Where There Were Once Many Lines Planned, Just One Opens in Miami

MIA Metrorail Station

» The failure of a local sales tax to produce revenues as expected should dampen excitement around the latest extension of Miami’s Metrorail system.

Last week, Georgia voters overwhelmingly denied the passage of the T-SPLOST referendum, which, among other things, would have provided $7.2 billion for transportation over the next ten years to the Atlanta region thanks to income from a 1¢ sales tax. About half of that funding would have gone to public transit operations and expansion; in the city of Atlanta itself, the program would have paid for the beginning of work on the Beltline transit corridor, a light rail line to Emory University, several BRT lines, and a MARTA heavy rail extension. Voters were clearly unconvinced of the value of the transportation investments, were motivated by anti-tax sentiment, and felt that the projects would not benefit them directly. The result may be decades of increasing

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A Tollway in Dallas and the Absurdity of Building Duplicative Infrastructure

Trinity River Tollway

» Even as Dallas finishes work on a new light rail line, plans for a new highway along a parallel corridor advance.

This summer, Dallas’ Orange Line will be extended five stations northwest of downtown. The light rail service will expand what is already the United States’ longest such network and improve connections between central Dallas, the suburb of Irving, and — in 2014 — Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Yet billions of dollars in new construction have barely increased transit use; just 4.2% of the city’s commuters use public transportation to get to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If there is one city that proves that simply building transit does not attract people to transit, this is it.

Investments in Dallas’ road infrastructure might provide some explanation for the situation. An astonishing seven grade-separated highways extend radially out from the city center in all directions.* This is a

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Dallas, a Transit Builder if Not Pioneer, Moves Forward on Streetcar

Dallas Downtown Streetcar

» A 1.6-mile streetcar line would bring dubious benefits to this Texas city.

Not all transit expansion projects are created equal — let that be clear. Sure, expanding public transportation options in general usually contributes to the expanded mobility of urban residents. But governments, as we know all too well, have limited funds. So identifying the best possible investments for the money must be an essential part of political decision-making.

Which brings us to Dallas, which submitted plans this week for a 1.6-mile streetcar from the city’s downtown to the Oak Cliff neighborhood just southwest across the Trinity River. It could be the first rail line in the U.S. to feature streetcars that use battery propulsion instead of always having to rely on overhead catenary. The project was funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant in February 2010 and it will be

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North of Dallas, a New Commuter Rail Line that Never Makes it Downtown

Dallas Light Rail

» A train line adds to the Dallas region’s plethora of rail options.

There are many competing reasons to invest in new transportation capacity, the most compelling of which is often to expand mobility — that is, to increase the number of places an individual can get to within a certain period of time. The need to decrease travel times between major destinations is an essential question for transit, since its major competition, the private automobile, usually provides quicker, more convenient trips.

In cities with high levels of highway capacity per capita, the only transit mode that can compete relatively well in terms of mobility is commuter rail, as its limited stopping pattern and sometimes very high speeds allow it to move faster than even free-flow traffic in some cases. The value of commuter rail is of course disputed since its fast running times tend to encourage decentralization from the center city, but

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Sinking Dreams of a Privately-Funded Subway in Toronto

Toronto Sheppard-Yonge Station

» Mayor Rob Ford’s claim that he can build new subway with little public financing looks increasingly unlikely. But value capture remains one of many funding devices that should be considered seriously by transit agencies.

Last fall’s mayoral election in Toronto was a watershed moment for Canada’s largest city; in electing conservative Rob Ford to the top post, the public essentially rejected the approach that had been taken by former Mayor David Miller. For transportation, the change was particularly dramatic. Whereas Mr. Miller had advocated a network of surface-running light rail lines called Transit City, Mr. Ford lambasted this approach as a “war on cars” and declared that the only public transportation projects he would pursue would be in subways.

In March, in an agreement with the Ontario provincial government, he got what he wanted. The planned surface line on Eglinton would be replaced with a subway sponsored by the Province.

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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