Thursday, April 30, 2009

HRT's Tide May Expand to VA Beach


Light Rail System Gaining Speed

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Plans for Hampton Roads' light rail system just gained speed. A contract awarded Thursday could take the track all the way out to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. It's all part of larger plans to get you moving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Metrorail Silver Line completion date announced

Dulles Rail's Completion Date Delayed

End of the Second Phase Expected in December 2016

The second portion of the Silver Line, Metrorail's much-anticipated 23-mile extension to Dulles, will not be completed until at least December 2016, a year after the original projected end date, transit officials said Tuesday.

Design for Richmond's rail transit map

In early March I had a snow day from work with nothing to do, so I set out to design what I imagined Richmond's new tram network might look like. Click to see a larger image.

Here is a street map showing exactly where the lines run: Richmond Tram Lines The above diagram is not labeled with street names and is geographically distorted for readability. There are some differences between the diagram and the map, especially around VCU but they are roughly the same.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pantograph Endorses Brian Moran for Dem Nomination

Pantograph Blog officially backs Brian Moran for Dem Governor nomination in the June 09 primary. Moran has served the Commonwealth for 20+ years in Alexandria and I think he commands the best perspective on how Virginia should develop.

Specifically, Moran's transportation platform states that we can no longer build enough roads to solve congestion, as anyone from NoVa knows. "Brian knows that to compete in the 21st century economy, relieve congestion and protect our environment, Virginia must invest in high-speed rail and expand mass transit. He understands that we need forward-looking solutions to this transportation crisis."

Pantograph Blog firmly believes that the only way to solve Virginia's traffic crisis is a strong commitment to developing all levels of passenger rail: high speed rail, commuter rail like VRE, and intracity rail transit like the Norfolk Tide must be expanded. Brian Moran understands the urgency of developing transportation in Virginia.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Additional LRT revenues: Naming Rights

Selling naming rights to light-rail stations, park-and-ride lots, or even the entire rail system could reap nearly $29 million in revenue to help pay for running the system, a study shows.

While the city and Hampton Roads Transit have not decided whether to pursue the idea, the transit agency hired a consultant to explore its potential.

"In these economic times, naming rights is about revenue that is sorely needed," said City Councilman W. Randy Wright. "I see it as a steady revenue stream to help offset operating costs."

Light rail's annual operating costs are estimated to be $8 million to $9 million, of which the city will shoulder about 30 percent. Fares plus federal and state funds will cover the rest.

...In Cleveland, two hospitals bought the rights to name a new bus rapid transit system there Healthline for $11 million over 10 years.

Metro Jacksonville on HRT's Norfolk Tide


Click to see the rendering of HRT's Tide LRV, a Siemens Avanto tram. The Charlotte LYNX system uses the same vehicles, and Norfolk has nine of them on order.

Goals of the Tide Light Rail Line

Several goals for The Tide light rail system have been established:

  • Enhance the continued development and redevelopment of the City of Norfolk.
  • Improve the access, reliability, and linkage of the public transportation system.
  • Create transit corridors that link residential, educational, employment and other activity centers.
  • Contribute to the protection and preservation of the environment through a multimodal transportation system.
The Tide Already Spurring Transit Oriented Development

Major construction activity has died off in Jacksonville, but private investment in Norfolk is still occurring, fueled by the city's commitment to moving forward with light rail.

The Wachovia Center is a $150 million mixed-use project in Downtown Norfolk that includes a 22-story office tower, 195 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space and 2,000 parking spaces. The Wachovia Center will be located near the Monticello Station.

The Belmont at Freemason will soon be Norfolk’s newest luxury apartment community. Comprised of 241 units and 510 parking spaces, residents will have access to Granby Street, MacArthur Mall, Norfolk’s Scope, the Chrysler Museum, Chrysler Hall and the Harrison Opera House from the York Street light rail station.

The Residence Inn by Marriott Norfolk Downtown, which will be located on Brambleton Avenue, will offer ideal accommodations for short-term or long-term stays. When traveling or relocating to Norfolk, patrons will find great amenities, such as spacious suites 25% larger than traditional hotels for extended stays. The Residence Inn will be close to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, EVMS and Norfolk Southern.

The Benefits of Light Rail

Norfolk's leaders have invested in the idea that rail brings many benefits to a city. Jacksonville's leaders should do the same.

Reduces Traffic Congestion. Light rail can move as many people as four to six lanes of interstate highway.

Positive Economic Impact. A report commissioned by the Federal Transit Administration to understand the economic impact of public transportation found that there was a significant positive economic impact on jobs and business revenues. The study found that in the year following the transit investment, 314 jobs are created for each $10 million invested in transit capital funding. In addition, transit operations spending provides for a direct infusion to the local economy with more than 570 jobs created for each $10 million invested in the short term.

Business Attractor. Almost half of the nation's Fortune 500 companies, representing over $2 trillion in annual revenues, are headquartered in America's transit-intensive metropolitan areas.

Business Sales Gains. Businesses would realize a gain in sales of three times the public sector investment in transit capital - a $10 million investment results in a $30 million gain in sales. Regarding transit operations spending, businesses would see a $32 million increase in business sales for each $10 million in transit operations spending.

Economic Development Generator. Rail lines are fixed, high-value assets. Developers are more comfortable investing capital into a system that will continue. Since 1977, when the first Metrorail station opened in Virginia, Metrorail has generated substantial economic benefits for the Commonwealth. By 2010, Metrorail will generate: $2.1 billion in additional Commonwealth revenues and net revenues of $1.2 billion (in excess of the Commonwealth contributions to Metrorail).

Every taxpayer dollar invested in public transportation generates about $4 to $9 in economic returns, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Cheaper than Roadways. New urban highways cost as much as $100 million per mile, whereas the Norfolk light rail line costs about $31 million a mile.

Saves You Money on Gas. Public transportation saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline, or 45 million barrels of oil, a year – enough to heat and cool one-fourth of American homes annually, according to the Center of Transportation Excellence.

Better for the Environment. Public transportation generates, per passenger mile, 95 percent less carbon monoxide and 92 percent less volatile organic compounds than passenger vehicles – and about half as much caron dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Traffic Congestion Costs Money, Transit Saves Money. Without transit, the nation's $40 billion in annual traffic congestion losses would be $15 billion higher. In fact, if all the Americans who take transit to work decided to drive, their cars would circle the Earth with a line of traffic 23,000 miles long. Americans lose more than 1.6 million hours a day stuck in traffic.

Transit Reduces Family Spending Budget. Transportation accounts for approximately 17 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, which means transportation is critical to business and personal economic security. For American families, transportation represents 18 percent of household spending, the second largest expenditure after housing. Americans living in transit intensive metropolitan areas save $22 billion per year in transportation related expenses.

The annual cost of driving a single-occupant vehicle is $4,800 to $9,700, depending on mileage. The annual average cost for public transportation for one adult is $200 to $2,000, depending on services used, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence.

Increases Property Value. Properties located within a quarter-mile radius of a light rail station increase in value by up to 25 percent more than other properties, according to studies conducted by the Urban Land Institute. There are some exceptions, the studies show, such as properties next to Park and Ride lots.

Article images and Norfolk text by

What Does This Mean For Jacksonville?

A viable mass transit system is one thing that all first class cities have in common. While Jacksonville continues to sit on $100 million for rapid transit investment, cities such as Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Nashville, Memphis and Austin have taken the bold step of moving forward. If we don't act soon, our community will have to face the prospects of becoming America's largest city without viable rail-based transit options and the negative impact that will have within the business community and our region's overall standard of living.

Article by Ennis Davis

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Norfolk Tide LRT project

Check out this video rendering of Norfolk's LRT project. The cost is $232.1 mil for an initial 7.4 mile system, or $31.35mil/mile. It appears to be largely street running, but with at least one major bridge over water, which would drive the cost up. Still, this is definitely an affordable project, and it's somewhat embarrassing that Norfolk is getting the Tide while Richmond continues to do nothing for transit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Paris T3 line

The new commuter tram line in Paris. The grassy tramway is sweet! Of course if we tried that here it would end up overrun with ground ivy, but we can solve that problem later. The rolling stock are Alstom Citadis 44m seven carbody 100% low floor LRV's.

Bus Rapid Transit: the "Cheaper Than Rail" myth

Reposting from Buttermilk & Molasses:

"For an opposing view on BRT check out the "BRT Analyses" page at Light Rail Now!:

"The biggest criticism of BRT is that it is actually NOT cheaper than light rail. Cleveland's Euclid Ave HealthLine BRT system mentioned above cost $200 mil to build a 6.8 mile line- that's $29 mil per mile compared to Lewis' quote on LRT at $25 mil/mile. Consider all that must be built in the downtown core: a dedicated busway, BRT stations with ticketing machines, a signal prioritization system. Take into account the higher operating costs of buses vs LRV's and in the end light rail actually costs 16% less per passenger mile than bus rapid transit. When you take the supposed cost advantage out of the equation BRT has no advantage over rail, it is just re-packaged busing.

"I understand that GRTC is looking at BRT as a transition to a streetcar system because of the federal requirements to get money to build such a system. But other than the physical space for the right of way there is almost nothing usable from a BRT transition to streetcars. The right of way would have to be completely rebuilt and all new vehicles would have to be purchased, so there is no cost savings in such a "transition."

"I believe a true transitional system would use electric trolley buses with signal prioritization. As the rail network expands the LRV's can use the same catenary for power and the trolley buses can be moved around the city to establish new lines or operate in places the LRV's cannot, such as the extreme grades around Shockoe Bottom.

"BRT is really not a transitional system, it is an expensive, long-term investment in more of the same."

Harshing the Orange Line BRT buzz

I found this excellent critique of BRT after searching for stuff about LA's Orange Line. Not sure of the author or original context.

Bus rapid transit (BRT) vs. light rail (LRT)

This is in reply to a post in a newsgroup, however, the text is self-contained and does not require any knowledge of the previous discussion.

> The real competition for most light rail projects in the United States
> comes from Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). BRT is now being heavily promoted by
> the Federal Transit Administration.

I don't think these are real contenders. It is the Bush Administration who wants you to believe they are in the same class and thus the cheaper option (BRT) needs to be chosen. Nevertheless, the fact of life is that any rail mode typically draws more new ridership than BRT. A bus is a bus, and it is very difficult to make people commuting by car switch to a bus. On the other hand, history knows multiple examples when a new rail line had two, three or five times the ridership of the bus that existed on the same route before the initiation of the rail. This fact is even documented in the textbooks on public transportation: general public more willingly selects rail as the mode of choice and almost never selects bus. Bush Administration promotes BRT because it is cheaper, and NOT because it can make more difference to relieve the congestion.

Technically, the main advantage of the light rail over BRT is that light rail trains can be run with multiple units. If one articulated 100-feet (30-meter) car is not enough, you couple two of them and run two-car trains. If two cars are not enough, you couple three of them and run three-car trains. Nothing of this kind is easily accomplished with BRT. A single articulated bus with a single driver will never be able to carry as many riders as 300-feet (100-meter) light-rail train with the same single driver. Thus, by design, BRT has LOWER capacity than light rail, just in principle. BRT is designed for lower ridership corridors, and for relatively high-ridership corridors is not appropriate at all. Actually, the "success" of the Orange line in Los Angeles (see below) is an example of the severe limitation of BRT: buses run full and there is no easy way to improve the situation. The poor decision to replace LRT with BRT is already harming the ridership. No new growth can be really expected when buses are at capacity.

Another technical issue is that you need a WIDER lane for the bus than for the LRT, because the bus is not guided by rails. In particular, running buses in the tunnels designed for rail is a nightmare. One can go to Seattle and see how slowly their buses operate in the center-city tunnel compared to any underground rail lines running in the same-diameter tunnels. Or one can go to Boston and see how wide their tunnels (designed specifically for buses) are. This is exactly because navigating a bus requires a wider dynamical corridor.

Generally, given the capacity constraints of the bus (no multi-unit trains) and the high construction costs of the tunnels (the highest of all alignments), it is highly impractical and wasteful to build bus-only tunnels. They are the highest in cost (because they need to be wider than rail ones) but have the lowest capacity (because of the inability to operate multiple-unit sets) of all possible grade-separated right-of-ways. The tunnel portion of the Boston Silver line provides the best illustration of all the disadvantages of a bus in a tunnel: low speed (15 mph), poor operation reliability, extra expense of dual-mode (diesel-electric) vehicles, and high cost with low capacity (airport buses are running full a year after the opening).

Finally, don't forget, that the comfort of the bus ride is substantially lower than the smooth rider on any modern rail mode. Any person with back problems can attest that ANY bus (even on a busway) provides lower ride comfort than modern rail, and thus inferior in quality to rail.

> There has been much publicity from the success of the Orange Line BRT
> in Los Angeles, which now has ridership nearly three times the initial
> projection.

As a person who lives near Los Angeles and closely watches its transit developments, I will tell you a bit about the Orange line. Did you know how bad and unreliable MTA bus system is in general? Having ridden on virtually all large bus systems in the U.S., Los Angeles MTA is not among my favorite. Even if buses run jam packed, the MTA often does not bother (they say they don't have money) to run the route more frequently than once in 30-60 minutes. And even on the routes where buses are officially supposed to run every 10-15 minutes, very often (much more often than in other cities) one has to wait for 30 minutes to witness then two buses coming together. It is not uncommon to spend 60 minutes on the bus stop of a route that "runs" every 20 minutes. Even waiting for the most frequent bus route in Los Angeles - Metro Rapid 720 - which officially runs every 6 minutes - one can often spend more than 20 minutes on the bus stop because buses run completely full and just do not stop to pick up more riders.

Now, imagine in this quite bad system you build SOMETHING better, something that runs every 10-15 minutes if scheduled to run every 11-12 minutes (not too bad by Los Angeles standards). Naturally, this SOMETHING is going to draw a lot of people from the parallel routes, many of which run every 25-60 minutes most of the day. There are so few frequently operating routes in San Fernando Valley, that the new MTA map "Go Metro without Timetables - 12 minutes wait or less" shows only four (!) frequent bus routes in the entire 2-million-people Valley. One of these four routes is the Orange line, and another two (750 and 94/394) actually run every 15 minutes and thus do not belong to this map. There is huge demand for service (both potential and existing), and there is very little service actually in place. ANY solution, ANY mode that is even remotely reliable is going to be successful.

Returning to the projections. You say ridership is nearly three times the initial projection. Did you know that the initial projection for BRT was one SIXTH of the one for light rail? They projected something like 40 thousand a day for light rail, and 20 thousand for BRT. Then, looking at the Gold line and its poor performance, the reduced initial projection for BRT to 7 thousand a day or so. Now, the line indeed carries close to 20 thousand per day and is at capacity. So, looking at official propaganda is not the best way to say how successful a line is.

To summarize: Orange line can hardly be called a "success". It is at capacity, but still carries half the passengers that could have been carried by the light rail line along the same route. And the capacity of the light rail line could have been always expanded by running longer trains. It was a bad decision to replace the LRT along the Orange line corridor with BRT. As usual, this decision was heavily influenced by politicians, by the way, exactly the same ones who stopped Red line expansion west along Wilshire Boulevard.

Moreover, Los Angeles area has another example of the BRT - Harbor Transitway. This 6-station monstrosity cost one billion dollars to build. But ridership is so low nowadays, that buses run only once in 30 minutes most of the day. This compares highly unfavorably to the Blue line that runs two miles east of the Harbor Transit way and has three-car trains running full every 12 minutes most of the day. This is actually a much better example of how BRT scores compared to the LRT: two parallel lines, Harbor Transitway and the Blue line. The latter transports probably 10-20 times more passengers per day. It also demonstrates what riders choose when provided with both options at the same time. (It should be noted that a part of the reason for the low ridership on Harbor Transitway is the very inconsistent routing of various Transitway bus lines in the Downtown area, which is exclusively due to the incompetence of the operating agency.)

> The larger size of light rail trains has interesting consequences. In Los
> Angeles, the Gold Line LRT and the Orange Line BRT presently carry similar
> passenger loads. The Gold Line typically operates 2-car trains on 15
> minute headways. To achieve similar capacity, the Orange Line operates 60'
> articulated buses on 5 minute headways. The shorter station wait times
> result in greater convenience for the riders of the Orange Line BRT.
> The longer station wait times must be a factor in the Gold Line LRT
> under-performing relative to initial projections.

The facts above are correct. However, you miss one very important issue. You look at the CURRENT state of the Gold and Orange lines, and you completely ignore the fact that the system is expanding. The Orange line cannot be extended substantially, since it is already at capacity and there is no way you can substantially improve the capacity with buses. Now, for the Gold line, a 2-car train in 15 minutes is good enough NOW. However, in 2009 we'll get an Eastside extension open, and the ridership will soar. There are also extensive plans for extending the Gold line further east from Sierra Madre Villa along the Foothill Freeway (I-210); the line is ultimately planned to reach Montclair in San Bernardino County. As you can imagine, at that time the line will become the longest on the Metrorail system, and you will need much more than a 2-car train in 15 minutes to carry the loads.

The main point is: the Gold line can (and will) grow, and the Orange line has no future.

> My own thoughts on the matter were strongly influenced by a recent visit
> to San Jose, where I rode the light rail line from Winchester to Mountain
> View. ...
> Of course, had the San Jose system been BRT rather than light rail, I
> wouldn't have bothered to ride it. A train is more interesting than a
> bus. I am not sure that this would be a serious consideration for a daily
> commuter.

Most studies show that this is true for a daily commuter as well. Rail is generally more attractive for a Joe Doe than just a bus. The fact is that rail draws people from cars, and buses almost don't. By the way, it is also known, that proximity to a rail station substantially increases property values. Proximity to a bus stop does almost nothing.

Last update: October 15, 2006.