9-line access access management access point accessibility ADA air quality alignment amenity antiplanner atlanta BART benchmark BID bike Blogs boston branded bus corridors brookings brt bus Bus Rapid Transit BYU capacity car pool car pool lane cars central link Centrality certification commuter rail condo congestion congestion pricing connections consistency coverage crossings CRT cycling DART dedicated dedicated right of way density denver depreciation developers development economics efficiency Envision Utah equity eugene exclusive extension FAQ favela Federal Funding Flex Bus florida free fare zone freeways frequent network frontrunner frontunner Gallivan garden cities gas prices geotagging goat Google grade-separation Granary District growth headway heavy rail hedonic High Speed Rail history housing housing affordability housing bubble housing prices HOV income infill innovative intersections intensity ITS junk science LA land use Land Value Economics LEED legacy city light rail linear park location LRT lyft M/ART malls mapping maps metrics metro MetroRail missoula mixed mixed traffic mixed-traffic mobile mode choice Mode Share multi-family MXD neighborhood networks news NIMBY office online op-ed open letter Operations parking parking meters peak travel pedestrian environment phasing Photomorphing planning Portland property property values Provo proximity quality_transit rail railvolution rant rapid rapid transit RDA real estate redevelopment reliability research retail Ridership ridesharing right of way roadway network ROW salt lake city san diego schedule schedule span seattle separated service branding shuttle silver line single family SLC SLC transit master plan slums smartphone snow sprawl standing stop spacing streetcar streetscape streetscaping subdivision Sugarhouse Sugarhouse Streetcar Tacoma taxi technology tenure termini time-separation TOD townhouse traffic signal tram transit transit agency transit networks transit oriented development Transit Planning transponder transportation travel time TRAX trip planning trolley tunnel uber university of utah urban design urban land UTA UTA 2 Go Trip Planner utah Utah County Utah Transit Authority value vmt walking distance web welfare transit Westside Connector WFRC wheelchairs zoning

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Concise History of Rail Transit in America

Modern transit comes from two historic lineages: Steam railroads, and horse-cart street railways. To operate in an urban environment, steam railroads underwent a number of modifications. To reduce conflicts with street level traffic, were either elevated or under-grounded. At some point, they were also electrified, typically use a third-rail system. Once that occurred, expansion required the continued use of grade separated, exclusive guideway, so no one touched the third rail and died. In contrast, street railways were electrified as trolleys, using a pantograph. (Cable-cars can be thought of as a 'dead branch' alternative to electrification). The converging modes of electrified heavy rail and street railways were hybridized as the "Inter-urban". Electrified the whole-way, using a pantograph, and running in a mix of at-grade and tunnels. After the second World War, almost all pure street running 'trolley' systems were 'bus-tituted' out of existence, while some inter-urban systems survived. The survivors all had some off-street running-way, viz: RTA Streetcars, San Francisco cable car, MBTA Green Line & Ashmont–Mattapan High Speed Line, SEPTA Subway–Surface Lines: Suburban Trolley Lines & Girard Ave Trolley, RTA Rapid Transit: Blue and Green Lines, Newark Light Rail, Muni Metro. Between ~1930-1972 is sort of a 'Dark Age' for urban rail--almost nothing new is built. Then there is a resurgence of heavy-rail systems to deal with traffic congestion: BART (1972), Washington Metro (1976), MARTA (1979), Baltimore Subway (1983), and Miami-Dade (1984). All run at-grade in the suburbs, and in tunnels in the city center. About 1980, America adopts the Stadtbahn/'City Rail' concept from Germany, and APTA coins it 'Light Rail'. It runs at-grade in the suburbs, and at-grade in the city-center, like the inter-urbans. Being regulated as 'light' rail, it is allowed to operate in mixed-traffic with cars, making it easier/cheaper to build. Over time, the surviving inter-urbans are rebuilt/revitalized, making use of the same vehicles as the new 'Light Rail' systems. Circa 2001, Portland reinvents the 'streetcar', which runs at-grade, in mixed traffic, with smaller vehicles, and making extensive use of single-track.

Now, to get back to what is 'Rapid' transit: Rapid transit is something that has it's own (unshared) guideway. Subways, elevated rail, commuter rail all clearly meet this standard, as do most of the 'Metro' systems of the 1970's heavy-rail revival. But the surviving inter-urbans and new light rail systems are a confusing mix: They have portions of exclusive guideway, so they have rapid transit portions. But LRT means 'Light Rail Transit' rather than 'Light RAPID Transit'. This gets confusion in the context of BRT, which actually means 'Bus RAPID Transit'. BRT gets developed in Latin America as a sort of bus version of a heavy rail system--buses with unshared guideway. But that's another topic. In summary: HeavyRail = Rapid, Streetcar !=Rapid, LRT !=Rapid...but does have sections that could be. (Cable-cars get lumped in with LRT largely on the basis of Cable-car != heavy-rail.)

And finally: Metro!=Heavy-rail, but Metro ⊂ Heavy-rail. Freight, Metro, Subway, Elevated, Commuter Rail ⊂ Heavy-rail.

=     Equal to
!=    Not equal to
⊂    Is a subset of.