Discussing Privatization of the Northeast Corridor, but for What Aims?

30th Street

» House Republicans suggest putting Amtrak’s primary line up for bids, but faith in the private sector is not enough to promote this change.

House Representative John Mica, a conservative Republican from central Florida and the Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has been berating Amtrak for years, so his announcement last week that he would promote the privatization of the Northeast Corridor comes as no surprise.

With Democrats still in control of the Senate and a Republican Party history of bringing up the issue and then promptly giving up in the 1980s and 90s — even when the GOP has controlled the Presidency or both houses of the Congress — any such plan is unlikely to move forward. Yet the question of the privatization of intercity railway operations in the United States will play a role in future debates, especially if the federal government continues to

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Paris Region Moves Ahead with 125 Miles of New Metro Lines

Grand Paris Express

» Months after regional and national officials agree to a huge plan for improving suburb-to-suburb connections, final decisions are made on future stations for Paris’ future supermetro. Completion of the initial project is planned for 2025.

In the developed world, few metropolitan areas are as dependent as Paris on their public transportation networks. Of mechanized trips within and into the central city, transit holds a majority mode share; in the 11.5-million-person Île-de-France region as a whole, almost 60% of all trips are made by foot, bus, or train. Part of the reason is that despite a century of continued development in the suburbs, densities are high throughout: The Petite Couronne (the inner ring of suburbs, with a collective population of about 4.3 million), for instance, is about as dense as the City of San Francisco.

But as in most cities, the increase in population outside of the central city

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The Silly Argument Over BRT and Rail

Nantes BusWay

» Reserving respect for each mode.

As if operating in parallel, Toronto’s Globe and Mail and The Wall Street Journal each published articles last week describing the merits of bus rapid transit, which each newspaper described as the future of urban transportation.

Both noted that BRT was cheaper to construct than rail lines. Each suggested that in an age of government pull backs and general skepticism over the value of public investment, BRT could offer substantial benefits to a transit system at a reasonable price. And each article concluded with a warning by rail proponents that buses wouldn’t be able to attract people out of their cars.

This is a sensationalized opposition between two modes of transportation that should be thought of as complementary. There are advantages to improved bus service in some corridors, reasons to support rail in others.

What is clear is that for the majority of American cities — excluding only a few

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Finding the Means to Keep Transit Running

Tri-Rail

» An investment of billions of dollars in a new rail line should be backed by a guarantee of minimum operations standards.

In a hearing in front of the Senate Banking Committee yesterday, Federal Transit Administration head Peter Rogoff spelled out his agency’s priorities: Maintaining and renovating the nation’s existing public transportation networks, and providing temporary federal assistance for bus and rail operations.

Keeping transit running should be one of the nation’s top priorities, but the FTA has had to mostly stand by in recent years as region after region has experienced cuts in the services provided by local transit systems. This coming in the midst of a recession and mounting gas prices, each of which make a larger percentage of the population in need of non-automobile-based travel options. Thus the interest of Mr. Rogoff and the Obama Administration in general in providing aid to local agencies may come as a relief

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Rahm Emanuel and the Power of Municipal Entrepreneurship

Chicago Green Line

» Taking the realm of America’s third-largest city after 22 years under Richard Daley could produce big changes for local transportation.

Despite its burgeoning downtown, Chicago has big problems. The city lost 200,000 people between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. Vast tracts of the south and west sides of the city sit vacant. Job growth in the metropolitan area is slower than in most other regions of the country. The city faces a $75 million budget deficit just over the next few months.

Thus the swearing-in this week of the city’s first new mayor in 22 years, Rahm Emanuel, cannot come at a better time. In order to gain ground over the next few decades, Chicago has to do a better job keeping its existing residents and attracting new jobs. The mayoral election in February was a landslide for Mr. Emanuel, which means he has the political

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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