» New York City’s LaGuardia Airport is its rail-inaccessible stepchild. A proposal to spend half a billion dollars on a new transit link there, however, may do little for most of the region.
LaGuardia Airport is the New York City airport closest to the nation’s largest business district in Midtown Manhattan. Getting there, however, is inconvenient and slow for people who rely on transit and expensive — and often also slow — for those who receive rides in cabs or shuttles. In other words, the experience of reaching the airport leaves something to be desired.
The New York region’s two other major airports — Newark and J.F.K. — each have dedicated AirTrain services that connect to adjacent commuter rail (and Subway services, in the case of J.F.K.). These lines were built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the 1990s and 2000s to improve transit access to these airports, leaving
Continue reading For LaGuardia, an AirTrain that will save almost no one any time »
» Calgary’s popular transit system proves public transportation can work even in a sprawling boom town. But a downtown where auto use is discouraged is a must.
Calgary is a boomtown — the center of Canada’s resource economy, whose explosion in recent years has led to big gains in Calgary’s population and commercial activity. It’s the sort of place that might seem completely hostile to public transit; 87 percent of locals live in suburban environments where single-family homes and strip malls predominate; surrounding land is mostly flat and easily developable farmland; the city is almost 10 times bigger than it was in 1950, meaning it was mostly built in a post-automobile age; and big highways with massive interchanges are found throughout the region. Even the transit system it has serves many places that are hostile to pedestrians and hardly aesthetically pleasing.
It’s an environment that looks a lot more like Dallas or Phoenix than Copenhagen.
And yet Calgary
Continue reading Calgary’s soaring transit use suggests high ridership is possible even in sprawling cities »
» Damage to the North River tunnels could cut off most rail service into the nation’s center unless a new link is built soon.
There are many cities where rail lines serve an important purpose: They help connect important destinations; they reduce congestion on particularly intensely used corridors; they concentrate development and produce agglomeration benefits. These benefits are useful in making those cities more livable, economically vibrant places.
But only in certain cities — the largest, most densely developed places, particularly those with geographical constraints on growth — are those rail lines essential to making the metropolitan economy work. In New York City, there is no question that this is true; the region’s subway and commuter rail lines carry the bulk of peak flow into the Manhattan business districts thanks to the ability of trains to handle upwards of 40,000 people per hour on each line. Without those lines, people simply wouldn’t be able to get to work.*
Given the city’s reliance on those rail lines,
Continue reading With no new rail tunnel on the horizon under the Hudson, New York faces a looming transport crisis »
» A new station on Boston’s Orange Line prepares for opening, but infill stations of its type are all too rare.
Want to know a secret? One of the best ways to increase transit ridership at a reasonable price requires little additional service. It requires no new line extensions. And it can be done to maximize the value of existing urban neighborhoods.
This magic solution comes in the form of the infill station–a new stop constructed along an existing line, between two existing stations. Next week, Boston’s MBTA transit agency plans to open a new stop, Assembly Station, along the Orange Line in Somerville, a dense inner-ring suburb just to the northwest of downtown Boston.
Assembly is the latest in a series of recent infill stations in the U.S. located along older heavy rail lines whose other stations were generally constructed decades ago. Washington, D.C.’s NoMa Metro Station opened in 2004; the San Francisco region’s West Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station followed
Continue reading With infill stations, older transit agencies extend their reach »
» New Orleans fantasizes about new streetcar routes as its buses barely make the grade.
Public transportation expenditures are typically divided into two buckets: One for operations expenditures — the money that goes primarily to pay the costs of gas, electricity, and driver labor — and the other for capital investments, which sometimes means maintenance but often means new vehicles and system expansions. Because of the way in which these two buckets are funded, a transit agency that may be in dire straights in terms of paying for system expansions may be providing excellent, well-funded daily services. Or the opposite could be true. This is a consequence of the fact that federal transportation grant support, and also often local system revenues, are required to be spent in one of the two areas, with little ability to transfer funds between them. The division between capital and operations funding produces some strange dynamics
Continue reading When transit service is substandard, can we plan for capital expansion? »