Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rail Stimulus

This is a small down payment on what is surely called for. I would be more encouraged it I saw sign of a program to create fresh city centers in the areas of urban sprawl that are then connected by sky train systems as has been happening in the city of Vancouver.

A city such as Los Angeles was built out on a grid system with traffic moving to the grid edges in order to move on out to another such grid. The operative idea was to avoid congestion within the grid boundaries. Not a bad plan for a small town, but a profoundly dumb idea for a city consisting of a hundreds of such small towns glued together.

It naturally forces everyone to migrate every day to the local edge and then to travel by edges to reach their destination. Few will likely work close to their residence.

The simple solution, once you recognize what you have actually done is to create something approaching a horizontal elevator between grid centers or town centers removing obviously repetitive traffic from the edges. This is some form of short train. It does not need to be fast or heavy. In Vancouver we built the sky train beginning in the early eighties in the face of ample criticism and dissent. It is now finishing its second major expansion and has completely reshaped lifestyles and traffic patterns.

I have not seen statistics, but one visible result is that the down town peninsula has no more automotive traffic filling the streets than we had thirty years ago while down town condo residency has added tens of thousands of new users.

At the same time the derivative town centers have all prospered and also become centers of condo towers and the related retail commerce. The process itself has not even fully matured yet.

Implementing a program like this in the major urban centers in California is possible and will remove a huge amount of rubber off the freeways and substantially lower fuel consumption. At worst, you would face a ten minute trip to the station and a twenty to thirty minute trip to the office by train.

Having seen it work over thirty years, it pushed me to understand the underlying dynamic and understand what I was seeing in Vancouver, and conversely a number of other cities that I have visited. It was no surprise to see Beijing adopt the same system to move people from the airport to the city center. Our own airport connection will be opening this year as the BART system finally did just a few years back in San Francisco.

Stimulus Could Put California's High-Speed Rail on the Fast Track

Written by Megan Treacy

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

In November, Californians voted in favor of 800 miles of
high-speed rail connecting cities throughout the state. The initiative promised major reductions in CO2 emissions and tons of new jobs, but the major drawback has been the hefty $10 billion price tag. Californians should have felt some relief today as President Obama signed the stimulus bill that includes $9.3 billion in incentives for high-speed and intercity rail projects. Last Thursday, it was announced that California's high-speed rail project was eligible for assistance from the stimulus package, although an exact amount has yet to be allocated. Although voters approved the rail project, tax payers have been skeptical about the amount of the cost they'll be responsible for. Also, many people have criticized the 22-year schedule for building the rail system. An influx of federal money may help on both fronts - the tax burden may be lessened and construction may be able to move forward more quickly.The $9.3 billion allotted for rail systems is actually an increase from the Senate version of the bill and is separate from $8.4 billion assigned to public transit agencies in the bill. Congress has definitely been responding to the growing need for mass transit and the money in the stimulus bill has the potential to do a lot of good in California and beyond.

No comments: