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View Diary: Sunday Train: Rapid Streetcars and Suburban Retrofit (26 comments)

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  •  Mass transit is for people who can't afford cars (0+ / 1-)
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    Too slow, unreliable and noisy.
    Very heavily subsidized
    and still expensive for few riders.
    The cost is many times higher than roads.
    Street cars jam up the streets worse than buses and electricity is dangerous.
    As soon as cars were invented, the electric street car business started to collapse overnight.

    To get where you want to go, ban all cars, move everyone into jam-packed cities and provide free mass transit.

    This cure is worse than the disease.

    •  LOLOL!!! (3+ / 0-)
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      neroden, BruceMcF, SteveA NC

      You obviously never lived near a place with those street cars and trams.

      It's reliable, faster than cars in the city, as they have their own lanes, cheap and much less people die in accidents with trams than with cars.

      I have lived with that kind off public transportation all my live and I am very grateful for it, despite also owning a car.

      Read the European view at the European Tribune

      by fran1 on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 12:52:12 AM PDT

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    •  Actually, they had to (2+ / 0-)
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      HeyMikey, BruceMcF

      (1) Pour government money into road paving and new highways, many, many, many times more dollars than the privately funded streetcars ever received.  

      (2) Prevent the streetcar companies from raising fares for decades;
      (3) Buy the streetcar companies outright and dismantle them (look up the General Motors/Firestone/National City Lines Streetcar Conspiracy);

      before the electric street car business collapsed.  Despite which it survived in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and San Francisco.

      (You're just dead wrong about "cost many times higher than roads".  You have it precisely backwards.  They've transferred hundreds of billions to build roads at the federal level alone just this year, and total mass transit spending is much, much less -- it's also much less per transit user than the outrageous road spending per capita.  Try looking up real numbers sometime.)

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 01:34:48 AM PDT

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      •  And the highway fund gas tax is itself ... (1+ / 0-)
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        ... a massive transfer - people drive on city streets funded by state and local sales and income taxes, pay the gas tax that goes into the highway fund and subsidizes Interstate, US, state, county and township highways.

        In a large part, the people moving from cities to suburbs were following where their tax money had already gone.

        If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

        by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 06:31:13 AM PDT

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        •  Mass transit gets 5% of HTF federal gas tax (0+ / 0-)

          yet only 2.7% of urban passenger miles are by mass transit and only 1.4% by rail.

          Mass transit gets the subsidies.

          From 2004, 1670 billion vehicle miles on urban roads versus 45 billion of mass transit of which 24 billion was by rail.

          It would make more sense to car share with hybrids or plug-in hybrids.

          Cities have a congestion problem which people solve by moving to the suburbs.

          •  How many miles driven by urban drivers ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... are on roads qualifying for Highway Trust Funds and how many on city streets that are disqualified from Highway Trust Funds?

            You are looking at the small change and ignoring the massive cross subsidies.

            Certainly the 5% of funding for mass transit benefits urban residents, but you write as if the benefit was restricted to the passengers alone, when the primary factor in determining receipt of those funds is relief of traffic congestion.

            Urban motorists benefit from that funding alongside urban public transport and mass transit users.

            Indeed, your blind spot regarding the massive subsidies to suburban and rural motorists would almost make someone suspect that you are a suburban or rural motorist yourself, given the well-known situation where people relying on government subsidies constantly over-estimate their degree of self-reliance and under-estimate the subsidy they receive.

            And clearly, 5% of the Federal Highway Trust Fund receipts directed primarily (but not exclusively) to urban resident does not offset the massive subsidy: according to the '93 study of the NRDC, paying the full cost of driving out of gas taxes would add from $3-$6 per gallon.


            In 1994, government at all levels disbursed $72 billion for highways (not counting intergovernmental grants), but received only $51 billion in motor fuel taxes. Thus, $21 billion in highway spending came from the taxpaying public as a whole.

            That is a 30% subsidy rate. And much of that is the cross-subsidy from urban to suburban and rural residents. As Brookings found when it looked here in Ohio:

            Between 1980 and 1998, Ohio’s highway dollars were spent disproportionately in rural counties, which received more funding relative to their transportation needs than urban and suburban counties.

            At the same time, urban counties in Ohio contribute significantly more gas tax revenues to state transportation coffers than they get back in return, and essentially act as "donors" of transportation dollars to rural-county "donees."

            The sources for the urban cross-subsidy?:

            1. "Counties and townships receive these revenues in equal shares without regard to population size, numbers of vehicles, the amount of vehicle miles traveled, or which jurisdiction has responsibility for the roadway network."
            1. "state highway funds are spent on interstate highways, state roads and highways only, which principally run through unincorporated areas, townships, and rural counties. This generally leaves municipalities responsible for maintaining their own roadways while rural counties benefit from greater state attention and state investment."
            1. "Finally, Ohio restricts the use of gas tax revenues to highways only, which limits the ability of urban and suburban areas to invest in transit options or air quality improvements. That, too, tilts spending toward rural and suburban pavement."

            Suburban drivers are subsidized. Urban drivers pay that subsidy. And the amounts swamp the mere 5% of gas taxes that fund transit improvements that reduce traffic jams on urban roads.

            If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

            by BruceMcF on Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 03:08:54 PM PDT

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    •  Wait a minute, that was confusing ... (1+ / 0-)
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      ... when I read:

      Too slow, unreliable and noisy.
      Very heavily subsidized
      and still expensive for few riders.
      The cost is many times higher than roads.

      ... it seemed like you were writing about cars for most of that, which are too slow, unreliable, and noisy, very heavily subsidized, and their cost is much higher than the cost of roads themselves. Just the forced transfer of wealth from property owners to support "free" forced-subsidy parking is in the billions.

      And of course, if a road is jammed up, remove the cars and keep the streetcars, and there is no jam. Remove the streetcars, and keep the cars, and the jam gets much worse. So the notion that streetcars ever "cause jams" is quite obviously absurd. Its the other cars that are causing the jams - the more of them you can get to take a Streetcar instead, the better off you, as a driver, will be.

      As soon as the massive public subsidies for cars emerged, privately operated electric street cars started to collapse against the government subsidized competition. But not all ... large numbers of public street car companies required an organized strategy by car makers to have them shut them down because without an organized strategy, they were simply not going anywhere - all the financially vulnerable operations had already closed.

      This part of getting to an Energy Independent transport system does not require banning cars or forcing anyone to move anywhere. What it requires is removing restrictions on freedom that are forced on us in order to support the car transport system.

      It attacks the problem not by allowing people to respond to the problem in ways that are presently forbidden.

      If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

      by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 06:28:33 AM PDT

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      •  oops, that was garbled ... (0+ / 0-)

        It attacks the problem not by allowing people to respond to the problem in ways that are presently forbidden.

        It attacks the problem not by eliminating people's freedom of action, but by allowing people to respond to the problem in ways that are presently forbidden.

        If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

        by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 07:48:15 AM PDT

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        •  Some mass transit is necessary (0+ / 0-)

          for the poor and elderly.
          Buses work well for that.
          Fuel cell or NG hybrid buses will work for those.

          It's been estimated that rail mass transit is about 1/3 as energy intensive as cars.
          Answer--more efficient cars and buses.

          •  There is no way to bring ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... gasoline cars down to the energy efficiency of electric rail, its thermodynamically impossible.

            Typical efficiency in urban service (Strickland's numbers, cached)

            Mode: Passenger-miles per gallon
            Rail: 600
            Trolleybus: 290
            Tesla Roadster: 246
            Diesel bus: 78
            Scooter/light motorcycle: 75
            Smart fortwo cdi: 74
            Toyota Prius: 72
            Ford Explorer: 21

            As far as the idea that there is a single silver bullet replacement for cars, the argument here is that it would be idiotic to escape the legal restrictions on personal freedom required to support a "one-size-fits-all" policy of all-cars, all-the-time only to set up an alternative set of legal restrictions forcing as many people as possible into some other single transport choice.

            The alternative being proposed here, instead, is personal freedom and responsibility, to replace the heavy hand of legal restrictions required to make the car transport system work and the massive levels of cross-subsidies that all suburban drivers have come to expect as some kind of birth right, even as it becomes less and less economically possible to keep the subsidy flowing for suburban motorists.

            Indeed, one of the main channels for subsidizing suburban motorists on the back of urban motorists, the Highway Trust Fund, has been requiring repeated bail-outs because the original tax rate that was used to take money from urban drivers to subsidize suburban drivers was never indexed for inflation. Add the fact that the subsidy has led to a massive increase in the share of drivers who are suburban drivers trying to get a free ride off the backs of a declining share of urban drivers, and the whole rigged system is creaking and requires a rethink if it is not going to collapse.

            It is also unusual that the focus of the comment is on mass transit. This article is not about mass transit at all, unless the rail corridor used by a Rapid Streetcar is shared with mass transit. And the kind of public transport provided as a back transport for the people who are not served by the massive public and forced-private subsidies to drivers is almost never mass transit. It is, in other words, far more likely to be bus service than high capacity, high frequency heavy rail.

            If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

            by BruceMcF on Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 10:07:18 AM PDT

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            •  Not according to DOT, EIA (0+ / 0-)

              Weird numbers.
              EIA says
              cars get 3600 Btu/ passenger mile travelled
              mass transit gets 3000 Btu/pmt
              light trucks 5900 Btu/pmt
              air 9600 Btu/pmt


              USDOT and wikipedia says
              cars 3525 Btu/pmt
              transit motor buses 3626 Btu/pmt
              amtrak 2100 Btu/pmt
              transit light/heavy rail 2784 Btu/pmt
              hybrid car 1659 Btu/pmt

              electric mass transit ran 16291E06 passenger miles (light/heavy/trolley--commuter rail is mainly diesel)on 5952E06 kwh of electricity or 2.74 pmt per kilowatt hour.

              70% of US electricity is from fossil fuels and 20% of US electricity comes from nuclear both of which average around 33% efficient. 3412 x .9/.33 =10236 Btu/kwh.

              So 10236 Btu per kwh  produces 2.74 pmt on mass transit or 3396 Btu per passenger mile. DOT gives 2784 but clearly there are no government numbers indicating the tremendous energy savings you suggest.



              Wikipedia is similar.

              One problem with mass transit at street level is that it is very slow--buses at 13 mph, trolleys at 7 mph, light rail at 15 mph, heavy rail-els and subways at 20 mph. It's in the nature of the mass transit beast as people clamber on and off them.
              For most people, time is money.
              On the other hand van pool goes at 38 mphs average.

              One advantage of buses is that they cost little compared to rail in infrastructure.

              You seem to think that a Rapid Streetcar isn't mass transit. If it isn't bus or light rail it must be heavy rail which is still pretty inefficient compared to hybrid cars.

              For years I was a rider/booster of mass transit and I still support it for people who can't afford cars.
              I think more people should try to use it to reduce congestion but now favor rideshare and higher efficiency cars/buses as they cost far less.

              •  Buses, trolleys and light rail are not mass ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... transit, are they? They are all local public transport.

                Mass transit is high frequency heavy rail - subways, mainline commuter rail, etc. BART is mass transit. The San Francisco trolley is not.

                And note that the speeds that you list for local public transport and mass transit are not "in the nature of" the transport mode, its in the nature of the focus of a massive share of transport subsidy to cars.

                When you are running a skeleton system that is providing a bare minimum of service, primarily to those most disadvantaged by the massive public subsidies of the car-based system, that means there are no express services - no express heavy rail, no express light rail, no express quality buses. Cut back to the bare bones, and then the bare bones has to be a low-frequency all-local-stops service connecting the strongest patronage drivers and with limited transfer options.

                Of course, that welfare-focused skeleton network results in very low load factors in off-peak periods, which directly reduces the energy efficiency of local public transport.

                So your argument is a perfect hermetically sealed circle: local public transport should only serve as a welfare-service for those excluded from driving even under the massive subsidies we presently give to cars, because of what happens to local public transport when they are run as a welfare-service in competition against massively subsidized cars transport.

                And, indeed, you also forget or ignore that the focus of present local transport systems is in densely populated urban areas where rival car transport is itself quite slow in mph terms. Comparing "average speed of an urban light rail line" to "average speed of a suburban door-to-door pooled van" is not comparing like to like.

                Consider the above system. For the sake of argument, assume 7mph through a New Suburban Town Center of 2 miles. That is 17 minutes. 60mph through the balance of the 28 miles of the segment described above is 28 minutes (90mph is a maximum for existing Streetcars under trolleywire, but reserve some of the speed limit for making up time on a schedule). Add a minute for each station stop, and its 33 minutes. So its 50 minutes to span a segment, and a normal trip is under half an hour, so it is inside the Marquette limit.

                And of course that is conservative, since an average of 7mph for a Streetcar line through a retrofitted suburban commercial district assumes very limited intersection priority and a very high density of stops. If it achieves 16mph to span a Streetcar segment, than a 2 mile segment takes 7 1/2 minutes and a full segment is spanned in 40 and a half minutes.

                So that is in the range of 36mph to 43mph as a local transport service, which can off course be sharing the rail corridor segment with a 110mph or 125mph HSRail service offering Express trip speeds of 70mph to 100mph.

                If you join the twitter #HSrail swarm, find me @BruceMcF

                by BruceMcF on Tue Sep 29, 2009 at 01:39:59 PM PDT

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