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Thread: Mass Transit and the Future of Cities

  1. #1

    Default Mass Transit and the Future of Cities

    I fly to New York.
    All other cities I drive to.
    Main reason is,NYC has this great transportation system that gets you practically anywhere,one that makes using a car just foolish.

    Other cities don't have that.

    Atlanta has MARTA,a perfectly good system,yet each time I have used it (other than the AM/PM commute),the cars are nearly always empty.
    Dallas has a good light rail system too,one that parallels 75 (which is a 24-hour traffic jam),but it's mostly underused as well,excepting the peak times;Miami's People Mover,a monorail which flies over the endlessly busy Dixie Highway,might as well be an unpopular theme park ride during the dead time between rushes.
    The DC Metro is about the only one I recall using where the system transports large numbers all day long...

    The reason I mention these particular cities???
    Well,each one is adding population--and density--rapidly.
    All are places where extraordinary traffic is the norm,all have popular Downtowns,and each has the nucleus for a mass transit network that can operate as well as New York's does.
    In the last year,I've ridden the rails in each of them.
    Yet wherever you go on their trains,at some point you will have to either begin or continue the journey by car.

    Riding rail transport in any of them gives you,at points along the way,a picture-window view of their strangled freeways,huge swaths of concrete that eat up a LOT of real estate,and the roads are always filled with drivers who ignore any alternative to sitting in static traffic everytime they use their car for something.It's true irony,these near-empty trains running alongside a gridlocked highway system.
    I know,you can see the same thing just by riding in the LIRR,but NY has a system that is prepared for the 21st Century,assuming it doesn't break down in some horrible way...
    Oh,yeah,each city mentioned is currently busy either building new lanes of highway or floating plans to increase the number of freeway lanes cutting through their geography.

    Atlanta,which has several x-ways slicing up it's Downtown,currently has some stretches that are EIGHTEEN lanes wide!!!Their new plan is to elevate the concrete and build miles-long,one-way cement causeways over the freeways that are already there,doubling traffic volume.That should be attractive.Currently,Atlanta's "rush" hours last for three hours twice a day and begin(or end)about twenty-five miles from Downtown.

    Dallas,which recently rebuilt the cursed US 75 corridor and immediately found it to be obsolete,is busy adding 2-4-6 lanes to its peripheral road network,and the whole town seems to be endlessly under construction.

    Miami,with two strands of freeway suspended to the South of the city,is contemplating a third strand,a stone slab snaking through their shrinking agriculture area,Dade County's last green space.A map of Miami/Dade in a few years,if held at the right angle,will resemble a squid.

    DC.It's a contractor's paradise.Ever drive around DC?

    These are only a few examples.Some others:
    >Tampa is widening I-75 and I-4 to ten lanes through Downtown and has just finished double-decking about five miles of freeway that serves the Eastern Sprawl Zone.To change I-4 around,a large swath of historic homes had to go.They are considering a 10-laner that will cut through what is left of the rural greenbelt around the city.A plan to run light rail down the freeway medians was shot down in '03.The engineers needed the space for additional lanes.
    >Same thing,this time substitute "Orlando" for "Tampa".
    >Nashville last week inaugurated it's people mover,the Music City Star,and 700 rode on the first day.They all got to see a popular freeway,plugged with cars--and currently expanding--as they rode out of Downtown.I missed that ride,but I was in Nashville the week before and could not miss the publicity.Neither did 350 others,evidently.They need 1500/day to make it viable.Most observers don't see that happening.

    These are cities that are totally unprepared for what is coming.They have dipped their toes into mass transit and found it tepid,and for that ignorance they will pay.
    Assuming that these places continue to grow,and that automobiles still occupy the exalted position they now do,what will these cities--and others like them--look like in 25 years?Will they become even more paved over,with stacked roads snaking through parks,and highways so big that they generate their own weather systems?
    Many,like LA,Austin,San Antonio or Boston already look like that.What will they do?
    New York is fortunate to have the density that can support a good transit system,and a system that serves that density.NY could add a million more riders (and probably will)and the Subways could easily accommodate them.
    These smaller cities just don't get it.

    I have few answers,only questions and a few facts.

    Each year,Americans add about 16 million new cars to the automobile population.Around 5 million get junked.A total of around 18 million cars,new and used,appear on the road each year.
    Every new lane built on today's freeways immediately gets used to capacity.
    It costs between $50-$100 million to add ONE lane-mile to a freeway.
    Gas prices will always increase;so will parking costs.
    Mass transit systems are always shunned and always run deficits,even as gas turns into a luxury item.
    Today,10,000 additional cars will joust for space on America's paved areas.Tomorrow,another fresh 10,000 will join the party...

    At what point will people reject sprawl as an agreed upon urban design and reject the hours-long commute these monster roads represent and turn to an alternative?What does it take to get people out of their cars and onto some form of mass transit?And just how wide can freeways actually get?

    Ill bet that New York will look pretty much the same,but what will our up-and-coming boom cities look like in 2031 when 120 million additional cars demand THEIR own piece of concrete alongside the 200 million that already have theirs??

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hof View Post
    At what point will people reject sprawl as an agreed upon urban design and reject the hours-long commute these monster roads represent and turn to an alternative?What does it take to get people out of their cars and onto some form of mass transit?
    Not global warming. Not peace in the Middle East. Not hurricanes. Not a healthier lifestyle. Probably not even the inundation of Florida.

  3. #3
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Maybe gas at $5.00 / gallon?

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    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    Hof excellent post!! I don't know what it will take. It's a shame that America is so car obsessed and that cities won't invest in mass transit like we do around here. Here were focusing on extending our subway and light-rail systems, extending commuter lines, building new tunnels into Penn Station and Grand Central, all to get get cars out of our cities, all the while other cities are focusing on building new freeway systems to get more cars into their cities. If the rest of the country built and managed like we do here, this country would be a lot better.

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    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    They need to find a more efficient way to set these things up from the very start.

    NYC is pretty good in itself, but suffers from "starburst" syndrome. It caters to people wanting to get in and out of Manhattan from the boroughs, but it is very hard to get from Queens to Brooklyn without having to go at least halfway into the city. The system should look more like a dartboard, with trains running around the perimeter at certain intervals to make it so that you can get from one end of the bronx to the other w/o taking the god-awful slow busses or tak the # train down to the city, switch to the @ train, then the # train and come back up...

    NJ needs to start looking at something similar to make it easier to develop alternate corporate centers with easy access to the city that people can also GET to without having to drive to them or go to the city and come back on another line....


    We will see how that goes though...

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge View Post
    We will see how that goes though...
    At the present rate of subway constryction, we won't see. Maybe our grandsons will see. Or maybe they won't either.

  8. #8

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    From Streetsblog:

    Thursday’s Transpo Conference: A Call for Reform



    While former Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa and DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall got most of the attention for their keynote speeches at last week's transportation policy conference, much of the day's real intellectual ferment took place in the five separate breakout sessions that convened before lunch. The groups were organized as follows:

    * Subways and Commuter Rail moderated by Gene Russianoff
    * Cars and Buses with Bruce Schaller
    * Underutilized Modes with Paul Steely White
    * Pedestrians and Sidewalks with Ethel Sheffer
    * Comprehensive Planning and Policy with Ernest Tollerson and Bob Yaro

    Article continues at link. Good summation about what steps should be taken to improve transportation and related policies in this city.

  9. #9
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    I felt compelled to post this photo somewhere. That group of buildings in Cincinatti is just gorgeous.

    Are streetcars/trolleys viable in NYC in the 21st century (and beyond), I wonder?



    Midwest Gets Transit Transfusion

  10. #10
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    No, they aren't. Not unless you make them like the Light Rail and close off traffic on the routes they travel on.

    The overhead wires (so well hidden in that rendering) are a grotesque nightmare and the traffic problems you get with having a train on the same road as the cars is another.

    More places need Mass Transit, but they need to develop a better way for these vehicles to operate in a dense urban environment before they can be integrated to a level that would actually be more useful than a tourist attraction (a veritable "San Franciscan Treat!")

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    I admit I have a problem
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    NYC's future is busways and bike lanes.

  13. #13

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    ^
    I agree.

    You can replace Vision42 rail with tandem buses in isolated lanes, and it's the same thing, but much less expensive.

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    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eddhead View Post
    Edd, look at the renderings.

    People would NEVER be able to be that close to an effective mass transit system. they show a kid places only a few feet from an empty track!

    As the example of that one girl that was just killed near Ramsey NJ (she walked around the closed gates while texting), it is VERY difficult to have any form of transportation around pedestrians.

    What I was talking about in the other was more of a problem with a trolley on an active road. There have been problems and accidents with others in the past, and I think I have heard of problems with things like the Light Rail in NJ....

    People do not follow rules. That makes it very hard to make a system that will work for all w/o killing a few.

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    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    ^
    I agree.

    You can replace Vision42 rail with tandem buses in isolated lanes, and it's the same thing, but much less expensive.
    A few electric busses would work nicely. No emmissions, low noise, and a system that could easily be cycled to recharge when needed (unlike Taxi's that have a less predictable schedule and route).

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