Unabashedly Pro Light Rail

- wadE

Wade's gambit from yesterday on his local bus line got me thinking about the new light rail system about to open here in the Twin Cities.

I'm a big fan of light rail, and fervently believe it is quite overdue.

A few things to think about when pondering light rail:

From www.transalt.org:

Dear T.A.:
Hi, I'm a new-ish member (joined this spring). I saw in the last T.A. mag letters section that T.A. advocates a $750 million light rail line for Second Avenue. I would like to know what the rationale is for light rail vs. low- or zero-emission buses. $750 million would go a long, long way toward buying or retrofitting buses, putting in a bus-only lane, etc., not to mention improving service so that fewer people would drive or take cabs. I just don't see how a light-rail system can compete on cost when so much money will go into laying tracks - when we already have roads. Will you explain our position on this? Have we analyzed costs and benefits? I have heard of several real-world examples where improving an existing public bus service was found to be a much more effective solution, in terms of cost, service, and environmental results, than creating a new and different service from scratch. I could find them if anyone is curious. Matt Morgan New York, NY

Ed. Note: Light rail or trolleys beat the pants off buses - diesel, electric or otherwise. Trolleys board faster than buses, carry more people and add riders over existing bus routes wherever they are installed. On the East Side of Manhattan, for example, some 30 trolleys could do the work of the 76 buses now on the M15 route. Also, it's easier to preempt traffic lights for trolleys than buses. Lastly, over the life of a system, light rail is far cheaper than the bus. Buses must be fixed and replaced more frequently because they suffer more wear and tear than a train. Convinced? There is a wealth of data on this topic, all of which shows trolleys a better investment than buses when looked at over 20 years or more.

Believe it or not, light rail can work in cities that aren't as dense as New York.

From a website about light rail inTucson:

MYTH: "We need greater density to support light rail."

Here are some comparisons of population densities of Tucson with those cities:

Tucson: 2656 persons/square mile (which includes all that empty land on the southeast side, skewing the number further downwards)

Portland: 3572 persons/square mile
Denver: 3050 persons/square mile
Dallas: 2940 persons/square mile
Phoenix: 2342 persons/square mile (now under construction)
Salt Lake City: 1467 persons/square mile (almost HALF of Tucson's density)

The population density of Minneapolis? 6,970.

Density of Ramsey County (county which St. Paul is in): 3,280

Some cities that lie within the 494 beltway:
Richfield: 4,993
Hopkins: 4,205
St. Louis Park: 4,122

Statistics found here.

And finally... Conservatives who are actually in favor of light rail! A good report that basically says that even if you don't use public transit, you are still feeling the benefits.

Why I am in favor of light rail is that the bus system we currently have works great if you live in Minneapolis or St. Paul. For the first ring of suburbs, as long as you are heading downtown, the bus works out ok. If you live outside of that, you are stuck with driving to the nearest transit station or like me, my local bus stop (about 3 blocks away) will take me 76 min. to get downtown.

That's handy!

Yes, the upfront costs are enormous, but in the long run light rail makes sense. And just think, if the Big 3 automakers hadn't bought up (and tore up) all of the trolly lines in America in the 40's, we'd have the infrastructure already in place!

Don't believe that? Well, for the liberal minded folks, read this.

For the conservative folks, read this.

Even the spin from the "American Dream Coalition" sounds fishy, doesn't it? Yes, General Motors was taking advantage of a business opportunity...an opportunity to destroy their competition by purchasing them, and dismantling them from the inside out.

But that's a story for another time...

- 12/18/2003


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