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Passenger Trains > Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?


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Date: 01/03/19 18:33
Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: Lackawanna484

The NY Times has an article about the envy of NYC's transportation commissioner Polly Trachtenberg, after a visit to the west coast of the US.  Los Angeles plans to double the rail mileage,and has vastly expanded its system in recent years. Scooters, bikes, etc.  Seattle has a well integrated regional network of rail, light rail, bus, etc

NYT offers two tantalizing clues.  One is a better sense of regional needs, and control by the politicians in that region.  By contrast, NYC's system is controlled by Albany, and neither the Governor nor the Mayor use mass transit.   It's a prop, but not something either uses very often.

The second is the use of the ballot measure to initiate large projects, like the California High Speed Rail.  The right of citizens to put a project on the ballot and fund it is absent in most eastern states. (As is the right to recall politicians.)  Mayor Garcetti was amazed that the citizens voted a permanent sales tax to fund transportation development.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/nyregion/transportation-east-coast-vs-west-coast.html



Date: 01/03/19 19:36
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: pdt

the reason LA has had thriving rail development, is because in the 1980's. the was virtually NO rail public transit at all.   LAUS was a morgue, with 9 departures a day. That was it...the whole station looked like it was on its way to extinction.  Half the stub tracks at the station were ripped out. 

Then LA developed a downtown, and the population in metro LA went crazy, and commuting got to be impossible. ppl were spending 2-3 hours a day in their cars commuting.  And gas prices were generally going up.  And in Metrolink amazingly got started.  I remember us all thinking...it'll never happen.  Just more talk.  We had seen some small commuter train attempts come and go.  I even went to Mission tower one am to get pix of an SP GP-9 hauling 2 gallery cars into LAUS..an early attempt at a commuter train on the coast line.

But metrolink happened, and the blue line, and then Amtk service to SAN doubled, and SBA and SLO service.  And the abandoned tracks at LAUS were put back in. Then the Red line subway, the Gold Line on the SF 2nd distract traks, the Green Line, resurection of part of the wingfoot line to Santa Monica...And now the Crenshaw line on the ex SF harbor tracks.  and more stuff coming. 

Fact is, car traffic in LA is worse than ever, and its still hard to get a lot of paces without a car.  The extension of the subway under wilshire blvd will help a lot.
but still, the NYC metro area had more rail mass transit in the 1980's than LA has now.  So there's still a lot of room for LA to catch up..or even get close.
LAUS handles about 100,000 passengers a day.  Penn station plus GCT in NY handle almost 1 million passengers a day. LA's subway and light rail system is still less than a tenth the size of the NYC subway system.

Not that the NY metro area is famous for getting anything done quickly.   Rail service on the Monmouth-Ocean county lines, the Lackawanna cutoff, and the Erie Northern Br. have been in the all talk no action stage for over 25 years now. The Montclair connection(half mile of track) took about 45 years to get done.
The only thing that seems to have been built quickly, was the Hoboken light rail line. Seems I was walking around Hoboken Station one day, and this trolley line just showed up out by track 17.  Of course, the Hoboken-Jersey City area is just strewn with adandoned row's, so land acquisition wasnt a problem.  Almost all of it is built on old rail line ROW's.



Date: 01/03/19 19:45
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: RuleG

One thing to keep in mind is that with respect to age of track and rolling stock the newer West Coast systems are now where New York City was in the early twentieth century.

I think the most impressive growth in transit has occurred in Dallas, Denver & Salt Lake City.  Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Dallas has the largest light rail network in the US.

 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/03/19 19:46 by RuleG.



Date: 01/03/19 21:37
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: czephyr17

RuleG Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One thing to keep in mind is that with respect to
> age of track and rolling stock the newer West
> Coast systems are now where New York City was in
> the early twentieth century.
>
> I think the most impressive growth in transit has
> occurred in Dallas, Denver & Salt Lake City. 
> Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think
> Dallas has the largest light rail network in the
> US.
>

RuleG Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One thing to keep in mind is that with respect to
> age of track and rolling stock the newer West
> Coast systems are now where New York City was in
> the early twentieth century.
>
> I think the most impressive growth in transit has
> occurred in Dallas, Denver & Salt Lake City. 
> Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think
> Dallas has the largest light rail network in the
> US.
>

Both these posts are correct.  Everything pdt said about Los Angeles applies to Dallas as well, and Dallas does have the largest light rail network in the US (starting from 0 miles in the mid-1990s).  Neighboring Fort Worth is getting in on the act too, they will open up a new commuter line between downtown and DFW Airport this coming Saturday (assuming the government shutdown doesn't delay the opening).  



Date: 01/03/19 22:37
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: coach

I thought Portland, OR had the largest light rail network--no?



Date: 01/04/19 07:15
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: czephyr17

coach Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I thought Portland, OR had the largest light rail
> network--no?

Dallas - 93 miles
Portland - 60 miles

Posted from iPhone



Date: 01/04/19 07:29
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: webmaster

No amount of rail in Los Angeles will fix its traffic problem.  Los Angeles was built around the automobile, meaning development sprawl.  The population densities in Los Angeles are not as high as older cities like New York and Chicago.  This makes it extremely costly to develop a rail system to reach all areas of the metropolis because of the extreme distances involved.

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



Date: 01/04/19 08:45
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: pdt

webmaster Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> No amount of rail in Los Angeles will fix its
> traffic problem.  Los Angeles was built around
> the automobile, meaning development sprawl.  The
> population densities in Los Angeles are not as
> high as older cities like New York and Chicago. 
> This makes it extremely costly to develop a rail
> system to reach all areas of the metropolis
> because of the extreme distances involved.

It wont fix it, but it helps.  100,000 ppl a day thru LAUS isnt that shabby.  And rail is connecting some of the more prominent population centers..San Berdoo, Riverside, santa Ana, Long Beach, Santa Monica, downtown LA, Pasadena, Burbank, Van Nuys, etc.   I know quite a few ppl who use transit to get to work these days.  LA, from what I see, isnt in love with the car like it was 30-40-50 years ago.  Being in LAUS at rush hour just warms my heart. Reminds me of Hoboken or Newark Penn Station.  Theres hustle and bustle.
Part of LA's problem is that it all 1 big mixed use neighborhood.  There isnt "the city" and "the burbs" .   Also, rail transit lines are a bit limited by where the row's are.  Having lived in South Bay, I know that light rail could desparately be used from the current end of the green line, over to and down Hawthorne Blvd to PCH, and then SE on PCH to San Pedro.  But how u gonna fit it in?  And then there's the incredible boondogle of not having built the green line into LAX.  Almost every major airport these days has rail service, except LAX.  It so desparately needs rail service right up into the terminal area.  It was just a monster sized (and probably politically motivated) blunder. 
And, as someone whose in LA a lot in the movie industry, part of the problem is that there are so many vehicle crashes every day.  There is this insane mix of overly aggressive drivers, and overly timid drivers.  Anyone who knows how to get around in LA, knows that in rush hour, the right lane is the fast lane, and all the slow drivers hang out in the left lanes.  Gee, what could possibly go wrong?  And GPS's....dont get me started.  No, u cant make a right turn on to Cahuenga, and then cross 3 lanes of traffic and make a left 100 feet later.   And Caltrans....what a joke.  What's orange and sleeps 6?  A caltrans dump truck. The 5 freeway has been under construction down by Buena park for at least 20 years now.  Its still a mess.  Same thing in Santa Clarita.  In fact, in Santa Clarita, I dont even see that they are really doing anything, other than making jobs for themselves.   They brilliantly closed off one of the northbound lanes on the 5 for "construction" the week before Thanksgiving.  There was an hour long delay trying to take the 5 NB every day leading up to Tgiving.  And its still a mess now.
Anyway....traffic in LA is as bad as ever, but  rail transit is as good as its been since the PE days, and thank goodness they are still building more.



Date: 01/04/19 09:05
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: Lackawanna484

NJ has tried to use "transit villages" in which greater density is allowed around major rail and bus terminals.  The idea is that residential and business density would create both destination and origin business for the train or bus.  That ran aground on the principle of Home Rule, where the local town controls what happens inside its border.

Morristown took years to get a single TV project up, and North Brunswick has been working on one for decades.



Date: 01/04/19 09:05
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: TiBike

>Los Angeles was built around
> the automobile, meaning development sprawl. 

Not true. The pattern of LA's development sprawl was created by the alliance of street car lines and real estate development in the early 20th century. As automobile ownership became ubiquitous in mid-century (1930s - 1950s), streets, highways and more residential development followed the already established pattern. The automobile extended and intensified LA's development sprawl, but it did not create it.



Date: 01/04/19 09:56
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: czephyr17

Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> NJ has tried to use "transit villages" in which
> greater density is allowed around major rail and
> bus terminals.  

That has been a major effort in Dallas as well, and probably other systems.



Date: 01/04/19 10:03
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: stash

What's orange and sleeps 6? A caltrans dump truck.

Good one, pdt!

Posted from Android



Date: 01/04/19 10:47
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: PHall

TiBike Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> >Los Angeles was built around
> > the automobile, meaning development sprawl. 
>
> Not true. The pattern of LA's development sprawl
> was created by the alliance of street car lines
> and real estate development in the early 20th
> century. As automobile ownership became ubiquitous
> in mid-century (1930s - 1950s), streets, highways
> and more residential development followed the
> already established pattern. The automobile
> extended and intensified LA's development sprawl,
> but it did not create it.

LA's sprawl was created by Henry Huntington and his real estate developer buddies back in the late 19th and very early 20th centuries.
And was completed in the late 40's and 50's by owners of the National City Lines.



Date: 01/04/19 12:38
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: CPRR

The real reason why NY and LA differ is the Mafia and the others the politians use to build thing are older, and more established in NY.....



Date: 01/04/19 15:31
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: Waybiller

There is widespread support for building rail transit, and so those projects are typically approved and funded.  The substantial costs of maintenance, not to mention comprehensive renewal, are FAR less politically attractive.  New York City really needs to spend hundreds of billions to add new rail and subway, so that they have the capacity to take the existing networks out of service to rebuild them, which will also cost hundreds of billions.  



Date: 01/04/19 15:48
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: mpe383

czephyr17 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Lackawanna484 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > NJ has tried to use "transit villages" in which
> > greater density is allowed around major rail
> and
> > bus terminals.  
>
> That has been a major effort in Dallas as well,
> and probably other systems.

The mixed commercial/residential developments around Washington Metro stations are a great example of this.



Date: 01/04/19 16:27
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: bretton88

RuleG Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> One thing to keep in mind is that with respect to
> age of track and rolling stock the newer West
> Coast systems are now where New York City was in
> the early twentieth century.
>
> I think the most impressive growth in transit has
> occurred in Dallas, Denver & Salt Lake City. 
> Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think
> Dallas has the largest light rail network in the
> US.
>
>  
Dallas also has some of the worst per mile ridership too. 20 minute headways are unacceptable for any rail transit system.



Date: 01/04/19 16:29
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: ts1457

The LA Basin got lucky with the timing of Metrolink. It came along at a time when with the uncertainty for the future, Santa Fe and Southern Pacific were willing to sell. If Metrolink was started a few years later, it would have not been able to acquire all of the lines which it did.



Date: 01/04/19 18:01
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: abyler

czephyr17 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> coach Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I thought Portland, OR had the largest light
> rail
> > network--no?
>
> Dallas - 93 miles
> Portland - 60 miles

Polite reminder: Philadelphia - 111 miles light rail (Routes 10, 11, 13, 15, 34, 36, 100, 101, 102, River Line).



Date: 01/04/19 18:11
Re: Why is the west coast doing so well with rail and light rail?
Author: inCHI

I'm so happy to have the 224 miles of CTA 'L' trackage in Chicago, where many of the trains I ride come every 3 to 5 minutes, board quickly with elevated platforms, and aren't subjected to traffic lights. It's hard to see how light rail comes close to comparing. It is good to hear that it has expanded all across the west, but it is such a poor man's version of mass transit. I rode RTD the other week and it's great as long as it isn't in the downtown core. The headways were better than I thought. But the way they put light rail through the urban core on the cheap that makes it as slow as or ever slower than busses demotes it so throughly from what the Subway or 'L' is like.



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