The value of fast transit

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» We have failed to come to terms with the fact that the transit we’re building is too slow.

Residents of the Twin Cities greeted the opening of the new Green Line light rail link last month with joy and excitement, finally able to take advantage of a train connection between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. The 11-mile rail line runs through a relatively densely populated area, serves two business districts, and travels through the heart of a university.

It’s also alarmingly slow. Green Line trains are taking up to an hour to complete their journeys, and even optimistic schedules released by the local transit agency put running times at 48 minutes, or less than 14 mph on average.

Of course, the Twin Cities are hardly alone in their predicament. Recent transit lines elsewhere in the country feature similarly leisurely travel times. The new Houston North Line, for example, is averaging 17 mph.

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Opportunities Abound for Transporting Goods by Tram — If Properly Coordinated

Zurich CargoTram

» Though a proposal in Amsterdam has been abandoned and freight transport in Zurich and Dresden is limited, Paris considers options for using its new tramways to move goods to stores.

There was a lot of excitement in the transportation press in mid-2007 when Amsterdam signed a deal to allow the transport of local goods by tramway beginning in 2008. In theory, fifty light rail trains operated by a company called CityCargo would move freight from warehouses to local stores without interruption along the city’s existing and extensive passenger tracks, reducing the need for trucks in the city center by half while cutting down on pollution significantly. A network of 600 electric trucks would move the freight minimal distances from the trains to the stores.

Unfortunately, the company fell short of its goal to raise the €150 million necessary to commence operations and the city refused to subsidize the project, so the

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Car Sharing 2.0 Leaps Forward in Paris

An Autolib' station under construction in Paris

» An all-electric, point-to-point system could revolutionize how we think about the automobile and significantly reduce the need for private cars in our cities.

American urbanites have already become quite familiar with the concept of car sharing through the rapid expansion of companies like ZipCar and I-Go; the ability to rent a car at a reasonable price at any time from a location within walking distance of home or work has dramatically reduced the need for at least some people to own private vehicles, since it covers the gap in service not provided by transit: Trips that are out-of-the-way, that require moving heavy goods, or that occur at inconvenient times. This is great for cities and for people, since not only does it reduce the need for parking, but it reduces vehicle capital expenses for everyone, since the cost of purchasing the car is effectively shared among many

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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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A Grander Paris Through a Rapid Circumferential Metro

Grand-Paris-Express

» French national government and Paris region officials agree to more than €30 billion in transit improvements by 2025.

From an international perspective, there are two really significant things about the newly approved plans for a radial rapid transit system around the French capital: First, its primary service area will be in the suburbs rather than in the center city; second, it will prioritize very fast transit times over local area connectivity.

These characteristics make last week’s agreement by regional and national officials to construct the Grand Paris Express network of rapid transit lines a truly significant pattern break in thinking about how to engage in the creation of better public transportation systems. Will this €22.7 billion ($31 billion) transit line, in connection with €12 billion in upgrades to the existing system, make Paris a model for local mobility? Or does it represent poor decision-making on the part

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

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