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What A Real Transit Rail System Looks Like: The Station

Since the decline and almost total destruction of the American Passenger Rail Network in the 70s and the demolition and dismemberment of the interurbans and streetcars in almost every city across the continent during the 40's and 50's the memory and easy familiarity with an interlinked network of passenger rail systems has almost completely faded. In fact, for most Americans, the only images they have of passenger rail systems, and subways in particular, are Amtrak, the New York Metro, the San Francisco BART, and maybe some of the system in Chicago. Not a very inspiring bunch. However, most of the rest of the developed countries have quite wonderful passenger rail networks. They are clean, efficient, cheap, run on time, have as many as 20 or even 25 trains an hour (one every three minutes) during peak periods, and everybody from all income levels uses them. This is not a utopian fantasy, it is normal life for most people -- which they take for granted along with other modern conveniences like clean running water and working sewage systems. Join Nate Lewis, economist and urban theorist as we have a look at some of the passenger rail elements and components of the rest of the world, starting with a photo essay of The Stations.

Published May 30, 2012 in Urban Issues      61 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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If you haven't used a real rail based transit system, that runs at least ten trains an hour all day, on time, then you probably don't know what it's like. It is like electricity. It's just there, and it works. At ten trains an hour, there is a train every six minutes. You don't have to look at a schedule, you just show up and, within an average of three minutes, you get on the train.

And the stations themselves have a tendency to become a part of the culture, look and feel of the daily city life.

A real system connects people to destinations that they want to go in a city.  It connects cities to the suburbs, exurbs, and small towns that surround it, and it connects cities to other cities.

There are several elements that all real passenger rail systems have in common, and one of the most iconic elements is the design of The Stations.

Here are some shots of nicer stations from around the world:
http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/8346/subway-architecture.html


T-Centralen Station, Stockholm. photo via flickr


Westfriedhof Station, Mnchen U-bahn photo via flickr


Candidplatz Station, Munich photo via flickr


Georg-Brauchle Ring Station, Munich photo via flick


Bilbao Metro by foster+partners


Iidabashi Station, Tokyo by makoto sei watanabe architects



Komsomolskaya Station, Moscow photo via flickr


Komsomolskaya Station, Moscow photo via flickr


Museum Station, Toronto by diamond+schmitt architects


Drassanes Station, Barcelona by on-a arquitectura

For more incredible photos of station designs check out the source of these amazing photos at http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/8346/subway-architecture.html.  Brilliant and beautiful work from a great website!


I like Komsomolskaya Station best, followed by Iidabashi Station.

However, rail systems are not really something to fetishize about. They should just work, like plumbing. It isn't necessary to be as decorative as the examples shown. Just clean and functional is fine -- unlike New York Metro subways, which are dirty and dysfunctional, and about as much fun as dirty and dysfunctional plumbing.

While beauty and interesting architecture make any public place nicer, the real advantage of good passenger rail is not that we can oooh and ahhh about the station decor, but rather that it gets us to Point B efficiently, and enables us to live in a City without a car. In other words, urban passenger rail allows us to have a really fabulous destination, and a fabulous lifestyle in many ways.

Trains and densely populated, vibrant cities go together. You can't have one without the other. You can try, but you will fail. A train system in Suburban Hell is almost useless, because you have to drive to and from the train station. A Vibrant City without a train is impossible, because you will need lots and lots of parking--and the parking destroys the density and vibrancy. (Exceptions can be made for small towns near a train station, where you can literally walk everywhere in town, and which could be served by a bus that goes to the station.)

Bicycles, electric cars, scooters, Segways, whatever: not gonna work as the total solution. You can have these things in addition to a good train system, but not as the alternative. What you'll find out is that, if the train system is good, you don't need all this other stuff for basic survival anyway.

These days, In cities where it is possible to build underground, or necessary to go through hills or mountains, it's easy to make subway systems because we have amazing tunneling machines, which will bore a train-sized hole like a giant rock-eating worm.  Have a look at one of these babies.



So, no excuses.

The next element in our train system is the proper integration of the train within the city. This is another point at which the typical U.S. solution is a total disaster.

The typical U.S. solution is to surround the train station with acres and acres of free parking.



This is Westport Station on the New Haven line, east of New York City. My old train station. This photo is about 800 meters across.

See the free parking everywhere? (In this case, it's not actually free.)

Even if you did work up the courage to cross that burning plain of asphalt, there isn't anything to walk to. Obviously, you need a car.


This is the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station, part of the Washington DC train system. This photo is 800 meters across.

It is a perfect example of WHAT NOT TO DO. The train station is in the middle of the interstate, and surrounded by square miles of parking and Green Space and mega-roadways. There is no Place to go to. The first thing you think when you step off the train is: "Damn, I need a car!"

There are 157 acres of land in this photo. When you step off the train, you have immediate walking access to 157 acres of nothing. There's no There there!

The better solution -- assuming that we are aiming to create vibrant cities, where we can live without owning a car, or at the very least, have only one car which is used every other weekend -- is to surround the station with all the highest-value property.

A common Japanese solution is to put the supermarket right inside the train station. That way, you can do your shopping right after work, with no fuss whatsover.

All the best offices, stores and restaurants are as close to the train station as possible, so we can walk there from the station, and where there is the most pedestrian traffic. Plus, you also try to put as many apartment buildings there as you can, so you can easily walk to the station in less than ten minutes. So, in front of the station, there might be a little bus stop, dropoff point and taxi stand, and perhaps a little bike parking lot, but little or no automobile parking.

The larger train stations often have full-size department stores also right inside the station.



This is Gakugei Daigaku Station, on the Toyoko Line, which runs southwest out of Tokyo and ends up in Yokohama (thus "To-Yoko"). I used to live near here.

This photo is about 400 meters across, or about a 200m radius from the station. What you see here is all within about a three minute walk from the station. This is a really nice neighborhood, with an immense amount of fun stuff going on.

First, notice that there is no parking. There is some bike parking, and also some bus stops. Look at the enormous amount of stuff that is within a three-minute walk of the station! It is, as a Traditional City should be, 100% Places.




This is the Vienna/Fairfax station again, near Washington DC. This is the same scale, about 400 meters across. You can see that there is absolutely nothing you can walk to in this area, except your car. (The buildings you see are parking garages.)



This is Gakugei Daigaku station again (the "A" mark), but we have pulled back a bit. The photo is now about 1500 meters across, or about a 750 meter (about half a mile) radius from the station. You could walk from the station to anywhere in this photo in ten minutes. We can see that there is now an utterly colossal amount of stuff that we can access with only a ten-minute walk. This photo covers about one square mile, or 640 acres.

Looks like grey mush, like a vibrant Traditional City should! Generally speaking, the more grey-mushy it is, the better it is.  That grey mushy area represents people and shops and streets.  Bikes, windows, conversation, mailboxes, places to hang out, meet and experience the daily life of the city.

If you want people to be able to live without automobiles, you have to make it easy to get from the train station to wherever you want to go on foot. This means you put all the good stuff right up against the train station -- even build it into the train station itself if possible. When you step out of the train station, you want to land right in a wonderful pedestrian Traditional City environment, not a parking lot wasteland.

In short, you want to pair your train system with vibrant city design. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.



The view when you step out of Gakugei Daigaku station. Doesn't that look like more fun than 157 acres of asphalt and Green Space?

It is!


Article and Graphics by Nate Lewis
Review and Edit by Stephen Dare

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Nathan Lewis is the principal of Kiku Capital Management LLC, which manages a private investment partnership.

He was formerly the Chief International Economist and Global Strategist for firms providing investment research to institutions.

His book Gold: the Once and Future Money was published by Agora Book Publishing and John Wiley in 2007, and is now available in five languages.

He has written for the Financial Times, Huffington Post, Nikkei Business, Daily Reckoning, Japan Times, Daily Yomiuri, Pravda, Asian Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Worth, and other publications.

His groundbreaking work and research can be found at his website: New World Economics.  http://www.newworldeconomics.com/








61 Comments

tufsu1

August 25, 2010, 08:07:39 AM
this is a good article...although I wonder why the author chose to highlight one of the worst stations on DC's Metro line....several of the suburban stations have now have adjacent TOD development....and the urban stations often have attached retail (even department stores)

stephendare

August 25, 2010, 08:11:15 AM
I think in order to show the contrasts.

archiphreak

August 25, 2010, 08:21:15 AM
Ha!  The Vienna Station is my old station.  I used to live about 1 mile from there just off Lee Highway.  There was a walking trail that went behind my townhome development straight to the metro.  So, this is actually a little misleading.  If you live there and know where you are there are a number of things relatively close by (within say 1 mile).  Not the most comfortable walking distance in the winter, but not out of the question.
This is a great article though.  You've really highlighted the difference between western and eastern thinking about development and mass transit.  The thinking in America is that transit has to be set apart, outside the "hustle and bustle" of commerce.  We need a radical change in this kind of thinking.  As I'm sure all will agree here, transit needs to be an integral part of our urban environment, woven into our daily lives.

Traveller

August 25, 2010, 08:32:05 AM
The Vienna Metro station is the last station on the Orange line.  It is meant to be a park & ride station for commuters from Fairfax, Centreville, Gainesville, etc. so those individuals don't drive all the way into the District.  Same for Franconia/Springfield, New Carollton, Shady Grove, etc.  tufsu1 is correct in that many of the stations closer to town have enormous TOD's attached to them (e.g., Ballston, Pentagon City).  Problem is those neighborhoods are not cheap to live in.

Unrelated question: is it physically possible to build underground rail in Florida?

thelakelander

August 25, 2010, 08:38:21 AM
Miami's old Metrorail expansion plans, from a few years ago, included subway segments and stations under their downtown.  Unfortunately, they ended up using a chuck of that money for current operations and now they don't have the funds to the the massive expansion they promised taxpayers down there.

tufsu1

August 25, 2010, 08:46:04 AM
I personally think that above-ground rail is better for a few reasons:

1. It is far cheaper to build, even when elevated (like Miami's system)
2. It allows people to see the area around them....which may be very helpful for TOD

Doctor_K

August 25, 2010, 09:01:47 AM
I'm particularly fond of this poignant bit:
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A Vibrant City without a train is impossible, because you will need lots and lots of parking--and the parking destroys the density and vibrancy.

Does that hit close enough to home, Jacksonville??

Garden guy

August 25, 2010, 09:16:13 AM
it's going to be years and years...sorry but unless something major happens to the leaders of this area a transit system is out of the picture. our leaders can't even get over a muslim being on a city board...how are they going to grasp the idea of a better transit system...ill never see it in my lifetime..i hope...but i seriously doubt it...it was so nice in europe to get around...it made traveling pleasurable.

stephendare

August 25, 2010, 09:20:37 AM
it's going to be years and years...sorry but unless something major happens to the leaders of this area a transit system is out of the picture. our leaders can't even get over a muslim being on a city board...how are they going to grasp the idea of a better transit system...ill never see it in my lifetime..i hope...but i seriously doubt it...it was so nice in europe to get around...it made traveling pleasurable.

Because, Garden guy, you and us and the rest of the like minded people who are all out in front of these issues are the new leaders of this area.

There are enough of us that are sick of The Stupid, and if we all work together, we can move mountains.

JeffreyS

August 25, 2010, 09:28:16 AM
Great is just not what we strive for in America anymore. Great is a waste of taxpayer money.  Great takes longer than a stucco strip mall to construct.  So many Americans do not want the Government to do great things they don't want the Government to do anything at all.  This is the attitude we have to change the Dagny Taggart's should build great engines of commerce the Government should build a great quality of life environment.

finehoe

August 25, 2010, 10:20:24 AM
Socialism.

stephendare

August 25, 2010, 10:23:16 AM
Great is just not what we strive for in America anymore. Great is a waste of taxpayer money.  Great takes longer than a stucco strip mall to construct.  So many Americans do not want the Government to do great things they don't want the Government to do anything at all.  This is the attitude we have to change the Dagny Taggart's should build great engines of commerce the Government should build a great quality of life environment.

That is what its there for!

Thanks Jeffrey!

I am so sick of mediocre, cheap, easily discarded.

We have the promise of greatness in us, and we design and build for mall zombies in subarus.

tufsu1

August 25, 2010, 11:09:52 AM
Great is just not what we strive for in America anymore. Great is a waste of taxpayer money.  Great takes longer than a stucco strip mall to construct.  So many Americans do not want the Government to do great things they don't want the Government to do anything at all.  This is the attitude we have to change the Dagny Taggart's should build great engines of commerce the Government should build a great quality of life environment.

+100

thelakelander

August 25, 2010, 11:50:02 AM
it's going to be years and years...

We'll be electing a new mayor less than a year.  Let's make it count and it might not take decades to flip the apple cart.

AaroniusLives

August 25, 2010, 01:28:13 PM
A few things...

Regarding the Vienna/Fairfax/GMU Washington Metro station:
That station was actually designed to be a "park and ride" location, where folks from the 'burbs can come and park their cars and ride the train into the central core. Now that they're expanding the Metro out to Tyson's Corner and Dulles Airport, this station is getting the TOD-refit.

Here's the site:
http://metrowestva.com/

Now, it may take longer to get there, due to the current housing crisis, but that station will be reborn as the anchor to TOD. Moreover, the need for outlying stations in metro/transit systems to be "park and ride" is a basic reality for nearly every major metropolitan area in the country. Even metro New York has this need: they may have pushed out their densities farther than most, but a whole bunch of people need those "park and ride" lots, as they are commuting from a car-centric location. In time, perhaps these locations (like Vienna/Fairfax/GMU) will need to be redeveloped as TOD anchor stations, as the dense core pushes further out.

The Japanese examples are particularly unfair as it relates to density. Japan has 127,000,000 people packed into a tiny land mass. It is more than ten times as densely populated as the United States. Japan uses their rail stations as combo-transit/shopping locations because it has no choice (and indeed, they tried to forge another choice to relieve their density: it's called the Japanese Empire of the Sun.) Which isn't to say that we shouldn't have shopping in TOD-transit stations; it is to say that the high use of the Japanese trains in both long haul and subway forms, is determined largely by their utter need to use them, to build densely, and to "deal" with having no land, high population and a high standard of living. It will be interesting to watch Japan as they lose population over the next several decades, and what that demographic and density shift does to the Japanese transportation model.

The Moscow stations are indeed beautiful. I've seen them in person. It's interesting to note that those stations were created with elaborate designs and plans, while the actual citizens of Moscow lived in Soviet-bloc housing. Meaning that if you wanted to take the train, you were reminded of the glory of the USSR. And then you went to wait in line for bark-filled toilet paper that you couldn't afford in your one-bedroom leaky flat for five. 

stephendare

August 25, 2010, 01:33:13 PM
Good points, but I think you are missing the point of the comparisons.

While park and Ride is necessary for outlying commuters, it doesnt mean that the design of the vienna station is the best one or that the city is served by having rail stations which are not connective destinations.

Also, while the Japanese are dense, similar density exists around other rail lines in the megacities as well.

The TOD model of business is one which builds in maximum use and profits from stations and lines in addition to the organic convenience to the end users.

BTW, I totally agree with you about the Moscow Station.  I love all the stations there but that one in particular.  Very beautiful.

Wonder what a Jacksonville station could be made to look like?  Wouldnt it be awesome if instead of the Transit ranch, the downtown station was also a mega publix or Winn Dixie? Or if we had regional stations that were designed to look like Flagler's hotels?

urbaknight

August 25, 2010, 02:40:49 PM
What does, TOD stand for?

AaroniusLives

August 25, 2010, 02:41:45 PM
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While park and Ride is necessary for outlying commuters, it doesnt mean that the design of the vienna station is the best one or that the city is served by having rail stations which are not connective destinations.

We're looking at the Vienna Metro station through the prism of today's Washington DC reality. Go back to 1986, when the station was built. Fairfax County had a population of around 600,000 people. Flash-forward to today, and there are more than a million. The central core's population (DC) was continuing a residential decline, which lasted from the 1960s through the 1990s. It was a place to work, not live. Flash forward to today and you have a city that people want to inhabit, with a rise in population.

The point is this: in 1986, that station served the region well. Most people drove (and still do.) Most people were living in car-centric suburbs (and sadly, still are.) What has happened in 2010 is that what the DC region considers to be "central" has spread out from the core. "Park and ride" stations that were once at the fringe have been redone as TOD, because there is a need and a desire to live closer to the core than ever before (well, since the 1950s, anyway.)

The Vienna station was designed for cars, not people. It was designed to connect the people in their cars to the business center(s) of Metro Washington DC, without them having to drive there. It was not, by its nature, designed to create a dense, walking, environment. That its original purpose may not be as needed or as en vogue in the present is another story. But it does serve its purpose: connecting car commuters to public transit. It does connect, but perhaps not in the way urbanists define connection.  

(The Vienna station redux is also going to be quite interesting in that it's going to retain it's "park and ride" status while building TOD. I'm eager to see how they pull it off.)

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The TOD model of business is one which builds in maximum use and profits from stations and lines in addition to the organic convenience to the end users.

That is a brilliant description.

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BTW, I totally agree with you about the Moscow Station.  I love all the stations there but that one in particular.  Very beautiful.

The beauty still doesn't mask the conditions with which they were built. Millions of Russians suffered in squalor at home. I'm sure the refuge to the beauty of the subway station wasn't enough, and in many ways, is a huuuuuuge slap in the face.

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Wonder what a Jacksonville station could be made to look like?  Wouldnt it be awesome if instead of the Transit ranch, the downtown station was also a mega publix or Winn Dixie? Or if we had regional stations that were designed to look like Flagler's hotels?

I'm torn between "beauty" and "clean, functionality." The Toronto example above is of one of their more decorated stations, but the others are much more clean and functional. They weren't "capitol" enough for DC to emulate, which is a shame, because it's insanely expensive to vault and lobby every damned Metro station. To put this another way, DC could (and should and needs) have more Metro if they focused on "clean and functional" versus "Brutalist and spacious."

Moreover, there's nothing to say that "clean and functional" can't be beautiful. Dallas' DART stations, even the dreaded "park and rides" use curved, open-air enclosures to create attractive, inexpensive stations.

As for Jacksonville, like...get a transit system first! :)

stephendare

August 25, 2010, 02:46:22 PM
What does, TOD stand for?

Transit Oriented Development.  It means building stuff around transit stations because you have built in customers and also it creates its own destinations.

finehoe

August 25, 2010, 03:07:15 PM
Wonder what a Jacksonville station could be made to look like? 

Faux-mediterranean made of cheap stucco with sickly sabel palms at the entrance. :'(

Garden guy

August 25, 2010, 03:39:05 PM
For anything great to happen in jacksonville it's going to take a voting outreach. We stand here and allow 15% of our city population to decide what happens to us all....that's ridiculous. This issue should have been dealt with years ago when we all realized we sit at the intersection of two of the worlds longest and largest expressways all while sitting at an ocean port...the only reason this city isn't tops in the nation is due to its leaders. so i say we've all gotta get loud and tell everyone to go vote for ever single thing that can be voted on. I'd love to see 8 or 10 trolleys working riverside,avondale, ortega, downtown, san marco....it worked before...why not again....oh that right...we're in jacksonville...there's a game to pay for.

finehoe

August 25, 2010, 04:17:31 PM
I posted this link on MJ a while back, but I think it's appropriate to post it again:

http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/8346/subway-architecture.html

Here's another:

http://mic-ro.com/metro/metroart.html

ZacharyMease

August 25, 2010, 08:36:37 PM
Maybe JTA should rent the underside of the monorail to artists (for painting) ... perhaps advertising. That way you get income for (hopefully) future extensions, or at least reduce that 4 mil. that shouldn't be there in the first place. Not to mention make up for the lack of art within the current stations.


... just a thought.

lewyn

August 25, 2010, 09:02:46 PM
I spent most of the past year (2009-10) in Toronto, and I got off at the Museum station (near the University of Toronto where I went)- quite nice!  But one thing the other, more mundane Toronto stations have that I miss is clocks telling you when the next train is coming.  I wish JTA bus stops had something like that!

thelakelander

August 25, 2010, 09:33:35 PM
Don't worry.  They want to spend $25 million to give you your clocks on 11 miles of Philips Highway, at the potential expense of commuter rail on the FEC.  If all goes as planned the clocks, telling you how long you"ll have to wait in the grass for the next bus, will be operational in 2014.

stjr

August 25, 2010, 11:24:38 PM
Not beautiful, but clearly in the sweet spot with regard to functionality, are most of Manhattan's subway stations.  I think they are masterful at integrating them into the fabric of the city and especially love the large expanse of underground connectivity at many stops to other transit lines and modes (e.g. bus terminal, airports, rail lines, ferries, etc.), buildings, and often several streets or at least multiple street corners of an intersection.  Haven't been to all the stations, but the Times Square one does have some stores in the subway station itself.  Philadelphia has many similar features on a smaller scale.

Want to solve two problems at once?  Jax's transit deficiencies and its identity crisis?  Instead of being "America's Logistics City", how about "America's Transit Oriented Development City"?  Let's build these station types here for commuter rail and build the parking-less stations in the urban core area and show the rest of the country what a "non-major" city can do with mass transit done right.  To pull this off, we need, of course, to completely restart the design of the intermodal center planned at Prime Osborne or it will be hard to salvage the system's full possibilities.

Imagine the publicity and image enhancement the city would achieve not to mention an improvement in our quality of life and some cutting edge economic development projects if we could pull this off. 

Probably a fantasy but no reason it couldn't become reality with new players and pushing aside the current JTA.

Ocklawaha

August 25, 2010, 11:39:47 PM

Jacksonville Terminal opened in 1919 and quickly bloomed to 250 trains per day. TRAINS, not streetcars (which they didn't even count) rolled in 11 times an hour, and another 11 rolled out, in other words in the roaring Twenties we had 22 trains per hour.

Dispair? Sorry kids but even through my childhood and teens the grand old station of the South still posted 60 which slowly tumbled to 52 as the Interstate System came into being. By the late sixties and through Spring of 1971 Jacksonville was still one of the few bright spots in the world of passenger trains. Amtrak's bogus rescue literally butchered not only the national system but the importance of The Gateway City. By 1971 the 12 daily Amtrak trains were served out of the Amshack at Clifford Lane which was, "under a highway overpass and between two junk yards..." according to the railroad press.  As the farce continued, we continued to see trains and entire routes vanish without a whimper from our local law makers. Today we are down to 2 arrivals and 2 departures daily which would equal one train every 12 hours except that in their infinite wisdom, Amtrak chooses to run their two generic trains one right behind the other.

At least one thing remains from our first heyday as the railroad capital of the deep south, the trains are still southbound in the AM and northbound in the PM. The odd traffic flow in Jacksonville goes back to our halcyon days and lingers still.



OCKLAWAHA

AaroniusLives

August 26, 2010, 03:21:45 PM
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At least one thing remains from our first heyday as the railroad capital of the deep south...

Well, to be fair, Jacksonville was and is a major railroad junction, but I think Atlanta claimed and claims the capital moniker.

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Not beautiful, but clearly in the sweet spot with regard to functionality, are most of Manhattan's subway stations.  I think they are masterful at integrating them into the fabric of the city and especially love the large expanse of underground connectivity at many stops to other transit lines and modes (e.g. bus terminal, airports, rail lines, ferries, etc.), buildings, and often several streets or at least multiple street corners of an intersection.  Haven't been to all the stations, but the Times Square one does have some stores in the subway station itself.  Philadelphia has many similar features on a smaller scale.

What's interesting about New York City's subway stations is that they are supremely functional, in that they go everywhere and don't boast snazzy style. Of course, when US modern subway systems were built, they purposely looked at NYC's subway as a negative...as something they didn't want to be. It's interesting to see how time alters perceptions. In DC, for example, I'm sure we'd all trade "clean, conformist, safety" for "more stations and service." But in the 1960s and 1970s? Not so much. The Big Apple was a pit, and the subway was its diseased worm.

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Instead of being "America's Logistics City", how about "America's Transit Oriented Development City"?  Let's build these station types here for commuter rail and build the parking-less stations in the urban core area and show the rest of the country what a "non-major" city can do with mass transit done right.

I love the idea of Jacksonville taking the stand as TOD-city, and I applaud you for offering up Jacksonville as a model for "non-major" cities. Because, after all, there are many more Jacksonvilles and Clevelands in the US than there are SanFrans and DCs. There's some danger in identifying "real rail" or "real mass transit" as existing only in the capital of Sweden, or dense as hell Japan, or another "major" city or population center. Like, we know how Washington is going to handle it: by expanding its already used and loved Metro system; by building streetcars, by encouraging density as the "city" spreads outward. By taxing its overpaid workforce and using the Feds to pay for all of it...

...but that doesn't offer a solution for Jacksonville. Or Toledo. Or Sioux City. What is the solution for a city that's not small but not huge? That's not the "capital of [INSERT NAME HERE]?" (...The New South. The Americas. The Entertainment Industry. The Global Economy. The Well-Educated Hippie Liberal Elite. The Big Oil Companies. The United States...)

Sadly, I don't think that commuter rail is particularly effective. We've spent so much time over the last 60+ years altering traditional patterns of commuting that it's not as simple as "run rail from houses, where people live, to downtown, where people work." I'm not sure of the study, but most of the country (like 90+ percent,) lives in a suburb and commutes to work in another suburb, driving through other suburbs, also filled with work and people commuting to them from other suburbs. (Again, this is another way in which DC's Metro can't really be the model: the government is located in the "center," and thus guarantees/teed that Washington didn't vacate it's commercial core.

I'm ducking the eggs right now, but this is where I'd see a BRT advocate finding ground and support. Not for the mega-insane JTA BRT plan. But as a way to demonstrate an affordable mass transit alternative for a metro area of about a million people.   

thelakelander

August 26, 2010, 03:39:29 PM
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I'm ducking the eggs right now, but this is where I'd see a BRT advocate finding ground and support. Not for the mega-insane JTA BRT plan. But as a way to demonstrate an affordable mass transit alternative for a metro area of about a million people.

I actually agree with the idea of better bus service as an affordable mass transit option (this should be done regardless), although I believe the BRT stuff JTA is doing is financial overkill and a bastardization of the concept.  However, the transit discussion for cities of Jacksonville's size and landscape is much more complex than moving people from point A to B.  The most important aspect of this is community building.  No bus based mode is going to stimulate walkable oriented development like rail based modes have a history of doing.  There's no need to invest millions on demonstrating a result we already know.  If Jax wants to turn away from sprawl, that process will have to include an investment in fixed transit.  With this in mind, the BRT vs. rail discussion dies a quick death.

Erik W

August 26, 2010, 04:24:26 PM
Intellectual property issues aside, your argument is generally pointless.  To say that building suburban Park & Ride stations on American transit systems is "WHAT NOT TO DO" is at best useless, and at worst detrimental to our cause (I, too, am an avid transit advocate).  In an area like Vienna, would you rather have a transit station with gobs of parking which is all full because people use the system, or a station with no parking that sits massively underutilized, while the Virginia DOT scrambles to add more and more capacity to I-66?  Comparing Vienna, VA and Westport, CT to any station within 75 miles of Tokyo is asinine.  There are virtually no demographic characteristics of these communities that lend themselves to any kind of comparison.

Certainly many people would have preferred an alignment of Metro's Orange line different from the one that produced the abominations that are Vienna/Fairfax, Dunn Loring and WFC, but transit advocates also need to be keenly aware of political reality.  That line would not have been built at all if the last several stations were not aligned to I-66.  The trade-off was putting Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston underground in denser, mixed-use neighborhoods of Arlington.  That trade-of has led to huge success around these stations which is now beginning to permeate the thinking of those responsible for land-use planning around the more distant stations.

By tearing down the utility of park-and-ride stations without any meaningful discussion of the land use patterns in America which led to their necessity (but also success) is to lob another "look at this looney transit guy who is totally out of touch with reality and wants everything to be like Europe and Japan" softball to the likes of Randall O'Toole and Robert Poole.

AaroniusLives

August 26, 2010, 04:27:29 PM
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The most important aspect of this is community building.  No bus based mode is going to stimulate walkable oriented development like rail based modes have a history of doing.  There's no need to invest millions on demonstrating a result we already know.  If Jax wants to turn away from sprawl, that process will have to include an investment in fixed transit.  With this in mind, the BRT vs. rail discussion dies a quick death.

A quick death, in Jacksonville, perhaps. Some town, somewhere, is going to look at BRT, at the already existing infrastructure for automotive transit, and at the practical realities on the ground. They're going to partner with a BRT-love group, get the funding and be off and running.

I get the need for fixed rail transit. I get that fixed rail transit builds TOD and vice-versa. (And I totally get why JTA's BRT plan suuuuuuucks.) And I mos def get that MetroJacksonville.com is dead-set against it for Jacksonville (believe me, I've seen it brought up, only to be followed by a near-instant "nip that spit in the bud" rebuttal.) I get it.

I'm just saying that at some point, some mid-sized American metro is going to "get BRT" correct: correct for the infrastructural realities, correct for the way we live now and the way we'll need to live in 25 years, correct for the budget, and correct in design and implementation. We haven't seen this yet. We've seen international variations of "heavy-rail using buses." We've seen international and domestic examples of "Diet light rail." And just here last week, we saw Kansas City's "premium bus" variant of the model. But we haven't seen a city, county or metropolitan statistical area rethink their transit system using BRT, and most importantly, using BRT to take advantage of the existing infrastructure.

I default to Broward here, because I'm a native Miamian (had the Metrofail been BRT, we could have had four lines in lieu of the one, or the one line much cheaper with just as much corruption making the money vanish,) Broward is small and compact, is entirely built for the car, and my parents live there now, so I'm familiar.

Broward is basically encircled by highways: there are basically four quadrants created by the highways. In addition, as is the practice in South Florida, most of the "local roads" are 6, 8, 10, 12 lanes wide. All of this is already there. They've already paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

So, working with what's already there, Broward could use HOV lanes (or dedicate lanes) on the highways, creating a grid of express bus service, probably initially as a loop or line, and with success in taking people off the roads, direct stop-to-stop service. At each of these express stops, you'll find a major "Diet light rail or street car" line, using the existing infrastructure (or, you know, huge assed roads built for the Space Shuttle,) along with infrastructural improvements involving signaling, dedicating lanes and the rest to navigate these quadrants. At certain segments along the way, local lines meet the trunks.

Don't get me wrong: I like trains waaaaay better than buses. But in most of the country, all of this infrastructure for automotive transport is overbuilt and already there. I can totally see the appeal (and the challenge) of using this existing, overbuilt system of "local roads" and highways to try and hang a transit system upon.

Mind you, I don't think this solves the problem. It's just a first step. That ugly-assed, 10-lane "local road" is going to be just as effin' ugly with "Diet light rail" running down the center of it." As is the highway overpass and the massive parking lot in front of Big Lots. (Ah, Big Lots and Kash-N-Karry. I miss Florida.) But...if Broward could just convince 10% of its population to hop on the BRT in lieu of driving, it would be a success. 170,000 cars off the road. And that's before any TOD starts taking place. If this system could make getting around the entirely suburban model that is Broward, that's pretty awesome. And then, with that many cars off the road, they could take over more lanes for BRT, or take over more lanes for BRT as a prelude to rail (so that service wouldn't be stopped.)

This is what I view to be one of BRT's strengths (and one that hasn't been explored remotely yet,) is this flexibility. Somebody is going to get that, and get it right and be the model. That's all I'm sayin'. (Try not to throw the diseased eggs at me.)
  

AaroniusLives

August 26, 2010, 04:29:00 PM
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By tearing down the utility of park-and-ride stations without any meaningful discussion of the land use patterns in America which led to their necessity (but also success) is to lob another "look at this looney transit guy who is totally out of touch with reality and wants everything to be like Europe and Japan" softball to the likes of Randall O'Toole and Robert Poole.

So much WORD.

stephendare

August 26, 2010, 04:36:40 PM
Erik.  Your points are well presented, but I think the comparison has been taken a bit out of context.  If you look at the context of Nate's post, you will see that the station was merely a good example of what not to do in the design of an urban station.

It doesn't come off as an indictment of Park and Rides, nor was it meant to be so.

stephendare

August 26, 2010, 05:13:08 PM
Btw. Erik.

Your site, http://greatergreaterwashington.org/ is just amazing.  What a great job you guys are doing in DC!

AaroniusLives

August 26, 2010, 05:20:53 PM
That site is a daily hit for transit freaks in the District.

stephendare

August 26, 2010, 05:22:01 PM
That site is a daily hit for transit freaks in the District.


aaronius are you in DC as well?

Erik W

August 26, 2010, 05:29:21 PM
I should point out it's not my site, I just write for it occasionally.  The site is run by David Alpert, who is a respected transit and smart growth advocate in the DC Metro region.  The compliments should be directed to him!

thelakelander

August 26, 2010, 05:29:52 PM
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The most important aspect of this is community building.  No bus based mode is going to stimulate walkable oriented development like rail based modes have a history of doing.  There's no need to invest millions on demonstrating a result we already know.  If Jax wants to turn away from sprawl, that process will have to include an investment in fixed transit.  With this in mind, the BRT vs. rail discussion dies a quick death.

A quick death, in Jacksonville, perhaps. Some town, somewhere, is going to look at BRT, at the already existing infrastructure for automotive transit, and at the practical realities on the ground. They're going to partner with a BRT-love group, get the funding and be off and running.

I get the need for fixed rail transit. I get that fixed rail transit builds TOD and vice-versa. (And I totally get why JTA's BRT plan suuuuuuucks.) And I mos def get that MetroJacksonville.com is dead-set against it for Jacksonville (believe me, I've seen it brought up, only to be followed by a near-instant "nip that spit in the bud" rebuttal.) I get it.

I think you're missing the point.  Most of us aren't against BRT or reliable bus service.  This concept is something that should be done regardless of whether Jacksonville rolls out rail or not.  However, the JTA plan is bad and the idea that BRT can substitute as a true sustainable community building engine is a bad one.  As long as that comparison is not being made, there's really no issue.

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I'm just saying that at some point, some mid-sized American metro is going to "get BRT" correct: correct for the infrastructural realities, correct for the way we live now and the way we'll need to live in 25 years, correct for the budget, and correct in design and implementation. We haven't seen this yet. We've seen international variations of "heavy-rail using buses." We've seen international and domestic examples of "Diet light rail." And just here last week, we saw Kansas City's "premium bus" variant of the model. But we haven't seen a city, county or metropolitan statistical area rethink their transit system using BRT, and most importantly, using BRT to take advantage of the existing infrastructure.

I agree.  However, getting it right still won't stimulate TOD like a fixed transit will.  That's my biggest argument when people attempt to compare these modes.

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I default to Broward here, because I'm a native Miamian (had the Metrofail been BRT, we could have had four lines in lieu of the one, or the one line much cheaper with just as much corruption making the money vanish,) Broward is small and compact, is entirely built for the car, and my parents live there now, so I'm familiar.

On the flip end, had Metrofail not been built, there would be no Downtown Dadeland.  

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Broward is basically encircled by highways: there are basically four quadrants created by the highways. In addition, as is the practice in South Florida, most of the "local roads" are 6, 8, 10, 12 lanes wide. All of this is already there. They've already paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

So, working with what's already there, Broward could use HOV lanes (or dedicate lanes) on the highways, creating a grid of express bus service, probably initially as a loop or line, and with success in taking people off the roads, direct stop-to-stop service. At each of these express stops, you'll find a major "Diet light rail or street car" line, using the existing infrastructure (or, you know, huge assed roads built for the Space Shuttle,) along with infrastructural improvements involving signaling, dedicating lanes and the rest to navigate these quadrants. At certain segments along the way, local lines meet the trunks.

No argument here, from a reactionary transit based point of view where capital cost are a major factor.  However, the solution could change once land use integration and a need to stimulate a more walkable land development pattern enters the picture.  Imo, it really boils down to the environment a corridor is intended to serve and what type of vision that certain community would like to grow into in the future.  With that said, you could end up with BRT and rail based corridors in the same sprawling communities that are designed to complement each other.

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Mind you, I don't think this solves the problem. It's just a first step. That ugly-assed, 10-lane "local road" is going to be just as effin' ugly with "Diet light rail" running down the center of it." As is the highway overpass and the massive parking lot in front of Big Lots. (Ah, Big Lots and Kash-N-Karry. I miss Florida.) But...if Broward could just convince 10% of its population to hop on the BRT in lieu of driving, it would be a success. 170,000 cars off the road. And that's before any TOD starts taking place. If this system could make getting around the entirely suburban model that is Broward, that's pretty awesome. And then, with that many cars off the road, they could take over more lanes for BRT, or take over more lanes for BRT as a prelude to rail (so that service wouldn't be stopped.)

This is what I view to be one of BRT's strengths (and one that hasn't been explored remotely yet,) is this flexibility. Somebody is going to get that, and get it right and be the model. That's all I'm sayin'. (Try not to throw the diseased eggs at me.)

Not throwing eggs.  However, my view comes from the economic development and community building side of things.  That flexibility is the fatal flaw from the development perspective.  So at the end of the day, it really boils down to what a community wants and is willing to pay for.  If the focus is strictly moving people from point A to B for the cheapest cost, then one option stands out.  If that community's goal and desire is to use transit as part of a method to stimulate a pedestrian friendly environment along a transit spine in a sea of suburbia, then the solution changes.

stephendare

August 26, 2010, 05:30:11 PM
Um.

Robert Poole is a radical privatization idealogue.  Besides a few rightwing governors, who cares what this dipwad thinks?

http://reason.org/staff/show/701.html

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation, the free market think tank he founded. Poole, an MIT-trained engineer, has advised the previous four presidential administrations on transportation and policy issues.

Surface Transportation


In the field of surface transportation, Poole has advised the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the White House Office of Policy Development, National Economic Council, Government Accountability Office, and state DOTs in numerous states.

Poole's 1988 policy paper proposing privately financed toll lanes to relieve congestion directly inspired California's landmark private tollway law (AB 680), which authorized four pilot toll projects including the successful 91 Express Lanes in Orange County. More than 20 other states and the federal government have since enacted similar public-private partnership legislation. In 1993, Poole oversaw a study that coined the term HOT (high-occupancy toll) Lanes, a term which has become widely accepted since.

California Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Poole to the California's Commission on Transportation Investment and he also served on the Caltrans Privatization Advisory Steering Committee, where he helped oversee the implementation of AB 680. Poole has also served on transportation advisory bodies to the California Air Resources Board and the Southern California Association of Governments, including SCAG's REACH task force on highway pricing measures. He is a member of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Council, an advisor to the American Legislative Exchange Council's Trade & Transportation Task Force, and a member of the board of the Public-Private Ventures division of American Road and Transportation Builders Association. From 2003 to 2005, he was a member of the Transportation Research Board’s special committee on the long-term viability of the fuel tax for highway finance.

Aviation


Poole is a member of the Government Accountability Office's National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel and he has testified before the House and Senate's aviation subcommittees on numerous occasions. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Poole consulted the White House Domestic Policy Council and several members of Congress on ways to improve the nation's airport security.

He has also advised the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, White House Office of Policy Development, National Performance Review, National Economic Council, and the National Civil Aviation Review Commission on aviation issues. Poole is a member of the Critical Infrastructure Council of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation and of the Air Traffic Control Association.

Poole was among the first to propose the commercialization of the U.S. air traffic control system, and his work in this field has helped shape proposals for a U.S. air traffic control corporation. A version of his corporation concept was implemented in Canada in 1996 and was more recently endorsed by several former top FAA administrators.

Poole's studies also launched a national debate on airport privatization in the United States. He advised both the FAA and local officials during the 1989-90 controversy over the proposed privatization of Albany (NY) Airport. His policy research on this issue helped inspire Congress' 1996 enactment of the Airport Privatization Pilot Program and the privatization of Indianapolis' airport management under Mayor Steve Goldsmith.

General Background

Robert Poole founded the Reason Foundation in 1978, and served as its president and CEO from then until the end of 2000. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000. Over the years, he has advised the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations on privatization and transportation policy.

Poole is credited as the first person to use the term "privatization" to refer to the contracting-out of public services and is the author of the first-ever book on privatization, Cutting Back City Hall, published by Universe Books in 1980. He is also editor of the books Instead of Regulation: Alternatives to Federal Regulatory Agencies (Lexington Books, 1981), Defending a Free Society (Lexington Books, 1984), and Unnatural Monopolies (Lexington Books, 1985). He also co-edited the book Free Minds & Free Markets: 25 Years of Reason (Pacific Research Institute, 1993).

Poole earned his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and did graduate work in operations research at New York University.

AaroniusLives

August 26, 2010, 05:52:28 PM
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aaronius are you in DC as well?

Yes. I've lived here for nearly four years now. In Georgetown. I'm just a transit nut.

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However, the JTA plan is bad and the idea that BRT can substitute as a true sustainable community building engine is a bad one.  As long as that comparison is not being made, there's really no issue.

Agreed. What BRT might represent is a stop-gap in the plan to go from suburban model to a TOD model. What it might represent is a practical way to get more people using mass transit, even if the suburban form doesn't change with its implementation. What it might represent is a purely transit solution: how to make, en masse, an existing and costly infrastructural investment, work effectively for present and future realities. Is it a substitute for light rail? Nope. Does it community-build as effectively? Thus far, nope. But it might be the first step on the way there.   

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However, getting it right still won't stimulate TOD like a fixed transit will.  That's my biggest argument when people attempt to compare these modes.

We have yet to see a comprehensive attempt at BRT, as mentioned in the original post. We have yet to see a comprehensive blending of all things BRT (Diet Heavy Rail, Diet Light Rail, Diet Streetcar,) with all things possible-BRT (highway express, "point-to-point flights," for a start,) implemented in the United States, so while my intuition agrees with you, I'm not going to make a definitive statement that BRT "won't stimulate TOD" because I don't believe we've seen a true implementation of the concept.

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On the flip end, had Metrofail not been built, there would be no Downtown Dadeland.
 

That may well be true, but Downtown Dadeland represents TOD where nobody is using the "T." Kind of represents a mixed result: higher density and more tax revenue alongside a white elephant turd.

Ocklawaha

August 26, 2010, 11:51:42 PM
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At least one thing remains from our first heyday as the railroad capital of the deep south...

Well, to be fair, Jacksonville was and is a major railroad junction, but I think Atlanta claimed and claims the capital moniker.

It's true that Atlanta had a couple more railroad companies string track through town and thus it became a major freight terminal for the whole south. It was the crossroads of the Confederacy at least until General Sherman burned it down and headed out on I-20 past the Stone Mountain FREEway. My contention is that even with Union Station AND Terminal Station in Atlanta's heyday, it fell short of Jacksonville's passenger trains and volume. In fact from 1919 on, Jacksonville pretty much sprinted ahead and never looked back. Sadly Atlanta destroyed BOTH major downtown stations and today after 20-30 years of constant fighting still can't get a new Transportation Center Terminal off the ground.

With the draw of Florida's millions of annual visitors, many from the EU and train savvy, Jacksonville and Florida in general would be insane for not jumping on this opportunity to lead the nations transportation discussions.



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Sadly, I don't think that commuter rail is particularly effective. We've spent so much time over the last 60+ years altering traditional patterns of commuting that it's not as simple as "run rail from houses, where people live, to downtown, where people work." I'm not sure of the study, but most of the country (like 90+ percent,) lives in a suburb and commutes to work in another suburb, driving through other suburbs, also filled with work and people commuting to them from other suburbs. (Again, this is another way in which DC's Metro can't really be the model: the government is located in the "center," and thus guarantees/teed that Washington didn't vacate it's commercial core.

No mass transit is really going to make that great of a dent in highway congestion, but at least it gives the commuter some quality choices. Many towns and cities have rail lines that just don't follow the main traffic trends of the community, as you stated, into and out of suburbia. I believe we are somewhat different and as a market for commuter rail we might be a stellar candidate. Due partly to our rivers and our relitively wild west style history complete with surrounding jungles all of Jacksonville growth tended to follow the tracks. The densest corridors in the city are the southeast and southwest both of which straddle mainlines. The old Seaboard route straight north from downtown not only gets cozy with the airport, but also passes through some of the largest employers complexes, newest shopping and a booming new housing area. The route directly west is more rural and here your rule of thumb might apply, while the first 5-10 miles are incredibly dense, everything beyond is smaller then Mayberry. The redeeming value to the west line is that it can easily end in Gainesville, some 60 miles and a half million persons close. The only missing corridor and the one where we could-and SHOULD do BRT and do it RIGHT is the downtown-beaches routes. Both Arlington Expressway-Atlantic Avenue, and Beach Boulevard followed one-time railroads, railroads which we stupidly allowed to get away. Several attempts have been made to ease the commute for an area that is now fairly solid with development, the Hart Bridge and Comodore Point Expressway were a 1960's effort at beach route relief. The newer J Turner Butler Expressway is another and it actually runs from the FEC RY's Bowden Yard to the beaches a near turn key opportunity for a commuter rail-brt interchange. The newest expressway is the Nocatee Parkway on the county line in southeast Jacksonville, it too will run from the FEC RY to the beach. I-795 is already well into construction and could offer a chance at some sort of transit lanes. Any of these roads would be excellent choices for the BRT system but JTA in it's infinite wisdom has decided at a busway under our monorail and alongside the FEC RY is the best first step!
 
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I'm ducking the eggs right now, but this is where I'd see a BRT advocate finding ground and support. Not for the mega-insane JTA BRT plan. But as a way to demonstrate an affordable mass transit alternative for a metro area of about a million people. 
 

Exactly my friend!


OCKLAWAHA


thelakelander

August 27, 2010, 07:12:17 AM
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aaronius are you in DC as well?

Yes. I've lived here for nearly four years now. In Georgetown. I'm just a transit nut.

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However, the JTA plan is bad and the idea that BRT can substitute as a true sustainable community building engine is a bad one.  As long as that comparison is not being made, there's really no issue.

Agreed. What BRT might represent is a stop-gap in the plan to go from suburban model to a TOD model. What it might represent is a practical way to get more people using mass transit, even if the suburban form doesn't change with its implementation. What it might represent is a purely transit solution: how to make, en masse, an existing and costly infrastructural investment, work effectively for present and future realities. Is it a substitute for light rail? Nope. Does it community-build as effectively? Thus far, nope. But it might be the first step on the way there.

There is no affordable stop gap solution when talking about economic development.   A few years back, Houston turned away from this thinking when they discovered that the "stop gap" solution would basically amount to paying for two systems and $600 million more than just investing in LRT in the first place.  There is a ton of precedence out there that one mode (fixed transit) helps stimulate a certain style of developmental growth.  On the other hand, everything associated with BRT, is founded and promoted on theory when it comes to TOD.  The capital cost differences of the two aren't not that massive to ignore a well known fact in favor of theory, when it comes to promoting a style of economic development.

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However, getting it right still won't stimulate TOD like a fixed transit will.  That's my biggest argument when people attempt to compare these modes.

We have yet to see a comprehensive attempt at BRT, as mentioned in the original post. We have yet to see a comprehensive blending of all things BRT (Diet Heavy Rail, Diet Light Rail, Diet Streetcar,) with all things possible-BRT (highway express, "point-to-point flights," for a start,) implemented in the United States, so while my intuition agrees with you, I'm not going to make a definitive statement that BRT "won't stimulate TOD" because I don't believe we've seen a true implementation of the concept.

This equates to spending hundreds of millions in hopes of doing something it has not been successful in stimulating in America (sounds like the skyway demonstration project). This is telling, because a well designed dedicated busway will cost you just as much as expensive forms of rail, with eliminates the affordability or stop gap position.  

The affordable solution is one that basically equals better and more reliable bus service.  I'm a fan on the affordable solution, however I understand that it won't stimulate transit oriented development.  However, that's not it's purpose.  I think our transit authorities do us a disservice when they paint and sell it as something it isn't.  While Jacksonville can certainly invest in some affordable BRT corridors, they should not be viewed as a substitute or interim solution for rail.  Instead, both should be incorporated into an overall vision and designed to complement each other in the short and long term.

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On the flip end, had Metrofail not been built, there would be no Downtown Dadeland.
 

That may well be true, but Downtown Dadeland represents TOD where nobody is using the "T." Kind of represents a mixed result: higher density and more tax revenue alongside a white elephant turd.

Metrorail is a single line 22 mile corridor in a city that did not initially integrate it properly with complementing land use regulations.  Nevertheless, between it and Metromover, +97,000 people are using it a day on average.  Again, I'm coming from the economic development side.  It can't be a white turd if its spurring billions of extra dollars and tax increase revenue by stimulating TOD.  You flat would not have gotten that with BRT and this can be seen locally with the busway heading to Homestead.  With that said, +22 miles of elevated heavy rail in Miami was overkill.  They could have constructed a much more extensive system by building LRT or streetcar and stimulated more TOD for a cheaper cost.

fieldafm

August 27, 2010, 09:37:08 AM
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With that said, you could end up with BRT and rail based corridors in the same sprawling communities that are designed to complement each other.

Lake, how would you redesign the Jax BRT plan to complement the proposed commuter rail lines in the 2030 mobility plans?  That was one of my main questions/contentions in the comment forms at the BRT meeting.

AaroniusLives

August 27, 2010, 10:41:11 AM
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My contention is that even with Union Station AND Terminal Station in Atlanta's heyday, it fell short of Jacksonville's passenger trains and volume. In fact from 1919 on, Jacksonville pretty much sprinted ahead and never looked back. Sadly Atlanta destroyed BOTH major downtown stations and today after 20-30 years of constant fighting still can't get a new Transportation Center Terminal off the ground.

And boy, Atlanta's growth and transformation into a global city was completely stopped by the end of...oh, wait.

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Metrorail is a single line 22 mile corridor in a city that did not initially integrate it properly with complementing land use regulations.  Nevertheless, between it and Metromover, +97,000 people are using it a day on average.  Again, I'm coming from the economic development side.  It can't be a white turd if its spurring billions of extra dollars and tax increase revenue by stimulating TOD.  You flat would not have gotten that with BRT and this can be seen locally with the busway heading to Homestead.  With that said, +22 miles of elevated heavy rail in Miami was overkill.  They could have constructed a much more extensive system by building LRT or streetcar and stimulated more TOD for a cheaper cost.

It's a huge, massive, stinking white turd. It's an American transit agency's go-to for "what not to do." It blows so many chunks it's not even funny. Moreover, your math is a little misleading. Around 60,000 are using MetroFail. Around 35,000 are using Metromover, with most of those being direct transfers to or from the MetroFail. Let's assume most of these are round trips...that's what...like 48,000 people a day? That suuuuuuuuucks.

As for the busway, it stretches from the edge of the Dadeland Edge City through flat-out, full-borne suburbia. The line has increased ridership, even though it's cheap and located off a crowded and ugly stretch of US1. 

thelakelander

August 27, 2010, 10:52:37 AM
Lake, how would you redesign the Jax BRT plan to complement the proposed commuter rail lines in the 2030 mobility plans?  That was one of my main questions/contentions in the comment forms at the BRT meeting.

If I had my way, I'd run bus lines from rail stations into neighborhoods and major destinations that aren't adjacent to them.  JTA's proposed BRT North and East corridors are good examples of this.  This would extend transit accessibility throughout the city and not place us in a situation where we may have to sacrifice one mode for another to get FTA funding assistance.  BTW, I don't consider JTA's plan as BRT.  All they are providing us with is reliable bus service.  Imo, this can be achieved without begging the feds for money at the potential expense of rail.

thelakelander

August 27, 2010, 11:06:15 AM
It's a huge, massive, stinking white turd. It's an American transit agency's go-to for "what not to do." It blows so many chunks it's not even funny.

I thought that was our skyway.  Anyway, I'm not going to defend the decision they made to implement heavy rail.  I've already stated they could have went LRT or modern streetcar, saved a whole bunch of money and still stimulated more sustainable transit oriented development all over that city in the process.  Nevertheless, you can't deny it hasn't attract significant TOD investment around its stations in the last decade or so.  You'll be hard pressed to find a bus line of any kind in this country that has enjoyed the TOD success of the skyway, much less Miami's Metrorail.

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Moreover, your math is a little misleading. Around 60,000 are using MetroFail. Around 35,000 are using Metromover, with most of those being direct transfers to or from the MetroFail. Let's assume most of these are round trips...that's what...like 48,000 people a day? That suuuuuuuuucks.

A lot of them also use buses.  However, it's not my math. That's how the transit agencies report their numbers.

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As for the busway, it stretches from the edge of the Dadeland Edge City through flat-out, full-borne suburbia. The line has increased ridership, even though it's cheap and located off a crowded and ugly stretch of US1.

Add sidewalks and enhance bus frequencies and you'll increase ridership along major corridors.  However, I'm not talking about increasing ridership.  I'm talking about increasing and stimulating additional pedestrian oriented development and sustainable community building.  The South Miami-Dade Busway has not done that and neither have expensive urban oriented dedicated busways in the U.S., such as those in Pittsburgh and LA.  That's not a knock on BRT, it's just not the type of transit investment that really spurs TOD.

JeffreyS

August 27, 2010, 05:44:32 PM
BRT should not compete with a future fixed rail line it should be designed to feed it.

stephendare

May 31, 2012, 02:12:46 PM


I just love the way this looks.  The Imperial yellow, the details.  Meanwhile, we still aren't convinced that the bus stops should have shelter from the rain and sun.

ben says

May 31, 2012, 08:48:03 PM
That Moscow station....daaaaaamn that's gorgeous. See, the commies did do something right!

thelakelander

May 31, 2012, 09:16:00 PM
Sorry guys, that Moscow station has nothing on ours!

BackinJax05

May 31, 2012, 11:53:27 PM
The AmShack had 12 trains a day? Damn. Once upon a time Amtrak was halfway decent. The most I remember were 4: The Champion, The Floridian, The Silver Meteor, and The Silver Star.
In defense of Amtrak, they really do the best with what they have. The problem is Amtrak is managed by the government. And as we all know, anytime the government tries to correct a problem they only make things worse.

finehoe

June 01, 2012, 10:01:08 AM
The problem is Amtrak is managed by the government. And as we all know, anytime the government tries to correct a problem they only make things worse.

Unlike, say, the privately-managed airline industry which has been so profitable...

fsujax

June 01, 2012, 10:07:11 AM
maybe we could hang chandeliers and make it look a little nicer! By the way, the Moscow station is nice, but did anyone notice the train that was sitting at the platform? looked like a Soviet era one.

Adam W

June 01, 2012, 11:49:23 AM
maybe we could hang chandeliers and make it look a little nicer! By the way, the Moscow station is nice, but did anyone notice the train that was sitting at the platform? looked like a Soviet era one.

I guess they haven't bothered much with upgrading rolling stock since the collapse of the USSR. I guess it's appropriate - Soviet trains for Soviet stations.

Check out the Pyongyang Metro:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyongyang_Metro

Ocklawaha

June 01, 2012, 01:41:31 PM
maybe we could hang chandeliers and make it look a little nicer! By the way, the Moscow station is nice, but did anyone notice the train that was sitting at the platform? looked like a Soviet era one.

That is changing as we write. There has been a great deal of activity on the Russian Railways, including new engines and all types of wagons (cars). Here is a small story about just one of them.


Quote
The Russian Railways AG has ordered 200 modern sleeping cars from Siemens and the local coach builder Tverskoy Vagonostroitelny Zavod AG. The Siemens scope of supply has an order value of about EUR 320 million. The new coaches can be operated in the Russian and standard gauge European railway networks. They are thus suitable for cross-border service as operated by RZD as well as for operation across Central and Western Europe.

Corresponding agreements were signed between Mr Vladimir Yakunin president of RZD, Mr Alexandr Vasilenko president of TVZ as well as Mr Hans-Jörg Grundmann CEO of the Siemens Mobility Division. Mr Grundmann upon signing the contract said “We are definitely committed to becoming the main foreign partner of RZD. With the order won and we have taken another step toward that goal.” The contract was signed during a VIP trip on the Siemens supplied high speed train Velaro RUS which will be in regular passenger service very soon.

Starting in 2010, the coaches will be built in the Siemens plant in Vienna, Austria, and in the wagon factory of TVZ in Tver, northwest of Moscow. Siemens will supply TVZ with the standard-gauge bogies that are required for the European railway network, as well as major parts of the car body and components for the interior furnishings. TVZ will handle the manufacturing of the bogies for service on the Russian broad gauge and will build the bodyshells for series operation. The new sleeping cars are part of the range of passenger coaches of the RIC type that are designed for international service. As such, they are allowed to travel in the networks of all operators that are covered by this agreement without requiring special approval.

TVZ with headquarters in Tver is a leading Russian vehicle builder that has specialized in the mass manufacturing of different types of coach compartment coaches, sleeping cars, open saloon coaches as well as the supply of components. The company belongs to the Russian ZAO Tansmashholding the country’s largest railway technology group with more than 60,000 employees.
SOURCE:  http://www.steelguru.com/russian_news/Russia_Railways_orders_200_rail_wagons_from_Siemens/107016.html


wsansewjs

June 01, 2012, 02:10:55 PM
You know what is really sad?

The only way for JTA to really get their asses moving IF someone was standing there for the bus shelter, then got a heat stroke and die from it. There would be a lawsuit, and a massive public backlash which cause JTA to put shelters for all bus stops with no exceptions.

Welcome to the city of Build it And Forget It Attitude!

-Josh

Ocklawaha

June 01, 2012, 04:51:25 PM
You know what is really sad?

The only way for JTA to really get their asses moving IF someone was standing there for the bus shelter, then got a heat stroke and die from it. There would be a lawsuit, and a massive public backlash which cause JTA to put shelters for all bus stops with no exceptions.

Welcome to the city of Build it And Forget It Attitude!

-Josh

I have photographs of just such an incident on Philips Highway a couple of years ago. If I find them, perhaps I'll post them, but I don't know if the poor fellow died.

OCKLAWAHA

BackinJax05

June 01, 2012, 11:38:19 PM
The problem is Amtrak is managed by the government. And as we all know, anytime the government tries to correct a problem they only make things worse.

Unlike, say, the privately-managed airline industry which has been so profitable...

Touche'  :D

However, in recent years the privately mangaged airline industry has been quite profitable. But flying sucks. Thats why I wont do it.

Horologium

June 04, 2012, 12:08:39 PM
In fairness to Amtrak, they are expected to fulfill a dual mandate of providing affordable, timely long-distance travel and simultaneously maintaining service to podunk locations on routes which cannot be profitable. Congressional funding is contingent on both, as the congresscritters from rural states won't approve funding if East Nowhere's 15-riders-a-week service is cut, and urban congressional reps won't stand for reductions in service (or price increases) for the large interurban routes.

Amtrak would probably function better if it were split up into regional rail lines (which is essentially what is was created from) which were allowed to make the hard choices about which routes need to be discontinued, freeing up money for upgrading track and increasing service where it is warranted. Big city service and service out to the suburbs can be funded, instead of anachronistic historical routes which date from a time before interstate highways, low-cost airlines, and widespread automobile ownership.

As for transcontinental travel, leave that to the airlines; they can get people across the country for about the same cost in a few hours, instead of a few days. People who want to see the country from a train window can do it on their own dime, rather than at rates which exist only because of massive subsidies from everyone else. There will always be a market for boutique "scenic America" trains, which can be operated by private companies at rates which reflect their real cost.

Rail travel has its advantages, in areas where population density and ridership potential justify its cost, but most of the postwar boom towns in the United States (Jacksonville included)  are not ideal candidates for in-city rail lines, because they were not developed with that in mind. Unlike Europe and Japan, where the postwar reality was that few were able to own cars, and rail travel was the only way to move people around, the US ended the war with an unprecedented level of prosperity, and the realized dream of car ownership for a majority reduced the need or the desire for train travel, unless one lived in a place with well-established city lines. (By 1960, there were 1.16 cars per household in the US, compared with 0.69 per household in 1945. The current figure is 1.87 vehicles per household, still the highest in the world.)

finehoe

July 26, 2012, 10:04:05 AM
Amtrak is proposing a $7 billion to upgrade Union Station in Washington to turn it into a high-speed rail hub for the Northeast.

The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/MlYPTw) reports that a plan to be unveiled Wednesday afternoon calls for doubling the number of trains the station can accommodate. Amtrak would add new platforms, tracks and stores. Six tracks for high-speed rail would be added. There’d also be a 50-foot-wide, 100-foot-long glass-enclosed main concourse.

A developer is also planning a $1.5 billion complex of offices, residential towers and a hotel that would be built on a deck over the tracks behind the station.

Union Station, which opened in 1907, is the second-busiest station in the country.

http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/919/171/Washington-Union-Station-Master-Plan-201207.pdf

Ocklawaha

July 26, 2012, 01:22:46 PM
In fairness to Amtrak, they are expected to fulfill a dual mandate of providing affordable, timely long-distance travel and simultaneously maintaining service to podunk locations on routes which cannot be profitable. Congressional funding is contingent on both, as the congresscritters from rural states won't approve funding if East Nowhere's 15-riders-a-week service is cut, and urban congressional reps won't stand for reductions in service (or price increases) for the large interurban routes.

You are correct that Amtrak has a oft conflicting mandate to both maintain a national long-distance network AND to turn a profit, as a result Amtrak does neither very well. While congress sat up Amtrak with a list of 'end-point cities,' it doesn't work for a railroad.

Quote
Amtrak would probably function better if it were split up into regional rail lines (which is essentially what is was created from) which were allowed to make the hard choices about which routes need to be discontinued, freeing up money for upgrading track and increasing service where it is warranted. Big city service and service out to the suburbs can be funded, instead of anachronistic historical routes which date from a time before interstate highways, low-cost airlines, and widespread automobile ownership.

Rail passengers are rarely going beyond 250-500 miles, so the question becomes  which chunk you want to eliminate to 'make money.' New Orleans - Birmingham, Birmingham - Atlanta, Atlanta - Charlotte, Charlotte - Washington, or perhaps Washington - New York? All of these are currently covered by a single Amtrak train daily running end to end. Pulling plugs out of the system will only INCREASE the cost of operating the remaining trains, start turning trains at Charlotte or Birmingham and your costs will go up exponentially. You are parroting the 'studies' by the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute, both of which are hostile to rail and enjoy funding from the oil and automobile companies. The real solution is actually the exact opposite of such slash and burn mentality.

Quote
As for transcontinental travel, leave that to the airlines; they can get people across the country for about the same cost in a few hours, instead of a few days. People who want to see the country from a train window can do it on their own dime, rather than at rates which exist only because of massive subsidies from everyone else. There will always be a market for boutique "scenic America" trains, which can be operated by private companies at rates which reflect their real cost.

So what do we do with the huge subsidies handed out to the highways and airlines? Shall we level the playing field? Highways are subsidized at rates of hundreds of billions of dollars, and 'essential air services' at rates approaching $1,000 dollars per ticket. Like the other modes, it's time to quit holding up this straw argument that 'Amtrak doesn't make money,' quite frankly, neither does the road in front of your house and YOU are driving on MY dime.

Quote
Rail travel has its advantages, in areas where population density and ridership potential justify its cost, but most of the postwar boom towns in the United States (Jacksonville included)  are not ideal candidates for in-city rail lines, because they were not developed with that in mind. Unlike Europe and Japan, where the postwar reality was that few were able to own cars, and rail travel was the only way to move people around, the US ended the war with an unprecedented level of prosperity, and the realized dream of car ownership for a majority reduced the need or the desire for train travel, unless one lived in a place with well-established city lines. (By 1960, there were 1.16 cars per household in the US, compared with 0.69 per household in 1945. The current figure is 1.87 vehicles per household, still the highest in the world.)

So your point is? We own automobiles and thus there should be no alternative? BRILLIANT! FYI, Jacksonville isn't a post war boom town, we were put on the map by railroads and remain the only rail hub in the state of Florida. From 1919 onward we had the largest railroad station south of Washington DC, a station that averaged 15 million passengers per year. For a short time during the Great Florida Boom, our station hosted over 250 trains a day, many operating in up to 24 sections (each section is a separate train running under the same name/number, advance number 75, 75, 2nd 75, 3rd 75, 4th 75 etc.)

Jacksonville's neighborhoods and additions, from Mayport to Yukon, and from San Jose to Moncrief, were built on streetcar and commuter rail. We were one of the first large operators of streetcars to abandon the system and swap those tracks for auto lanes, ignorant of the fact that each streetcar track could easily handle the traffic of 2.5 auto lanes. Our density is well above that of Charlotte, Tucson, Tacoma etc. and they already have urban rail. A return to rail is coming to Jacksonville, the study is ongoing as we discuss this topic. We need to educate our population that if we start eliminating everything in our lives that 'don't make money' then you will have to say goodbye to JTA, JPA, city parks, libraries, police, fire, rescue etc., obviously NOT the way to go.

America needs more passenger rail not less, and Jacksonville needs to return to it's foundation and rebuild the rail network that built our city.
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