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Back in May I cross posted High Speed Rail: The Recruiters, at the European Tribune. A regular rail contributer there, DoDo, commented:

... Local Rail
Here I would have liked if dKos readers had been given an idea of the differences between the various local rail systems, though that may warrant a whole new diary. ...

Local Rail and High Speed Rail are greater mututal supporters of each other, and so I was enthusiastic about the idea of DoDo ... Daneel here on the Daily Kos ... writing precisely that diary ... which turned into a series. Jerome a Paris has just posted the first of that series here: Local rail (1)

Daneel focuses on the energy-efficient transport options between High Speed Rail and local buses. What I really want to add to his excellent work (and yes, go check it out!) is why High Speed Rail and Local Rail complement and support each other ... why they are made to be BFF.

Completing the paragraph quoted above, to give an idea of the range of systems covered in DoDo's diary series:

... Light rail, subways and elevateds, suburban rail, and various combinations/enhancements of the previous like light rail changing over to heavy rail when leaving town, light metros, RER-type connections. Which is best for a city depends on its size.

Indeed, this range of systems is why the Eurotrib version of DoDo's excellent diary weighed in at over 10,000 words, and is being delivered to Daily Kos as a series ... starting, as noted above, with this launchpad diary, Local Rail (1), guest hosted by Jerome a Paris.

Local Rail as Recruiter for HSR

Of course, this is the idea that prompted DoDo to start work on the series ... Local Rail is the best recruiter for High Speed Rail. Local Rail has several benefits:

  • It is a superior generator of park-and-ride trips to buses, because there are people who will ride a train who will not ride a city bus ... on the rational side, Local Rail is not subject to the congestion delays that city buses are subject to ... and in addition there seems to be a perception that city buses are more for those who cannot afford a car (IOW, people like me);
  • Local Rail has the possibility of the largest catchment of any of the recruiters listed in the High Speed Rail: The Recruiters diary ... while riding two hours to get to work by bicycle is a great workout, I expect that a two hour bike ride as the start of a trip is not an option many will adopt!
  • They can share infrastructure ... as I have noted several times, the trip through a major city, with three or four HSR stations to collect passengers, does not required a dedicated HSR corridor ... the HSR gets up to full speed when it leaves the city and heads out to the next one. So the local rail can drop you off at a platform connecting to the HSR platform ... and will sometimes even drop you off at the same platform that you will be leaving from.

HSR as a patronage driver for Local Rail

For someone who focuses on the big metropolitan rail systems ... New York, DC, etc. ... this may well look like a trivial impact. However, the big metropolitan systems are not the marginal systems.

For example, Columbus, Ohio is a city that has grown, in my lifetime, from about 1/3 of a million people to over a million people. And much of Licking County, where I grew up just east of Columbus, has been converted in the process from a rural county with a smallish industrial city (Newark, Ohio) as its county seat to outer suburbs of Columbus. Columbus is the size of city that Energy Independence would dictate having several heavy commuter rail corridors, with the network extended by light rail lines ... and one of the commuter rail lines would extend through eastern Licking County to Newark, at the very least (if not farther).

However, Federal funding for local rail in the US ... "fixed guideways" in bureaucratese ... is so tight that Columbus could not come close to getting a light rail line off the ground, based on current competitive project funding (based, as I discussed earlier in the year, on travel time savings, not on energy savings).

Getting "travel time saving" up requires getting patronage up ... and a HSR system between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinatti (connecting further afield) would provide additional patronage for local heavy rail, as well as providing an additional interstate-travel justification for Federal funding.

Economies of Scope

The third and final complementarity that I want to point out is the one that is easiest to overlook, especially for activists focusing on either HSR or Local Rail, and that is the range of transport offered by the system. The ultimate target is to allow households dependent on three cars to become two car households, households dependent on two cars to become one car households, and households dependent on one car to become car-independent households.

And car-independence involves more than offering an alternative on the daily commute. It requires offering transport alternatives that cover the range of activities currently requiring a car. The local travel offered by Local Rail or by the regional and inter-regional travel offered by High Speed Rail will not, on their own, cover the basic travel needs of as many people as both will together ... and that goes even more strongly for households, since several people in a household can have more diverse transport needs than a single person.

And yes, it will take time for people to start taking the "car reduction" option, even after it becomes a viable option. However, the increase in disposable income that comes with each car shed by a household means that this is a one-way process ... and the inexorable rise in the long term average price of gasoline ensures that this will accelerate over time. Indeed, as gasoline passes $5 a gallon and starts heading to $10, there will be growing political pressure to provide the missing links in the network to allow more households to shed their cars.

Now, a narrowly focused Local Rail advocate may argue that the vast majority of trips are local trips ... but a consideration of the various transport options I collected together as "The Recruiters" for HSR also shows that there are a wide variety of local transport options that have strong energy efficiency, compared to an Auto-dependent transport system ... including Pluggable Hybrid Electric vehicles, when operating within their battery range.

However, when it comes to trips of 100 to 500 miles, the competitive, energy efficient, options narrow down to High Speed Rail.

So whether it is a need to travel into Headquarters once every two weeks, taking the kids to the regional amusement park, or going to visit family in the broader region, the greater the opportunity to engage in regional travel without a car, the larger the number of households that will fall into those who can imagine dispensing with a car. And as gasoline prices continue their rise, that imagination will turn to action for increasing numbers of people.


... uh, maybe there is no conclusion here. I just wanted to make those three specific points about the complementarity between High Speed Rail and Local Rail.

No, wait, there is a conclusion: If you have not done so already, Go and Read (and I hope, Recommend), the diary, Local Rail (1). I hope that you enjoy the series as much as I did, and contribute to making for a lively discussion.

Originally posted to BruceMcF on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 06:43 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Just a street sign: proceed to Local Rail (1). (16+ / 0-)

    Did I say it enough times in the diary itself? Maybe not.

    Go to and get into Local Rail (1). and Energize America

    by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 06:47:57 AM PDT

  •  TOD, Local Rail & Surface Links (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Daneel, Snakes on a White House

    To make rail work well needs good planning to promote transit oriented development of commercial areas, a balanced mix of local & high-speed express rail and a good mix of surface transportation (bus, minimbus, taxi) in circular or matrix connecting to stations.

    Although I often see Kos members refer to European rail as the ideal model, in fact, some Asian countries actually have more well integrated systems with a higher rate of utilization. Japan and China have good overall rail systems with continued modernization and good TOD practices where the rail companies typically own or co-develop commercial centers over stations (helping to subsidize the overall systems). Hong Kong has what must be the best municipal transportation system in the world combining local, express and feeder lines in a system that enables you to travel from one end to the other in under an hour, and from airport to downtown in 25 minutes.

    If you're interested,here are some links:

    Japan - JR East

    Japan - JR West

    Hong Kong MTR - Mass Transit Railway

    Hong Kong KCRC - Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation

    Shanghi - Metro

    Shanghai (where I live) is improving, within 5 years we'll expand 5 municipal subway lines to 11, running rings/matrix connecting our 2 main rail stations and both airports.

    Being a great beleiver in rail, I live above a station putting me two minutes from the tracks - maybe a Kos record!

    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

    by koNko on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 08:41:49 AM PDT

    •  Yanks will point to Chinese incomes and ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Daneel, Snakes on a White House

      ... Japanese settlement densities as "special conditions" explainaing their success ... but there is no overwhelming different between incomes and settlement densities in Ohio and France, and with gasoline prices in the US heading toward where gasoline prices have already been in Europe, the final "special condition" argument is getting set to bite the dust.

      Integrating services is important and building up networks is critical ... and a point that Daneel will make in this series ... but it is also important to understand that its not a chicken and an egg ... in many areas, a rail corridor that offers an opportunity for an outer-commuter stopping train service can get the ball rolling and from the outset, and even more as it begins to act as a magnet for further development, will then provide a platform for system expansion. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 08:51:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Correct. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        There is a Chicken or Egg aspect to this but I think the departure point is new development or re-development.

        Adding two lanes to a highway is building a future parking lot but a light rail is a trasportation solution. With oil prices going up, I hope the US starts to choose more rail.

        Actually, there is no perfect universal model and solutions need to be addapted to local conditions, but the US would be well put to study sucessful rail systems in various countries to take the best ideas and addopt what fits.

        I remember a frustrating experience in the US. Visiting Los Angeles 4 years ago I tried the subway. Fist, to get a ticket I had to purchase tolkens, then use the tokens to purchase a ticket. Then, arriving at my destination, I found no public transportation connecting to the station and got lost looking for my desitination address becuase there was no area map. Since it was then a new system, I wondered if the designers had ever used public transportation. Then someone explained "This is Los Angeles, people don't actually use the subway".

        "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

        by koNko on Sun Jul 08, 2007 at 08:17:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I hope you will comment (0+ / 0-)

      with details on those systems in the upcoming parts of my series (the next to be posted tomorrow by myself under my own username). Shanghai is already mentioned in the draft of the third part (to be posted on Friday).

      •  Thanks for the Invite (0+ / 0-)

        I have visited your diary & posted.

        It's a good thing to promote rail in the USA and I think the time is right for a change.

        "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

        by koNko on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 10:49:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hat tip to you, (0+ / 0-)

    good diary with all the right arguments, I'm sorry it went under while everyone focused on Local Rail (1).

    •  Diaries never go under at the Daily Kos ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Overhead Wire

      ... some of my best diaries have sunk like a stone off the recent diary list, but I have been able to link to them again and again in later discussion/diaries.

      OK, I'll make that, diaries never go under at the Daily Kos unless the author abandons them. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 03:08:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is at the core of CA's plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    California's high speed rail plan involves a backbone line to connect SF to LA/Anaheim (as the initial phase, eventually it'll go to Sacto and SD), with local rail feeding into the line - whether it's MUNI, San José light rail, BART, Amtrak California, Metrolink, LACMTA's multicolored lines.

    But it won't happen unless we get on the phones and save the project from Arnold's cuts!

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Tue Jul 10, 2007 at 10:36:39 AM PDT

  •  Side note (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Overhead Wire

     I'm  enjoying the pictures that have been posted in the series so far. One of the things that strikes me about the systems on display here is how many of them appear to take very seriously the visual aspects of the trains - clean looking trains with bright colors and interesting, functional shapes with supporting elements in the associated infrastructure. I'm sure part of it is a choice to use 'good' pictures - but I'm wondering how much of it is considered a fundamental element of good rail system design? It's an aesthetic that too often seems to go missing in America.

    (And it also reminds me of Lego's ability to capture that look in toy form.)

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Fri Jul 13, 2007 at 06:45:40 PM PDT

    •  Yes, Livery is seen as being important ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... in establishing a good image for a newly introduced train ... the one thing that the rail operator can be sure to control in media images of the train in operation is the look of the train itself.

      In picking the pictures, when riding a train, especially a stopping service, you go through lots of lovely countryside and the greenscaped back end of residential developments, and also the backside of lots of gritty industrial zones. Pictures from the more attractive parts of the route tend to be easier to find on the web ... I expect that railfans like to put the best foot forward.

      Thought I wish I could find a picture of a V-Set running through the area of far north Sydney on the Hawkesbury River where they do the oyster farming. That is great scenery ... always my favorite part of a daytime Newcastle / Sydney trip. and Energize America

      by BruceMcF on Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 08:04:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure if you catch this comment, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      xanxar, but as BruceMcF says, yes, even while I selected the best, appearance is a factor taken into account.

      This was always so for high-speed trains, and for liveries, but for local trains, to shape the form of trains attractively is a newer trend, one of the last decade or two. One of the pioneers was Bombardier's oldest German subsidiary, Talbot (unrelated to the French carmaker), with the streamlined TALENT prototype -- a simple railcar that looks like a high-speed train. Thereafter, all rivals tried similar stylish looks. In light rail, the focus on style started even a few years earlier, with the French revival (especially Strasbourg).

      One thing I didn't mention in the diary is the adoption of modular construction, like in the aircraft industry. The one main part that is still often designed separately for every order is the front (compare the various trams in my last two diaries, how different members of the same family look).

    •  I'd Like to Add to the Discussion ... (0+ / 0-)

      Xaxnar, you raise an interesting topic.

      First, good transportation design is usually good looking since basic design values such as functionality, modularity, robustness and aerodynamics tend to lead us toward simplicity.

      Next, to be sucessful, transportation systems including the stations and the rolling stock need be functional, convenient and attractive or people will be turned off (unless they have no choice). Therefore, attractive and even artistic or funky decoration is a use attractor - would you rather ride in a bright red car or artisticly decorated one, or something drab and boring? Why do people buy more i-Pods when cheaper models exist? Good design has value, and if we approach mass-transit as a "consummer service" verses a "utility" a well designed station with supporting services, simplified zone based ticketing, well designed & attractive trains all add value for the customer.

      Suppose the customer has 3 choices:

      1. Spend more money, waste more energy but have percieved convennience of a personal car; possibly stuck in traffic.
      1. Ride inconvenient, unattractive mass transit for a low price, granted with some free time, but possibly not if connecting transit is poor.
      1. Ride a well run, convenient and attractive mass-transit line for a slightly higher cost (but cheaper and faster than a personal car in traffic, and with free time).

      Choice 2 is an obvious looser, choice 3 is probably the best and could attract people away from choice 1.

      I'll try to post some photos later.

      "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

      by koNko on Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 02:54:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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