Cities Discovering the Limitations of Half-Baked Rail Plans

Presenting less of an argument against transit than an argument for good transit and land use planning, Streetsblog surveys some of the country's worst performing rail lines.

May 13, 2016, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


trax light rail train in foreground, snow-covered mountains in background

vxla / flickr

Angie Schmitt surveys the lowlights of new rail projects, "attracting embarrassingly few passengers." According to Schmitt, most of the underperforming lines are mostly mixed-traffic streetcars, "but that's not the only way to mess up." The blinking light of the headline states the main takeaway: "just laying track is no guarantee riders will come."

Schmitt's survey starts in Dallas, before connecting to Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Cleveland. The article includes links to primary sources and local commentary on the state of underwhelming rail transit.

For the sake of comparison, Schmitt also notes the more successful versions of streetcars, located in Tucson and Kansas City (though the latter has only just opened, to much fanfare, and will require more time to determine its ridership).

Schmitt's argument, about the need for quality transit planning, connected to quality land use planning, differs from other critiques of underperforming transit systems, such as this article by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox from October 2015.

Thursday, May 12, 2016 in Streetsblog USA

The New York Public Library's stone lions Patience and Fortitude have donned face masks to remind New Yorkers to wear face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Top Urban Planning Books of 2021

Planetizen's annual list of the top urban planning books of the year is here—maintaining a tradition that dates back to 2002.

November 26, 2021 - James Brasuell

Empty Road

The Roadway Expansion Paradox

Motorists want expensive roadway expansions provided that somebody else foots the bill, but when required to pay directly through tolls, the need for more capacity often disappears. What should planners do?

November 28, 2021 - Todd Litman

Moving

Urban Exodus: Data Don't Support the Popular Pandemic Narrative

Americans fled cities in waves during the pandemic, right? Not to so fast.

November 30, 2021 - Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

A plaque displaying the name of Re. Peter A. DeFazio, senate representative for the state of Oregon.

Peter De Fazio, Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to Retire

The end of an era for Oregon in Congress.

2 hours ago - The Oregonian

A view of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline from high in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Santa Monica Mountains Acquires More Land For Conservation

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has acquired the final 150 acres of the 325-acre Triangle Ranch open space in the Santa Monica Mountains.

3 hours ago - The Acorn

Virgin Trains USA

Bike Share Coming to West Palm Beach

A new bike share system will bring 170 bikes to West Palm Beach as part of Brightline's new suite of door-to-door mobility options.

4 hours ago - Mass Transit

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.