Is Direct Service the Defining Element of Rail System Success?

» Eurostar has 85% market share on direct trips to and from London; trips requiring transfer, however, have less than 5% share.

Slightly less than fifteen years ago, Eurostar began offering services under the English Channel between the United Kingdom and continental Europe. The line has been met with unequivocal success. Railway Gazette reports today that Eurostar has grabbed an 85% share of the air-rail market on trips between London and Paris, Bruxelles, and Lille. The speed-up of the service over the years, from 2h56 between the French and UK capitals in 1994 to 2h15 today, has played a large role in the corridor’s high ridership. Eurostar’s popularity, like that of domestic high-speed services in France, Spain, and Japan, demonstrates the great value of investing in fast train systems.

Yet the Gazette article also notes that on routes where customers are required to transfer — such as between London and Koln,

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Monterey County Selects Light Rail as Preferred Local Transit Alternative

» Initial line would extend from Monterey to Marina, with eventual extension to Castroville; commuter rail to San Francisco also due by 2012.

The Transportation Agency for Monterey County (TAMC), California, approved plans yesterday to open a new light rail line by 2015 between Monterey and Marina. A future phase would reach north to Castroville and east to Salinas; both would interface with planned Caltrain and Amtrak service along the corridor.

The route, which extends along the coastline, would also serve the towns of Seaside and Sand City, but the combined population of the affected municipalities totals fewer than 100,000 — meaning that this new line may serve the smallest community of any rail project planned for the United States. With only about 3,500 projected daily riders, the $200 million project won’t reach many people, but the project may well be worth its cost as it will make an already

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Washington Promotes Massive New Streetcar Project

» Lines could be completed in ten years; is it the right investment?

Like seemingly every other city in the country, Washington, DC is planning a streetcar network. Its transportation officials, however, seem uniquely positioned to actually construct their system; unlike other municipalities, Washington is installing tracks in the ground — albeit with no power source — and owns several streetcar vehicles — though they’re in storage in the Czech Republic.

Last week, Greater Greater Washington broke the big story, which is that the District plans eight streetcar lines to be built in three phases, to extend 37 miles across the city. Beyond DC followed up with news that local transportation officials expect the project’s completion in ten years or less at a total cost of $1.5 billion. It would be the most significant example of municipal entrepreneurship on behalf of such street-running light rail

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Philadelphia Selects Waterfront Transit Alignment

» New link proposed between City Hall and the waterfront — but how will trains traverse the T-shaped corridor?

Philadelphia has some of the biggest unmet transit needs in the country, but its transit planners have frequently been unable to expand core capacity by adding fixed-guideway service to major routes. SEPTA, bogged down in the maintenance and repair of its decades-old subways and subway-surface light rail lines, has been unable to find the funds or political will to build new projects; its last attempt, the Roosevelt Boulevard subway extension, went down in flames.

But the Delaware River Port Authority, which runs the PATCO Speedline between Philadelphia and New Jersey, has big ambitions for the city and for the last year and a half has been contemplating making a major investment in a new light rail line along the Delaware River. It would act as a stimulus for increased development

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Amtrak Contemplates a Renewed Northeast Corridor and Lays Out the Stakes

» A full regeneration of the line, speeding trains between New York and Boston in just over three hours, would cost $10.2 billion.

After releasing studies last week that described the costs and benefits or new long-distance rail services, Amtrak has produced a report evaluating opportunities for its most important line, the Northeast Corridor. Long in the coming, the study documents capital needs for the tracks connecting Washington, DC and Boston and provides some preliminary cost estimates for decreasing travel times. With most federal rail capital funds now likely to be earmarked for states pursuing new rail programs like California, Illinois, and Florida, however, Amtrak will have to justify a dedicated revenue source for rail improvements in the northeastern region.

As the report notes, “Reaching a state of good repair on the Northeast Corridor after years of deferred investment and adding needed capacity to the Corridor will be expensive. Currently,

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by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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