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Old 06-10-2015, 09:05 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
Birmingham won't have the ridership density in 2021 that rail would make sense there either. In Sacramento, it took about 20 years before light rail was less expensive than buses. That's despite the fact that rail replaced the heaviest used bus lines. Running buses on the same routes still likely would be cheaper. Same with Portland which has much more ridership. MAX is cheaper than the average bus cost, but not significantly cheaper than the frequent service bus lines. There's other advantages, of course, but cost savings isn't one of them. I don't see Birmingham getting similar ridership numbers as Portland by 2021 even if they'd built the rail and it was operating today.
I don't know much about Birmingham in particular, so you may be right--they may just not be getting the kind of population and job growth that would justify a light rail.

The thing is that a "rapid bus" that's not BRT does not encourage investment like rail, so you will by default continue with the current status quo of autocentric sprawl development, which OF COURSE will not result in the density and usage that established rail systems have! Unless you run out of land or something, like in LA. It's kind of like self fulfilling prophecy. Think if you don't expand an expressway because "well, no one lives out there anywhere." Build a two lane country road instead. Well, it's not likely that many people will flock to live there. But we all know how new highways can spur development (e.g., sprawl).

So yes, you have a "cheaper" system, but you potentially miss out on all the benefits and tax revenue of that development which could have been spurred by light rail. "Potentially"--it all depends on population and job growth. But of course, having LRT makes a city more attractive for growth too. Meanwhile you continue with sprawl development and you eventually get Miami or Atlanta traffic congestion with no alternatives. So cheaper is not always better. The enhanced bus system will, however, help those who currently use the bus system, so it will still have a significant benefit--good for them.
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Old 06-11-2015, 10:58 AM
 
2,553 posts, read 2,015,436 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hurricaneMan1992 View Post
So yes, you have a "cheaper" system, but you potentially miss out on all the benefits and tax revenue of that development which could have been spurred by light rail. "Potentially"--it all depends on population and job growth. But of course, having LRT makes a city more attractive for growth too. Meanwhile you continue with sprawl development and you eventually get Miami or Atlanta traffic congestion with no alternatives. So cheaper is not always better. The enhanced bus system will, however, help those who currently use the bus system, so it will still have a significant benefit--good for them.
That's really more an argument to do something well or not at all rather than an argument for LRT specifically. Perhaps Birmingham would be better served by a proper BRT route than LRT, as LRT done poorly can be a terrible ROI.
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Old 06-11-2015, 07:27 PM
 
Location: Vallejo
14,108 posts, read 16,190,661 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hurricaneMan1992 View Post
I don't know much about Birmingham in particular, so you may be right--they may just not be getting the kind of population and job growth that would justify a light rail.

The thing is that a "rapid bus" that's not BRT does not encourage investment like rail, so you will by default continue with the current status quo of autocentric sprawl development, which OF COURSE will not result in the density and usage that established rail systems have! Unless you run out of land or something, like in LA. It's kind of like self fulfilling prophecy. Think if you don't expand an expressway because "well, no one lives out there anywhere." Build a two lane country road instead. Well, it's not likely that many people will flock to live there. But we all know how new highways can spur development (e.g., sprawl).

So yes, you have a "cheaper" system, but you potentially miss out on all the benefits and tax revenue of that development which could have been spurred by light rail. "Potentially"--it all depends on population and job growth. But of course, having LRT makes a city more attractive for growth too. Meanwhile you continue with sprawl development and you eventually get Miami or Atlanta traffic congestion with no alternatives. So cheaper is not always better. The enhanced bus system will, however, help those who currently use the bus system, so it will still have a significant benefit--good for them.
Rail automatically encouraging investment is a myth. The usually story they like to paint is to take Portland or somewhere approved (rather than, say, Phoenix) and then attribute all the growth that was already occurring to rail. Couple problems with that, Portland was already growing as I mentioned. Secondly, ridership isn't increasing. If everyone was flocking to Portland for the transit, you'd expect the transit usage would be increasing. Modal share hasn't, however.

Even in growing areas of rapidly growing cities like Seattle, the growth isn't enough even with special tax districts to help offset the cost, local business directly paying for it voluntarily, and the federal goverment paying for about half the cost, the city keeps having to bail out out its operations. In many places like Sacramento no investment occurs. Even where it does, like Portland or Seattle, it tends to be massively overestimated and erroneously counted.

None of that is to say it doesn't. It's just a point in being realistic. The spurred investment is much lower than planner math would lead you to believe under the best of circumstances, let alone the conditions actually on the ground somewhere like Sacramento or Birmingham. Generally what happens though is someplace that really has no reason to have rail puts the cart before the horse and figures the primary purpose of public transportation is property development to justify a project that just doesn't make any sense. The fringe benefit becomes the primary rational and then it fails to deliver. Then you've got Portland making year after year after year of transit cuts because the fringe benefit never occurred and they have to find some other way of funding the project that never should have been built.

The actual primary benefit is that light rail can offer better service than BRT. Portland could run buses for the same cost as it does MAX, but the level of service would not be as good. Since the costs would be similar, rail makes sense. At least provided you have the money to do it, anyway. Rail on Geary in San Francisco would certainly make sense but there isn't any money to do it.

Last edited by Malloric; 06-11-2015 at 07:48 PM..
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Old 06-12-2015, 05:11 PM
 
Location: Birmingham
779 posts, read 772,979 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malloric View Post
Rail automatically encouraging investment is a myth. The usually story they like to paint is to take Portland or somewhere approved (rather than, say, Phoenix) and then attribute all the growth that was already occurring to rail. Couple problems with that, Portland was already growing as I mentioned. Secondly, ridership isn't increasing. If everyone was flocking to Portland for the transit, you'd expect the transit usage would be increasing. Modal share hasn't, however.

Even in growing areas of rapidly growing cities like Seattle, the growth isn't enough even with special tax districts to help offset the cost, local business directly paying for it voluntarily, and the federal goverment paying for about half the cost, the city keeps having to bail out out its operations. In many places like Sacramento no investment occurs. Even where it does, like Portland or Seattle, it tends to be massively overestimated and erroneously counted.

None of that is to say it doesn't. It's just a point in being realistic. The spurred investment is much lower than planner math would lead you to believe under the best of circumstances, let alone the conditions actually on the ground somewhere like Sacramento or Birmingham. Generally what happens though is someplace that really has no reason to have rail puts the cart before the horse and figures the primary purpose of public transportation is property development to justify a project that just doesn't make any sense. The fringe benefit becomes the primary rational and then it fails to deliver. Then you've got Portland making year after year after year of transit cuts because the fringe benefit never occurred and they have to find some other way of funding the project that never should have been built.

The actual primary benefit is that light rail can offer better service than BRT. Portland could run buses for the same cost as it does MAX, but the level of service would not be as good. Since the costs would be similar, rail makes sense. At least provided you have the money to do it, anyway. Rail on Geary in San Francisco would certainly make sense but there isn't any money to do it.
You guys make a lot of great points and they are definitely worth considering for any city. I fear that rail has gotten so expensive that it makes little sense for most cities. If NYC wouldn't have built their subway system so long ago, it probably would never be built. Could you imagine having to dig all of those miles of tunnels under the city the way it is now?

I know that having rail doesn't necessarily contribute to the growth of the city the way some attribute it, but do you guys think some cities would have grown as much as they did without rail? We know that NYC or Chicago would have always been huge cities but would they have been as big as they are without their rail systems?

One thing that I do want you guys to consider is that I believe Birmingham is already growing significantly but it just isn't showing in the numbers yet. All of the residential units in the city center are at max occupancy and that's with a couple of thousand new units being built in the past 2-3 years. However, the numbers were still showing that we were losing population until last year when we gained like 20 people. We had to have been losing people in other parts of the city??? The way the city has annexed in different areas, the city limits look kind of like a spider on a map.

We also have a few more thousand units in different phases of construction in the city center... Many of those are already reserved. I'm aware that growth of like 2,000 people isn't really huge but I think it's a significant sign for a city that has been bleeding people for decades. All of those new people are moving into the city center which is going to mean higher density. I just keep thinking that doing LRT now while there are still many blighted and vacant tax properties would make building out LRT cheaper... and we would be getting ahead of the curve. By the 2020 census, I think our growth rate will look very different than it does now.

One more thing I would like to add, we have quite a bit of urban areas immediately bordering the city that I think a new transit system could service if the 35+ municipalities inside of Jefferson county could ever get together.
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Old 06-13-2015, 03:29 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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It's not like you can build a LRT out in the middle of nowhere and it alone will turn city in decline into a boom town. But if you are already experiencing and/or expecting growth, what a rail (or real BRT) system can do is concentrate some of that growth along the corridor, as well as be a viable alternative when automobile congestion starts getting bad (when not if--it is an inevitable consequence of growth...) and people start getting fed up with traffic. Eventually we will have to use congestion tolling to manage traffic--and you need an alternative to driving in order to do this. None of this happens overnight. It's likely you may not see the full benefits for several decades--several business and real estate cycles--which admittedly, is beyond the scope of most elected officials. But not beyond the scope of forward-looking residents who vote. (One issue in Portland perhaps is that they are not growing in general, in part due to strict urban development boundaries and perhaps unfavorable taxes and regulations?).

Here in Miami we originally built the Metrorail in the 70's and it is just in the past decade or so that real estate development (dozens of $100M+ high rises) is being concentrated along the line. Ridership increased from 60k to over 75k in just the past few years. Now this is happening in Miami--a city that is notorious for car culture and that has a very limited Metro system (doesn't even go to the beaches) and that really doesn't subsidize or encourage transit oriented development in any meaningful way.

I recently attended a conference in Phoenix (Portland too) with an organization which takes in to consideration whether the 4000+ attendees have access to mass transit. And those attendees mostly stay in area hotels and eat within walking distance, so it really does help businesses in the downtown area. University students consider whether they can get around town without the hassle of having a car on campus when considering where to attend--not to mention parking for all those commuters. Though it's obvious that not many people actually live in downtown Phoenix, as I said, all of this takes time. Phoenix's LRT was just opened in 2008, and who's to say what Phoenix will look like in 20-30 years? So let's come back in 2040 or 2050 and see whether Phoenix's investment in it's future (and Birmingham's decision not to do LRT or full BRT) was worth it.

I guess the point is, yes, it's usually hard to justify the cost of rail given decades of sprawl development patterns which OF COURSE are not conducive to rail. However, as a long term investment, things start to look different. And the money DOES EXIST if you consider the money being put in highway projects without raising the fuel tax to keep up. All population growth projections that I have seen have the world and the US becoming a much more crowded place by 2050, with much of that population growth concentrated in cities. And the current trend is definitely for less automobile use and more mass transit use. Even now traffic congestion is increasingly showing up in small to medium sized US cities--not just big cities anymore. And if you think rail is expensive how, just wait and see how much it will cost to build from scratch in 2050.
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Old 07-15-2015, 01:56 AM
 
Location: The City of Brotherly Love
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No offense, but the "BRT vs LRT" debate is one that makes me cringe, at least when applied to older, more urban cities. I live near Philadelphia and frequent the city very often. Getting into Philly is easy since we have the best commuter rail system in the country. Getting around Philly, especially if you are not a local, can be difficult, however. Philly had plans for a grand subway system with a loop in Center City. A lot of funds that had been previously set aside for the subway system as envisioned were diverted to the construction of the Ben Franklin Parkway. This left us with the Broad Street Line completed, a tunnel under Locust Street (which became integrated into the PATCO system), and unfinished tunnels under Arch Street. I did not mention the Market-Frankford Line because that was constructed with private funds from the PTC.


In my opinion, cities like Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, D.C., and even Atlanta and L.A., should focus their efforts on heavy rail rapid transit projects. In Philly's case, we could extend PATCO westward, extend the Broad Street Line to Cheltenham-Ogontz to the north and Gloucester County, NJ via the Navy Yard to the south, possibly extend the Broad-Ridge Spur down 8th Street, and construct a new Roosevelt Boulevard Subway/Elevated. Heavy rail works better in cities with established density. It is also the fastest, most efficient way to move large volumes of people. I think that HRT should be the first option over LRT and BRT, despite the uptick in cost.
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Old 07-15-2015, 12:34 PM
 
2,553 posts, read 2,015,436 times
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Originally Posted by PhilliesPhan2013 View Post
I think that HRT should be the first option over LRT and BRT, despite the uptick in cost.
Doesn't that depend on the context?

What's the goal? Is it to move people across a region? That's commuter rail. Is it to move people across a city or carrying crush loads? That suggests HRT. Or to move people within a city or at-grade? That suggests LRT. Or is it from one or many districts to many districts along a common, dedicated ROW trunk? That suggests BRT.

There's going to be overlap, too, which makes context even more important. BART has shown people will use HRT as an across-county and regional commuter system. And LRT can use dedicated ROW trunks for longer distances (like HRT) with spurs for in-city and on-street routes. And, as the corporate buses have shown, people will ride in comfortable coaches across counties.
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Old 07-15-2015, 12:47 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,993 posts, read 42,238,019 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darkeconomist View Post
What's the goal? Is it to move people across a region? That's commuter rail. Is it to move people across a city or carrying crush loads? That suggests HRT. Or to move people within a city or at-grade? That suggests LRT. Or is it from one or many districts to many districts along a common, dedicated ROW trunk? That suggests BRT.
Commuter rail can carry crush loads (see RER in Paris suburbs, among others)
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