walk places outside downtown.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
whoa - that people mover link is straight outta Farenheit 451 (the movie) - freaky.
 

LouisvilleSlugger

Cyburbian
Messages
216
Points
9
Mud Princess said:
Riding the bus (which I did for years) always made me nauseous. The fumes, and the stop-and-start-and-stop-and-jerk-forward ride of the bus were awful. I'll take a train over a bus anyday.... although I've had my share of experiences riding in a urine-scented subway car in NYC (ick).
me too!!!! I would take light rail any time over the bus.
Louisville is trying to create a light rail endavor
the site is: www.t-2.org
 
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