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Old 04-15-2008, 08:23 AM
 
Location: Missouri
43 posts, read 115,810 times
Reputation: 24
Default Is El Paso ready for light rail?

City wants rapid transit system running in 3 years - El Paso Times

The El Paso times has a story about the mayor's desire for rapid transit in the sun city. There is talk of light rail, though it seems a rapid bus system is more likely. Do you think either would be viable in El Paso? Gas prices continue to rise and traffic can be a slow down at times from what I've noticed.

Being from a big city I really like the idea. Light rail works well in medium sized cities, i.e. Memphis, Denver, St. Louis, Portland. However El Paso is much smaller metropolitan wise. Would rapid bus take off here?
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Old 04-15-2008, 09:00 AM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
3,058 posts, read 8,029,150 times
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Rapid bus - yes, perhaps a good, viable idea. Albuquerque - a similarly-sized city/metro in the region has a rapid bus and it works well. Cost-wise it isn't terribly prohibitive (the important thing) and with relatively low costs the rewards are substantial.

Light rail - absolutely not.

El Paso isn't Portland. It isn't Denver. It isn't St. Louis. In fact, it isn't even close to these cities. Not only is El Paso much smaller (ELP metro around 712K whereas Denver and St. Louis are metro-wise more close to the 3-million range), but its citizenry is overall far less affluent.

With light rail, as "sexy" as it currently is to advocate for in cities, can be a real financial drudgery / nightmare for its citizens. Light rail will almost never be a revenue generator for a city...it is so friggin' expensive to build, and then the upkeep / maintenance, etc., is pricey enough to ensure that it'll never create big profits. The ideal situation typically is to break even, which, if a city is able to do that, generally leads to enough goodwill / good quality of life type aspects that it is worth it.

However, there needs to be a big DEMAND from a city - (in terms of a huge need of citizens clamoring for it [and they will in equal numbers actually use it], there needs to be enough affluence to support the project especially in its horribly expensive start-up, etc.). This just won't happen in a city with a metro of 712K. There just is not enough of a population base / enough of a traffic flow necessity, etc.

Thus, if the city built it, the supply / cost would FAR outweigh the demand, and it would be passed on to...all citizens. The taxpayers. So the taxpayers end up with a far, far higher tax burden (increasing financial woes) to support a system that was fairly unnecessary and lightly used.

So in principle, sure, if the Light Rail gods dropped out of the sky and handed EP a free light rail system, it would be a great tool to have. The more transit options the better. But the costs would otherwise make it prohibitive.

Rapid buses a much, much better idea for EP. (Even though buses aren't currently as sexy as trains are).
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Old 04-15-2008, 09:59 AM
 
105 posts, read 323,720 times
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I'd be happy if El Paso could just repair the potholes and keep the streets clean, and they sure have a hard time doing that right now.
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Old 04-15-2008, 11:07 AM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
3,058 posts, read 8,029,150 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexanWest View Post
I'd be happy if El Paso could just repair the potholes and keep the streets clean, and they sure have a hard time doing that right now.
Exactly. You've gotta crawl before you can think about running, heck, you've got to crawl, then stammer, then walk, before you can run!!
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Old 04-15-2008, 12:20 PM
 
Location: Missouri
43 posts, read 115,810 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexanWest View Post
I'd be happy if El Paso could just repair the potholes and keep the streets clean, and they sure have a hard time doing that right now.
ideally greater use of public transit would lead to less wear and tear on area roads

that and I've dealt with roads in far worse conditions in much bigger cities (not defending the poor road conditions)
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Old 04-15-2008, 12:22 PM
 
Location: DENVER
1,437 posts, read 2,949,896 times
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no were not ready for light rail the trolley downtown would be nice,we dont need light rail i get get anywhere in the city in 15mins
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:15 PM
 
639 posts, read 71,556 times
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Well you got to start getting ready sooner than later and I dont think that El Paso has to be a huge metropolis in order to support light rail, it's just the matter of how much one is willing to pay at the pump before reality starts to sink in.

I know people love to drive, especially El Pasoans, but there use to be a mentality in El Paso where public transportation was second to none, you either own an vehicle or you took the bus, nowadays people have two three maybe four cars parked at home but what about the rising cost of fuel?

Eventually El Pasoans are going to have to give it a try, I take the bus to work everyday
ofcourse it's different than driving but no headaches, no parking tickets, no high fuel cost, and I dont have to worry about finding parking.

I think that El Paso should experiment on a small scale first like a line that would serve UTEP through downtown and on to the Medical School, as demand grows add more extentions, that or just let things like they are and pay more at the pump, eventially years from now people will realize that lightrail should have been built eons agos, then it will cost a heck of alot more to build such system, but for the meantime mayor Cook has it right by going to the federal government for financial assistance and getting more serious about bringing lighrail without the rails to El Paso, it's going to be interesting to see how this project works out, if it ever gets off and running first.
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:21 PM
 
47,586 posts, read 34,456,307 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qwerty314 View Post
City wants rapid transit system running in 3 years - El Paso Times

The El Paso times has a story about the mayor's desire for rapid transit in the sun city. There is talk of light rail, though it seems a rapid bus system is more likely. Do you think either would be viable in El Paso? Gas prices continue to rise and traffic can be a slow down at times from what I've noticed.

Being from a big city I really like the idea. Light rail works well in medium sized cities, i.e. Memphis, Denver, St. Louis, Portland. However El Paso is much smaller metropolitan wise. Would rapid bus take off here?
I pass so many buses that are mostly empty. Even school buses here are often very under utilized.
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Old 04-16-2008, 05:31 AM
 
Location: Missouri
43 posts, read 115,810 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malamute View Post
I pass so many buses that are mostly empty. Even school buses here are often very under utilized.
I agree with HighLonesome. That and buses are mostly empty here because of the mentality that you must drive EVERYWHERE. Nada wrong with taking the bus to work and reserving the driving for weekends and for running errands. There more people drive, the higher demand, the more damage to area roads, cost of gases continues to rise.

Problem is our city is pretty spread out, so getting from one side of the town to another takes a long time. That and I really don't know how good the transist system is here yet, I've yet to experience it (only been here for 2 weeks).
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Old 04-16-2008, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Metro Milwaukee, WI
3,058 posts, read 8,029,150 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qwerty314 View Post
I agree with HighLonesome. That and buses are mostly empty here because of the mentality that you must drive EVERYWHERE. Nada wrong with taking the bus to work and reserving the driving for weekends and for running errands. There more people drive, the higher demand, the more damage to area roads, cost of gases continues to rise.
This all may be true. I find that in towns like El Paso, Albuquerque, and up where I am in currently (Milwaukee, WI) people are definitely geared towards cars. They have that "drive everywhere" mentality sure.

However, the thing is, at it relates to rail, history shows that you can't essentially force people to change their habits and transportation habits, at least not in significant numbers. Buffalo, NY tried to do this by building a massive, modern, and extremely costly system, and now it sits as a financial scourge, largely unused. There wasn't the demand from the public for it, and once it was built, it didn't all of a sudden make those used to driving in a city as easily navigate-able as Buffalo to all of a sudden say, "hey, scr*w my car, I am jumping on the train!"

As much as maybe individuals would LIKE or WISH for others to embrace transit more in a town like EP or ABQ or MKE or Buaffalo, you simply cannot build something to try to change / increase demand. It is counter-intuitive to how the basic economic principle works.

The only way something like light rail would work in EP is the demand would need to swell from the people itself and the population base. The demand needs to come in high / massive numbers BEFORE the supply (building the light rail). Building light rail first puts the cart before the horse and doesn't work.

Whether one is pro-the *idea* of light rail or not, it is hard to envision El Paso's population base or populace putting up any realistic demand currently when there is such a driving culture and frankly, as el borracho points out, you can get around the city relatively quickly, easily and painlessly most any time of any day.

P.S. Also, for all of the talk about the soaring gas prices necessitating the need for folks to stop driving and use more transit, thus far, national stats show that behaviors really haven't changed. People are overall driving relatively significantly as ever before. They moan about the prices, but they are still filling up and driving. Where will the price per gallon need to go until when driving behaviors are REALLY altered? Who knows? No one knows at this point. $4 per gallon? I don't know...we are getting close. $5 a gallon? Maybe. Hopefully we won't find out. Oh, and on the high gas costs, remember, just as the high gas costs drive up airline tickets, higher gas costs will make transit more costly over time too, especially if usage goes up significantly.

*****Bottom-line...EP is on-track with the rapid bus idea. Start there, and see if that gradually gains popularity in the city slowly changing some driving behavior - the risk (cost to the public) is relatively low, and the rewards are nothing but positives.
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