July 7, 2006
In Defense of Rail Transit
Rail transit is regularly criticized, including by some commenters on this site, as cost-ineffective with respect to buses or other modes, particularly with respect to reducing congestion..
VTPI has recently produced an overview of the literature on the benefits of trail transit (PDF, 36K).
July 8, 2006 5:17 PM
I don't see why this is so complex for so many. It's a no brainer really when the math is laid out. Even with most naysayers most conservative and liberal mathmatics if apples are compared to apples rail for high count passenger right of ways is vastly superior to highways, busses, and almost anything except air travel.
There are of course the major problems for the private market in rail that come mostly from Government Regulation, Insurance Premiums and other ridiculous and uncalled for laws. Private operation of passenger rail is well above the efficiency standards of publicly funded and publicly operated (i.e. Government operated) passenger rail.
But even with the rather costly implementations that Governments (US & Others) have provided for people throughout the world it is still in almost every case far less expensive and far more efficient that roadway/car/truck transportation.
It seems the argument, no matter how many facts provided, is always about 90% true, and 10% BS no matter what side of the row one sits on. It's that sneaky middle ground that can't be backed up any longer that the truth really lies in.
July 8, 2006 10:03 PM
Jason McHuff Says:
Yes, rail is better. While it may cost a big chunk of money to put it in, it lasts a long time and attracts a bigger group of people. Moreover, if anyone believes that rail is less efficient than roads, they need to (literally) feel the two. Steel flanges on steel generate a lot less friction than rubber tires on asphalt.
July 9, 2006 2:01 PM
Frank Dufay Says:
You'll note,however, that the "rail" that's referenced is seperated, not rail lines in the street a la our streetcar.
July 12, 2006 11:50 PM
Randal O'Toole Says:
"it lasts a long time and attracts a bigger group of people."
Actually, rail lines last no longer than anything else. They need expensive reconstruction every thirty years or so, the same as freeways.
And "a bigger group of people"? Bigger than what? A third of all passenger travel in the Portland area is on the freeways. Only 1 percent is on light rail.
Rail will never carry as many people as freeways. If you don't believe that, look at Europe, where rail's share of travel (including both urban and intercity) declined from 9.8 percent in 1980 to 7.6 percent in 2000, with autos increasing from 76 to 78 percent in the same period. And that is after spending roughly 100 billion euros a year in subsidies to rail.
"Rail more efficient than roads" -- only if people ride it. Many rail lines in the U.S. consume more BTUs per passenger mile than autos. Portland's light rail does a little better ONLY if you don't count the energycost of construction.
July 14, 2006 7:13 PM
Rail transit may be appropriate in some instances
(i.e., very heavily travelled corridors with a
lot of people going directly from point A to B
or points in between), but is not really the
answer for a low/medium density region like Portland.
Plus, the way rail is designed and operated here
is a big joke.