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  #61  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 6:53 PM
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So true. But generations ago, almost all of these transit companies were private enterprises. Which is usually the case in America, private enterprises seeking profits usually provident greater services. Once government stepped in to regulate the private enterprises for the greater good, i.e. keeping fares as low as possible, that's when the private enterprises started to go bankrupt. Eventually, the various local governments had to step in to save the services, and as usual were terrible at managing it. So services declined over time.

What's so new about that? Why are so many surprised that governments can not compete with private enterprise providing goods and services?
You're right about the problem being government decisions, but not the decisions you're referring to. Government stepped in to try and save public transit including railways after it started to decline. The decline wasn't a result of government taking over successful services.

The government decisions that are to blame are the subsidization of suburban development and automobile infrastructure which allowed private autos to out compete passenger railways.
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  #62  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 8:18 PM
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The government decisions that are to blame are the subsidization of suburban development and automobile infrastructure which allowed private autos to out compete passenger railways.
When passenger railroads and interurbans were the fastest way to travel from point A to point B in a city, they could compete with everything else. But as streets and highways were paved, and as automobiles and buses got more powerful and faster, the railroads, interurbans, and streetcars could no longer compete.
Sure, paving streets and highways was a government subsidy in favor of automobiles and buses, but do you really believe cities and states were never going to pave them? How many bike and jogging pathways in cities today remain dirt and gravel paths vs paved?
And while cities were paving the streets, they were also burying other utilities at the same time under or upright alongside them. So more was being done for the betterment of society besides just paving the streets.

Even in Europe where public transportation is far better than in the USA, they paved also their streets and highways and built autobahns between cities. There is probably more miles of dirt and gravel roads in
North America than there is remaining in Europe. Per
https://www.artba.org/government-aff...ghways-policy/
"Currently, 66.3 percent of all roads and streets in the U.S. are paved, compared with about 27 percent in 1953. Total road and street mileage has increased approximately 22.6 percent since 1953."
Wiki article of interest.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...d_network_size
Take some time to look at that chart in the Wiki articles, and note how many EU countries have 100% paved roads and 0% dirt and gravel roads. While you are at it, also check the density of roads per 100 square kilometers.

I'll repeat what I suggested earlier, as buses and automobile travel speeds increased, while trains and interurbans did not, buses and automobiles became more competitive. Only in a few cities in America was highway and road congestion so heavy that trains remained competitive, and even then the trains require massive subsidies to keep fares low.
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  #63  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 9:58 PM
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Transit in Canada has 3 to 4 times higher ridership compared to US cities, and it has nothing to do with congestion or speed or privatization. Privatization during the Thatcher era didn't help bus ridership in the UK either.

What's really holding back transit in the USA is the constant and ongoing effort to make successful transit more complicated than it actually is. Not enough rail, not enough trains, not enough congestion, not enough speed, not enough density, not enough privatization. Just constantly making new excuses. That is the real reason the potential of transit in the US is still untapped, why systems in Chicago and Philadelphia have lower ridership than systems in Winnipeg and Halifax.
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  #64  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
When passenger railroads and interurbans were the fastest way to travel from point A to point B in a city, they could compete with everything else. But as streets and highways were paved, and as automobiles and buses got more powerful and faster, the railroads, interurbans, and streetcars could no longer compete.
Sure, paving streets and highways was a government subsidy in favor of automobiles and buses, but do you really believe cities and states were never going to pave them? How many bike and jogging pathways in cities today remain dirt and gravel paths vs paved?
And while cities were paving the streets, they were also burying other utilities at the same time under or upright alongside them. So more was being done for the betterment of society besides just paving the streets.
I'm not referring to street and highways being paved. Are you actually being serious here?That was largely done prior to the era of post-war mass sub-urbanization. I'm referring to the extreme capacity expansion and speed increases afforded by things like the mass construction of multi-lane limited-access expressways and significantly wider multi-lane surface thoroughfares.
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  #65  
Old Posted Oct 15, 2021, 7:16 AM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
When passenger railroads and interurbans were the fastest way to travel from point A to point B in a city, they could compete with everything else. But as streets and highways were paved, and as automobiles and buses got more powerful and faster, the railroads, interurbans, and streetcars could no longer compete.
I think that this is partially true. Yes, in the majority of the US, it is faster to get from point A to point B by car than it is by transit.

That said, I think that well-designed systems like BART, or (maybe?) WMATA, have shown that transit can be effective if it is fast and efficient.

I think that we are still working out the model, but some sort of elevated transit with centralized destinations seems to actually work.
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  #66  
Old Posted Oct 15, 2021, 6:25 PM
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we also have to remember the massive highway-ization was a post war eisenhower era cold war strategy to make america more mobile.

except it didn't end there. for example, when i was in college, reagan rebuilt and raised all the perfectly fine overpasses along I-75 in nw ohio so that tanks could be transported on flatbed trucks. afaik rail wasn't seriously considered. and when that work was done? they closed the tank plant.

so yeah all that said, all in all the amount of money thrown at roads is ridiculously way, way out of proportion to public transit $, never mind TOD, in the usa.
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  #67  
Old Posted Oct 19, 2021, 3:55 PM
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I agree that commuter rail's potential in the US is untapped, but I think that it has to do more with bad routing than it does with limited schedules.

The main reason that I haven't taken commuter rail in Seattle, so far, is that it seems to go weird places (it goes along the beach I think), and the nearest station isn't particularly easy to get to.

If it were more accessible, and went to more destinations, then I think I might take it more.
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  #68  
Old Posted Oct 19, 2021, 8:14 PM
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I agree that commuter rail's potential in the US is untapped, but I think that it has to do more with bad routing than it does with limited schedules.

The main reason that I haven't taken commuter rail in Seattle, so far, is that it seems to go weird places (it goes along the beach I think), and the nearest station isn't particularly easy to get to.

If it were more accessible, and went to more destinations, then I think I might take it more.
Excellent point about commuter rail routing. Ever wondered why it is routed so poorly, especially Sounder trains towards Everett? Grades are the answer, long freight trains do not like steep grades, rarely over 2%, and that is where most commuter trains run on, freight tracks or abandoned freight tracks. Meanwhile, cars, buses, and trucks can easily handle 6% to 10%, and even higher grades. The Link light rail trains heading north tunnel through granite hills to head north to closely parallel I-5 and they can easily handle 6% grades.
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  #69  
Old Posted Oct 19, 2021, 9:48 PM
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The fact that a lot of commuter rail lines in the US were former freight ROW I think is part of the problem. I don't know the solution, though.
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  #70  
Old Posted Oct 19, 2021, 10:53 PM
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Sounder North goes where the tracks are. It's as simple as that. The stations aren't central, but they do serve some waterfront centers and ferry passengers.

We don't have other tracks heading north. Period. Zip. Link light rail is the only other set of tracks in the northern half of the city of Seattle. Sounder is on freight tracks on both routes, also shared with Amtrak.

Things are a little better for South Link, which is one reason why it does more service and better ridership, though it's also just for rush hour work trips.
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  #71  
Old Posted Oct 19, 2021, 10:55 PM
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The fact that a lot of commuter rail lines in the US were former freight ROW I think is part of the problem. I don't know the solution, though.
^ A return to prioritizing ground up electrified suburban heavy rail like BART and DC Metro but that costs a lot more $ coin $ .

Part of the appeal of traditional loco hauled commuter rail on freight tracks (outside of historic hub/spoke operations like Chicago's Metra) is that it has a relatively low start up cost as compared to a much more involved intentional routing using S-Bahn or metro style electric equipment. The trade off of that less desirable routing is of course lower utility and thus lower ridership.
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  #72  
Old Posted Oct 20, 2021, 1:12 AM
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^ I feel like there is a middle-ground between a BART/WMATA-type system, and what we have with most commuter lines currently.

Caltrain, in the Bay Area, for example is a highly effective commuter system, and I think that this is because it was originally built as commuter rail, rather than being a freight conversion. It will be even better when it is electrified.
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  #73  
Old Posted Oct 20, 2021, 1:15 AM
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If only we could build commuter rail down the I-5 median, though there's probably some technological reason why that isn't feasible.
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  #74  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 7:56 PM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
So true. But generations ago, almost all of these transit companies were private enterprises. Which is usually the case in America, private enterprises seeking profits usually provident greater services. Once government stepped in to regulate the private enterprises for the greater good, i.e. keeping fares as low as possible, that's when the private enterprises started to go bankrupt. Eventually, the various local governments had to step in to save the services, and as usual were terrible at managing it. So services declined over time.

What's so new about that? Why are so many surprised that governments can not compete with private enterprise providing goods and services?
It is too simplistic to place blame on public versus private.

The Japanese market has a slew of highly successful private operators providing incredible services. At the other end of the scale, privatisation of the railways in the UK has been a very mixed bag; government subsidies went up and there was very limited appetite from the railway operators for extensive change because of restrictions by the government. The most disastrous aspect of privatisation was the creation of Railtrack, a listed firm which owned and maintained the railway infrastructure. Unfortunately, the prioritisation of profits led to a spate of disastrous crashes and massive overruns. Railtrack was subsequently nationalised two decades ago (creating Network Rail), but only just this week, the Southeastern franchise (640,000 weekday passengers pre-Covid-19) was terminated and transferred to government oversight due to a £25mn fraud.

With further turbulence created by Covid-19, the whole system is going to be overturned with a Transport for London style concession model with the prospect for further devolved regional services from 2023.

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^ A return to prioritizing ground up electrified suburban heavy rail like BART and DC Metro but that costs a lot more $ coin $ .

Part of the appeal of traditional loco hauled commuter rail on freight tracks (outside of historic hub/spoke operations like Chicago's Metra) is that it has a relatively low start up cost as compared to a much more involved intentional routing using S-Bahn or metro style electric equipment. The trade off of that less desirable routing is of course lower utility and thus lower ridership.
Electrified rail operation has a wide range of benefits but isn’t necessarily going to spark a massive growth in passenger numbers. Taking an unelectrified line with low frequencies and ridership, the sensible approach is to focus on increasing access, making the service more attractive and competitive relative to the car, minimising delays, and fast all-day service. Having an electric service is pointless if there are conflicts with freight services, or frequencies are low or intermittent.

Several European countries operate bi-mode trains, and with advancements in battery technology, BEMU’s are now a reality, especially for dark-spots in the absence of catenary or third rail.
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  #75  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 8:15 PM
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^ That brings us full circle. My comment was advocating a re-prioritizing of more ambitious ground up systems like a BART, like a WMATA, like a MARTA instead of relying on commuter rail along legacy freight corridors often operating with access agreements that caps the kind of service levels that could grow ridership even further. The issue here really isn't propulsion, I did not mean to make it sound like it was, it really is route. An intentional corridor designed for maximum ridership catchment is obviously going to always be more ideal than working with pre-existing rail infrastructure.
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  #76  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 9:18 PM
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^ That brings us full circle. My comment was advocating a re-prioritizing of more ambitious ground up systems like a BART, like a WMATA, like a MARTA instead of relying on commuter rail along legacy freight corridors often operating with access agreements that caps the kind of service levels that could grow ridership even further. The issue here really isn't propulsion, I did not mean to make it sound like it was, it really is route. An intentional corridor designed for maximum ridership catchment is obviously going to always be more ideal than working with pre-existing rail infrastructure.
Yes, a purpose built transit line, whichever is built, will have better ridership. But when, after waiting how many years into the future?
Sounder commuter trains have been in operations between Seattle and Tacoma since 2000. Sound Transit was formed in 1993. It took Sound Transit just 7 years to initiate commuter rail services between Seattle and Tacoma. They are still extending Link Light Rail from Seattle to Tacoma, and will not complete that line all the way until 2032.
7 years for initiating commuter rail over an existing freight line between Seattle and Tacoma vs 39 "planned" years for a dedicated transit line to be built.

You make the call, which is ultimately better for a brand new, expanding transit system?
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  #77  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 9:30 PM
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^Brand new with real money and real political consensus behind it. Every time. It just doesn't feel that way in this country because for the most part we don't prioritize transit investments on the scale of and with the majority of citizens approval of a say Western Europe or Asia.
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  #78  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 11:05 PM
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I feel like there's some fatigue about public works, though.

BART was a pretty massive undertaking, in a metro area that is more populous than Seattle. I'm all for transit, but a BART-style system is unnecessary when a Caltrain-style one will do.
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  #79  
Old Posted Oct 21, 2021, 11:39 PM
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I guess I came in a little harsh.

BART is great, but it is hardly perfect, and comes with issues, including noise pollution, small trains and others.

It is really ideal as a rapid transit system through dense suburbs, or as a commuter subway in a compact metro, both of which describe San Francisco pretty well.

I guess we could add a rapid transit system to Seattle, but I feel like we would have to densify to make it work.
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Old Posted Oct 22, 2021, 12:19 AM
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Okay, so I did a little more research on this, and the distance between the Tacoma Dome and King Street Station in Seattle is 32 miles (on the freeway). This is about the same distance as Warm Springs BART station to West Oakland.

I could see a heavy rail line here. I'm a NIMBY, anti-train conservative, whatever you want to call me, but I could see it.
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