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  #41  
Old Posted Nov 3, 2019, 1:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Qubert View Post
The fault lies not with SEPTA but with the City of Philadelphia...more specifically it's insistence on a city wage tax that ensures Center City continues to lag behind it's peers in being a center of employment for the region. Boston, Chicago and DC have far greater job concentration in their cores than Philly. As long as economic dynamism is a low priority in City Hall, nothing SEPTA can do will bring the RR system to have the ridership it's infrastructure could support.
Is employment in greater Boston really more centralized than it is in greater Philadelphia?
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  #42  
Old Posted Nov 3, 2019, 7:36 AM
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Originally Posted by liat91 View Post
San Francisco:
BART to San Rafael
SMART to Sonoma
BART to NAPA
Caltrain to Vacaville via new transbay tunnel with BART
Caltrain to Antioch
BART ext to Danville
Caltrain to Stockton and Modesto replacing ACE
Caltrain to Salinas
BART to Santa Cruz
If we're going by what's beneficial locally, I advocate for BART to Vallejo, BART to Livermore and Capitol Corridor to San Francisco (implying a second transbay tube).
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Last edited by SFBruin; Nov 6, 2019 at 9:01 AM.
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  #43  
Old Posted Nov 5, 2019, 4:13 PM
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MBTA Board Endorses Ambitious Slate of Upgrades For Commuter Rail System

https://mass.streetsblog.org/2019/11...ion-plan-today

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- The MBTA Fiscal and Control Management Board has endorsed an aspirational vision to electrify the MBTA commuter rail network to provide all-day, rapid-transit-style service throughout eastern Massachusetts, with an initial phase focused on upgrading Boston’s Fairmount Line, the Boston-Providence line, and the Rockport line through Chelsea, Revere and Lynn. --- As SteetsblogMASS reported previously, those six alternatives ranged widely in cost and ambition, from a $1.7 billion option that would add new some trains to the existing system, to a $29 billion “full transformation” option that would run new electric trains every 15 minutes all day and build a new regional rail tunnel to connect North and South Stations.

.....



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  #44  
Old Posted Apr 26, 2021, 5:43 PM
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Taking the ‘Commuter’ Out of America’s Rail Systems

https://www.governing.com/now/taking...s-rail-systems

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....

- America’s regional rail lines haven’t always served a highly specific slice of the population. This mode of transit dates back to the first flush of the suburban exodus in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when private companies ran the rails and service was frequent throughout the day. As mass car ownership came into vogue, profit leaked out of that arrangement. A cash-strapped public sector pivoted to focusing the service on well-heeled commuters who had moved out of cities. --- In recent decades, the vast web of rail lines that surround many older urban centers were only convenient if you worked a 9-to-5 job downtown. Fares were double or triple the cost of a bus ride, although many professional-class workers had them covered by monthly passes paid by their employers. Commuter rail was very expensive to those who couldn’t afford it, and often free for those who could.

- Like its North American counterparts, the MBTA’s commuter rail lines took a ridership hit of unprecedented magnitude when the pandemic engulfed the country. At its lowest, Scorey reports, only 4 percent of previous riders used the system. As the second wave receded in early 2021, ridership levels edged up to 8 to 9 percent of previous levels. By contrast, bus and subway lines saw their use plunge too, but mostly by three quarters or one-half, not by consistently over 90 percent. --- That’s because the principal regional rail riders are professional-class employees who have been able to work remotely through the pandemic. Now, even as the world begins to open up again, there is doubt that their commutes will look quite the same as they once did. Although only 8 percent of workers were remote before 2020, estimates by the freelancing platform Upwork are that between 20 to 25 percent of jobs could be in the next five years.

- In Boston, Keolis is trying to face that future by making the system more like its inner-city counterparts. On April 5, they announced that all the commuter lines will now have more regularized and predictable scheduling that arrive at least hourly throughout the day. Some of the most heavily used branches, like the service up to Beverly on the North Shore, will come every half hour. For every line, the update means no more gaping, multi-hour holes in the schedule during midday or late night. For the outer suburbs like Framingham, they’ve updated the schedule so that the trains come every hour all day with even more frequent service during high ridership periods. --- Transit advocacy groups are pleased with the changes but are pushing for more, like electrifying the fleet to decrease carbon emissions and increase train speed, expanding frequency further and reducing fares to ensure they are actually affordable to all.

- The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) serves the Philadelphia region, and boasts an impressive web of regional rail lines that spider out across the region. --- In Chicago, the head of Metra, the region’s commuter rail service, said in early 2021 that his agency is considering similar changes. “Maybe they’re every half-hour, and during rush hour, every 15 minutes,” said Jim Derwinski, Metra CEO. --- Transit advocates have spent years being told that such a transformation would be impossible, too expensive, too complex, too radical. But now, transportation executives and managers are facing a do-or-die moment. Something has to change and if reforming commuter rail was too expensive before, it now looks a lot more affordable than running a fleet of half-empty trains or building a lot of brand-new infrastructure. After all, the commuter rail networks are already in place. No tunnels need to be bored, no property obtained, no zoning changes secured or dyspeptic neighbors quieted.

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  #45  
Old Posted May 24, 2021, 5:00 PM
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Commuter Rail Reform Faces High Labor, Infrastructure Costs

https://www.governing.com/community/...tructure-costs

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.....

- Today the future of America’s commuter rail model, including its heavy staff levels, is in doubt because of COVID-19. Unlike their counterparts in Europe or eastern Asia, these lines are a boutique service and offer few options on the weekends or weekday non-peak commuting periods. That’s because U.S. regional rail systems have long been oriented toward suburban white-collar commuters. --- Rail operators and transportation policymakers have begun to grapple with this existential challenge. In Boston, commuter rail is running more frequently during non-peak hours and the contractor operating the service hopes to run even greater frequencies in the future. At both SEPTA and Chicago’s Metra, policymakers have discussed making similar changes. A report released by the city of Philadelphia promoted subway-style service every 15 minutes throughout the day.

- But skeptics say that there are myriad challenges confronting such a transformation. One of the biggest is inefficiently allocated labor costs. American commuter rail systems operate on an antiquated model, employing not just engineers who drive the train but multiple conductors who punch tickets and help passengers on from platforms that are (in many cases) much lower than the train doors. For example, the staffing levels on the Berlin S-Bahn, the German capital city’s regional rail network, are about one-third the size of the Long Island Rail Road (America’s busiest commuter rail system), which in turn serves only about a third of the passengers. --- “In Spain or Germany, you just have the train driver, there’s no one else on the train,” says Roger Senserrich, transportation advocate in Connecticut and a longtime commentator on Spain’s rail system. “Trains are complicated technology, but they are not the kind of thing that needs so many people supervising how they are used. They are doing less with more and doing it in an extremely inefficient way.”

- Most American commuter rail services date back to the days when private companies owned mass transit operations. When the public sector took over these essential services, they also inherited many of the antiquated practices that private operators hadn’t updated as they sought to divest themselves of these no longer profitable ventures. In addition to heavy staffing, other holdovers include diesel locomotives, which are more polluting and don’t accelerate as fast as their electric counterparts, and low-level platforms that don’t allow for easy boarding. All of this makes it harder to reduce the number of workers per train, because conductors are needed to check tickets and help people aboard. --- For reform advocates like Senserrich and transit researcher Alon Levy, the upfront capital costs of such a transformation wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

- They calculate that bringing Boston’s commuter service up to international standards would cost about $10 billion, primarily because the MBTA needs to build a north-south connector tunnel and electrify their rail lines. In Philadelphia’s case, the tunnel is already built and the lines electrified, so the cost would be far less. A bigger barrier, in Levy’s opinion, is that it costs $13 a kilometer to run the Long Island Rail Road, while even SEPTA and the MBTA cost a little less than $9.50 a kilometer. In European systems, the costs range from $5 to $7 a kilometer. To sustainably run service more frequently, those costs would need to fall. --- “They [American transit professionals] speak with perfect confidence and say that things are impossible that happen thousands of times a day in other parts of the world,” says Levy, who lives in Berlin. “You have a country that doesn't really learn from Europe. You have railroad workers who don't learn from anyone except themselves. It’s not a question of resources. It’s all institutional.”

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  #46  
Old Posted May 24, 2021, 6:32 PM
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Originally Posted by lrt's friend View Post
Toronto's 'joke' commuter rail network is receiving enormous investment, which is gradually transforming it into a true rapid transit network. Its high ridership is no joke.

speaking of jokes, bad jokes that is. for every ying there is a yang -- and its often so with the relative fall of cleveland and ne ohio and the rise of toronto. cle had the only commuter rail in ohio, to youngstown, so you can see where this story is going, ugh. the daily service finally peetered out in after conrail took over erie lacakawanna in 1970 and and it ended in 1977 (their other commuter trains were in nj and instead of shutting down as they did in ne ohio they became part of nj transit).

there have been other proposals to revive commuter rail in the cleve, all shot down for various reasons. so far anyway. the big idea currently is actually a much bigger one, the 3C's plan to tie cle-cols-day-cinci together with the rail line, but a previous plan was shot down by the state gov and there seems to be no major advocacy for the current plan. so we will see if ohio has it together enough to go for any of uncle joe's infrastructure money for it.
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  #47  
Old Posted Jun 17, 2021, 1:02 PM
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Originally Posted by craigs View Post
Is employment in greater Boston really more centralized than it is in greater Philadelphia?
Based on this blog post Job Centralization in the City from Alon Levy employment is slightly more centralized in Boston, but the difference is only 4% more centralization in Boston. Also as it turns out Philly has slightly higher commuter rail ridership than Boston according to APTA Q4 2019 Public Transportation Ridership Report.

SEPTA: 134,600 per weekday

MBTA: 121,700 per weekday
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  #48  
Old Posted Jun 18, 2021, 12:57 AM
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Originally Posted by mrnyc View Post
there have been other proposals to revive commuter rail in the cleve, all shot down for various reasons. so far anyway. the big idea currently is actually a much bigger one, the 3C's plan to tie cle-cols-day-cinci together with the rail line, but a previous plan was shot down by the state gov and there seems to be no major advocacy for the current plan. so we will see if ohio has it together enough to go for any of uncle joe's infrastructure money for it.
Cincinnati did build an underground commuter rail station 2000-03 but it has not been put to use for rail. It is currently used for special event bus parking.

https://www.go-metro.com/about-metro...transit-center
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  #49  
Old Posted Oct 9, 2021, 5:54 PM
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Before Interstates, America Got Around on Interurbans

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/featu...a-rail-revival

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- Once, there was no better selling point for your town than an interurban line. These small railways connected small towns and large cities throughout the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, giving residents a chance to go places, literally and metaphorically. The cars were bigger and better-appointed than your standard streetcar, and instead of soot-chuffing steam locomotives, they used the latest clean-energy innovation: electric power provided by the overhead wires known as catenary lines. Any settlements that lacked an interurban badly wanted one, even to the point of faking their existence. — In Ohio, a hotspot for the interurban industry just about every town with a population greater than 5,000 had an interurban connection, except one: Coshocton, an Appalachian town between Canton and Columbus. Roger Grant, a history professor at Clemson University who’s written at length about U.S. railroads, said that postcards from the 1910s show interurbans running through Coshocton anyway. It was that big a deal.

- Instead of the wave of the future, the interurban turned out to be a transitional mode of transportation, Grant says, bridging the gap between the large passenger railroads and personal automobiles. But the dream of clean, fast and frequent rail travel between U.S. cities never really died. And now, with railfan Joe Biden in the White House and $66 billion to expand Amtrak’s passenger rail service in the infrastructure bill that still awaits a final vote in Congress, the interurban era could be an instructive model for what a climate-friendlier national transportation network might look like. — “Lots of corridors need better connections,” says Christof Spieler, a transportation engineer and former board member for Houston’s METRO. “I think rail is part of that, and I think electric rail is part of that.” “If you were on a main line, like between Cleveland and Toledo, you had a lot of choices,” Grant says. — “But if you were out in a smaller community, you might only get one train a day, and that might not run on Sunday. But with interurbans, you had trains running every hour or two hours.”

- Vestiges of the interurban age still exist today, Spieler says, like the T light rail serving the South Hills of Pittsburgh, SEPTA’s Norristown line around Philadelphia and some BART transit in San Francisco. Many a bike trail traces the right-of-way of an abandoned interurban. And the wave of light rail projects undertaken in U.S. cities in the 1980s revived the electric railway concept, though most were designed to shuttle suburban residents into downtowns. “Arguably, light rail is today’s interurbans,” he says. — But the role that interurbans played in American life has never truly been replaced by succeeding modes. The infrastructure demanded by private automobiles proved to be disastrous for U.S. cities, and their ongoing environmental toll is doing even broader damage. For those who can’t drive, a dwindling and cash-strapped intercity bus network connects rural communities that might have once boasted of interurban service. Meanwhile, pie-in-the-sky projects like hyperloops and maglev lines continue to stir the imaginations of city leaders who dream of getting in on the next big thing.

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  #50  
Old Posted Oct 9, 2021, 7:20 PM
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Before Interstates, America Got Around on Interurbans
Once upon a time, interurbans were the fastest way to get from suburbia to downtowns. Here's wiki on interurbans...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interurban

"From 1900 to 1916, a large network of interurban lines was constructed in the United States. In 1900, 2,107 miles (3,391 km) of interurban track existed, but by 1916, this had increased to 15,580 miles (25,070 km), a seven-fold expansion. To show how exceptionally busy the interurbans radiating from Indianapolis were in 1926, the immense Indianapolis Traction Terminal (nine roof covered tracks and loading platforms) scheduled 500 trains in and out daily and moved 7 million passengers that year. At their peak the interurbans were the fifth-largest industry in the United States.

Many interurbans had been hastily constructed without realistic projections of income and expenses. They were initially financed by issuing stock and selling bonds. The sale of these financial instruments was often local with salesmen going door to door aggressively pushing this new and exciting "it can't fail" form of transportation. But many of those interurbans did fail, and often quickly. They had poor cash flow from the outset and struggled to raise essential further capital. Interurbans were very vulnerable to acts of nature damaging track and bridges, where flooding was common. Receivership was a common fate when the interurban company couldn't pay its payroll and other debts, so state courts took over and allowed continued operation while suspending the company's obligation to pay interest on its bonds. As the interurban companies struggled financially they faced rising competition from cars and trucks on newly paved streets and highways, while municipalities sought to alleviate traffic congestion by removing interurbans from city streets. Some companies exited the passenger business altogether to focus on freight, while others sought to buttress their finances by selling surplus electricity in local communities. Several interurbans which attempted to exit the rail business altogether ran afoul of state commissions which required that trains remain running "for the public good," even at a loss.

Many financially weak interurbans did not survive the prosperous 1920s, and most others went bankrupt during the Great Depression. A few struggling lines tried combining to form much larger systems in an attempt to gain operating efficiency and a broader customer base."

Automobiles and paved highways and paved streets replaced the interurbans.
It took Eisenhower 62 days to drive Model T Fords (cars and trucks) from the White House in DC to downtown San Francisco in 1919 along the Lincoln Highway, which was mostly dirt and gravel and little to no pavement. 62 days. Google suggest 41 hours of driving time today. Depending upon how long you will drive a vehicle per day, its a four, five, six or seven day journey.
Around 10 times faster. If you drive 70 mph on the interstates today, Eisenhower was averaging 7 mph back in 1919. it's a 10 to 1 ratio.

Interurbans were traveling faster than 7 mph back in 1919. They were the fastest way to get from the suburbs to the inner cities. But as roads and highways were paved, as automobiles averaged higher speeds, interurbans lost their competitive advantage - and that is why few of them remain today.
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  #51  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 12:55 AM
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Highways were increasingly subsidized after World War I. Interurbans were doomed as a result.
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  #52  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 2:29 AM
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I gotta say, I love the FrontRunner in Salt Lake. It's only 88 miles long (for now) but probably 75% of Utah's entire population is within a few minutes walk/drive of rail transit because of it. I think it partially works so well because of geography: the urban area is strongly oriented along a north-south axis, so a train that runs along that spine connects a lot of customers. The Republican-led legislature also gave UTA $200 million for FrontRunner double-tracking this year.

The downside of SLC's system right now is its pitiful central station. It's not much more than a platform and it's pretty far from the CBD. That is hopefully going to change soon though!
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  #53  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 5:36 AM
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I don't think it's just highway subsidies, at least for intra-urban (not sure if that's a term) travel.

There were also street width guidelines, parking minimums, zoning regulations etc. that made the density necessary for transit to function nearly impossible.

They have all contributed towards making motorized personal transit, of which a car is clearly the safest and most luxurious option, the fastest and, often times, only practical way to get around.
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  #54  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 5:38 AM
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The problem with commuter rail in the US is the same as the problem with the light rail there: they are isolated systems and lines, agencies treat them as isolated, and people in this thread talk about them as isolated. GO Transit in Toronto has high ridership because it is just a very small part of much larger transit network. Most of the ridership in suburban Toronto is on buses, not commuter rail. Even 19.5% of GO Transit's weekday ridership is on buses.

Philadelphia's commuter rail got 134.5k riders per weekday in 2019, representing 12.6% of the weekday ridership of Philadelphia's system. Although Toronto's GO Train system got almost double that ridership, 230.5k boardings per weekday, those 230.5k boardings represented only 5.4% of Toronto's transit ridership. Double the ridership, but half the importance.

SEPTA bus 508,400
SEPTA heavy rail 329,200
SEPTA commuter rail 134,600
SEPTA light rail 89,400

TTC heavy/medium rail 1,620,300
TTC bus 1,281,400
TTC light rail 530,600
GO train 230,500
GO bus 56,100
MiWay bus 201,287
Brampton Transit bus 144,523 (2016)
York Region Transit bus 101,993 (2016)
Durham Region Transit bus 51,841 (2016)
Oakville Transit bus 13,800

You can see similar problem in Chicago. In 2019, Metra got 274.0k boardings per weekday while Pace Suburban Bus got only 135.2k boardings, less than half. Compare that to Mississauga's MiWay bus system which got 201.3k boardings per weekday or Brampton Transit with 144.5k, together almost three times the ridership of Pace despite serving less than one-third of the population. The untapped potential of rail in the suburbs is because of the lack of the buses in the suburbs.

For a transit route to be truly successful, it needs to connect to as many people as possible, workplaces to homes especially. That doesn't just mean TOD and high density, that also means routes need to connect to as many other routes as possible. Shorter walking distances also requires routes to be closer together. You need lots of local transit feeding into all those suburban rail stations, and the cheapest way is with buses.
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  #55  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 12:10 PM
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Seems to me that when comparing the two, the most surprising thing is how low Philadelphia's non-commuter rail ridership is. The septa commuter rail ridership at a much more reasonable level since their commuter rail is so advanced for the North American context but the subway...
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  #56  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 1:29 PM
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Seems to me that when comparing the two, the most surprising thing is how low Philadelphia's non-commuter rail ridership is. The septa commuter rail ridership at a much more reasonable level since their commuter rail is so advanced for the North American context but the subway...
SEPTA's problem is that its motto is cut cut cut. They cut about 3/4 of their streetcars, they haven't expanded their subway system at all since the 70s (and haven't had a major expansion since the 30s), and they have a RER-style commuter rail system that they could start tomorrow if they wanted to (and don't want to - all the pieces are there, except the service).

Wherever ownership of the tracks exist (Boston, Chicago, LIRR, unsure about NJ Transit and Metro North, Philly, and LA), I think that the potential of commuter rail is untapped.

Bus service needs to be frequent, but so does commuter rail service.
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  #57  
Old Posted Oct 11, 2021, 10:47 PM
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Seems to me that when comparing the two, the most surprising thing is how low Philadelphia's non-commuter rail ridership is. The septa commuter rail ridership at a much more reasonable level since their commuter rail is so advanced for the North American context but the subway...
There is also PATCO Speedline I should have added, but it is only 38.4k per weekday.

Toronto has increased density a lot around subway stations, but I think if its bus and streetcar ridership fell to Philadelphia's level, the subway ridership would also suffer a lot, no matter the density along those lines.

These pages list the ridership of the stations of Market-Frankford Line and the TTC subway system in 2018, respectively:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market...Frankford_Line
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ubway_stations

Termini stations in Philadelphia (69th Street, Frankford) get around 20,000 boardings per weekday, while the termini stations in Toronto (Finch, Kipling/Islington, Kennedy) get around 100,000 boardings per weekday. So the fact that Toronto has four times the bus and streetcar ridership is probably what best explains that difference in heavy rail ridership. Just these four subway stations together have around 300,000 boardings per weekday, representing one-fifth of TTC subway ridership, and almost matching the entire SEPTA heavy rail network and PATCO.

69th Street Transportation Center 17,680
Frankford Transportation Center 19,052

Finch 99,350
Kipling 49,340
Islington 41,270
Kennedy 111,190

And keep in mind these aren't the only TTC stations with bus terminals. Almost every subway station outside of downtown has a bus terminal in the fare-paid zone served by multiple bus routes that riders can transfer seamlessly to and from.

Why is the potential of commuter rail untapped? Probably same reason why the potential of heavy rail is also untapped. I think these numbers show the importance of having a complete transit network. The local transit network in Philadelphia is not complete, and the gaps are biggest in the suburbs. The commuter rail ridership there is actually impressive considering the lack of connections, with many stations having no bus service at all. If Philadelphia starts filling in those gaps, better connecting everything together, getting people onto the buses, then it will get more people onto those commuter rail and subway trains, and maybe even expand those services. Want more rail service? Then start adding more bus service.
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  #58  
Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 12:00 PM
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Lack of consistent, frequent, punctual, all-day bi-direction service is most likely the biggest issue holding back many North American railway operations. Other reasons include a combination of low-quality rolling stock (aesthetics, accessibility, operating speeds), dilapidated infrastructure (lack of grade separation, quantum of tracks, diversion routes, orbital routes, low line speeds, outdated signalling, mixed low-speed freight and passenger rail traffic), and substandard stations (unmanned, barebones, lack of security, outright unpleasant and decrepit including the major stations).

Stations with bus interchanges do help, but it is far more beneficial to have stations that are at the heart of settlements, accessible in all weather conditions by foot and bike.
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Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 2:48 PM
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Lack of consistent, frequent, punctual, all-day bi-direction service is most likely the biggest issue holding back many North American railway operations. Other reasons include a combination of low-quality rolling stock (aesthetics, accessibility, operating speeds), dilapidated infrastructure (lack of grade separation, quantum of tracks, diversion routes, orbital routes, low line speeds, outdated signalling, mixed low-speed freight and passenger rail traffic), and substandard stations (unmanned, barebones, lack of security, outright unpleasant and decrepit including the major stations).

Stations with bus interchanges do help, but it is far more beneficial to have stations that are at the heart of settlements, accessible in all weather conditions by foot and bike.

america had all these things in spades for generations and let them go away -- caving in to the maddening autocentrism lobby. nobody can destroy itself quite like 'murica can!
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Old Posted Oct 14, 2021, 6:10 PM
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america had all these things in spades for generations and let them go away -- caving in to the maddening autocentrism lobby. nobody can destroy itself quite like 'murica can!
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?
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