Tag Archives: Light Rail

Light Rail


Trains are cool.  And fast trains are fastly cool.

I live nearly 15 miles from my office.  And I would love to be able to take a train, preferably a fast one, to the office each day.  However, there are some constraints  on even an imaginary train.

  1. I have to take my kids to school.  So, even if I can take the train to work, I have to drive to school.
  2. My kids would appreciate it if I picked them up.
  3. Sometimes, more when they were younger, I have to go to school to get them because they are hurt or sick.
  4. Now that they are older, they need to go to places like dance, karate, soccer and basketball after school.
  5. I have to go to places like lunch, the grocery store and Wal-mart during the day.

All of this is a not so obvious way of saying that unless the train stopped at my door, my kid’s school, the grocery and each of our events, I can’t use it.  None of the things in my life are close enough that I can afford to give up the car.

My wife was born in Brooklyn.  And I love to visit.  Everything is so close to the house that you can go for days, weeks I suspect, without having to go further than 6 blocks.  Within just 2 are more than 20 places to eat, a movie theater, grocery and drug stores.  Everything.

But here, in Raleigh, and most place sin America, things that people need and want are spread all over the place.  And because of that, trains, being static once built, are of very limited use to a very limited population of people.

And saying that makes me happy:

“The commuter rail plan and the light rail plan just don’t make sense to me,” said John Pucher, a professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is a visiting professor this semester at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the Department of City and Regional Planning.

Pucher has more than 40 years of experience in transportation planning. He supports alternative modes of transportation, but he said planners often underestimate cost and overestimate ridership projections.

“It’s just so difficult in this very decentralized, very sprawled metropolitan area,” he said.

I wish I could take a train to work.  Maybe in 12 years after the kids are in college and I have fewer variable trips, I can.  In fact, when I was single and living in Seattle, I often had thoughts of moving to Bainbridge Island and commuting by ferry.  I could arrange to work from home in the morning, miss the massive morning commute, take the boat across and be in the office by 10.  Same thing on the way home.

But right now, the way that we have built our cities, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze on this light rail.  The money just doesn’t make sense.

But what does?

A better option for Wake County would be a “bus rapid transit system,” he said. The system essentially allows buses to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes on area highways, which he said is more efficient, flexible and cost-effective than rail systems.


Light Rail: Seattle, WA

Light-rail and high-speed trains have long been the darling of the Left.  If some local or state government can come up with a plan to build trains, the Left is only TOO anxious to deliver the money.

Rail corridor between Raleigh and DC? Done!

Charlotte and Atlanta?  Done!

Roanoke and Durham. Done!

I admit that I’m flummoxed by this fixation.  But let’s take a look:

The idea is based on two angles:

  1. If we can move more people from here to there on a train, we’ll decrease the amount of fossil fuel burned.
  2. It creates jobs.

How much of this is true?  And to the extent that it IS true, what price are people willing to pay?

Continue reading

California: Part VI

Planes, trains and automobiles.  It’s a famous movie, but what really has the attention of politicians everywhere is this very same concept.  Planes, trains and automobiles.  Specifically, “how do we get fewer automobiles and more trains?”.  Everywhere people are requesting and demanding that we expand our mass transit system.  Part of it is a pander to the people who are best served at the expense of the rest of us.  Lately, though, we have begun to see the Global Warming crowd clamor that we need to implement more transit in order to reduce the number of carbon producing cars.  Still others claim that we have reached peak oil and going forward, we need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

In each case, the supporters are wrong, blind or both.  But nobody is as wrong as often or as blind as California.  Check this out via Reason:

For three years, Veronique Selgado took BART from the East Bay to her job working for an airline at San Francisco International Airport. But she recently switched to driving because BART raised fares and upped its SFO round-trip surcharge from $3 to $8, boosting her daily trip cost to nearly $20.

“It’s outrageous,” Selgado said. “At what point do they stop raising the prices, when it’s $50 a day to go round-trip to work? At what point does BART stand back and say, ‘People can’t pay that much to commute’?”

Millbrae resident Robert Smith, 63, had taken BART and Golden Gate Transit to his job in Sausalito because his employer provided transit vouchers, but eventually he threw up his hands, bought a Honda Civic and started driving.

It took him 21/2 hours each way by train and bus, turning his nine-hour workday into a 14-hour endeavor. Now he drives, and it takes him 45 minutes each way, which he said is well worth the extra gas and toll bridge costs.

Rick Mann loves public transit but hates the two hours and 15 minutes it takes him to walk from his Milpitas home to a transit station, catch a train, transfer to another train and then walk to his job as a software engineer in Sunnyvale.

The point is this: “Mass transit doesn’t work”.  We aren’t dense enough to make it work.  People live too far from where they work.  Transfers are common.  Further, because this is the government, making upgrades to the system is seen as an expense, not an investment.  As such, expenses are minimized meaning fewer trains and busses and fewer stops.  This raises the time of the commute and reduces riders.  But we have to continue to meet the costs.  And that means higher fares and higher taxes.

And soon, gentle reader, that means I am going to be taxed here in North Carolina so that someone in San Francisco can ride a bus that they don’t wanna ride.

Update on Transportation

Update to an earlier post.

This is exactly what I am talking about when it comes to this whole transportation thing:

Here Durham is guilty:

DATA was supposed to open its $17.6 million Durham Station Transportation Center in February. But now, the new center, located at the old Heart of Durham Hotel site on Chapel Hill Street, will not be open until the middle of March, according Ieshia Robertson, a city spokeswoman.

And to clarify any b lame:

Robertson said the actual facility will be completed on time, but N.C. Department of Transportation is requiring the city to do some work on the surrounding streets.

Look, I know that we want mass transit to succeed.  But it won’t.  Not here, not now.

All Aboard!

amtrak1So, while this is not light rail and that whole boondoggle, this may come close?  Or not.  I’m not sure.  But while reading this I was struck by two key facts:

Local leaders drew encouragement last year from an economic study by Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation. A Hillsborough stop would boost ticket revenue enough to trim the state’s Amtrak subsidy by a projected $56,000 a year.

Now, first of all, any study done by either Amtrak or the State Department of Transportation should sound the alarms in any neutral observer.  But, okay, for the sake of the article, lets go with it.  Let’s go with 56k a year.  Then this:

To protect one potential site for a train station, the Hillsborough town board agreed last summer to pay $600,000 for 20 acres known as the Collins property, just south of downtown.

So, let me get this straight.  In order to save $56,000 year, the town of Hillsborough spent 600 large to buy the land!.  Before this is over, with building costs creating the side line for the actual railroad and the rest of what I am sure is non-trivial costs, this station is going to cost several million dollars.

To save 56k a year.  You could invest 1 million dollars and pull back 56k a year.

Am I missing something?