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Orléans Light Rail Tramway
(Photo: N. Z. Adams)


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Light Rail Now! NewsLog
2005: January-March

Produced by the Light Rail Now! Publication Team

This news feature provides an ongoing Weblog of particularly significant developments in public transportation and rail transit.

28 March 2005

Goiânia (Brazil) eyes light rail transit system

In Goiânia, a city of about 1,100,000 population in south central Brazil, technical studies have been completed for a 15-km (9-mile) light rail line "to link the northern suburbs with the city of Aparecida in the south", according to Tramways & Urban Transit (Jan. 2005). Goiânia, located 209 km (130 miles) southwest of Brasília, is the capital of the central Brazilian state of Goiás.

Surface operation, with a subway in the city center, seems to be the type of alignment being proposed for Goiânia's light rail system.

A note of caution, however – Brazil has established an unfortunate reputation for "soap-bubble" transit schemes and ill-fated projects, including light rail. it's perhaps the lone country on earth with a history of actually constructing, operating, and then abandoning modern light rail transit (or light metro) lines in recent times. For more information, see Allen Morrison's informative report Light Rail in Brazil – Two Sad Stories.

More on Brazil's Rail Transit and Public Transport

27 March 2005

New east-west light rail tramway to be "true tram on rails", not "BRT"

The French city of Orléans, which already operates an 18-km (11-mile) light rail tramway, routed generally north-south, has apparently decided that its second, east-west, line will be "a true tram on rails", rather than a rubber-tired "guided busway" ("BRT" or so-called tramway sur pneu), reports French light rail and public transport activist Jean Claude Vaudois in postings to several online tramway and light rail discussion lists. The decision by the Urban Community of Orléans was reportedly taken March 25th.

Located 125 km (about 80 miles) south of Paris, on the River Loire, Orléans has been operating its first light rail tramway (Tram Line 1) since November 2000 under the aegis of the Société d’Economie Mixte des Transports en commun de l’Agglomération Orléanaise. (For an overview of the system, with map and photo, see Orléans Light Rail Tramway: Key Facts.) While it's an old city, and rich with history, Orléans is not so large, with just 250,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area – thus it's currently the smallest city in France operating a tramway.

As reported in Tramways & Urban Transit of May 2002, ridership on the Orléans light rail tramway (Tram Line 1) was averaging about 37,000 passenger boardings per day. The magazine also recounted that planning was to start for the proposed 20-km (12-mile) east-west line, to extend from La-Chapelle-Saint-Mensin to Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle.

For a period, planners evidently envisioned a rubber-tired guided "BRT", or tramway sur pneu, for the east-west alignment. in May 2004, Tramways & Urban Transit reported that three "guided bus" bids had been received: the Bombardier GLT (Guided Light Transport, using a central guide rail), APTS (Phileas, using guidance by embedded magnets), and Translohr's system, using another form of central rail guidance. However, the first two systems were ruled out because of technical problems, and, rather than simply awarding the contract to Translohr, local planners decided to re-open bidding and to include the option of a standard steel-wheel tramway.

Apparently technical considerations, plus public preference for a "real" tramway, according to Jean Claude Vaudois, tipped the final decision to a steel-wheel light rail tramway.

More on France's Rail Transit and Public Transport

21 March 2005

Streetcar's first extension opens

The Portland Streetcar system continues to grow. On 11 March 2005, reports Jon Winslow, the system celebrated the grand opening of its 0.6-mile (1-km) extension to River Place, including 4 additional stops. Jon notes that this extension represents "the first time the streetcars run both directions on the same street."

The roughly half-mile extension stretches the total route length to three miles (4.8 km) long, with 44 stops, and allows the streetcars to travel all the way from Portland State University (the previous terminus) to River Place. Rail Transit Online (August 2004) reports that a short segment of this line includes "a steep, nine-degree downgrade, providing passengers with a spectacular view of the RiverPlace neighborhood and the Willamette River."
[Portland Streetcar, March 2005; TriMet, 20 Mar 2005]

According to TriMet (the regional transit agency which runs the separate bus and interurban light rail system), streetcars leaving the SW 5th and Montgomery stop travel southeast along SW Montgomery and SW Harrison to SW River Parkway at Moody Ave. At that point they reverse course and travel northwest to the PSU Urban Center stop. New platform stops are served in both directions along SW Harrison at approximately SW 3rd, SW 1st,, and SW Harrison Roadway (near Harbor Drive). Currently, rolling stock consists of a fleet of seven modern articulated streetcars manufactured by Skoda-inekon in the Czech Republic. (For an overview of the line with map and photo, see Portland Streetcar: Key Facts.)
[Portland Streetcar, March 2005; TriMet, 20 Mar 2005]

The Portland Streetcar, a public-private project run separately from the TriMet system, was initially opened in July of 2001, routed in an enlongated loop configuration over 4.8 miles (7.7 km) of track which basically resulted in a 2.4-mile route (with cars operating bidirectionally on separate streets 1-2 blocks apart). This original route included a total of 40 stops, located along the alignment about every 3-4 blocks. The project was installed at a cost (in 2001 dollars) of US$54.6 million, a unit cost of $11.4 million per track-mile ($7.1 million/track-km), which calculates to about $22.8 million per route-mile ($14.2 million/km). That calculates to about $26 million/mile in year-2005 dollars.
[Portland Streetcar, March 2005; Gary Cooper and Thomas B. Furmaniak, "Portland Streetcar. A Two-Year Report Card", National Light Rail Transit Conference, Transportation Research Board, Portland, Nov. 2003]

The extension is reported to have cost $15.8 million, or about $25.5 million per mile (about $16 million per km). Nearly $8.4 million of the expansion has been funded from tax-increment urban renewal funds generated in the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area – based on property taxes paid by new developments created by urban renewal.
[The Oregonian, 25 February 2005]

Futher expansion of the system is in progress. Construction already is under way for the streetcar line to reach another 0.6 mile south along Southwest Moody Avenue to Gibbs Street, where a new highrise neighborhood is under construction, the South Waterfront, reports Jon Winslow. This extension will be mostly off-street, using a portion of the old Willamette Shore Trolley right-of-way. The single stop at Gibbs Street will permit an across-the-street transfer to the 3300-foot-long (1000-m) Portland Aerial Tram connecting to the Marquam Hill campus of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU Aerial Tram). Jon further reports that while this streetcar extension will be finished in September 2005, it will not open for another year (when the first condo towers open in SoWa). Service is not planned to begin until the summer of 2006, when three new cars – made solely by the Czech firm inekon – are placed into service. The cost of this extension is budgeted at another $15.8 million, including $8 million for the new streetcars.
[Portland Tribune, 11 Mar. 2005 ]

Following this, the line may be extended another half-mile south on Moody Avenue to Bancroft Street, "through the heart of the developing South Waterfront district and what will be housing, retail and new OHSU offices" according to the Portland Tribune. “That would complete what i consider the original streetcar plan” declared Rick Gustafson, chief operating officer of the Portland Streetcar. “This feeds the development we’re trying to promote.”
[Portland Tribune, 11 Mar. 2005 ]

More on Portland's Rail Transit and Public Transport

15 March 2005

Phoenix: Valley Metro breaks ground on light rail project

With hundreds of people gathered to celebrate, mayors and representatives from Phoenix and its partnering suburban cities of Tempe, Mesa, and Glendale led a ceremonial groundbreaking event in Tempe Beach Park on Tuesday night, 15 February 2005, to launch the Valley Light Rail construction project at long last – an occasion described by the Arizona Republic (16 Feb. 2005) as "the birth of a 20-mile rail system that promises to transform the Valley." Actual construction work is now under way on what will become one of the most ambitious new modern light rail transit (LRT) systems in the Southwest United States.

The groundbreaking ceremony followed up on jubilation after a successful bond measure for system expansion passed in November, and the Federal Transit Administration finally committed to over US$587 million of project funding in late January. The 20.3-mile (32.7-km) starter line is projected to cost approximately US$1.3 billion.

"While the initial span of tracks will link Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, Valley leaders predict that the $1.3 billion line will be the spine for a much larger system" relates the Republic, adding that, according to its backers, Valley Metro's LRT system will do more than just carry commuters. "it will lure development dollars into sleepy business districts, help tourism flower and ease traffic congestion."

However, while Valley Metro's LRT may well be expected to provide relief for mobility congestion, its supporters might want to be very cautious in raising expectations about reducing motor vehicle congestion. As we point out in our article Denver Data Show Light Rail's Real impact on Mobility Congestion, it's a widespread fallacy and misconception "That any single transportation facility, roadway or transit, can ever truly 'reduce' congestion. It is almost universally recognized, even among highway planners, and throughout the transportation planning profession, that roadway traffic congestion is a fundamental fact of life – basically, it continues to grow with population expansion and the proliferation of motor vehicles."

But significant reductions in mobility congestion may be achievable. As we've noted in our article Phoenix: LRT Project Under Way ... Expansion Sought, Valley Metro's computer modelling predicts significant annual travel time savings of up to 585 hours per year for many Valley residents living near the LRT system – as well as for those living as far away from the line as 15 miles.

Time will tell how accurate those predictions are. Meanwhile, work on actually installing the system is gaining momentum. in what the Associated Press described as "the most visible sign so far that light-rail construction has begun", on March 7th construction crews began removing a median on Washington Street in Tempe, where the LRT tracks will be inserted. "Yesterday's work is the first on-street project other than utility relocation", notes the AP.
[KNXV-TV, 200503/08]

Undoubtedly, news on project construction will soon become routine. But there's no question that the actual launch of construction on a project of this magnitude and longterm urban impact is an event of great historic importance. As Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman observed in his remarks to the crowd at the Feb. 16th groundbreaking, "We know that this light rail will change the face of this community"

More on Phoenix Rail Transit and Public Transport

14 March 2005

Rail photographers victimized by police "terrorism" crackdown in Chicago-area regional-rail system

More evidence has emerged of the dangerous impact of the wave of "terrorism" hysteria sweeping the USA, which has prompted some officials and law-enforcement personnel to take aim at railway and transit photographers, and fuelled a drive to criminalize rail and transit photography on a wide scale. The case in point concerns the experiences of amateur rail photographers Paul Burgess and Randy Olson, involved in an incident on 8 January 2005 at a Chicago-area Metra (regional rail) station. This case is particularly instructive in conveying a sample of the flavor of the absurdly repressive environment currently overtaking some of America's public transport operations.

It's helpful to follow the events in this case as they unfolded, in the sequence in which they occurred. This includes relating the subjective observations and comments of the original authors. Thus, we start with Paul and Randy waiting on the Morton Grove, illinois Metra station platform, preparing to photograph a northbound train (in particular, the locomotive). Here's how Paul relates the initial incident:

As the [northbound train] approached, three Morton Grove police cars appeared. The officers ordered us from the platform and detained us for approximately twenty minutes, until METRA officers arrived. Note that we were not in the right of way. We were on the platform, along with waiting passengers who were not ordered from the platform. During the interval when we were being held for METRA, the Morton Grove officers searched my vehicle.

The METRA officers then detained us for a further twenty-thirty minutes while our personal information was transmitted to the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force [JTTF]. I questioned the officer as to what was happening and he said that the JTTF would either allow us to be released, or would order us detained and transferred into federal custody. He said that if the JTTF so ordered, our film would be confiscated. Randy and I both asserted our Fourth Amendment right to be secure from illegal search and seizure of our property without due process and our film was not confiscated.

After twenty minutes, the voice on the other end of the officer's radio said it was OK to release us, but that we would both be entered into the JTTF database. Further, the officer warned us that taking any train picture, as well as any picture of bridges, roads, railroads, aircraft, etc. was now illegal, even from public property, and that we were liable to arrest if we were caught doing it again. I asked the officer to clarify his statement, to verify that he meant that even if we were on a public sidewalk or street, that if we took a picture of a train from public property, that it was illegal. He said yes.

Welcome to 2005, y'all.

Obviously this incident shows how completely out of control law enforcement has become in regard to supposed national security.

My intention is to contact the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and ask them to ask METRA to clarify their position. I can only believe that these officers or their superiors have grossly misinterpreted the law, since what happened was a clear violation of our First Amendment rights. We were in a public thoroughfare, surrounded by other citizens who were not asked to leave or threatened with seizure of their personal property. Never mind the additional statement that taking pictures from the public sidewalk would also mean arrest and federal detention. If necessary, if METRA or any other agency really believes that they can behave in this manner, then my intention is to deliberately provoke arrest by METRA or another agency by taking train pictures from public property. Then it's off to court.

So be warned. Things are not what they used to be.

On 30 January 2005, Paul Burgess posted a followup report on events since the 8 January encounter with police.

On Monday, January 10th, I wrote strong letters of protest to the Morton Grove Police and METRA regarding our illegal detention as well as the outrageous and patently unconstitutional statements about "new rules" that some of the officers had made during the incident. I also notified the Chicago Tribune, the ACLU, and my Congressman.

On Tuesday January 11th I was called by Morton Grove Deputy Police Chief Rossi, who apologized to Randy and [me] for the way in which the situation had arisen, the unnecessary detention, and the resultant mess that METRA officers made. He promised that his officers would exercise more appropriate judgement in the future and that his patrol staff would learn about "railfans" and what our legal activities might be.

On Wednesday, January 19th, a front-page story ran in the Chicago Tribune about the incident. Reporter Virginia Groark interviewed Randy and [me], and spoke with METRA, the MGPD, and the ACLU. METRA spokesperson Judy Pardonnet specifically indicated in the article that her police force had acted incorrectly and that the statements that they made about photographing trains being "illegal" were not accurate. Further, she noted that METRA police were being retrained about the rights of photographers to use the public spaces at METRA stations to exercise our constitutional rights of free expression, speech, and association.

On Saturday, January 30, I received a letter from METRA Executive Director Philip A. Pagano in response to my letter of January 10th. Mr. Pagano apologized to Randy and [me] for the incident and the inappropriate way in which his officers acted. Further, he specifically states that METRA's policy re photography is [as follows]...

"Our policy is that any individuals taking photographs of METRA trains, stations, or facilities, which are readily accessible to public viewing, is certainly permissible." That is a direct quote.


In summary, the January 8th episode was silly, and ought not to have ever occurred. The officers involved should have known better. That being said, the two agencies involved, Morton Grove Police and METRA, have acted with reasonable speed to correct the training that led to the incident and have also apologized to the extent their lawyers will allow them to. I view it as a reasonably successful conclusion to the incident.

My advice, therefore, to anyone who may find themselves in the situation Randy and i were put in, is: don't roll over. Be cooperative with the onsite officers, while indicating strongly to them that you view their actions as baseless. Once you are clear of the scene, take every possible step to publicize the incident and let everyone you can think of who can help you know what happened. The conclusion to this shows that we can take these agencies on and win, if we stick to our guns and demand that they, as well as we, follow the law.

Comments from "a locomotive engineer working out of Chicago", identified as "RW", were posed in mid-January by Gene Poon to several railway-interest discussion lists. This individual indicated that he/she had forwarded the photographers' original internet postings about the incident, and additional comments, to "a good friend" in Metra's mechanical department at Elgin, illinois. RW reports he asked this individual, Mark Llanuza,

to see if he could get this resolved and to educate them to the fact that we as fans of the railroad are not going to go away, and that, at some point, a point that was about to be reached much sooner then Metra thought, legal action would be taken by fans who got wronged as Randy and Paul did, legal action and headlines that Metra just does not want. In other words, we need come to an understanding of some kind that we do have a right to pursue our legal and harmless hobby from publicly accessible areas and that there were some that were willing to take action to get this accomplished.

This, reportedly, led to a meeting at Metra's offices involving Llanuza, Metra Executive Director Philip Pagano, Director of Media Relations Judith Pardononet, and Metra Chief of Police Lenard. As RW further relates,

Believe it or not, all our internet discussions, irritations, and fears got to very high levels of Metra management and they were truly horrified that this happened at all and would take steps to prevent an incident like this from happening again.

The upshot of this meeting, according to this correspondent, was the following policy:

There is no problem with photographing trains on Metra platforms or photographing Metra trains on public property just as long as you are not on the tracks or in their yards. If you want to photograph the trains on the platform or trains coming by the train stations then you are fine and [Director of Media Relations Judith Pardononet] will outline that in the memo going out today to the Metra police and Metra police will notify the towns that they run their trains through.

This source also reports that there actually had been a policy to "detain" (i.e., apprehend or arrest) rail photographers:

Metra, I found out from a different friend, had indeed issued a request to the local on-line police forces that anyone seen photographing Metra trains, stations, signals, etc. should be detained for Metra police to handle "on scene". This practice is supposedly to come to an end. The police still have the right to question you as before 09-11 [the 11 Sep. 2001 terrorist attack] but debacles like Morton Grove should not happen again [on Metra]. The Morton Grove incident and the Metra "Stop and Hold" order against photographers is a classic example of police over-reacting to our photographing trains in the 09-11 era due to ignorance [about] the [rail photography] hobby and misinterpretation of new and existing laws.

RW also quotes Mark Llanuza's apology: "Metra is very sorry how this has been handled and is going to make sure it does never happen again unless you are trespassing on their tracks or yards." in the future, we're told, anyone wishing to check the legality of photography of Metra facilities and trains can phone the Metra Police at 312.322-2800 or Judith Pardonnet 312.322-6760.

More on Public Transport Security and Civil Liberties issues

10 March 2005

Vienna (Wien): Light rail tramway is mainstay of overall transit network
...Vigorous rail transit upgrading continues

Vienna (Wien) provides an outstanding case study of a major, world-class city which relies intensely on light rail – especially its tramways (streetcars) – as a crucial mainstay of both its mobility and its quality of life. Vienna has been consistently upgrading and expanding all its public transport, and particularly its light rail modes.

The urban area has an extensive network of metro, or U-Bahn (rail rapid transit), S-Bahn (Schnellbahn, or rapid regional railway), and Strassenbahn routes (streetcars, or tramways) – all in addition to battalions of motor buses, of course. There are five U-Bahn lines, totalling 61 km (about 38 miles), and no less than 34 light rail tramway lines (standard gauge), totalling 185 km (about 115 miles). For surface transport, the tramways are an essential component, providing high-quality, readily accessible, and relatively rapid interconnections among the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations and the various bus routes. indeed, Vienna's tramway network ranks in size second in the world, just behind St. Petersburg's.

It should be noted that higher-level light rail transit (LRT) services are included in the overall mix. These include one of the U-Bahn lines, U6, also known as the Gürtellinie (Belt Line). Line U6, the longest of the nominal U-Bahn lines, consists of 17.5 km (10.8 miles) of grade-separated route (mostly on an historic embankment), with 24 stations equipped with platforms 340-mm high (basically, the height of "standard" LRT vehicles or trams). This is a heavily used, high-traffic LRT line running 2.5-minute peak headways.

And there's also the Wiener Lokalbahn, a 30-km (28-mile) interurban LRT tramway which shares a bit more than 3 km (about 2 miles) or trackage with the city tramway network. This line is also well-used, running 3- minute peak headways.

On the whole, both the street-routed tramways and higher-level LRT lines are crucial, highly efficient, and cost-effective elements of Vienna's integrated public transport network. Out of a total annual Wiener Linien ridership of approximately 700 million passenger-trips, the light rail tramway system carries about 212 million, or 30%, the high-level LRT Line U6 about 107 million, or 15%, the "heavy" metro (U-Bahn) about 270 milion, or 39%, and the remainder on the bus system.

In recent years, a key focus of light rail transit (LRT) improvement has been the upgrading of the city's rolling stock, particularly with the introduction of innovative ultra-lowfloor (ULF) trams, providing floor heights just 190 mm above rail level (in contrast to the "standard" lowfloor height of 350 mm) – plus the capability of "kneeling" to provide even lower access! Just within the past year, Wiener Linien (Vienna Lines), the urban transit agency, has ordered an additional 150 ULF articulated trams – eighty of them 24-m (79-feet) long, seventy of them 35-m (115-ft) long.

Late last year (2004), the agency placed an order for another 38 lowfloor light rail vehicles (LRVs) for LRT U-Bahn Line U6, with an option for 42 more, at a cost of €91 million (about US$117 million). That's about $3.1 million per LRV.

Vienna's urban tramway system has been undergoing modest but persistent expansion. Most recently, Route 25 is being extended 4.3 km (2.7 miles) to Hausfeldstrasse, at a cost of €35 mn (US$45 million) – a unit cost of about $10.5 million per km or $16.7 million/mile. Also in planning is the possibility of a 3.6-km (2.2-mi) extension of Route O in connection with the redevelopment of a former freight yard. And extensions to Routes 16, 26, and 27 are also in the planning stages.

Expansion of Vienna's excellent U-Bahn system is also under way, with the following planned:

· Line U1 to be extended 4.6 km (2.9 mi) from Kagran to Leopoldau, €530 million ($684 million) – about $149 million/km or $236 million/mile.

· Line U2 to be extended from Schottentor to Aspernstrasse by 2008, then to the airport by 2011, and to Grundrunstrasse by 2017.

· A possible new Line U5 to be installed, combining parts of Line U2 with a new segment in the south.

Information in this report has particularly been drawn from Tramways & Urban Transit of Oct. 2004, Jan. 2005, and Feb. 2005; and from Jane's Urban Transport Systems, 1999-2000.

7 March 2005

Budapest: Light rail tramway extension to Savoya Park shopping mall finally opens

Budapest's light rail urban tramway (streetcar) system seems to be undergoing fairly steady upgrading and some modest growth. On 1 February 2005, the long-awaited extension of tramway Route 18 to the new Savoya Park shopping mall opened at last, with a new, 605-meter (0.38-mile) alignment diverging from the tracks of route 41 and 47 to link the existing system to the mall, located in the suburb of Budafok. To make the connection, Route 18 was extended from Albertfalva kitér to Budafok depot (one stop before the junction of Route 41) on the existing tracks of Routes 41 and 47, and then on newly constructed track (involving some major civil works) from there to the Savoya Park retail center (mall).

Budapest already has one of the largest urban and suburban rail transit networks in Eastern Europe, with over 155 km (96 miles) of light rail tramway, over 175 km (106 miles) of other light rail lines, and over 30 km (19 miles) of rapid transit metro.

For more information and excellent photographs of the recent Savoya Park light rail tramway extension, see the photo-essay by Akos Varga.

Information used in this report was provided by Akos Varga, David Vitézy, and Mike Taplin's World Systems List of rail transit systems.

Akos Varga's Photo-Essay on Savoya Park Light Rail Tramway Extension

Akos Varga's Tramways Website

More on Hungary's Rail Transit and Public Transport

6 March 2005

Eskisehir launches Turkey's newest light rail tramway

Light rail tramway development in Turkish cities has continued to progress at a brisk pace – setting an interesting model of affordable, cost-effective, high-quality public transport for the developing Third World. The latest system to open is the 16.2-km (10.0-mile) system in Eskisehir, a rapidly developing industrial city of about 500,000 population, located approximately 200 km (about 125 miles) west of Ankara.

After an initial launch on 2 September 2004, the tramway finally opened for full revenue service on 24 December. it consists of two lines, forming roughly an X shape, with a total of 26 stops. The two lines overlap in the city center, sharing a common stretch of 800 meters through a pedestrian precinct.

Much of the system is constructed in reserved or segregated alignments, ensuring fairly rapid running speeds with minimal conflict with motor vehicle traffic. Particularly unusual for a newly constructed modern-day system is the meter-gauge track (1000 mm), rather than the more typical standard gauge of 1435 mm (4 ft 8.5 in). Meter gauge permits tighter turning radii, useful for navigating narrow streets and sinuous alignments with tight curves.

Initial rolling stock for the new system consists of 18 totally lowfloor Bombardier tramcars, 29.5 m long by 2.3 m wide, with five articulated sections. Of a model already is use in the Austrian city of Linz, the cars have a maximum speed of 70 kph (about 40 mph). The fleet is designed to carry an initial ridership projected to reach 110,000 per day.

Constructed on a turnkey basis by a partnership of Bombardier with the Turkish group Yapi Merkezi, the project is reported to have a total cost of US$120 million – calculating to about $12 million per mile ($7.4 million/km). This would seem to demonstrate, once again, the cost-effectiveness of light rail transit as an extremely affordable public transport option.

Information in this report was drawn from Tramways & Urban Transit of October 2004 and March 2005.

More on Turkey's Rail Transit and Public Transport

More on Rail Transit Development...

6 March 2005

Several major monorail systems, projects experiencing trouble

Several major monorail projects and recently launched new monorail systems in the USA and abroad are experiencing serious problems. Their experiences stand in contrast to the claims of many monorail promoters, who portray monorails as quasi-miraculous alternatives (in terms of financial and operational performance) to standard-rail transit systems – particularly light rail. Here are examples of some of the problems being encountered:

· Las Vegas – The privately sponsored 4-mile, US$650-million monorail has exhibited a number of technical problems, the most serious being detachment of hardware which fell off onto the surface below, resulting in several months of total shutdown. Even after resumption of operation at the end of 2004, the monorail's ridership and revenue have been far below forecasts, raising questions over whether the system will be able to pay off its investors as promised. (See further details on our Las Vegas page.)

· Seattle – The Green Line monorail project is grappling with a budget crisis, with revenues from a motor vehicle license surcharge tax totalling approximately 30% less than original projections. The single bid for the project reportedly has come in some $200 million over original estimates, and a scaling-down of the project's design apparently is in process – a move which may degrade eventual performance. Meanwhile, Seattle's "classic" 1960s-era monorail shuttle continues to operate at significantly reduced capacity, with a single trainset, as the result of an electrical fire last year, which damaged the line's other working trainset. (See further details on our Seattle page.)

· Kuala Lumpur – The city's small 8.6-km (5.3-mile), 11-station monorail shuttle, which connects some of the Malaysian city's major rail transit lines, has experienced a spate of rather bizarre technical and operational problems. These include an incident of a detached wheel falling and injuring a pedestrian below the beamway; a tree falling on the beamway, stopping a train; and, most recently, a guide tire exploding and injuring passengers. However, the monorail has apparently continued to operate normally, carrying tens of thousands of rider-trips a day.

· Naha – According to Leroy Demery, Jr., an expert on Asian transit developments, the 12.9-km (8.0-mile) monorail in the major city of Japan's island of Okinawa has been experiencing a drop in ridership to about 25,000/day, well below the 35,000 needed to sustain operations under original financing plans. in addition, some operating problems have been experienced, including children falling into the gap between train floors and station platforms.

· Moscow – After being delayed for some two years by technical problems, the relatively short 4.7-km (2.9-mile), six-station monorail of the proprietary intamin design finally opened for "excursion" service this past November, charging a fare approximately five times that of the Moscow metro. Alexander Elagin reports a recent announcement that the line will not begin full regular service "until at least this summer [2005], because of unresolved problems with signalling and automation systems. The system, in its current state, is unable to meet the safety requirements if operated at short headways." As a result, the system's "excursion" service will be continued for the present, with headways of 30 minutes between trains. A report in Tramways & Urban Transit (Jan. 2005) notes that, while the system currently is running a single trainset, it would need a fleet of approximately 75 to meet its claimed capacity capability.

· Jakarta – The city's 27.7-km (17.2-mile), $650-million monorail project has been stopped because of financial problems, according to recent reports. Empty support structures now mark the route of what was to be the 14.3-km (8.9-mile) Green Line, and, according to Melbourne's The Age (26 February 2005), even one of the monorail's director's "admits the project is in financial trouble and that the completion date is in doubt." And the Jakarta Post (2005/03/03) notes that "the project has made little progress since the initial groundbreaking ceremony...."

The foregoing examples certainly don't suggest that monorail projects are unique in having serious problems. But they definitely don't bolster arguments that monorails are virtually immune from common problems, either. Moreover, all the projects enumerated above have been cited by monorail promoters as outstanding case studies of the alleged "superiority" of monorail technology. in view of the realities, it would seem wise to search for alternative examples ... If there are any left to be found.

More on Monorails

2 March 2005

Washington: Transit agency hopes for operating surplus

A major US transit system that earns enough revenue to actually generate an operating surplus? Well, don't get your hopes too high – yet – but that's exactly what some officials with the Washington Metro are hinting, at least for the current fiscal year.

As a general rule, and with the rare exceptions of some unusual, "novelty", or heavily tourist-oriented single routes, major transit systems (at least, in modern times) cannot charge high enough fares to cover their ongoing operating costs because they must compete with the massively subsidized private motor vehicle system, which gets megabucks of public (and private) subsidy even if you just blink at it. But unusually high ridership, even in the face of stiff fare hikes, have placed Washington, DC's transit system in the running toward 100% farebox recovery.

"Metro Projects $9 Million Surplus Thanks to increased Ridership " was the Associated Press headline in a dispatch dated this past 11 February, and writer Heather Greenfield noted that "Despite back-to-back fare hikes, more passengers are riding Metro, which should reach the end of the year in the black." Accordingly, says the AP, "The transit agency revealed Thursday it could finish the year with a surplus of up to $9 million, thanks to increased ridership on both subways and buses."

The article notes that last June, Metrorail base fares increased to $1.35, a rise of 15 cents, while the maximum rush-hour rail fare became $3.90. Bus riders pay a fare of $1.25 on local routes.

Even after this steep fare increase, "Ridership is up by 20,000 passengers during rush hours" reports the AP. And Metro Board Chairman Dana Kauffman of Fairfax County, Va., compared this surge of ridership to having a "small town" join the total population riding the system. Noting that many of these riders are federal employees, Kaufman also argued that the federal government needs to do more to cover Metro's costs.

In any case, halfway through its fiscal year, reports the AP, "Metrorail ridership grew 4 percent and bus ridership grew 10 percent, compared to Dec. 2003." The article also cites figures from financial analyst Rick Harcum, who told Metro's Budget Committee members that the growth trend is "strong and stable". If the trend continues, Harcum predictsed, Metro will finish the year with an $8 million to $9 million surplus.

More on Washington's Rail Transit and Public Transport

2 March 2005

Las Vegas Monorail: "Woeful" ridership prompts financial jitters

Ridership far lower than forecast, plus a recent history of serious technical glitches, are casting a shadow over the Las Vegas Monorail operation and triggering worries over whether the privately sponsored system will meet its financial goals of sustainability. "The Las Vegas Monorail averaged a paltry 22,313 riders each day last month [January], falling well short of a projected daily ridership of 29,000 passengers for January" reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal (17 February 2005).

In a sobering article, the paper noted that "The monorail eventually needs more than 40,000 daily riders for the system to break even on its $650 million construction cost and annual operating costs of more than $14 million per year." However, monorail revenues do not appear to be meeting sufficient levels. The Review-Journal further reports, "in January, the monorail's daily farebox revenues averaged $65,466, well below the targeted per-day average of $85,000." (As Light Rail Now has reported previously, original projections actually cited a ridership target of 53,000 a day needed for profitable operation.)

The paper goes on to relate that "The monorail also fared poorly last month compared to its only other full month of operation, in August. Then, the monorail averaged more than 27,000 riders and $80,000 in farebox revenues each day."

Even more troubling, the low January ridership came at a time when it was expected to be at one of the highest levels in the year: "The poor ridership showing came during the month in which the Consumer Electronics Show, annually among the city's largest conventions, was held."

The monorail's poor performance apparently is raising worries among Nevada legislators, since the state has underwritten bonds which have been sold to support construction and operation of the system. According to a report by KVBC-TV (17 Feb. 2005), "Las Vegas Monorail officials are assuring lawmakers that the monorail's finances are sufficient to carry into 2005 despite various setbacks and that the state would not be responsible if the company can't repay its tax-exempts bonds." Monorail officials assured the state that the company has $33 million in bond proceeds that can be used as a "cushion" in case of emergency. Furthermore, the monorail company has on hand more than $11 million in "liquidated damages" that it has collected from the contractors, Bombardier Transportation, and its partner, Granite Construction, "for problems related to the monorail."

More on Las Vegas Monorail and Public Transport

More on Monorails

25 February 2005

Bush-Putin summit shines limelight on city's light rail tramway network

Recent attention has been focused on the Slovakian capital city of Bratislava for hosting the "summit" meeting between US President George W. Bush and Russian President Valdimir Putin. "With huge numbers of journalists coming to Slovakia for the Bush-Putin summit, Bratislava city officials will take the opportunity to inform the world's media about planned developments and upgrades to essential infrastructure of the city" declares a news report from The Slovak Spectator (2005/02/21). Among these infrastructure upgrades, massive improvements are planned to Bratislava's already extensive light rail tramway network, totalling some 243.8 km (151.2 miles).

"For over 25 years Bratislava has cherished the idea of a subway system" relates the Spectator. "Estimated at a cost of Sk100 billion (€2.5 billion) [US$3.2 billion], nobody could be found to pay for it."

"But since 2003, the town council has been busily preparing a fast-track tram system that would run above as well as under ground" reports the Spectator article, noting that "The tramway would use modern, low-deck, aerodynamic trams that hold up to 500 people." (Presumably this refers to lowfloor tram or streetcar vehicles, which have become the standard in most major European light rail tramway systems.) As models, the article refers to the new light rail tramway systems in Dublin and Strasbourg, both of which use lowfloor vehicles.

The article relates that the tramway upgrade is included in a massive investment program along the Danube over the next five years with "new projects worth up to €1 billion" (US$1.3 billion) targeted for completion in Bratislava. It also notes that the upgraded tramway system would be developed "between 2006 and 2008."

Bratislava currently has 12 tramway routes using meter-gauge (1000-mm) tracks, and running about 225 tramcars. According to Jane's Urban Transport Systems (1999-2000), by the late 1990s the tramway network was carrying approximately 94 million annual passenger-trips, out of a systemwide total of more than 300 million (including motor buses and electric trolleybuses).

Bratislava, whose current population is about 450,000, is a medium-sized city with an area of 367.6 sq. km (141.6 sq. miles). This calculates to a population density of about 1,200/sq. km or 3,200/sq. mi. Bratislava thus represents a case in point that, even in Europe, neither extremely high population nor staggering density is essential for the operation of a successful, high-quality urban rail transit system.

In addition to the news item quoted, this report has relied on information from Jane's Urban Transport Systems, the Bratislava website, and the website.

25 February 2005

Leading Personal Rapid Transit vendor undergoes shakeup
...J. Edward Anderson splits from Taxi 2000

Taxi 2000 (aka SkyWeb Express) – ostensibly, North America's leading vendor of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) hardware (a technological concept which has yet to see a single successful, working public transport installation, anywhere, despite decades of "development") – has been facing problems trying to procure public and private financing of its experimental version of "gadget transit" ... most recently, in the halls of the Minnesota state legislature (although, so far, without success). But apparently its problems are multiplying, as evidenced by the recent departure of its founder and longtime chief, J. Edward Anderson (described as "the leading proponent of PRT in North America" in our article Personal Rapid Transit – Cyberspace Dream Keeps Colliding With Reality).

In a news release dated 14 February 2005, Anderson "is pleased to announce" that he's forming a totally new "international company to carry forward planning, design and development of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems." Called PRT international, the new company is intended to provide "optimized personal rapid transit (PRT) technologies that will have remarkable benefits for urban residents everywhere."

The main problems that many serious public transport planners have with such claims is that (1) with the possible exception of the Morgantown, WV system (which is actually an automated guideway peoplemover shuttle rather than the pervasive PRT network hypothesized by PRT theorists), no attempt at actually installing PRT has succeeded in even carrying through a project to completion, much less rendering "remarkable benefits for urban residents" anywhere; and (2) Anderson and other PRT promoters have used such vacuous promises as ammunition in their relentless attempts to disparage truly workable transit investments, including light rail transit, and to stymie proposals for their development and expansion.

In his press release, Anderson explains the origins of his former enterprise: "Following receipt of a grant from the University of Minnesota’s Patent and Technology Transfer Office to begin development of the technology, Dr. Anderson formed Automated Transportation Systems, inc., which was later renamed Taxi 2000 Corporation." Within the past couple of years, with Anderson as the point man, Taxi 2000 made a concerted push to gain political support in Minneapolis, Duluth, and other cities, and to try to procure Minnesota legislative authorization of tax-supported bonds to fund a rudimentary PRT system.

Despite being backed by a bizarre coalition of leftish Green Party techno-fantasists (including a Minneapolis councilman) joining forces with rightwing Republican Road Warriors, the PRT scheme repeatedly met with defeat. in this cauldron of political intrugue, the promise of "PRT in the sky, bye-and-bye" was used as a kind of bludgeon to try to thwart support for other major public transport projects, such as expansion of light rail and the Northstar regional "commuter" rail plan. The current separation between Anderson and the corporate enterprise he had founded and led for so long certainly does not imbue the PRT bonding venture with an aura of stability, and the prospects for legislative endorsement of the project seem increasingly remote.

Reasons for Anderson's breakup with Taxi 2000 remain unclear for the moment, although a rumor with some credence suggests that Anderson was ejected because he had "founder's syndrome". Twin Cities cartoonist Ken Avidor, webmaster of the PRT is a Joke website, speculates that the split might have been the result of "a shareholders' revolt": "They wanted to recoup some of their investments by changing the product to a kinder and gentler 'people mover'." Avidor surmises that "Anderson balked and they made him walk the plank." in this hypothetical scenario, Anderson's new company has been launched, in retaliation, as a competitor to Taxi 2000.

Time will tell whether, and how much, validity resides in Avidor's speculations. in any case, the Taxi 2000 schism would seem to represent the latest major deflation of a PRT balloon already thoroughly and repeatedly punctured by decades of setbacks.

More on PRT and "Gadget Transit"

23 February 2005

Graz light rail tramway system grows with extension to shopping mall

According to a report in Tramways & Urban Transit (Feb. 2005), the small industrial city of Graz (pop. about 240,000) in southern Austria has secured financing for a 1.3-km (0.8-mile) extension of its light rail tramway route 4. The extension, estimated to cost €22.4 million (about US$29 million), and targeted for opening in 2007, will create a link to the new Murpark shopping center near Liebenau. At a unit cost of about $22 million/km ($36 million/mile), it ranks as a moderately cost-intensive project.

With only about 30 km (19 miles) of route, Graz's tramway system is nevertheless a mainstay of the urban public transport network, carrying about 55% (more than 50 million annual passenger-trips) of public transport ridership in the entire system. The tramway represents an excellent example of how light rail transit continues to serve as a mainstay of European urban public transport, even in quite small cities.

This report has relied on information from Michael Taplin's World Systems List (Light Rail Transit Association) and Jane's Urban Transport Systems (1999-2000.

22 February 2005

Light rail tramway project gets go-ahead

The Viet Nam News Agency (2005/02/19) reports that the proposed project to build an "experimental tramway system" in Vietnam's capital city of Hanoi has at last been given approval by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. The article reports that approval "in principle" came on Wednesday, 16 February. (See also our earlier article, Hanoi moves to install a light rail tramway system...While it eyes elevated rapid transit.)

The 14.5-km (9.0-mile) starter system is projected to cost €420 million (US$508 million), or about $34 million/km ($56 million/mile). Planned to be partly funded by the French government and built with French technology, the tramway will link Hanoi's Cau Dien area with the Hanoi Railway Station, and connect the areas of Cau Dien, Cau Giay, Quoc Tu Giam wards, Kim Ma, and Giang Van Minh streets.

The tramway section from the Cau Dien area (on the west side of Hanoi) to Cat Linh Street will have a 1.5-km underground section (which helps account for the somewhat higher average unit cost of this project). The line will connect a number of key locations, including Kim Ma bus station, Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature), and the Hanoi Railway Station, on the way to the Hanoi Opera House, according to Nguyen Quoc Trieu, Mayor of the Hanoi People’s Committee. The Hanoi People’s Committee itself has been assigned to conduct a study, including the collection of opinions from relevant ministries and agencies, and to submit a feasibility evaluation to the Prime Minister for consideration. To carry out the project, the ministries of Planning and investment, Finance, the Hanoi People’s Committee, and the French partners will work out details of credit provision, equipment, supply, and other conditions.

According to the French consultancy firm Systra, the tramway line will use advanced light rail transit (LRT) technology to save energy and comply with environment protection conditions. Scheduled to be completed in 2010, the tramway is expected to transport 9,000 to 10,000 passengers per hour one-way and will be the point of convergence for eight other tramways proposed in the city’s development plan for 2020, according to Trieu. That will interconnect with other major public transport services also being installed. The director of Hanoi's Transport and Public Work Deparment, Pham Quoc Truong, said his department was planning a transport network with one metro and five elevated railways that will be able to carry 160 million passenger-trips a year by 2015.

All told, it looks like Hanoi is on track to become a showcase of modern LRT tramway technology and other state-of-the-art standard-rail transit technology currently under development among emerging Third World cities.

20 February 2005

Nearly half of business commuters from NJ 'burbs to Center City use PATCO rail transit line

Transit opponents persistently try to denigrate the importance of public transport – especially rail transit llines – in urban areas by comparing the ridership of single lines to all the travel in a gigantic region, thus diluting the apparent impact of the transit service. However, as Light Rail Now has repeatedly emphasized, the impact of specific rail transit services must be assessed with respect to the specific corridor or travel need which the service is designed to address.

Data aren't always available to enable such a "reality-based" assessment of rail transit impact, but one such survey of riders using the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) "Speedline" rail rapid transit service, connecting Center-City Philadelphia with southern New Jersey suburban areas, provides a case in point. Conducted by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), this survey found that the PATCO Speedline (a "heavy", fully grade-separated rapid transit system) carries a whopping 47% of New Jersey business commuters and 58% of Camden County business commuters who work in Center City Philadelphia.

in other words, approximately half of New Jersey business commuters travelling into Center City Philadelphia are relying on this rapid transit facility (opened in 1969). One can imagine the crush of additional vehicles on the Delaware River bridges into Philly if this rail transit service were not available! This is certainly a far cry from the minuscule, "one-half of one percent" figures typically claimed as "transit market share" by Road Warrior critics.

The DVRPC study also revealed that, of PATCO riders, 95% live in New Jersey, 77% use the line to commute to work, and 23% ride for shopping and recreation; in addition, 88% are employed full time, 4% part time, 3% are retired, amd 3% are students.

More information on the survey, and the PATCO line, can be found at:

Special thanks to J. William Vigrass for referring this information.

16 February 2005

Nearly 40% of light rail riders are new to transit

Attracting new riders from the general population onto public transport is one of the foremost goals of major mass transportation investments. And that seems to be precisely what Minneapolis's new Hiawatha-corridor light rail transit (LRT) system has been doing.

Nearly 40 percent of LRT passengers are first-time transit users, according to a customer survey just released by Metro Transit – the first onboard research the agency has conducted specifically to assess the new rail service. "Rail ridership for January – the first full month with Hiawatha Line service from downtown Minneapolis to the airport and Mall of America – was strong with customers boarding trains 441,846 times" reports the agency.
[Metro Council, 2005/02/11]

Edson L. Tennyson, PE, a Washington, DC-based transportation engineer, longtime public transport professional and advocate, and technical consultant to the Light Rail Now Project, notes that 441,846 monthly boardings roughly calculates to weekday ridership of 17,000 to 17,500, and may be somewhat lower because of seasonal travel behavior. "That should improve" he says. "January is not the best month. The summer riders should now be at 75 percent of potential but the [suburban] Bloomington riders should only be at half potential."

Taken together, the survey and ridership results strongly underscore the whopping success of light rail in Minneapolis. "The forty percent new [transit riders] means corridor ridership increased 67 percent", Ed points out.

"Of those new to transit, two-thirds said they would have otherwise driven alone for their commute, illustrating the line's initial impact on reducing traffic congestion" says Metro Transit, commenting on its survey. The agency provided additional revelations about passenger characteristics and behavior identified in the survey:

More than half (55 percent) of customers said they take the train for their weekday commutes. Three in every five customers are riding during rush hours. A third of customers ride on weekends as well as weekdays. More than half of those surveyed (57 percent) ride the train five or more times per week.

The main reasons for riding were cited as convenience (23 percent) and enjoyment of the train (23 percent). Those who ride because they don't own a car, want to avoid driving or have environmental reasons accounted for less than 4 percent of respondents. Those who chose the train over bus service did so overwhelmingly (43 percent) due to convenient rail schedules.

More customers (31 percent) reach a train station by bus than any other way, while 26 percent walk and 24 percent use park-and-ride lots along the line.

Thirty-seven percent pay their fares with cash, more than any other payment method. Of those who used passes, 41 percent purchased them through their employer, 39 percent of them using their company's payroll deduction program.

Demographic information provided by customers shows that the average Hiawatha Line customer is 25-54 years old (69 percent), Caucasian (84 percent), female (52 percent), speaks English as a primary language (96 percent) and has a household income of more than $70,000 (34 percent).

LRT ridership has been booming ever since the line opened last summer. in December, says Metro Transit, rail ridership was also "robust", as "Fare-paying customers took 512,800 light-rail rides ..., reflecting strong demand for new service to the airport, Bloomington and Mall of America, which began Dec. 4." The agency points out that "An additional 87,500 free rides were taken by customers the weekend of Dec. 4 and 5 to celebrate the completion of the 12-mile Hiawatha light-rail line, bringing the December total to 600,300."
[Metro Council, 18 Jan. 2005]

in fact, it appears that the Hiawatha LRT service has already nearly reached a ridership target not expected for many months in the future. "We are especially pleased with ridership on business days, which averaged 19,200 per weekday during the month" said Brian Lamb, Metro Transit's general manager. “Our ridership target – set before construction began – was to reach 19,300 rides per weekday by the middle of 2005. In our first month of extended service we already are approaching that goal.”

The agency further reports that since the LRT system's opening on 26 June 2004, "customers have taken 2.9 million light-rail rides through December, 106 percent higher than expectations." in addition, "Customers rode Metro Transit buses and trains 5.5 million times in December 2004, 228,300 more trips than the same period a year earlier." Very strong LRT ridership in December 2004 "boosted overall Metro Transit ridership 4.4 percent ahead of rides logged in December 2003." However, says the agency, "For the full year, train and bus rides were down 3.3 percent, or 1.9 million, over total bus rides in 2003."

Metro Transit notes that its monthly ridership tally is based on a sampling of at least 25 percent of trips. "Staff members counted the number of customers boarding these trips at each station regardless of how the customer reached the rail platform."

More on Minneapolis Rail Transit and Public Transport

16 February 2005

Seattle monorail project, facing revenue shortfall, seeks to extend bond payback period

Faced with lower-than-expected tax revenues and possibly higher-than-expected project costs, the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP) – the agency in charge of installing the Green Line monorail system okayed by voters – has begun seeking legislative approval to extend its bond repayment period beyond the 40 years currently authorized. SMP officials argue the longer period is needed to help lower bond interest rates, but critics of the project – including some transit advocates – argue the move could significantly raise the total cost of the monorail project above what was promised to to Seattle residents.

"it represents an overreaching by [SMP] to try to grab more money than the voters ever authorized to fund this project" argued Liv Finne, a monorail critic and co-chairwoman of the now-dormant Yes On 83 campaign, which last November tried unsuccessfully to block further development of the monorail project through an initiative, i-83. (See Seattle: Monorail "recall" loses, but project continues to face criticism.) "i think they're in a big bind" said Richard Borkowski, president of People for Modern Transit (an underwriter of Light Rail Now), also a vocal critic of the monorail project.
[Seattle Post-intelligencer, 1 February 2005]

These charges seemed somewhat corroborated by statements from SMP officials themselves. According to the Seattle Post-intelligencer, "Monorail officials said the longer payout period may be needed if the car-tab tax supporting the project doesn't produce enough to pay the bonds in a shorter period." However, the paper noted that SMP officials still seem to be hoping that their project can be adequately financed with the current "car-tab" tax, which is levied at 1.4 percent of the value of each motor vehicle in municipal Seattle.
[Seattle Post-intelligencer, 1 February 2005]

The Seattle monorail developments are of particular interest to rail transit professionals and advocates because monorail promoters, attacking plans for light rail and other standard railway projects, have persistently contended that monorails are much less costly and less prone to the budget overruns sometimes experienced by other "fixed guideway" projects.

in a recent public statement and analysis, Borkowski aimed more sharp criticism at the SMP move to push a bond-repayment extension through the Washington state legislature, noting that the state senate had introduced "a bill that codifies monorail bonding at 40 years, 15 years longer than the 25 years that the SMP has been stating publicly." Borkowski also notes that SB5434 was sponsored by State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells, who also sits on the SMP Board of Directors. "While the bill is described as a housekeeping bill," says Borkowski, "it includes sweeping changes including 2 new depreciation schedules for cars and trucks."

"in 2002," Borkowski continues, "the monorail tax was expected to last 25 years. The agency now states they will need at least 40 years. The bill gives them the ability to extend the bonding past 40 years, at the sole discretion of the agency. it removes many of the financial controls that were sold to the voters in 2002."

Borkowski then offers an analysis of what the eventual financial impact of the bonding change could mean. He assumes $1.6 billion to be borrowed (the estimated cost of the project) and "a very conservative" interest rate of 4%.

Using these values, Borkowski calculates that, over a payback period of 25 years, the monthly bond payment would be $8.4 million/month (year 2005 dollars).

Total amount paid = $8.4 million x 300 months = $2.5 billion

With a 40-year payback period, the monthly bond payment would be $6.7 million/month (again, in 2005 dollars).

Total amount paid = $6.7 million x 480 months = $3.2 billion

"So the total project costs for the monorail project will escalate from $2.5 billion to $3.2 billion" warns Borkowski. "By extending the term to 40 years, the interest charges accumulate dramatically. This represents a cost increase of $700 million, solely due to interest payments on the $1.6 billion estimated project costs."

if the interest rate is higher than the "conservative" 4% assumed, says Borkowski, the total cost to Seattle taxpayers will be even higher. "At 5% interest the 40 year bonds would be $8.6 million per month or a total of $4.1 billion. (What's another billion?)" Borkowki also notes that, in 1999, Sound Transit's $350 million worth of 25-year bonds were issued "at a historically low interest rate of 4.97%."

The bottom line: Approving extension of SMP's bonding period could increase total Green Line monorail project costs from about 28% to 64% or more, depending on the interest rate obtained.

For further details on the Seattle Monorail Project, Borkowski recommends visiting the Seattle Channel's Web Site:

More on Seattle Rail Transit and Public Transport

More on Monorails

13 February 2005

Angers chooses steel-wheel light rail tramway over guided-bus "BRT"

According to Urban Transit News of 11 February 2005, published by the Light Rail Transit Association, the small French city of Angers (with an urbanized area population of just 226,900) "has decided in favour of a steel wheel tramway for a 12-km [7.4-mile] north/south line to be built by 2009...." LRT tramway technology was selected over an alternative "rubber-tired tramway" (using guided "bus rapid transit", or "BRT", technology) for a variety of reasons (see below).

The initial line, routed northwest from the city center, is projected to carry 35,000 passenger-trips a day by 2010, and will run within 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) of some 57,000 residents and 21,000 jobs. It's currently envisioned that riders will be served with a six-minute headway for 19 hours a day.

Bids (tenders) are being invited for fifteen 32-meter (106-ft) trams. The project is estimated to cost €180 million (about US$232 million). That's about $19 million/km or $31 million/mile. A second, east-west, line is also being evaluated.

Further details on the Angers tramway project can be found in an announcement of the decision on the website of the Angers Loire Métropole (metropolitan district):

According to the official announcement, well-proven, standard-rail tramway technology was selected rather than a guided-bus "BRT" system for reasons of safety as well as because of technical issues and financial advantages. A steel-wheel tramway offered the advantage of a large variety of vendors, and the hardware had "proven reliable for a very long time...."

Angers planners apparently were extremely impressed with the performance and durability of light rail transit (LRT) tram rolling stock on other systems. For example, they note the "very good condition" of the first vehicles of the original trams in Nantes, despite their now being 20 years old. At the same time, they also appear impressed by advances in tram (light rail vehicle) technology, noting the "improvement of the quality (comfort, silence, flexibility, accessibility) of new vehicles recently put in service."

Metro district officials recount that the only "tramway sur pneu" (rubber-tired "tramway", or guided-bus technology) which met the capacity requirements of the Angers project was the proprietary "new generation" system developed by Translohr. While this technology has been selected for deployment in the small city of Clermont Ferrand (headquarters of Michelin), notes the Métropole, it has not yet operated in actual service.

Another advantage of LRT recognized by Angers was that it opened rolling-stock selection to a wider spectrum of competitive bidders, "thus attracting the best possible prices...." Apparently, the availability of a well-proven, widely standardized technology (steel-wheel on rail) was particularly attractive. The Métropole announcement cites again the example of Nantes, where "the oldest vehicles that run today were manufactured by Alstom and the most recent by Bombardier."

Angers apparently was also not impressed by claims of significantly quieter operation made on behalf of guided "BRT" or "tram on rubber tires". The announcement cites a study demonstrating that, at lower operating speeds, typical in most populated areas, "where the noise issue is thus most important," the difference between the two systems (steel-wheel vs. rubber tire) was only one decibel.

Now that the choice of mode has been made, Angers is moving swiftly to get the tramway project under way. Besides soliciting bids (tenders) for rolling stock, officials also expect to launch competitive bidding for construction of the system's maintenance center, to be located next to the city's old airport. Groundbreaking is expected by the autumn of 2006.

More on "Bus Rapid Transit"

13 February 2005

Vilnius (Lithuania) planning light rail tramway network

Yet another major European city is now planning a brand-new light rail tramway system. Vilnius, capital of the Baltic nation of Lithuania, with a population of about 580,000, has a tramway project "well advanced", according to public transport analyst and advocate Leroy Demery, Jr. Details of the project can be found at the municipal website pages on the tramway project, in Lithuanian:

Leroy notes that the feasibility study for the tramway was performed by SYSTRA. Line A is planned to extend 10.4 km [6.4 mi] from the station (Stotis) north to Santariskes. A three-line, 44.6-km [27.7-mi] network is planned for construction by 2015. A possible future extension to the airport is also under study.

Leroy also points out that Vilnius "is the only European capital (aside from Reykjavik) that has never had an electric tramway."

NOTE: For information and translated material used in this report, thanks to Leroy Demery, Jr. and Janis Eiduks.

10 February 2005

Bush budget proposal to kill Amtrak sparks widespread outrage
...Move slammed as "irresponsible", "radical"

in a move astounding in its wantonly destructive intentions, the USA's George W. Bush administration has proposed a budget eliminating funding for Amtrak's national intercity rail passenger operations. This attack on an essential element of the USA's public transport network – and concomitant with parallel cutbacks in mass transit funding – is a reckless assault on the mobility and quality of life of the American traveling public.

Certainly the primary focus of Light Rail Now! is urban and regional public transport. However, as we explain on our Amtrak and intercity Public Transport page, we recognize that all mobility systems are interrelated – particularly urban, regional, and intercity public transport systems. Intercity rail passenger service – which, in the USA, means Amtrak – and other surface transportation (including motor coach services) are all integrally linked with the fortunes of local mass transit, including light rail transit (LRT).

Bush's budget eliminates all funding for intercity Amtrak services. Apparently in an effort to throw a small political sop to political interests impacted by a total rail shutdown in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), the budget dollops a relatively tiny $360 million, to be allocated to the Surface Transportation Board ostensibly to continue commuter railway and freight operations within the NEC. But how such an agency would be able to carry out such a mission, and to what extent with the given funds, is highly questionable. As the National Association of Railroad Passengers points out, "it is not clear that this would be enough to accomplish these purposes, and not even the Administration claims it would allow continuation of any Amtrak trains."

The Bush move to shut down Amtrak has touched off outrage across the nation, and prompted denunciations even from moderate voices. The normally restrained and circumspect Amtrak CEO, David L. Gunn, described the Bush proposal as a plan for "forcing an Amtrak bankruptcy". "Obviously, the proposal is irresponsible and a surprising disappointment" stated Gunn in a letter to Amtrak's workforce (7 Feb. 2005).

Even before the Bush proposal was formally released, the Washington-based National Association of Railroad Passengers (the foremost lobbying group on behalf of intercity rail passenger service) stated that it was "outraged" at reports of Bush's move to eliminate Amtrak's funding (media release, 2 February 2005). After the official release of the proposal, NARP issued a blistering followup statement which "condemns this proposal as radical and irresponsible" (media release, 7 Feb.).

The following is a sampling of other reactions, collected and published on Craig S. O'Connell's Friends of Amtrak website:

· Rep. Mike Castle (R-De), described as "a regular Amtrak rider", denounced the proposed funding cuts, saying the move contradicts the goal of reforming the nation`s passenger rail service. "Reducing the budget deficit by half is going to be extremely difficult, and you can`t do it by zeroing out the budget for Amtrak" said Castle.

· Senator Tom Carper (D-De) called the move to strike Amtrak subsidies from the 2006 budget a "nonstarter in Congress... At a time when our dependence on foreign oil is at an all-time high, when we have unprecedented congestion on our highways and at our airports, and with unacceptable air pollution, i cannot comprehend why Bush would want to eliminate federal support for intercity passenger rail service" Carper told a local TV reporter (WJZ-TV, Channel 13, Md).

· Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) pointed out that "President Bush is willing to spend billions to send a couple of people to Mars, but not one dime for Amtrak's 25 million annual travelers who want better rail service to destinations on this planet."

· Montana Senator Max Baucus (D) also denounced the plan to eliminate Amtrak. "i haven't seen the president`s budget as it won't be released until Monday. But, it would be outrageous to eliminate funding for Amtrak. Amtrak is vital to our state. It's essential for transportation, jobs, recreation and our economy." He also noted that "Communities along the Hi-Line depend on Amtrak every day."

· J. P. Donovan, spokesman for US Sen. Conrad Burns, (R-Mt), said Wednesday morning – before Bush's plan became known – that Burns would continue to support Amtrak and try to get its next request fully funded. A study commissioned by the state government in 2003 found that Amtrak's Empire Builder contributes nearly $14 million annually to the economy in Montana. Ridership on the Empire Builder continues to increase. (Havre Daily News, 4 Feb.)

· US Senate Democrats Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg "say cutting funds to Amtrak will bring the railroad to the brink of bankruptcy, which will have disastrous effects for New Jersey commuters. The senators say nearly 4 million New Jerseyans ride Amtrak every year and some 82,000 daily commuters take more than 300 New Jersey Transit trains that operate along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor every day." (Wall Street Journal, 4 Feb.)

· Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black underscored that "Amtrak cannot operate without a federal appropriation." "We are embarked upon a capital investment program that cannot be interrupted without serious consequences" Black added.

More on Amtrak & intercity Public Transport

9 February 2005

Dayton, Ohio envisions 3-route electric streetcar system

Could electric streetcars make a return to Dayton, Ohio? According to recent news reports, the prospect is being seriously considered by Dayton-area planners and decisionmakers.

The Dayton Business Journal of 24 January 2005 reports that officials of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC – basically, the region's metropolitan planning organization) are favoring a plan for a $60 million electric streetcar system extending for 16 miles (about 26 km) over three interconnected routes, running "on area roads among regular vehicle traffic...." According to the paper, the streetcar plan has been drafted by Gem Public Sector Services, an affiliate of Dayton-based Gem Real Estate Group inc. Planners say the project could be built in a seven-year period.

A separate report in Rail Transit Online (February 2005) relates that destinations that could be served by the system include the University of Dayton, the US Air Force Museum, various federal National Parks sites, and downtown Dayton. Mike Robinette, MVRPC executive director, said the annual operating cost are projected to be approximately $1.8 million.

The Business Journal reports that area officials are "encouraged" by a survey indicating that "more than 50 percent of commuters who routinely drive their car to work or for other purposes downtown are interested in using a streetcar". According to the study, the system would need at least 3,250 daily boardings, at $1.25 a trip, plus other income from advertising, to cover its annual operation costs. Planners expect that figure eventually to climb to more than 4,600 rider-trips at a slightly higher fare within several years. The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority is viewed as "the most logical organization to operate the system".

Light rail transit (LRT) plans have been floated for Dayton at least since the mid-1970s, when a modern interurban-type LRT system was evaluated for a railroad corridor as an alternative to a previously proposed busway. That and a string of other plans have seemed to go nowhere ... until now. The idea of "some sort of light-rail transportation linking tourist attractions and other areas" of Dayton "has been kicked around for more than a decade", the MVRPC's Robinette told the Business Journal. However, he emphasized that "this plan is the first to deal specifically with a streetcar system and is by far the most realistic and extensive to date."

According to Norm Essman, Dayton's economic development director, a streetcar system could "enhance economic development efforts, boost tourism, provide park and ride options, and better connect different areas of the city...." Streetcars could carry sports fans to special events or workers to lunch, as well as provide a convenient way for visitors to access museums – while reducing the number of motor vehicles clogging central-city streets. Bolstering Dayton’s economic revival is another key objective of the trolley plan.

New Orleans, of course, is another major US city which has been in the forefront of the streetcar revival (see New Orleans Rail Transit and Public Transport Developments), and that city's deputy economic development director, John Talmage, emphasized the value of streetcars to the Business Journal's reporter. "They are a community-friendly way of moving people around" Talmage said. "They're something that adds a little more flavor to the city." in New Orleans, he added, We have additional plans for a third and possibly a fourth line."

While the City of New Orleans per se has just less than 500,000 residents, it's already experiencing significant redevelopment along its new streetcar lines. According to Talmage, "some of the development includes the renovation of an old department store into condominiums, a medical district and a new hotel."

Current thinking in Dayton seems to be leaning toward installation of a heritage-style streetcar operation. "The electric-powered streetcars are expected to look similar to the old-fashioned streetcars popularized in San Francisco" notes the Business Journal article. However, Dayton would not have to go to California to find the historic roots of streetcar transportation. At one time, Rail Transit Online points out, "Dayton was served by six separate electric railway companies, two of which were interurbans."

9 February 2005

Another new light rail tramway system for North Africa

One thing that is particularly striking about recent transit development in many Third World developing nations is that it increasingly seems to take the form of grade-separated rapid transit – ranging from "exotic" automated guideway (AGT) systems for lighter-capacity feeder-type roles, to light metros and full rapid transit metros for much heavier traffic. While this appears to be mainly a response to the large populations and high densities now being experienced in many of these cities, it also seems to stand in contrast to developments in North America and Europe, where there currently tends to be far greater emphasis on surface rail modes, particularly light rail (LRT), including tramways (streetcar systems).

However, for the Third World, more exceptions are starting to emerge. These include new and upgraded surface-routed light electric railways in Mexico and other Latin American countries, tramways and other LRT systems in Turkish cities, a possible new tramway in Hanoi, and similar systems in several countries of North Africa.

One of the latest developments in this category is in Algeria. A new tramway system is now planned for the capital city of Algiers, despite the fact that a full metro rapid transit system has already been under construction. With the completion of the metro system still several years away, assessment of a tramway system was undertaken under the authority of the transport minister. That assessment has led to the decision to install a light rail tramway system with several branches.

The first line, Est (East), to be built within three years, is planned to extend from Annassers to Borj el Kiffan. This line will be designed for a transport capacity of 150,000 passengers per day. The project will extend 16.5 km [10.2 miles], with 38 stations, including six major passenger interchanges, and will require 31 tram vehicles. An international invitation for tenders (bids) is expected soon. Startup is currently targeted for 2008.

The second line, Ouest (West), is planned to extend from Place des Martyrs to Ain-benian, a distance of 15.8 km [9.8 mi] with 28 stations. This line is projected to have a transport capacity of 90,000 passengers per day.

A third line is also planned to connect the first two, extending from Place des Martyrs to Ruisseau.

When completed, the multi-route system is projected to carry upwards of 200,000 passenger-trips a day. Capital costs for the total system have not yet been made readily available to the public.

NOTE: Material in this report has been adapted from the Forum-Algerie online discussion list, the newspaper Quotidien El -Khabar, and Tramways & Urban Transit, Feb. 2005. Thanks to Leroy Demery, Jr. for assisting with translation from French source material.

1 February 2005

New light rail system recommended...
But "BRT" conversion presents obstacles

Ottawa, Ontario's "Transitway" (busway) or "Bus Rapid Transit" ("BRT") system has, for more than a decade, held the status (at least among its promoters) of a model for "BRT" in North America. "BRT" marketers have extolled it with lavish claims as a supposedly less costly substitute for light rail transit (LRT).

However, according to a City of Ottawa document recently shared with us by a correspondent in Ontario, it appears that the Ottawa Transitway's status as a showcase for "BRT" is rejected even by the city's own municipal officials. The document also sheds insight on some of the planning issues being taken into consideration by local planners.

The document is titled Rapid Transit Expansion Study (Feb 2003), and of particular interest is the section "Comparing Bus and Rail Technologies". in this section, Ottawa planners note some general comparative features between light rail transit (LRT) and "BRT":

· Based on review of existing transit operating systems, it is generally accepted within the rapid transit industry that the relative capacities of BRT and LRT are comparable, with LRT having a greater capacity (up to 30%).

· The right-of-way requirements for BRT and LRT are comparable.

· The capital costs for LRT are generally greater than that for BRT. However, depending upon the extent and nature of the rapid transit rail service, operating costs for LRT can be lower when the vehicles are used to capacity, resulting in lower life cycle costs and lower costs per passenger-kilometre. Comparative capital and operating costs were acquired from Toronto, Calgary, Detroit, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Diego and San Jose.

Despite over two decades of "BRT" operation, there does not seem to be rousing public enthusiasm for the area's "BRT" system. instead, public sentiment, as reported in the City of Ottawa document, seems to favor LRT technology. it should be noted that Ottawa's transit agency has been operating a short self-powered light railway (called the O-Train), somewhat on an "experimental" basis, since the fall of 2001 – see Ottawa (Finally) Opts for Light Rail. Whether this service played a significant role in influencing the attitudes exhibited by the public is unknown. In any case, the document summarizes "Public comments comparing LRT and BRT" as follows:

· a strongly stated preference by the public attendees of the open houses and stakeholder participants in the study for the train over the bus
· a view that LRT will be more effective in achieving the smart growth objectives of intensification and redevelopment due to its sense of permanency and service reliability
· LRT reflects Ottawa’s status as Canada’s capital and an international city better than BRT
· BRT is more flexible and provides greater choice than a fixed rail system with respect to connecting many residential areas to work places
· vehicles in a bus-based system can both use the transitway and operate as a feeder service in the community, which reduces transfers

in proposing expansion of urban railway service in Ottawa, planners clearly envision an electrically powered LRT system, rather than a more extensive system relying on self-powered vehicles:

The current Talent vehicle used on the O-Train corridor is not considered suitable for use in a downtown or urban setting. For this reason, lighter vehicles are recommended for the Ottawa system. LRT vehicles that travel in urban areas and are integrated into urban and/or downtown streetscapes have the following features:

· low floors for easy entry and less obtrusive platforms
· electrical power for quieter, cleaner operation
· smoother, more comfortable ride
· vehicles can be connected into longer train sets with single operators
· capable of efficiently climbing steeper grades and smaller turning radius

(it should be noted that self-powered railcars could also be "connected into longer train sets" (i.e., MUed). This is not a capability exclusive to electric operation.)

Of especial interest is the document's discussion of the problems involved with "Conversion of the Transitway to LRT". This is an issue drawing much discussion and debate among transit industry professionals, and the possibility of eventual conversion from busway to railway is often used in justifications for installing "BRT" rather than LRT – "We can convert to rail when ridership gets high enough."

Some planners and rail advocates, however, counter that there have been almost no instances of such conversions taking place (Seattle's expensive retrofitting of the city's Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, to accommodate south line Link LRT trains, is a rare exception), particularly because any conversion project would add considerable extra expense, and, in addition, transit agencies understandably aim to extract as much use and value as possible from their investment in bus-specific facilities, which may have economic lives ranging between 30 and 50 years). Furthermore, a conversion project in many cases would interrupt or disrupt existing "BRT" services – and operators are reluctant to disrupt what may be one of their most heavily used transit services.

Several of these arguments by rail supporters appear to be corroborated by conclusions reached by City of Ottawa planners, and expressed in the report. Significantly, the document notes that "The transitway has been designed to be convertible to LRT." Nevertheless, and despite the advantages and public support expressed on behalf of LRT, Ottawa planners conclude that the "BRT" Transitway still has usefulness for another couple of decades:

The current Transitway incorporates exclusive right-of-way, a ‘rapid’ transit characteristic that allows faster travel than conventional bus transit. With the exception of the downtown, the Transitway has sufficient capacity for the next 20 years.

Furthermore, the document argues, "Conversion of the Transitway to LRT would be expensive" for several reasons:

1. There will be service disruption during conversion. Rapid transit service would, in essence, cease while rail construction takes place.

2. Value for money is not sufficient to justify conversion. Conversion of the Transitway from Orleans to Kanata would cost about $1 billion and provide unnecessary under-utilized capacity.

As a result, states the document,

The study concludes that with limited financial resources, it is better to invest in new rapid transit corridors than to replace an existing one. It is not considered cost-effective to convert the Transitway to LRT at this time.

With further upgrades and extensions, the existing Transitway will continue to play an essential role in the recommended Rapid Transit Network. The network is one in which BRT and LRT are effectively blended to complement each other.

The issue of whether "BRT" (i.e., busway) was, in hindsight, the most cost-effective choice for the Transitway corridor (which involved the widening and paving of an existing, abandoned railway right-of-way) is not addressed. Nevertheless, the report seems to state conclusively that, once a busway investment is in place, there are serious obstacles to converting it to LRT. This consequence should weigh heavily in the deliberations of planners and decision-makers in other areas where LRT and "BRT" are being compared as potential project alternatives for New Start investments.

More on Ottawa Rail Transit and Public Transport

More on "Bus Rapid Transit"

31 January 2005

LA-area Metrolink wreck:
Beware erroneous lessons on push-pull rail transit operation

Once again, another major US disaster has provoked an hysterical rush to judgement and cry for precipitous, ill-advised "remedies". This time, it's the recent Metrolink regional ("commuter") rail wreck in Glendale, California (within the Los Angeles urbanized area), caused when an apparently deranged motorist placed his SUV (a Jeep Cherokee) on the tracks, reportedly with initial intentions to attempt suicide. According to news details, the vehicle was not placed on the tracks at a grade crossing; instead, the motorist evidently drove his vehicle over rough terrain and then onto open tracks.

in addition to the usual media-driven finger-pointing, there's also the familiar stampede of "knee-jerk" rail transit opponents who have emerged to denounce regional rail service (by far one of the safest modes of urban transport) – fulminating against the "dangers" of regional passenger rail transit and, in particular, "push-pull" operation.

Push-pull operation is widespread throughout the North American transit industry. In this very common practice, passenger coaches are pulled behind a locomotive in one direction, then, in reverse for the return trip, they are pushed forward by the locomotive in the other direction. This requires the end coach to be a "cab-car", i.e., equipped with a cab and appropriate apparatus to control the locomotive from the opposite end of the train. in such configurations, the engineer (train operator) operates the train from controls in a front compartment (cab) of the cab car, where passengers also ride. Cab cars are typically built to more rigorous structural requirements than ordinary passenger coaches.

According to the Los Angeles Times (27 January 2005), push-pull operation has been widespread since at least the 1950s, and "is viewed by many transportation experts as the best way to run a commuter rail system, from a logistical and practical standpoint." The practice "is also less expensive because train operators don't have to buy additional locomotives or build turnarounds to move engines from one end of the train to the other" the Times points out. Without this flexibility, a number of regional rail transit operations would be significantly less cost-effective.

Little wonder, then, that rail transit foes have been quick to seize on the fact that the Metrolink train which struck the SUV on the tracks was a push-pull train being operated in "push" mode – it was the leading cab-car which struck the SUV. "if you are going to hit something, you want to hit it with a locomotive. It just makes sense" anti-rail crusader Tom Rubin told a Los Angeles Times reporter.
[Los Angeles Times, 27 January 2005]

it should be noted that, while Rubin was blithely described as an "expert" by the Times reporter, he is actually well-known nationally for his anti-rail transit campaigns, on occasion teaming with other "professional" rail critics like Wendell Cox.

Jim Moore, an engineering professor at the University of Southern California and another longtime, well-known rail opponent (many of whose tracts are published by the far-right, fanatically pro-highway Reason Foundation), intoned that Metrolink service should be ceased immediately, not only because it was a killer, but because it was an "irrelevant" boondoggle that should be replaced by a freeway bus system. Moore was also presented as a "rail safety expert" on CBS News (27 Jan.) – although their report apparently edited out his more extremist remarks about shutting down Metrolink.

Such remarks lead Frank Miklos, a leader of the Electric Railroaders Association and a retired New Jersey Transit employee, to observe that "The extremists would have the Metrolink system shut down because of this accident. Yet there are no extremists who insist that SUV's should be banned because that type of vehicle was the actual cause of the crash. The only views that seem to matter are those which place the blame on rail transit."

Sifting the story for sensational issues and opportunities to point fingers, a number of journalists have picked up on the anti-push-pull criticism. Several reporters have glommed onto a 1996 Federal Railroad Administration study which assessed (theoretically) the implications of a head-on crash between a locomotive and cab car – finding that, above 35 mph, "occupants in the cab car likely would suffer severe injury or fatality" according to one summary in the San Francisco Chronicle (28 January 2005). But that's a head-on crash with a locomotive – not the situation faulted in the recent Glendale crash. By this same scenario, self-propelled diesel multiple-unit (DMU) and electric multiple-unit (EMU) trains would be equally vulnerable – and certainly no one is singling out those very commonplace forms of regional rail vehicles (widely used worldwide) for prohibition (yet).

The same San Francisco Chronicle article goes on to report "regulators and passenger rail lines, including Amtrak and Caltrain in the Bay Area, believe the [push-pull] practice is safe." Steve Kulm, a Federal Railroad Administration, told the reporter that "There's no strong or clear evidence that indicates one method of operation is less safe than another."

Nevertheless, all the anti-"push-pull" hysteria has been having an effect. in Los Angeles, Mayor Jim Hahn formally notified Metrolink's management that "an issue has arisen concerning the placement of locomotives at the rear of passenger cars to push the passenger rail cars along the tracks. if the safest alternative is to place the locomotive in the front of the passenger cars, then Metrolink should adopt this policy."
[All American Patriots, 2005/01/28]

But the rush to condemn push-pull operation raises concerns among many in the transit industry, even abroad. Bill Bolton, a Sydney engineer and consultant, questions the argument that safety is invariably enhanced by placing a locomotive on the front end of trains – particularly since "a 56 ton car is about 40% of the weight of a loco, and a definitely non-trivial weight in its own right." Bolton further challenges the notion that a heavier locomotive would have more propensity to resist derailment, pointing out that "Given the motor vehicle involved was probably about 3% or so of the weight of the passenger car, its hard to see how having a 56-ton passenger car or 140-ton loco at the front of the train would have made much difference as far as the derailment is concerned."

And would locomotives on the front end, in a derailment or other situation like this, really provide more protection for passenger coaches? Bolton questions this assumption:

Now, assuming a 4-car train ... the leading car is going to have 168 tons of other passenger cars behind it, so even if had a 140-ton loco in front of it, the buffing push force from behind by the other 3 cars in sudden deceleration is going to be substantial. Looking at it another way, the leading car in a 7-car train with a leading loco would have more weight behind it than a 4 car train with trailing loco.

As a result, Bolton concludes, "it seems to me from considering those numbers, the position of the loco is not particularly relevant factor in this accident."

Transportation engineer (and longtime public transport advocate) Ed Tennyson argues that, indeed, "The fire hazard is a worse problem with a locomotive." Tennyson cites the example of a MARC (Maryland- Washington, DC) regional rail accident of a few years ago, when the MARC train collided with an Amtrak locomotive at Silver Spring, Md. "The upgraded, supposedly impenetrable fuel tank let go and burned up passengers in the commuter train" Tennyson recounts, pointing out that Tom Rubin and other push-pull critics "would have been all wrong in the Maryland case."

"The collision did not kill them, the resulting diesel fuel fire did" notes Tennyson. "in the present LA case, diesel fire from the UP locomotive [struck by the derailed Metrolink train] might have added to the tragedy."

Also, Tennyson asks, "With locomotives on the head end, how does that help a rear-end collision where the heavy, bulldozing locomotive runs into the passenger car ahead, not even as well strengthened as a cab car?"

"With airplanes, we accept that they cannot be designed to survive a free fall out of the sky" Tennyson points out. "We justify the rare [air travel] fatalities by showing how many lives were saved by people flying aircraft every day instead of forcing them to drive autos which crash many times a day." The same safety yardstick should be applied to rail transit, including push-pull regional rail operations, he argues.

30 January 2005

More light rail tramways
instead of U-bahn expansion?

For the major German city of Frankfurt am Main, further expansion of the metro area's extensive light rail tramway (streetcar-like) system may be on the agenda, while growth of the U-bahn (subway) system (itself a light rail semi-metro system) may be put on hold. According to the January 2005 issue of Tramways & Urban Transit, consultants drafting a new general transport plan for the city have recommended reducing transportation projects and expenses, in part by eliminating some roadway proposals and de-emphasizing U-bahn (subway) projects in favor of surface tramways.

Frankfurt's legacy tramway network (dating historically from 1872) is one of the most extensive in Europe, totalling over 119 km (74 miles), of which about 56 km (35 miles) are higher-performance, semi-metro light rail (Stadtbahn, then U-bahn in the city center) and about 63 km (39 miles) are surface tramway (Strassenbahn, or streetcar system). Frankfurt has been one of the world leaders in exploiting the flexible potential of the light rail mode, relying on its capability to operate like an U-bahn (subway) in tunnels and other grade-separated alignments, in segregated alignments in the medians of major arterials (with signal-control traffic crossings), and in street reservations and even mixed traffic.

Frankfurt has consistently improved its light rail system. in late 2003, Frankfurt's transit agency inaugurated its tram route 17 over a new line to Rebstock, linking this important business district to the Messe (Fair Grounds) and Hauptbahnhof (main railway station).

The latest consultants' plan recommends continued expansions of the tramway system. Specific extensions are proposed to Höchst Bahnhof and from Schwanheim to industriepark.

NOTE: Additional information in this report has been drawn from the Light Rail Transit Association website, from, and from Jane's Urban Transport Systems (1999-2000).

27 January 2005

Light rail streetcar system planned by private firm for major development

A Bayonne, New Jersey private company is making plans to launch a small streetcar system in that community (located on New York Bay, across from New York City – and, yes. It's one of the major New Jersey mini-cities also served by the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit, or HBLRT, system). According to Doug Bowen of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP – a Light Rail Now! Project underwriter), Twenty First Century Rail Corp. Is planning the streetcar system as part of its Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor real estate development project. This project, as reported in the Jersey Journal of 13 November 2004, involves a 299-acre site heralded as "a framework for one of the largest mixed-use development in the metropolitan New York area."

According to the Jersey Journal, the streetcar system "would run up and down the Peninsula and connect back to the 34th Street and 45th Street light rail stations." Doug Bowen reports that Twenty First Century "already has moved several ex-Newark City Subway PCC vehicles [streetcars] to its HBLRT shops at Communipaw Junction in Jersey City." Doug further recounts that "The company will take at least 6 of the cars, possibly as many as 8. The cars remain owned by NJ Transit."

in addition, Doug reports, Twenty First Century is interested in some of the eleven 59-year-old PCC streetcars now available from the defunct Brooklyn Historical Railway Association project, headed by trolley fan Bob Diamond. Diamond's project to restore streetcar service in parts of Brooklyn went bust because of lack of funding, and the PCC cars up fopr donation are among the rolling stock his group had accumulated for the venture. Doug relates that the Twenty First Century firm "will attempt to obtain at least a few of these Brooklyn PCC cars for use in Bayonne, as part of the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor project."

According to Doug, Twenty First Century General Manager Al Fazio told him the streetcars "will be used in streetcar style on the peninsula, with stations spaced more closely together than HBLRT (the line itself is only 1 1/2 miles or so in length, give or take). Depending on how the actual layout plays out, this could truly be New Jersey's first streetcar revival", Doug points out.

27 January 2005

Las Vegas Monorail extension plans in doubt after FTA nixes funding

The planned 2.3-mile extension of the Las Vegas Monorail seems in grave doubt, following a decision by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) to pull the plug on requested funding for the project. According to a TV report, a spokeswoman for the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada (the agency which oversees transit development in Las Vegas) explained that "a major factor in failing to get federal money turned out to be poor ridership numbers in the first phase of the monorail." in addition to lower-than-expected ridership, the FTA cited the system's "mechanical failures" that resulted in major shutdowns. As a result, "Plans to build a downtown extension of the Las Vegas monorail have been scrapped ..." reported the KLAS-TV.
[KLAS-TV, 27 January 2005; Las Vegas Sun, 27 January 2005]

"Hopefully, someday the monorail will come downtown" Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman told a local newspaper reporter. "Unfortunately, because of the breaks they've had in the beginning, they haven't been able to demonstrate reliability to justify funding."
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 27 January 2005]

The spate of technical problems – mainly, several incidents of parts dropping off the trains and onto the ground below – did not help the system's performance, especially after it had to be shut down for several months for investigations and extensive rehabilitation. However, even before the service interruptions, ridership was well below the forecast needed for the supposedly profit-making operation promoters had promised. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, daily ridership of "around 50,000 [passenger-trips] was the target – "And strong ridership is needed to repay most of the privately funded segment's $650 million construction costs."
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 27 January 2005]

While monorail management officials had hailed ridership of about 150,000 over a period of four days during some of the resort city's heaviest conventions, including the Consumer Electronics Show, local columnist George Knapp pointed out that, in terms of average ridership, the monorail's performance still falls short. "While we're all happy that the train has ceased its nasty habit of dropping errant parts onto unsuspecting sidewalks," Knapp writes, "those passenger numbers don't seem like anything to get excited about. So the monorail averaged about 37,500 passengers during the four days of CES, eh? Didn't they tell us in the beginning that 40,000 passengers per day would be the break-even point for the train? So the monorail drew less than its break-even point during one of the biggest conventions of the year, and we're all supposed to stop the presses and throw a party?"
[Las Vegas Mercury , 20 January 2005]

Mayor Goodman told the Las Vegas Sun he "wasn't surprised" by the FTA's decision, given the system's previous problems. He pointed out that he had already begun reviewing "cheaper alternatives". "As far as I'm concerned, I wish the monorail well ... but we are not going to mourn it" Goodman added.
[Las Vegas Sun, 27 January 2005]

The RTC may revisit the monorail extension plan in the future, and could reapply for federal dollars later this year as part of the city's annual aid request. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, another option open to the RTC is to "begin working on other ways to link the existing monorail line to downtown using other means, such as express buses or light rail." And yet another option is "to walk away from an extension altogether."
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 27 January 2005]

The latest travails of the Las Vegas Monorail seem to represent an object lesson in the need for realistic expectations in public transport projects. While the monorail's current average ridership of 37,500 per day would be considered excellent for almost any new North American rail or guideway transit service, the problem in the Las Vegas monorail case seems to be unrealistically high expectations – the Las Vegas monorail has consistently been portrayed as something of a "miracle", supposedly poised to break the "norm" of subsidized transit operations by attracting so many riders (with automated operation at an unusually high fare level) that it would make a "profit" and pay for its ongoing operational costs, plus paying back its private investors. This ambitious scenario, however, required ongoing revenues from ridership of over 53,000 per day (the monorail's management has lately been citing a lower figure of 40,000, but it's unclear what exactly this would cover).

in their crusade to disparage light rail and other forms of standard-rail public transit – especially modes operating on the surface – monorail enthusiasts have repeatedly brandished the Las Vegas monorail as an example of a technology with some kind of miraculous capability. Meanwhile, many experienced transportation professionals have consistently voiced skepticism. Now, it appears, what would otherwise be regarded as, indeed, a phenomenal success in terms of ridership and high revenue, is being branded a failure. This is unfortunate, but it seems to represent an example of what happens when enthusiasm eclipses reality.

NOTE: Some material for this report was adapted, in part, from postings of the Public Transport Progress E-mail distribution list and the Austin-Bikes online discussion list.

More on Monorails

More on Las Vegas Public Transport

26 January 2005

Light rail's success prompts huge increase in public transport investment

Calgary's transit services have been booming, with ridership virtually exploding since the advent of light rail transit (LRT) in the early 1980s, and its subsequent expansion. So, is ridership reaching crushload levels?

A Calgary correspondent reports that the south and northwest LRT lines, and bus routes along several corridors (in particular, Centre St. North, which isn't served by LRT) are carrying extremely heavy volumes of traffic.

According to Calgary Transit's website, for the most recent fully reported year (2003), the average number of boarding passenger-trips per day was 181,219.

This breaks down by line as follows

· South – 75,800
· Northwest – 65,300
· Northeast – 52,300
· Downtown (free fare zone) – 22,800

(Note: These ridership numbers predate the Somerset-Bridlewood extension.) See:

Our correspondent points out that "One of the projects on Calgary Transit's 'wish list' is to start using 4-car (100-metre long) trains. The newest platforms, at Somerset-Bridlewood and Shawnessy, are already 4 cars long."

Calgary Transit released a Calgary Transit 20 Year Capital Plan in November 2003, and revised it in February 2004. The plan is nicely summarized on the LRT in Calgary web page at the following URL:

Our correspondent notes that "This list was made before the $1 billion funding announcement by Alberta's premier, so more of these projects will now have funding."

Apparently, the tremendous success of LRT is prompting Calgary decision-makers to significantly increase their commitment to public transport investment. On 8 November 2004, Calgary's city council approved a "fast-track" plan for what the CBC called a "massive upgrade that will see 33 new cars added to the network as well as an extension out to Stoney Trail." The report noted that "The upgrade will be financed by a $1.3 billion provincial grant earmarked for Calgary's infrastructure."
[CBC, 9 Nov. 2004]

Another Calgary correspondent reports that "This is an election promise, but the party in power is highly likely to remain in power and the money is available from high oil and gas revenues. ... From recent comments by our mayor, transit projects will take up the bulk of the funding."

Included in the expansion program are the following:

· Purchase 33 LRT cars, C$114 million.
· Bring forward northeast LRT extension to 2007 from 2010, C$10 million (this project was originally scheduled for completion in 2007).
· Complete northwest LRT extension to Crowfoot Centre, C$154 million.
· Rebuild 7th Ave. C-Train (LRT) platforms to accommodate four cars, C$60 million.
· Rebuild south LRT platforms – expand to accommodate four cars (including stations at Victoria Park/Stampede, Erlton/Stampede, 39th Ave., Chinook, Heritage, Southland, Anderson, Canyon Meadows & Fish Creek-Lacombe), C$16 million.
· Purchase 70 buses, C$28 million.
· Purchase 75 community shuttles, C$6 million.
· Purchase 36 articulated buses, C$27.2 million.

All in all, these developments seem to attest to tremendous local enthusiasm for, and confidence in, Calgary's transit system – particularly its LRT system. in demonstrating high levels of cost-effectiveness, passenger attraction, and public support, Calgary's LRT is an excellent model of some of the most positive attributes of rail transit.

More on Calgary Rail Transit

25 January 2005

Las Vegas Monorail:
More technical limitations coming to light?

Problems or limitations of the Las Vegas monorail continue to emerge. A report from a correspondent in Calfornia relates what seem to be serious operational and capacity problems, from the perspective of a passenger:

i recently returned from Las Vegas where i rode the monorail from the Convention Center Station to the Flamingo Station. The wait was over an hour, and once you entered the first escalator you could not escape the system.

The trains operated at 8 to 10 minute spacing, i guess due to the computer or lack of cars, but the system was way overtaxed. The system shut down for about 15 minutes – i think due to a door not working properly.

The stations are long enough for 2-car trains, but they were only running single-car trains. They did have attendants to help with the crush crowds. After boarding the train [i noted that] the cars were at maximum capacity. The car cabins are very small – maybe only seating for 20 or so. The ride was very slow and very bumpy. Overall, the experience was very unsatisfactory for me, and i would think most of the other riders.

i will try it again in an off-peak time of the day, but i will not use it again for transportation ... which is not much of a problem, since it goes to very few useful places. It is a poor amusement park ride with little ability to provide any kind of real-world transit service. I guess for Disneyland and Las Vegas, the monorail is OK as part of the entertainment. But as a way of moving people for transit, it is a total failure. A 1910 trolley would do much better.

(We note that the Light Rail Now! publication team continue to believe that the monorail is probably suitable and potentially efficient technology for its main function as a casino-to-casino and recreational shuttle. However, as we have noted, there appear to be serious design drawbacks, including capacity limitations, in the specific installation.)

A 13 January 2005 article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal titled "MONORAiL RiDERSHiP: CES numbers cheer officials – Convention was major test for reopened line" reported that the monorail's management was pleased with ridership of about 150,000 experienced over the four days of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the nation's largest vendor conventions. However, Las Vegas experienced unusually severe weather during that period, including high levels of rainfall, which apparently affected monorail operations:

The article quotes monorail spokesman Todd Walker, who reportedly "believes last week's ridership would have been stronger if not for the rain that plagued much of the show and the monorail's recent restart." it goes on to report that "Monorail trains must run slower during rainy times, and that in turn cuts into the system's capacity of 6,400 riders per hour. "

"There's no question there was a demand for additional capacity" Walker told the newspaper reporter. "We could have handled more capacity" if not for the rain, he asserted.

This astonishes a correspondent from Minneapolis, who raises questions about the limitations of an automated rubber-tired system in what are rather ordinary inclement weather conditions:

A fully-automated, modern transportation method that can't operate at normal system speeds because it's raining? That blows me away. I don't think I've ever heard such a statement before, about any form of transportation. ... I'm sure that Seattle would like to know about this situation, considering the length of line they are proposing to build, because that would affect a tremendous number of people over much longer distances. As well, it should affect the thinking of others who are proposing such a system. And what about the fact that there is insufficient equipment to handle any more than normal loading, and possibly not even that during wet weather during the wet weather? This raises some serious questions in my mind.

We must note that other "guided" technologies, including standard-rail systems, also have experienced problems in some weather conditions – although even severe rain does not normally slow the operation of steel-wheel systems. Houston's new MetroRail surface light rail line has experienced occasional disruption from street flooding.

However, one of the advantages touted for grade-separated systems, including elevated monorails, is that they are immune from such disruptions. The recent Las Vegas Monorail experience does seem to raise issues regarding the technical adequacy of such a rubber-tired transit technology in very wet or otherwise slippery weather conditions.

More on Monorails

More on Las Vegas Public Transport

14 January 2005

More light rail cars ordered to meet strong ridership demand

Ridership on Minneapolis's brand-new Hiawatha corridor light rail transit (LRT) project has been soaring – so much so, that Metro Transit, the public transport agency, has been exploring measures to accommodate the increased demand. Procuring additional rolling stock is one, readily available method.

According to Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb, even just one more additional LRT car (light rail vehicle, or LRV) would help the agency cope with the higher-than-expected ridership as well as address increasing maintenance demands. The Hiawatha Line needs 22 cars during rush hours, leaving only two spares, Lamb told the Minneapolis Star Tribune (5 January 2005).

So, on Wednesday, January 12th, Minneapolis's Metro Council voted to purchase three more LRVs from the original vendor, Bombardier. According to a report from Minneapolis engineer and longtime LRT advocate George isaacs, "As expected four members voted against it. Money for two of the three vehicles is embedded in the 37 million bonding for the Northstar commuter line between Minneapolis and Big Lake Minnesota. The purchase will bring the total to 27 of which 24 are on hand."

More on Minneapolis Rail Transit

14 January 2005

Standard-rail "light metro" vs. monorail...
Capital cost reality check

Monorail vendors and enthusiasts frequently claim that, for equivalent capacity and configurations, monorails are significantly cheaper to construct than standard two-rail rapid transit systems. Usually it's difficult to impossible to resolve the monorail vs. standard-rail cost argument, but two somewhat similar standard rail rapid transit and monorail projects in the urban area of Dubai, capital of the United Arab Emirates, may at least add further fuel to this ongoing argument.

According to recent reports, Dubai is accepting bids for constructing an automated rail rapid transit system (euphemistically dubbed the Dubai Light Rail Transit project, although it's actually more of an automated light metro). The "Dubai Light Rail Network" will consist of two lines, according to a September 2004 report:
[Daily Star , 13 September 2004 ]

· The Red Line will initially run from close to al-Ghurair Center to the American University of Dubai though BurJuman and Sheikh Zayed Road, and will progressively be extended to Jebel Ali Port in the south and the intersection of al-Nahda and Damascus roads through al-Qiyadah intersection in the north.

· The Green Line will initially run from close to Dubai Municipality to Rashidiya bus station through Deira City Center and the Airport Terminals 1 and 3, and will progressively be extended to serve the Deira and Bur Dubai central areas and Souks up to BurJuman and Wafi shopping centres.

initial reports stated the two lines "will total nearly 70 kilometers [43 miles], with 35 stations along the 50- kilometer-long [31-mile] Red Line, and 22 along the 20-kilometer-long [12-mile] Green Line." Two transfer stations, located at al-ittihad Square and BurJuman, are planned to be common to both lines. "in total, the Dubai Light Rail System will include 55 stations, 18 kilometers of tunnels, 51 kilometers of viaduct, one major train depot and maintenance facilities site and several auxiliary stabling facilities. The total fleet size will be slightly in excess of 100 trains" states the report, which also notes that once it's in full operation, the "Dubai Metro System" is projected to carry approximately 1.2 million passenger boardings on an average day, and 355 million passenger-trips per year.
[Daily Star , 13 September 2004 ]

A more recent report refers to a total of 67 km [41.5 miles] of route, with a first phase stretching 35 km from Rashidiya to the American University in Dubai (scheduled to be completed in May 2009), and a second phase extending some 32 km [20 miles] from the American University to Jebel Ali, plus a second line to be constructed from Dubai international Airport to Dubai Medical City (projected for completion by 2012). The system is expected to have capacity to transport more than 23,000 passengers per hour.
[AME info, 10 January 2005]

The total estimated cost of the project now tendered is Dh12.5 billion, or about $3.4 billion. This calculates to a cost of about $50 million per km, or about $81 million per mile, for the predominantly elevated system. Apparently, there has been no dearth of potential suppliers – for the project's electro-mechanical systems alone, five international consortia have emerged with bids.
[AME info, 10 January 2005; 11 January 2005]

Concomitantly, Dubai also seems to be proceeding to take bids on a 5.6-km (3.4-mile) monorail project for the city's "prestigious" Palm Jumeirah project., located in "a luxurious residential area which includes a marina and seven world-class hotels on a piece of land that is shaped like a palm tree", according to a news report from the Business Times of Malaysia.
[Business Times, 13 January 2005]

"Under the monorail contract, the successful bidder will be required to supply up to 5 three-car trains as well as build the tracks on which the trains will run" reports the Business Times, which also notes that the project’s US$1.2 billion price tag "is a result of the very high specifications laid out by the Dubai municipality." This would calculate to a cost of about $214 million per km, or $353 million per mile. Currently, only two bidders have emerged: MTrans of Malaysia (vendor and operator of the Kuala Lumpur monorail) and the Japanese firm Hitachi, which has been aggressively marketing its monorail technology mainly to Third World cities.
[Business Times, 13 January 2005]

On the basis of this report, the monorail project would appear to have a unit cost more than four times that of the rapid rail (light metro) project. However, we have not seen all the details of either project, so we caution against drawing conclusions too precisely. Nevertheless, the available information does not seem to bode well for monorail promoters' portrayals of the breathtaking capital cost savings which monorail technology can provide compared to similar standard-rail rapid transit.

More on Monorails

13 January 2005

New York City MTA's photo ban plans spark firestorm of protest

As we reported earlier (see New York City transit tops move toward criminalizing transit photography), the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York City recently resurrected a proposal to outlaw photography on the city's subways and other transit systems (except for certified "press" representatives holding police-issued iD cards, or officially approved "authorized" agents). This sinister clampdown on free expression, professional transit-industry photography, and the traditional, historic photographic documenation of the evolution of the city's legendary system has unleashed a veritable firestorm of protest, uniting a wide range of photographers, transit industry professionals, avocational fans of railways and transit, civil libertarians, and others. A final decision from the MTA on this repressive proposal is expected imminently.

One of the organizations opposing the ban, the group maintaining the pro-transit website, cites a number of examples of individuals and organizations opposing the ban, including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. According to a New York Daily News article (22 May 2004), Dunn called the photo ban "grossly excessive", adding, "There is no reason a tourist taking a snapshot in a subway car should be interrogated by the police or face the prospect of being taken into custody."
[, 2005/01/11] also points out that two photo contests have been launched in formal "protest" of the MTA ban. These are the Straphanger's Campaign Contest and the Village Voice Contest . Further information is available of the site:

Other interests and professions impacted by the proposed ban have added their protests. One of these is in a commentary posted January 8th, CEO Angelo Sotira underscores, "We cannot stand by while there is such a blatant strike on artistic freedom." He added, "While deviantART sympathizes with the desire to improve security in New York, this attempt is totally misguided and unfairly targets artists. Will they try to ban photography in Times Square? it's a slippery slope. When will it stop?"

The group further notes that "Photography comprises the largest group of artists participating on, which currently hosts artwork by over 1.1 million artists across the globe. The reaction of the online community to the proposed ban has been unified – alarm, disgust, anger and disappointment – and has been channeled by the website's executive staff into the Global Subway Photography Contest. The contest, launched less than a month ago, encouraged deviantART photographers to get into mass transit and submit photos for delivery to New York authorities. Thousands of photos have already been submitted for the silent protest."

"Our subways are an important part of urban culture, and this contest celebrates that fact" declared Eric Kolb, Director of Artist Relations. "We wanted to bring artists from around the world together to express their love for these underground marvels in the way they're best able. These photos serve as a clear and unambiguous indication that there is a great deal to be lost if the MTA adopts these rules banning photography and video photography."

The proposed photo ban has elicited a similar outpouring of opposition from a very wide range of affected invididuals and groups. Below we provide a small sampling.

Stefan Mashkevich, posting of 2005/01/08 to an online tramways dicussion group:

i strongly believe that this ban is totally stupid, ineffective, and constitutes "handwaving", or false self-convincing that "measures are being taken", rather than a real step towards improving security. In fact, one can argue that it will have a *negative* impact, as police officers will have to spend their time dealing with people taking pictures – time which will thus be unavailable for addressing real threats.

Stefan Mashkevich, letter of 2005/01/08 to MTA:

These days, it seems that the words "in the need of security" have become pretty much a wildcard; as long as they are pronounced, that is supposed to be the end of discussion. Is the restriction reasonable? Will it actually promote security? You should not be even asking!

First and foremost, photo technology has been advanced to such extent that taking pictures without being noticed is more than easy these days. Photo cameras built into cellular phones are but the simplest example. Consequently, your ban is, in effect, not enforceable. More precisely, if there are any people with malicious intentions out there, they will be carrying out those intentions with ease, against the background of your Authority's bragging about its "efforts on fighting terrorism" in terms of numbers of tourists or rail fans caught for taking pictures.

Second, there is already a huge amount of subway pictures existing and available for anyone to look at and use in any way. If you seriously believe that new pictures pose a threat to security, you have to make the same conclusion with respect to old ones, because objects depicted there remain in place, for the most part. Since i doubt that you can declare those old pictures illegal, the "effect" of your ban is severely undermined by their presence.

Last but not least, there will obviously be people who *will* be taking pictures – be it out of negligence, out of spite, or because they have the legal right to do so as per your own rules. Those people will be approached by police officers, questioned, sometimes convicted. Time and effort being wasted on such so-called law-enforcement activity will mean that police will not be able to pay as much attention to real security threats, or plain crime, on the subway (or elsewhere)

Bob Atkins, article posted Jan. 2005 on

if a photography ban seemed likely to be effective in preventing terrorist activity, then maybe such a restriction on photography would be a reasonable measure, but i don't think that's the case. Today lots of devices contain cameras, from cell phones to PDAs to MP3 players. Unless all of these are banned too, the effect of a ban on "photography" will simply mean that anyone with questionable motives for taking pictures in the subway will simply use a device that doesn't look like a camera. The only people who will really be affected by the ban will be tourists and serious street photographers.

NYPiRG Straphangers Campaign, "Statement on Proposed Rules of Conduct for New York City Subway and Bus Riders", Tuesday, 30 November 2004:

We object to the proposed rule that would completely ban taking photographs, film or video in the subways and on buses with limited exceptions. We respect the need for security in the transit system, but believe that there are important values in having photographers document life and conditions on the subways and buses.

The Campaign notes that in this year of the subway centennial, the MTA itself has sponsored an exhibition of photographic images "offering a peek into the lives of New Yorkers throughout the decades, from quiet moments reading on a crowded train to grandstanding youths on an elevated platform." Photographers in the MTA-sponsored exhibition include Bruce Davidson and Henri Cartier-Bresson. (See MTA News Release here.)


The proposed rule provides two exceptions that raise serious First Amendment issues of favoring one kind of expression over another. The rule would permit photographs by "members of the press holding valid identification cards issued by the New York City Police Department" or "where written authorization has been provided by NYCTA." No standards are detailed in the proposed rules for issuing such authorizations.

Margaret Cho's Blog, 2004/07/09:

Outlawing photography seems to be one of the knee-jerk reactions of many institutions concerned about “security” issues these days. If I thought this proposal would increase safety in the subway one bit, I might have some sympathy for it. But cameras are so ubiquitous, and come in so many sizes and formats that it would be impossible to stop someone from sneaking a photo of the transit system for nefarious purposes. And why would they need to take a picture anyway? What vital information could a terrorist gain from a grainy cell phone picture that they couldn’t get from the subway maps available on every corner? The only people that would be hurt by a photography ban are tourists and photographers documenting life in this essential part of New York City. What is the real motivation behind this proposed photo ban?, 2005/01/11:

The madness doesn't just extend to New York City. New Jersey Transit has also enacted such a ban, even so far as having police detain and question people taking photos of NJT trains from PUBLiC STREETS. No trespassing was involved, no laws were broken. This has affected regular users of this very web site. Was their camera taken? No. Were they arrested? No. Charged? No. So, no harm no foul right? Well, if you consider being taken into custody, deprived due process and Miranda rights, interviewed by local terrorism agents, "all right". ...

An interesting unanswered question is: "Why prevent only NEW photography?" is this a prelude to even more bans, this time on web sites? includes over 11,000 photos of the subway lines, past and present, and over 17,000 more of transit systems worldwide. Should these be considered historical documents or a source of information to terrorists? Webmasters and contributors could even be labeled terrorist facilitators. Even the Library of Congress has close up, detailed photos of key structures and bridges, "soft targets". Will there be attempts to censor the Library of Congress? Permitting a ban on NEW photography is another step toward removal of ALL of these websites, in the name of "security".

7 January 2005

Melbourne's light rail tramway opens Docklands extension

On Tuesday, 4 January, the Docklands extension of Melbourne's extensive (and legendary) light rail tramway system was opened, as the construction of approximately one kilometer (0.6 mile) of dual tramway track was completed, expanding the network into the city's Docklands precinct. Trackage and overhead contact system (OCS) were installed from La Trobe Street along Harbour Esplanade and down Docklands Drive to Central City Studios. Tram services are scheduled every four to five minutes at peak times.
[Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 4 January 2005]

At a total cost of A$7.5 million, the unit cost calculates to US$5.7 million per km, or about $9.2 million per mile – certainly, a bargain price for a fast, more attractive, high-quality mode of public transport.
[Yarra Trams website, 20 August 2004; LRN calculations]

Melbourne has the third largest light rail tramway network in the world with 245 kilometers (about 152 miles) of double track and 1,770 tram stops spread across the entire tram network, including 17 "Superstops" constructed since 1999 for disabled or mobility-impaired passengers. With nearly 500 trams available, running on 31 major routes, Melbourne's tramway system (currently operated under contract by Yarra Trams) carried some 141 million rider-trips in 2002-2003.
[Yarra Trams website, January 2005]

in addition to the tramway network, and an extensive system of buses, Melbourne also operates 338 km (about 210 miles) of electrified regional rail services on 15 routes with 197 stations. The regional rail system, serving suburb-to-city-center travel, is also privately contracted to Connex. Running in subway through Melbourne's CBD, the system has the "feel" of a rail rapid transit metro.
[Jane's Urban Transport Systems, 1999-2000]

The combination of higher-speed regional rail for suburban services and swift, high-quality electric light rail for efficient, cost-effective, and attractive inner-city public transport connections, is a formula that works not just in Melbourne but as well in many other cities with particularly successful transit.

NOTE: Some material in this report was adapted, with permission, from the Public Transport Progress news distribution list.

4 January 2005

Portland's TriMet transit service continues to break ridership records

Portland, Oregon's light rail transit (LRT) and bus system, operated by its transit agency, TriMet, continues to shine as one of the outstanding urban public transit success stories in North America. Having already broken monthly ridership records several months this fiscal year (which ends next June 30th), TriMet seems well on its way to achieving ridership growth for the 16th year in a row. For TriMet, which was formed by absorbing the failing private transit operator Rose City Transit in December 1969, this is now its 35th anniversary.
[TriMet News & info, 27 December 2004]

in November, TriMet's ridership growth occurred on both MAX LRT and bus service, with TriMet's sixteen Frequent Service bus lines leading ridership gains. Frequent Service lines – basically, a Quality Bus (aka "BRT") service offering headways of 15 minutes or less, top-quality rolling stock, shelter displays and other bus stop amenities, and signal priority and special roadway improvements to improve running time – now carry 56 percent of all bus ridership, up 20.3 percent from just a year ago. Regular bus service posted a 4.4 percent gain compared to a year ago.

in weekday ridership, the MAX LRT system – overall, the transit system's star performer since its installation in 1986 – continued to register impressive gains, increasing by another 20 percent, to an average of 96,000 rider-trips each weekday. This increase included the new ridership on the Yellow Line, which opened in May of last year. (See Portland: interstate MAX Yellow Line opens ahead of schedule and under budget.)

Another big winner was the new light rail ridership to Portland's airport. MAX Red Line daily boardings and deboardings at Portland international Airport averaged 2,700 for a 16 percent increase. (See Portland: Airport MAX a Big Hit.)

Overall, the unrelenting, blazing success of Portland's public transport system seems to offer some of the strongest evidence in the USA of the payoff possible from investment in high-performance rail transit as well as reliable bus operations and Quality Bus services.

More on Portland Rail Transit

4 January 2005

Seattle and Las Vegas monorails reopen

Both the (old) Seattle monorail and (new) Las Vegas monorail have finally reopened for public operation after being out of service because of technical problems.

The Seattle monorail, a "classic" Alweg beam-straddling model installed in 1962, was shut down after a fire on Memorial Day, 31 May 2004. Normally, the service runs two cars, or trainsets, a "Red Train" and "Blue Train", in a point-to-point shuttle operation on separate beamways. However, on 31 May an electrical fire was triggered by breaking driveshafts, disabling one of the trainsets and forcing the evacuation of 150 passengers, most of them with help from firemen. After the fire, the city shut down both trainsets, and an investigation and overhaul ensued.
[Seattle Post-intelligencer, 13 August 2004]

During the overhaul, the trainsets' electrical systems were modified to eliminate the possibility for the type of electrical arcing that led to the "Blue Train" fire. A "hot body" detector and new grounding system were installed, and workers made sure the trainset floors and walls would be fire-resistant enough to allow safe evacuation of passengers. in addition, trainset gearboxes (one of which had been shattered shortly before the fire started) were insulated.
[Seattle Post-intelligencer, 13 August 2004]

There had been previous fires on the system, as well as a crash and at least one incidence of a tire detaching and falling to the ground below. However, the 31 May fire was the worst incident in recent years. Fortunately, no-one has been reported hurt in any of these incidents.

On 16 December 2004, the monorail system was able to reopen with at least partial service, since overhaul and retrofitting of the "Red Line" trainset had been completed. However, work on the "Blue Line" trainset is still under way, with completion (and full operation) expected sometime this spring.
[Seattle Post-intelligencer, 17 December 2004]

in Las Vegas, the brand-new privately financed monorail, using Bombardier's proprietary straddle-beam M-Vi technology, was shut down this past September after a number of malfunctions and incidents, the most serious of which was dropping parts from the trainsets (earning the system the moniker of the "Las Vegas Monofail"). (See Las Vegas Monorail shut down.) After an examination by a firm specializing in disaster investigations, followed by a major overhaul and partial rebuild of the rolling stock, prolonged "commissioning" (in effect, reliability testing) was carried out in mid-December. The system was finally allowed to reopen to the public on 24 December, ending the 107-day shutdown, during which fare losses are estimated to have totalled more than $9 million.
[Business Wire, 27 December 2004]

Ron Lynn, head of the Clark County Department of Development Services' Building Division (which regulates the monorail) issued a certificate allowing 30 days of monorail service pending further review. in addition, the monorail management was given six months to resolve "nearly two dozen minor outstanding issues", according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 24 December 2004]

The Las Vegas Monorail's travails have made it a favorite target of local humor. One local columnist, George Knapp, dubbed it "the debacle of the year in Southern Nevada" which had "provided moments of much-needed comic relief by starting up, then shutting down, starting up, then shutting down again, all the while raining pieces-parts like a mechanical McNugget."
[Las Vegas Mercury, 22 December 2004]

"When Strip tourists hear a familiar metallic clatter, it used to mean someone had hit a jackpot" wrote John L. Smith, another heartless critic . "Nowadays, it's the sound of another part falling off the Las Vegas Monorail." Smith also awarded it the No. 1 spot in his tally of the "worst stories" of 2004, and suggested that, if the monorail continued to have problems, it could be converted into a "Regional Justice Center".
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 15 December 2004; 26 December 2004]

But these relentless attacks aside, free fares helped lure thousands back onto the monorail upon its reopening. About 33,000 rider-trips were carried on Christmas Eve, the day the system reopened, and a whopping 45,000 on Christmas Day –10,000 more than the monorail system had ever previously handled on a single day since its original opening in July.
[Las Vegas Mercury, 28 December 2004]

intense traffic congestion and a total shutdown of the Las Vegas strip then further improved the attractiveness of the monorail over the New Year's celebration period. Even with the full fare in effect, the system is estimated to have carried about 50,000 rider-trips from 08:00 New Year's Eve to 03:00 New Year's Day and 40,000 from 08:00 New Year's Day to 02:00 Sunday, the next day. These numbers were tallied despite a brief shutdown of the monorail, as planned, between 23:45 New Year's Eve to about 00:15 New Year's Day, during the fireworks show.
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4 January 2005]

However, limitations of the small capacity of the trainsets apparently began to become evident during these high-traffic conditions (see our discussion of this in Las Vegas Monorail: Troublesome Technology in a Unique "Niche" Application). "At times, trains that were packed with passengers and unable to take on more bypassed some mid-Strip stops" reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4 January 2005]

Monorail officials are hoping the system will average just over than 40,000 daily rider-trips on a typical day. With a nominal $3.00 fare (for up to a 4-mile ride), this level is needed for the privately owned system to pay its ongoing costs. So far, the Las Vegas Monorail management have declined to divulge what the average has been over the extra-heavy holiday period.
[Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4 January 2005]

More on Monorails

3 January 2005

Curitiba (Brazil) now plans a "Light Metro" to replace "BRT" in a major corridor

The unusual "Bus Rapid Transit"/busway system in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba continues to be enthusiastically hailed by many rail transit opponents – and by some of the transit industry's major players, including the Federal Transit Administration – as a pre-eminent mass transit "role model", a somewhat oxymoronic "surface subway on rubber tires" which supposedly proves that buses can be "just like rail, but cheaper". The major thrust of this promotional campaign, of course, has been to supposedly demonstrate that "buses can do it all" – i.e., that an all-bus "Bus Rapid Transit" system can render the capacity and performance characteristics normally ascribed to rail transit modes, including "heavy" metros (rail rapid transit) and light rail transit (LRT). As our article Neal Peirce on Curitiba's "Bus Rapid Transit": Blind Naiveté Gets Taken for a (Bus) Ride notes, "From city leaders to journalists, a cavalcade of gullible onlookers have been conveyed down to Curitiba and given the official promotional tour – raising suspicions as to whether Curitiba has been deliberately fashioned as a market showcase for Brazilian buses and other transportation products."

This and other articles on our "Bus Rapid Transit" page enumerate the array of highly atypical conditions which have led to the development of the Curitba "BRT" system, and have fostered what success it has enjoyed. First and foremost, surely, are the almost unbelievable levels of passenger crowding (passenger compaction?) which have characterized Curitiba's "BRT" operations and contributed to the system's high peak ridership and ostensible capacity figures. Such ultra-crush-load levels of crowding would simply be intolerable in North America, and, indeed, in most other advanced industrial countries with widespread popular access to transport by personal motor vehicles and other alternatives to mass transit.

in Curitiba also, entire city streets, originally built for general traffic, were consigned to exclusive use by the transit buses – an extremely unlikely prospect for North American cities. Likewise, in forcing development to cluster around the transit arterials, Curitba has been able to take advantage of draconian land-use controls – certainly, an unlikely policy in the USA. And downtown parking in Curitba has been either totally banned or made so expensive via municipal fees that it is effectively prohibited for most motorists – thus making the local bus and "BRT" system the only realistic alternative for almost anyone travelling along the major state-designated development corridors and among the major residential, employment, and shopping centers. The likelihood of American cities enacting such a measure is also remote.

Nevertheless, such unique and anomalous features have not deterred motor vehicle transport supporters from using the Curitiba example in their relentless campaign to attack rail transit and promote "BRT" as a substitute. Now, however, changes in circumstances in Curitiba seem to be diminishing the strength of the case for "BRT über alles".

Despite the government's measures to promote ridership, and their vigorous promotion of the "BRT" system, for a number of years there have been indications that the success of Curitiba's "BRT" operation is not quite as unequivocal as some promoters have portrayed. For example, capacity problems on some of the "BRT" routes have prompted planners to consider whether they should be upgraded to some form of guided or rail transit.

Accordingly, Curitiba's decisionmakers and planners started eyeing possible alternatives to their much-vaunted "BRT" for some of the city's corridors. One of the most promising was a plan unveiled in 1998 for a 15-km (9-mi), US$1.2 billion subway beneath Curitiba's two busiest busways. However, at $80 million/km ($133 million/mile), the cost of a "heavy" metro (subway) apparently gave Curitba planners and officials a severe case of sticker shock.
[ website, 13 Dec. 2004]

Next, planners turned to monorail technology as a possibly cheaper and viable public transport alternative for their heavier corridors. The June 2001 issue of international Railway Journal reported that Curitiba was planning a 30-km (19-mile) monorail system "to complement its bus network." According to this report, planning for a route following federal highway BR-116 had advanced to a fairly deep level of detail: "The US$390 million first phase will be 13.9-km [8.6 miles] long on a south-west to north-east alignment. Demand is expected to be 35 000 to 40 000 passengers/hr with 2.5-minute headways."

At $28 million per km ($45 million per mile), at least in Third World prices, the monorail seemed more within reach. But, alas, the monorail scheme, too, collapsed – in this case, because the Japanese banks that were to provide 80% of the funding divulged that they no longer had the money to risk. On 21 August 2002, Curitiba's mayor announced that a reserved-lane busway would be built instead – marking the city's fourth rail or guideway project to be shelved in the previous 24 years
[Tramways & Urban Transit, October 2002]

Now, reports the website (Dec 2004), Curitiba may have at last turned to the obvious – light railway technology – with apparently serious plans to construct a "light metro". The website relates that Curitiba's Mayor Cássio Taniguchi announced on 15 July 2003 that a 19.5-km (12.1- mile) Metrô Leve ("Light Metro") line, evidently using light rail transit (LRT) technology, would be installed along the Eixo Norte-Sul (North-South Axis), replacing the bi-articulated buses which currently provide public transport on the busway. explains that Curitiba's north-south “structural axis” extends between Santa Cândida and Pinheirinho via the city center. "This received Curitiba’s first canaleta or busway, completed in 1974. Four-axle ônibuses biarticulados (bi-articulated buses, or biarticulados) replaced smaller vehicles in 1995. The stated reason for building LRT was that busway services are at the limit of capacity and cannot accommodate additional traffic."

The website further reports that the new Metrô Leve is planned to have 23 intermediate stations, and to serve eight interchange terminals. "Each vehicle would have a capacity of 450 passengers, compared to 270 passengers per biarticulado [bus]. The railcars will presumably be built for high-platform loading, as are the biarticulados."

According to, the current Metrô Leve project is estimated to cost US$291 million, about $15 million per km ($24 million per mile). Certainly, that's significantly less than the previous metro plan and about half the unit cost of the monorail. Thus, it's substantially more affordable.

A World Bank loan of $174 million would fund 60 percent of the project cost. As the website article reports, "The Brazilian federal Ministry of Transport would pay $48 million (16 percent) and the Curitiba municipal government would pay US$ 28 million (10 percent). The remaining $48 million, for vehicle purchase, would be provided by private investors who would also operate the system."

Following environmental and engineering studies, public hearings, and the finalizing of agreements for financing, the city would begin construction this year (2005). Construction is anticipated to span four years.

Curitiba's newly-elected mayor, José Alberto (“Beto”) Richa, indicates support for the Metrô Leve project. In November 2004, Richa announced his intention to implement the project (described as “already approved“) during the “coming year.“ The incoming administration also intends to conduct a public debate on the future of transit in Curitiba, as reported in Gazeta do Povo, "Prefeito deixa legado de projetos para o transporte coletivo", 14 November 2004.

As its information source on the "light metro" project, cites a Portuguese-language article in Bondenews, "Curitiba poderá ter metrô leve nas canaletas de ônibus", 17 July 2003:¬icia_id=664&data_AAAAMMDD=20030717 . also references "a link to this story on the Curitiba page of Allen Morrison’s 'Electric Transport in Latin America' website...." The URL for this is:

"We could find no evidence online that this story was reported through English-language channels", notes

The original article can be viewed on the website at:

More on Curitiba and "Bus Rapid Transit"

1 January 2005

Tsunami disaster in South Asia
(Relief agencies listed below)

There are times when spectacular or monstrous events intervene to overwhelm the normally predominant, important, and familiar concerns of our everyday interests and activities, usurping our passions and, at times, wrenching our hearts. Such is the case with the terrifying tsunami disaster which has victimized millions of our fellow human beings in at least a dozen nations of the indian Ocean region.

Certainly, our most profound sorrow, sympathy, and compassion flow out to all those who have been engulfed by the horrors and tragedies of this unprecedented sweep of catastrophe.

The needed level of aid for relief and reconstruction surely amounts to, at minimum, tens of billions, perhaps hundreds of billions, of dollars in value. in addition to the appalling loss of human life, and injury and displacement of untold thousands, perhaps millions, of human beings, giant chunks of national economic and societal functioning have been obliterated – homes and living quarters; businesses and other productive enterprises; roads, railways, mass transport systems and other critical public infrastructure; hospitals and other health-care facilities; distribution systems for food and other necessities ... the list goes on and on of basic necessities of modern civilized life which have been destroyed.

Overwhelmingly, this disaster seems to highlight the role and efficacy of social and governmental institutions – not only in rendering rescue, aid, relief, and, potentially, reconstruction, but also in establishing adequate warning systems which hopefully could save future lives. By and large, these often are the same enterprises which take the risk and effort to install critical public infrastructure – including roadways, railways, navigable waterways, air transport, facilities, public transport and rail transit systems, and so many other essential services and facilities..

it's in times of such disasters, and such heartbreaking human miseries and tragedies, that we are particularly brought to understand how we are all part of a highly socially interdependent human family, scattered precariously across our planet, all in our own way having critical needs that must be addressed via social and publicly based mechanisms. Undoubtedly, our vulnerability to such capriciously meted natural calamities is also an intrinsic and inexorable aspect of our human condition. But, then, perhaps, so also is our capability to learn important lessons from these terrible events – including a sense of the depth of our common human bond, and a testament to the intrepid strength of the human spirit of those who are immersed in such horror and devastation and heartbreak, and yet manage somehow to persevere.

it's these thoughts that we'll carry with us as we transition into another New Year in the collective saga of our species.

Light Rail Now! Production Team

international Aid Agencies

The following list of selected agencies accepting contributions for aid to people affected by the South Asia tsunami disaster was gathered and published originally in the New York Times. Click on the links below to visit an individual organization, or visit Network for Good to donate to multiple organizations.

247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201
New York, N.Y. 10018
 212-967-7800 x108

45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10018

Box 321
847A Second Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017
212-687-6200 ext. 851

AFSC Crisis Fund
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, Pa. 19102

international Response Fund
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, D.C. 20013

151 Ellis Street
Atlanta, GA 30303

Tsunami Emergency
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, Md. 21203-7090

27 South La Patera Lane
Santa Barbara, Calif. 93117

P.O. Box 1856
Merrifield, Va. 22116-8056

Emergency Fund
P. O. Box 12043
Newark, NJ 07101


Earthquake/Tsunami Relief
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 300
Santa Monica, Calif. 90404

Asia Disaster Response
P.O. Box 630225
Baltimore, MD 21263-0225

P.O. Box 5058
Hagerstown, MD 21741-9874
877-REFUGEE or 733-8433

Southeast Asia Earthquake Emergency
P.O. Box 6098
Burbank, Calif. 91510

700 Light Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Southeast Asia Earthquake Response
Dept. W
P.O. Box 2669
Portland, Ore. 97208


8320 Melrose Avenue, Suite 200
Los Angles, Calif. 90069

Donor Services Department
26 West Street
Boston, MA 12111-1206

Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund
54 Wilton Road
Westport, Conn. 06880

General Emergency Fund
333 E. 38th Street
New York, NY 10016

US Friends of the WFP
PO Box 11856
Washington, D.C. 20008

1 January 2005

Washington, DC:
Metro opens Blue Line extension

if you thought the expansion of "heavy" rail rapid transit in America was virtually dead, think again. Saturday, 18 December 2004 saw the opening of two new stations and an additional 3.1 miles of the Washington Metro's "heavy" rail rapid transit (metro) system – marking the first expansion of Washington, DC's Metrorail system beyond the originally planned 103 miles of route (finally built out in January 2001), and the first time the metro system has reached beyond the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County, Md. While the Morgan Boulevard station is just inside the Beltway, the Largo Town Center station is located outside the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County.
[Washington Post, 19 December 2004]

Metro planners forecast that within a year, ridership at the new stations will total nearly 10,000 per day. Officials expect the $456 million extension to ease mobility congestion within the travel corridor – possibily even alleviating some traffic on parallel roads and drawing shoppers, families, and businesses to the heart of the county. In any case, it will provide a much-needed and desired alternative to the area's rapidly mounting roadway congestion.
[Washington Post, 19 December 2004]

Besides improving mobility, another major objective has been to encourage and attract crucial economic development and transit-oriented development, or TOD. "This marks the renaissance of economic development" in the county, Maryland's Republican Lieutenant Governor, Michael S. Steele, underscored at the opening of the Largo Town Center stop. "it was built with the people in mind."
[Washington Post, 19 December 2004]

"When you live in an outlying area, the Metro can bring opportunities for expansion and growth, particularly to a place like Prince George's" observed former County Council member Marvin Wilson at the Morgan Boulevard dedication. "it brings people to our county and shows that all kinds of things can grow beyond metropolitan Washington."
[Washington Post, 19 December 2004]

"For some of the first passengers to catch the train," related the Washington Post, "the practical benefits triumphed: easy access to the movie theater at Largo; a day care center at Morgan Boulevard that will accommodate 90 children; no more waiting at cold bus stops for a ride to Addison Road, which used to be the last stop."
[Washington Post, 19 December 2004]

More on Washington, DC Rail Transit

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