The Year’s Top Transit News – State by State

» From sea to shining sea, it’s been a newsworthy year for transit in the United States.

As 2009 fades away, recall the biggest stories from each state, ranked by importance and seriousness. It’s hard not to notice the vast differences between regions and places in support for transit and intercity rail funding.


» Florida approves state funding for SunRail project, Tri-Rail commuter system, and high-speed rail. Seems likely to benefit from increased federal funding as a result. Related article on The Transport Politic: Florida Convenes Special Legislative Session for SunRail, Tri-Rail, and High-Speed Rail, 4 December 2009.


» Seattle’s new Central Link light rail line opens for service, the first in the region and the most expensive project of the year. Related article on The Transport Politic: Seattle’s Light Rail Opens, Redefining Life in the City, 20 July 2009.


» Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, playing off the support for transit expressed

Continue reading The Year’s Top Transit News – State by State »

With Competition in High-Speed Operation, Who Wins?

» France will be a battleground for intercity rail travel beginning in 2012. Whether the country’s citizens will benefit is up for debate.

Last week, Le Figaro reported that Veolia Environnement will be working with Italy’s Trenitalia national rail company to compete on French high-speed rail routes beginning in 2012. The ramifications of the move are significant: it will open up existing lines to multiple operators, producing consumer choice currently not available because of a decades-old monopoly on intercity operations by French national rail corporation SNCF. This competition is mandated by European Union law, which is intended to reduce transportation costs by opening up services to multiple operators.

But even if some routes see lower fares, the overall effect on the rail system is less positive. Competition on the most valuable routes seems likely to reduce investment on less profitable segments. In the meantime, operators, interested in increasing revenues,

Continue reading With Competition in High-Speed Operation, Who Wins? »

Are London Heathrow's ULTra Pods the Future of Transit?

» Successful implementation at huge U.K. airport could mean more interest in PRT elsewhere.

Proponents of personal rapid transit systems have frequently promoted themselves as opponents of traditional public transportation. Unlike expensive metro or light rail systems, they claimed, their PRT lines would be cheaper to construct, more convenient for passengers, and more attractive for users. Now that a new line is readying for opening in the United Kingdom, the technology may attain new prominence.

Over the years, most attempts at implementing PRT have failed due to a lack of interest from investors — and as a result of deceptive, dishonest campaigns by “pod people” who simply promise too much.

Even with the rebirth of modern rail systems over the past few decades in the United States, PRT continues to be brought up as an environmentally friendly solution for urban transport, allowing passengers

Continue reading Are London Heathrow’s ULTra Pods the Future of Transit? »

Taking Away When Needs Are Greatest

» California Governor proposes cutting state support for transit to balance the budget.

The most stormy period of the recession may have passed us by, but states and cities continue to face the devastating consequences of the millions of jobs lost over the past two years. Unlike the national government, which is able to maintain a budgetary deficit, lower-level governments in the U.S. federal system have a legal requirement to produce a balanced budget each year — a difficult task to fulfill when raising taxes is political suicide even as citizens expect a minimum standard of minimum public service.

As falling tax returns have become standard, that’s bad news. It’s especially troubling for transit systems in California, which may face a collective $1 billion cut in support if Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gets his way on the state’s next budget.

California’s legislators faced down a massive budget deficit earlier this year, closing a gap

Continue reading Taking Away When Needs Are Greatest »

Congress Approves M1 Involvement in Detroit Light Rail

» Public-private partnerships could bring big benefits to the Motor City. But they might be sending the wrong message about governmental responsibility.

If Detroit has yet to receive the kind of huge public investment that may well be necessary to save it, it hasn’t been entirely forgotten by its natives. Over the past year, a group of individuals and corporations have donated tens of millions of dollars towards the creation of an entity that would construct a new rail line down the city’s primary corridor, Woodward Avenue. Their example of direct private involvement in a transit project for a non-profit purpose is unique, and the U.S. Congress has authorized what may be a first-in-the-nation approach. Is it the right one?

Detroit, as has been discussed over and over, has been losing population for decades and its industrial base has been disappearing for years. The city’s leaders have been notoriously poor at responding to

Continue reading Congress Approves M1 Involvement in Detroit Light Rail »

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  • by Yonah Freemark
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