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Innovation and modal shift in Baden-Württemberg

by DoDo Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 03:53:28 AM EST

At the end of August, Eurailpress reported:

Stuttgart: Junge Leute besitzen immer seltener AutosStuttgart: Fewer and fewer young people own cars
In Großstädten hat das Auto als Statussymbol bei jungen Leuten stark verloren - entsprechend besitzen auch weniger junge Leute ein Auto.The car has lost much as a status symbol among young people in major cities - accordingly fewer and fewer young people own a car.
Wie das Statistische Landesamt [Baden-Württemberg] jetzt beispielhaft für Stuttgart ermittelt hat, hatten 2011 noch 4800 Menschen zwischen 18 und 25 einen Pkw - 2000 waren es noch fast 13.000 (- 64 %). Im gleichen Zeitraum ist die Zahl der Jungen Leute dieser Altersklasse um 9 % gestiegen. Sogar der Gesamtbestand an privat zugelassenen Wagen ist in Stuttgart zwischen 2000 und 2011 um 8,1 % auf 219.000 gesunken. Parallel ergab eine Bürgerumfrage 2005 und 2011, dass in dieser Altersklasse der Anteil der VVS-Nahverkehrskunden sich von 59 auf 72 % erhöht hat.Exemplary numbers compiled for Stuttgart by the State Statistical Office [of Baden-Württemberg] show that 4,800 people aged 18 to 25 still had a car - in 2000, they still numbered almost 13,000 (-64%). During the same period, the number of young people in this age group has increased by 9%. Between 2000 and 2011, even the total number of private cars registered in Stuttgart dropped by 8.1% to 219,000. A parallel opinion poll showed that between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of the customers of VVS [Stuttgart Traffic and Fare Association] in this age group rose from 59 to 72%.

That's some modal shift. And it didn't happen for social reasons only.

Stuttgart (which just elected its first Green mayor) is the capital of Baden-Württemberg (the state of Germany with the first Greens-led government). The south-western state is noteworthy for not one but several model-worthy systems and developments in the commuter rail sector, from rapid transit through tram-train to electrification. Some of these became the victims of their own success in a good sense, meaning the triggering of further investment for further enhancements.


S-Bahn Stuttgart network map by Jowereit from Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Stuttgart S-Bahn will be further enhanced in the course of the contentious Stuttgart 21 project: new tunnels into the new underground through station (which shall replace the surface terminus) will create a second S-Bahn central artery along an axis perpendicular to the existing one, and there will be new extensions towards the south and east. A lot of the criticisms of the project circle around the co-use of tunnels by the S-Bahn and long-distance trains, though.

Started in 2003, the other S-Bahn in Baden-Württemberg is the second-newest in Germany (after Bremen's system): the S-Bahn RheinNeckar, which is centered on the conurbation of Mannheim (population: 315,000) and Ludwigshafen (across the Rhine in neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state, population: 165,000) and includes university city Heidelberg (population: 150,000). This system needed no new lines, but the bridge across the Rhine between Ludwigshafen and Mannheim was doubled.

S-Bahn RheinNeckar network map by Bahnfan1 from Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0

Both of these S-Bahn systems are still operated by former state monopolist German Railways (DB). What's noteworthy about them is that in recent times, both got specialised rolling stock, tailored for local demands, with special attention to quality and reliability issues (DB's big rolling stock orders at the end of the nineties suffered from several teething problems).

Since 2004, a third proper S-Bahn extends into Baden-Württemberg, and that across the Schengen border: a pair of branchlines at the foot of the Black Forest were absorbed by the network of Swiss city Basel, which is operated by Swiss Federal Railways SBB. Another Swiss city near the border, Schaffhausen, is getting an S-Bahn system with lines across the border after a successful referendum on its financing in 2011.


Stadtbahn

The Stadtbahn (= city rail) system was a unique development of post-war West Germany, though similar systems later became popular across the world (the most often used generic term is "light metro"). The basic idea is to upgrade tram (light rail) systems with some characteristics of metros (underground sections, at least partial separated right-of-way on the surface) and S-Bahn systems (elevated platforms in suburbs and exurbs, powerful and fast vehicles).

The full set of Stadtbahn standards were developed (and the name itself adopted) only by the 1970s, but the basic idea was pioneered by Stuttgart: in 1961, the city decided to put the entire downtown network of its narrow-gauge tram system into tunnels (suitable for an eventual conversion into heavy metro) and give the rest a separate right-of-way. The first tunnel section opened in 1966, altogether 26 km has been built until 2011. (For the record: Cologne was first to plan a tram tunnel in 1956, but that wasn't yet part of a complete network reconstruction plan and the tunnel was completed later. Outside Germany, Boston opened the Tremont Street Subway for streetcars in 1897 already; while Stockholm opened its first tram tunnel in 1933 but converted the entire network into heavy metro from 1950.)

In 1976, Stuttgart decided to go for a standard-gauge light rail system with floor-level platforms and new trams, that is a proper Stadtbahn, instead of direct conversion to a heavy metro. The first re-gauged line opened in 1985, and the work was completed in December 2011. The current network length is 128 km. Extensions to one line are in construction. An oddity of Stadtbahn Stuttgart is the use of the symbol "U", which doesn't stand for U-Bahn (subway) like everywhere else, but for unabhängig (independent [of road traffic]).

Network map of the Stadtbahn system of Stuttgart from UrbanRail.Net. Blue and orange are the two perpendicular sub-systems of the Stadtbahn (with tunnel sections as thick lines), green is the overlaid S-Bahn network, grey is other heavy rail

The tram systems of Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, two overland tram companies and (in part) Heidelberg, all of which are of metre gauge, have been mostly upgraded to Stadtbahn standard and linked up into a single system in stages from 1969. The Stadtbahn idea was originally not unrelated to the car city ideal (trams in tunnels rather than on the surface leave more road to cars). In downtown Mannheim however, the trams run along two main streets where cars were banned in 1974 and 1977 – at the time, such a pedestrian street solution counted as a pioneering experiment.

Network map of the integrated Stadtbahn/light rail system of Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg from UrbanRail.Net. Grey is heavy rail (also used by the overlaid S-Bahn system)


The Karlsruhe model

The standard Stadtbahn concept is not the only possible way to upgrade a tram system: another is the tram-train idea, which was pioneered in a system centred on the city of Karlsruhe (population: 297,000). The model wasn't a singular idea but developed organically:

  1. First the city got possession of a branchline to Bad Herrenalb, which it completely rebuilt and connected to Karlsruhe's tram system (in 1957–1966) and operated via a subsidiary called Albtal Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG). At this stage, it was no more than a Stadtbahn-style line getting unusually far from the city core.
  2. From 1975, more lines were upgraded to Stadtbahn standard.
  3. From 1979, AVG started to co-use a section of a (diesel-operated) branchline owned by DB, after installing the DC catenary system of the trams along the section. For this, the co-use of a line by light trams and standard freight trains had to be solved from a train safety viewpoint. But this created the possibility to expand a Stadtbahn-style system without having to build separate own track at high cost.
  4. In 1992, AVG got to co-use another DB line which was already electrified with DB's AC system. Trials started in 1985 already: this innovation needed new dual-voltage vehicles with a (for trams) high top speed (100 km/h). This innovation not only resulted in more possibilities for track co-use, but the possibility to run much longer distances.
  5. The final innovation was to build tram tracks in the smaller cities and larger towns reached via DB tracks, first implemented on the 1997 extension to Wörth (across the Rhine in Rhineland-Palatinate state; population: 17,000).

The Karlsruhe model resulted in explosive ridership growth on all lines absorbed, and a 411 km rail transit network that is the longest in the state (in fact only surpassed in all of Germany by the Rhine-Ruhr Area and Munich S-Bahn systems). Furthermore, this network is multi-centre: for example, the first AC-electrified line now extends almost 100 km from Karlsruhe to the north-east, crossing Heilbronn (65 km from Karlsruhe, population: 124,000), where further lines in a perpendicular direction are in construction or planned. In Karsruhe itself, to deal with the new-found "tram congestion", the first tunnel sections are in construction below the main shopping street and a perpendicular main street (they open in 2017).

Stadtbahn Karlsruhe network map, adapted from larger version by Bahnfan1 and WikiNight from Wikimedia Commons. Grey: other heavy rail


Electrification

All of the aforementioned rail transit systems are electrified, and their expansion also meant that several formerly non-electrified rail lines got overhead lines. Since the Stuttgart, RheinNeckar and Karsruhe networks grew until they linked up, electrification reached Swiss proportions in the north of Baden-Württemberg, without a central program for 100% electrification.

Baden-Württemberg's rail network, adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site. Electrified lines are in red (normal heavy rail AC electrification), purple or light red (light rail DC electrification), diesel lines in green, projected lines in grey, multi-tracked sections in thick

More is to come, even in the less developed south and south-east of the state:

  • The first section of the line along the Swiss border from Basel to Schaffhausen was awarded in August. This project also serves the expansion of the commuter networks of the two Swiss cities at both ends.
  • The electrification of the mainline from Ulm south to Friedrichshafen and on to Lindau on Lake Constance is in the plans, too, although federal budget constraints delayed work to 2015.
  • The cities and towns south of Stuttgart want to build a Karsruhe-style tram-train system that would absorb the mostly non-electrified lines around Tübingen. This project is still awaiting financing, although a benefit-cost ratio of 1.4 was calculated earlier this year.


Diesel S-Bahn

S-Bahn systems are expensive, they need large populations to justify their construction. All but two proper S-Bahn systems in Germany are centred on urban areas with a population above half a million (and even the two East German exceptions are above 200,000).

Two smaller cities and their surroundings in Baden-Württemberg, however, thought to create S-Bahn networks on the cheap. The main cost saving was track-related: extra tracks only at choice locations and no electrification. For S-Bahn traffic, the diesel vehicles had to be high-powered, which meant the use of railcars only (no trailers, no articulated multiple units).

The first such network, the Breisgau-S-Bahn, serves the north and east of Freiburg (the first major city with a Green mayor in 2002, population: 229,000) since 1997. The second, the Ortenau-S-Bahn, centered on Offenburg (population: 59,000) and reaching Strasbourg in France, followed a year later. Both are operated by Südwestdeutsche Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft (SWEG), a regional rail company owned by Baden-Württemberg state.

Ortenau S-Bahn network map from the official site

A third such system, the 3er-Ringzug, was established in 2003 near the source of the Danube, in a region where rail lines which together form a circle connect eight urban areas with populations between 10,000 and 40,000. This one is operated by Hohenzollerische Landesbahn (HzL), a second regional rail company majority-owned by the state.

3er-Ringzug network map by Ssch from Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0. Light blue dots: new or re-activated stops


Branchline re-activation

If we look even further into the countryside, Baden-Württemberg has interesting examples in that field, too. Until the nineties, a lot of branchlines could survive thanks to three regional rail companies: SWEG and HzL, which featured in the previous section; and Württembergische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (WEG), currently a subsidiary of Veolia. Then from the nineties, a number of branchlines in the state have been modernised extensively, including ones which have been without passenger or even freight service for years or even decades.

In my Local Rail diary, I presented the Schönbuchbahn line south of Stuttgart, which outdid optimistic ridership forecasts of 2,500 a day several times over (at present 8,000 a day), as the best example of how to re-launch passenger traffic on branch-lines. In addition to local involvement (support from local government and citizen initiatives) and thorough modernisation (tracks, stations, trains), the key factor behind the success was total coordination: school and office hours were adjusted to the clockface train schedule, and bus lines were re-aligned as feeders. However, the Schönbuchbahn is only the most spectacular success among half a dozen branchline re-activations for passenger service in Baden-Württemberg.

A selection of re-activated lines in Baden-Württemberg's rail network, with year of the re-start of passenger services and the operator. (Re-activations as part of S-Bahn etc. systems not highlighted.) Again adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site

Of the other examples, I now pick the Wieslauftalbahn. Only part of the line survived into the nineties, and with only 1,125 passengers a day, DB wanted to end passenger services even on the rest. Instead, a local initiative took over and modernised the section, and tasked WEG with train services from 1995. Traffic is now about 5,000 passengers a day. By 2010, the closed section, a steep mountain climb with viaducts, was rebuilt for tourist trains.

Steam loco 41 018 hauls a train uphill on the Strümpfelbach Viaduct. Photo by JuergenG from Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0


Victims of their own success

Solutions on the cheap are prone to hitting limits. Of the aforementioned non-electrified systems, both Breisgau-S-Bahn and Schönbuchbahn generated such ridership growth that three coupled railcars every half an hour is not enough in rush hour traffic. This calls for upgrades.

The Schönbuchbahn owners decided to electrify and partially double-track the line by 2016 (they are currently awaiting the state's decision on a financial contribution). Freiburg for its part adopted the "Breisgau-S-Bahn 2020" strategy, which will integrate the existing Breisgau-S-Bahn and other lines into the city into a coherent proper S-Bahn system. On the infrastructure side, the plan involves complete electrification and more double-tracked sections.

Future Breisgau S-Bahn network map from Zweckverband Regio-Nahverkehr Freiburg. The present network consists of the western part of the main east–west line (S1) and the line to the nort-heast (S2, in green) only

The good thing about these victims of their own success is that they created public support for upgrades with budgets that are the multiples of the original penny-wise projects.

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Display:
As promising these developments resp. model systems are, a lot more can be done even in Baden-Württenberg. The austerity climate doesn't help there, though the state's Greens-SPD government might be less dogmatic.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 08:54:56 AM EST
A list of the lot more that can be done, roughly from most expensive to least:
  • Obviously, it would be nice if the pending projects mentioned in the diary would be approved and those already approved would suffer no future budget cuts.
  • There is the dormant Bodensee-S-Bahn project, which would organise and upgrade local rail services around Lake Constance in four countries (Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland) into a single S-Bahn system. It was shelved in 2010 when the then Baden-Württenberg government was unwilling to co-finance it.
  • Stuttgart's two systems give a good coverage of urban areas, however, a deficiency of both is the lack of orbital connections. For the S-Bahn, a southern half-orb could be created with minimal new track (a c. 15 km extension of the Schönbuchbahn), though a northeastern continuation and a Stadtbahn ring would be more expensive.
  • The entire line along the Danube from Donaueschingen to Ulm should be electrified and it should get passing loops. Along with it, the ring of the 3er-Ringzug should be completed. Once that's done, the electrification of the rest of its network will become justifiable.
  • Most train-km on the Ortenau-S-Bahn is on electrified lines, which is a disgrace. Even if ridership would be relatively light, it would make sense to electrify at least the line linking up with the Karlsruhe system at Freudenstadt.
  • That sole non-electrified north-south line between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart should be upgraded. On one hand, as part of the Karlruhe system, it would increase operational flexibility (connecting current endpoints). On the other hand, it could serve as diversionary route for freight trains (that line east of it which is now becoming part of th Stuttgart S-Bahn currently has that role).
  • There are a number of local initiatives for branchline re-activation which didn't succeed so far, for example one for the extension of the "Seehäsle" all the way to the junction with the Danube valley line.

Baden-Württenberg's current Green-Red government set the promotion of "electro-mobility" as one of its goals; above are some of the ways of how they could follow up on their words.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 04:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot one, but that's longer-term. Ulm (pop. 124,000), together with its twin city across the Danube in Bavaria, Neu-Ulm (pop. 54,000), is the largest urban area in southern Germany without a proper urban rail system. The electrification of the line to Lake Constance (after 2015 as things stand), the removal of high-speed trains from the old line to Stuttgart (from 2020) and the electrification of the Danube valley line I proposed would create good conditions for the creation of a relatively cheap S-Bahn network (then only the lines to the southeast and northeast would remain to be electrified). Within the twin cities, currently there is a single tram line in Ulm, which could be developed into a network (creating additional links across the Danube).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:49:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another angle on the lot more that can be done: air pollution remains high. Even if the car tide is turning among city inhabitants, there are still a lot of cars commuting in(to) Stuttgart, to which construction adds its share, and due to Stuttgart's geographic characteristics (an almost closed bowl), air pollution gets struck. Last year, on one street in the city centre, the EU fine particle limit was exceeded on 89 days, against the absolute limit of 35 days. This even after reductions also thanks to road traffic regulation measures. One proposal for the future is a city access charge (similar to London's congestion charge). The election program of eventual mayoral election winner Fritz Kuhn (Greens) included speed limits, mass transit improvements, and new parking rules which would prevent non-inhabitants from finding free parking.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 12:48:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you written a diary explaining the trade-offs between trams and light rail in the urban environment?  Seems to me trams have an advantage for shorter passenger trips as well as inter-urban logistic support for businesses at a lower infrastructure cost since they can follow the existing street grid.  

Not that I know anything about it.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 12:03:51 PM EST
What is your distinction between "tram" and "light rail"? From what I know, the latter is a re-branding of the former, along with its synonyms "streetcar" and "trolley". Infrastructure costs (and speeds and viability for longer journeys) can grow when light rail gets a separate right-of-way (as in Germanys Stadtbahn systems), though not necessarily: the noise-insulated, what's more catenary-free track used on downtown sections of the newest systems ain't cheap.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 12:27:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is your distinction between "tram" and "light rail"?

Isn't there a meaningful distinction to be made on whether the train shares the road with other forms of traffic?

In Madrid, there are three Light Metro lines, and one Tram in the nearby city of Parla. The Light Rail lines are built on dedicated concrete lanes. In some sections the Light Rail is among road traffic, but still in its own dedicated lane. I suspect the Parla Tram must be the same.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 12:31:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The same in Helsinki: most trams run in dedicated 2 track corridors. However, like Madrid, there are some short stretches which share the road with other traffic because in some of the older parts of Helsinki there is no other solution.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 12:43:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't there a meaningful distinction to be made on whether the train shares the road with other forms of traffic?

Yes, but it gets complicated when you consider details, above all the direction of road traffic road traffic. With parallel road traffic, you can have road vehicles using the same lane, only some road vehicles (buses, ambulances, fire trucks) using the same lane and no co-use at all. With perpendicular traffic, you can have urban rail vehicles respecting street traffic lamps, urban rail vehicles having priority at crossings, and grade separation. The latter distinction tends to be more consistent along a line (that is, if a section is grade-separated then the entire line tends to be, while co-use of lanes might change repeatedly along a line). Meanwhile however, if you look at the vehicles rather than the track, there is no clear distinction: differences in seating or top speed don't map completely to differences in track.

In Madrid, there are three Light Metro lines.. The Light Rail lines...

"Light rail" is not the same term as "light metro"; but the differing use of terminology in different cities can indeed be very confusing. For example, staying in Baden-Württenberg, Freiburg has a light rail system in which one of four lines has Stadtbahn characteristics, but the entire network is called "Stadtbahn" – it sounded sexier. In contrast, in Budapest, when the world's busiest tram line was made off-limits for normal cars (but not ambulances) by adding metallic bumps on both sides, there wasn't any re-branding.

Looking at the vehicle side, you again have the use of different terms. If you check the product palette of the three big European makers, Bombardier builds Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), Alstom makes "tramways", Siemens distinguishes "trams" and "light rail [transit]", where the latter includes the North American export version of the "Avenio" trams and VAL, the originally Matra-made rubber-tyred metro (which in its current versions isn't lighter than Siemens's steel-wheeled metros...).

I'm using "light rail" as a generic term (including everything called tram, tramway, trolley, streetcar, light rail, light metro, Stadtbahn) for rail systems with an axleload of about 10 t (as compared to 5  for peoplemovers, 14-16 t for heavy metros and heavy rail branchlines, typically 20-22.5 t on European mainlines, above 30 t on North American and heavy-haul lines).   "Light metro" is a sensible way to differentiate grade-separated or at least priority-enjoying light rail because grade separation is the key feature of "metro".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 02:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah.

With your definition of "light rail," comprehension dawns.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 03:13:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its an easier to follow way to use light rail as a catch-all than the passenger capacity question on which the term was originally invented ...

... because you have two car diesel passenger trains running on conventional rail corridors on half hour or hour intervals that are quite obviously one part of a continuum stretching to eight and more car bi-level mass transit trains running on a four or six or eight trains per hour frequency ...

... and you have a modern small streetcar running on a 2km loop, which is obviously part of a continuum stretching to all manner of streetcars, rapid streetcars, trolleys, tram-trains and what have you.

Axle load is a lot more useful in terms of thinking through the planning for new systems, since whether or not light axle load and heavy axle load trains can share track that supports heavier axle loads is a matter of regulation ... but clearly if you have a network of track with a capacity to support 12t axle loads, you cannot run 18ton axle load trains on that track.

So a "light-weight" streetcar network can be extended to connect with a dedicated guideway system ... but only light weight passenger trains will be able to run through onto that network.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 01:05:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mention capacity, so at this point let me add two more, connected complications, the first of which is another factor influencing capacity beyond axleload: length.

A key difference between most heavy rail (including metros) and most light rail is that the former can be much longer (several cars in a train). Writing it as a potential matters because long trains require more solid (and thus heavier) cars, even if you run a given train service with a single-car train. (But the rule is not universal: branchline railcars may be exempted from general heavy rail strength requirements, while European tram-trains and US light rail may be required to be stronger.)

Now here comes the second complication: what to do with the various special technologies? We have

  • linear motor vehicles (like the Vancouver Sky Train or New York's AirTrain JFK),
  • rubber-tyred metros (the VAL system, VAL being short for "Automatic Light Vehicle" in French),
  • suspended rail vehicles,
  • monorails,
  • maglevs.

The categorisation of these trips people up. Most of them started out as flashy projects which then were developed towards higher capacity, or a range including higher (heavy metro) capacity. Their applications can range from something running around at an airport terminal to transit services in a city. But the official name of an actual system may not be the best fit (is AirTrain JFK really just a lowly "peoplemover"?). In terms of category-straddling, there is third-rail light rail/light metro, too (like London's DLR): dimensions the same as some older heavy metros, but axleload like light rail.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:13:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my own mind, I put rubber tires on asphalt or concrete ~ monorail or VAL ~ in its own category, because of the lower ceiling on energy efficiency and the higher ceiling on guideway gradient.

Suspended rail like the rail-on-suspension-cable Aerobus technology is in my mind a specialized form of light rail ~ trading off lower cost for all-grade separations for lower top speed than conventional light rail.

Linear motors do require dedicated trackside infrastructure, but so do conventional 3rd rail systems. And short stator linear motors need to feed power to the train, so in practice its a specialized kind of 3rd rail systems. And, after all, a compatible 3rd rail pick up on a conventional 3rd rail train could share a corridor and power supply with a short stator linear motor train (though not visa versa, without the backplate or magnetic array in place in the track infrastructure).

Long stator linear motors, with the current on the track side of the interface and a passive backplate / magnet array on the train, seem to me to be different enough to set over to one side in a set of distinctive special cases, alongside cable cars, suspended cable cars and furniculars.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:16:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, do you have any info on why Vancouver chose a conventional (but heavier) third-rail system for the Canada Line, instead of the linear motor system?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:21:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only what it says in Wikipedia, that the terms of the request for proposal did not allow consideration of efficiencies in common rolling stock, and on a stand alone basis, the Rotem bid won.

This article notes that the new trains are higher capacity than the rolling stock on the previous lines.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 09:12:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
long trains require more solid (and thus heavier) cars

Let me put some figures on this, for European railways (I'd welcome if someone can dig up relevant AAR/whatever figures). First, the strength discussed here is not crash resistance: the latter is only relevant to the ends of the train, while traction and braking forces and jolts act along the entire length of a train.

  1. What traction effort ( = pulling or tensile force) have vehicles in trains to deal with? 300 kN (or about the weight of 30 tons) upon starting is pretty normal nowadays with a single electric loco, whatever the train type (lighter trains are just required to accelerate more). But you can couple multiple locos.
  2. The real limit on tractive effort is the limit for the weakest link in the train: the link itself, that is couplers. This limit is 500 kN for the current version of traditional screw couplers, and 1,000 kN for the UIC automatic coupler (AK69e) and its modern descendant (C-AKv). (For the automatic coupőler used on the CIS broad-gauge network, the limit is much higher: 2,500 kN.)
  3. There is obviously a safety margin between the tractive effort limit in service and the breaking load. The latter is 850 kN for screw couplers and up to 1,500 kN for the automatic couplers.
  4. Vehicle bodies of course must endure even more.

There are similar considerations for compressive forces, though the strongest forces in that case occur during coupling/shunting. With that introduction, here are the limits for the different vehicle categories manufacturers/operators can choose from, loosely from strongest to weakest (from the standard EN 12663-1:2010):

Vehicle categoryTensionCompression
Normal freight wagons with automatic couplers1,500 kN2,000 kN
Normal freight wagons with screw couplers1,000 kN2,000 kN
Locomotives1,000 kN2,000 kN
Passenger coaches1,000 kN2,000 kN
Multiple units, coaches for fixed short consists1,000 kN1,500 kN
Special freight wagons with automatic couplers1,500 kN1,200 kN
Special freight wagons with screw couplers1,000 kN1,200 kN
Metros, rapid transit vehicles, light railcars600 kN800 kN
Light metro & heavier (longer) trams300 kN400 kN
Light trams (peoplemovers)150 kN200 kN


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:52:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, the strength discussed here is not crash resistance: the latter is only relevant to the ends of the train, while traction and braking forces and jolts act along the entire length of a train.

... does not apply. The crash resistance strength require for cars in the middle of the train is not as high as for the end (that is how the Cascade Corridor can use Talgo cars between FRA compliant locomotive on one end and baggage car weighed down with cement blocks on the other end), but there is quite definitely a crash resistance requirement for the cars in the middle.

Passenger trains that do not have to run on the main rail network are regulated under the FTA, and AFAICT that would include all US systems that would normally be called light rail, and some that would be called heavy rail ~ many European or Australian heavy rail EMU's would be banned from running on the general FRA network and require a waiver to operate on some specific FRA corridor (as has been granted to the Caltrain corridor).

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 09:29:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in Budapest, when the world's busiest tram line was made off-limits for normal cars (but not ambulances) by adding metallic bumps on both sides, there wasn't any re-branding.

Heh, I forgot: when Budapest's first tram line with separate lanes was built in the eighties (Line 1), it was named "rapid tram". However, this term went out of use by the nineties.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:46:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my mind a tram is an electric powered, multi-passenger vehicle, running on rails, using the urban grid, sharing the grid with other forms of transportation: pedestrians, bicycles, cars (ick,) etc., used for intra-urban transportation.

The distinguishing characteristics with respect to light rail are a tram does not have or need dedicated right of ways separate from the existing street grid, light rail is inter-urban, light rail is designed for, and achieves, higher speeds and longer runs between stations.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 01:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
just a continuum.

To illustrate : Lyon has several tram lines, exclusively in its own right-of-way on existing streets. There are also two varieties of what are locally called tram-trains : one starts on the urban tram lines but goes all the way to the airport, on its own rail line and at higher speeds; and the other is indistinguishable (to me) from suburban rail, but could presumably be hooked into the tram infrastructure.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 01:34:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are the terms "overland tram" (also in German: Überlandstraßenbahn") and "interurban tram" (used in Canada) for the inter-urban thingies, so the term "tram" is not limited to intra-urban transportation. Meanwhile, even the most well-known North American "light rail"-named systems like Portland's, Denver's, New Jersey's, Dallas's, Minneapolis's, and indeed even Phoenix's aren't inter-urban, though most are suburban/transit in leaving the urban core. US inter-urban systems called "light rail", however, include mis-nomers using European diesel rolling stock like the River LINE or the Sprinter. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a proper North American inter-urban light rail today that deserves the name light rail.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 03:13:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The subway systems in the US northeast don't count?

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 03:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Count as what: light rail or interurban? Surely not the second; but Boston's Green Line is indeed a light rail/light metro (running across the Tremont Street Subway mentioned in the diary).



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 04:38:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they count as light rail.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 04:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most are mass transit, some are light rail subways, like the Green Line. Toronto also has a light rail subway, and San Francisco is building a light rail subway.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 11:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the passenger capacity vernacular, if they are a heavy capacity rail subway, they are heavy rail. If they are a light capacity rail subway, they are light rail.

Under that vernacular, the NYC subways are heavy rail, and Boston's Green Line is light rail.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:45:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Note that "used for" intra-urban transportation and "restricted to" intra-urban transportation are two quite different things.

A big part of the success of tram-trains in smaller regional centers is that there is no transfer when you leave the rail corridor and hit the street network ... it connects all the "streetcar" tram stops with each other and with all of the "train station" rail corridor stops.

In the US association of transport professionals definition, "light rail" is a broader catch-all term. But then when people in the US are proposing a particular system, people in the area think of that as "what light rail is". And since there is strong encouragement to copy-catting in the Federal funding, there is a tendency for the more gold-plated version of light rail to be what is built, as the plans are based on someone elses existing system with a few extra bells and whistles.

So now the original idea presented as "light rail" back in the 1980's is going under the heading of "rapid streetcar", because in so many part of the US, people think of light rail as the most expensive type of tram system, with all dedicated right of way.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:53:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Sydney Light Rail runs in a mix of on street and dedicated guideway, and the Melbourne Trams run mostly on street but are still called trams when they run on dedicated guideway ...

Most US so-called "Light Rail" projects are on independent guideway, but that's because there is a strong bias in the funding formulas against improving transit in heavy transit-using neighborhoods and in favor of improving transit in car-dependent neighborhoods, and because the traditional US term "streetcar" is available for street running systems and for the dedicated guideway light rail, "Light Rail" sounded more modern than "Trolley" or "Interurban".

In the transit planner vernacular, "Light Rail" and "Heavy Rail" are supposed to refer to passenger capacity, so that both FRA compliant regional commuters and subways are "heavy rail", while dedicated guideway "light rail", mixed traffic streetcars, dedicated lane streetcars, and the "Rapid Streetcar" mix of dedicated guideways and shared lanes are all varieties of "Light Rail".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you take an old railroad right of way and convert it for use by street cars, is it counted as light rail or heavy rail? A big part of the Green Line in Boston is built on an old railroad ROW, for example, but ran PCC cars on it. And the obvious light rail route in Colorado Springs would leverage the old Santa Fe ROW going out of town to the north. (Although it is currently configured as a bike path, and people would holler if that were reversed--even though it's not used much...)
by asdf on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:13:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In ordinary use, as long as its the rail cars that people recognize as "light rail", and its on a dedicated guideway, it'd be considered light rail.

Whether or not street-running trams would be called "light rail" in ordinary use has a lot to do with how the project was originally described when the case was first made for it.

So the confusing thing about the academic definition is that the academic "light rail" includes things normally called light rail and things normally called something else.

The confusing thing about the ordinary use is that people tend to think of the specific details about whatever is build in their area under the heading "light rail" as being what the word "light rail" means in general.

I believe that they called the Sydney Light Rail "light rail" because "trams" was felt to be old-fashioned, since they ripped up the Sydney tram system (as well as Wollongong's and Newcastle's) after WWII. Since Melbourne kept their tram system, they never stopped calling them "trams", so the exact same corridor that would be called "tram" in Melbourne would be called "light rail" in Sydney.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:41:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, let me add that some of these terms don't translate into other languages. The literal translation of "light rail" doesn't exist in either German or Hungarian, which leads to maddening mis-translations even in standards (I saw it translated to "suburban railway", which normally counts as heavy rail). In French, both "light rail" and "tram" exist, but as far as I know, "tram" counts as sexy and is thus preferred. In Hungarian, the only term in use translates to "electric" in English, which leads to struggles with language when trying to describe diesel trams.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 01:08:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the academic definition I'm referring to are from a US academic literature beginning in the 1980's to learn lessons from Europe, and codified in at least one professional association glossary, so it runs into the American / Commonwealth English divide I became so familiar with in my decade in Australia.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 01:21:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In addition to what BruceMcF wrote, I note that a light rail line re-using old heavy rail RoW doesn't have to be (ad most often isn't) heavy rail on the infrastructure side, either:
  • if track is built completely anew atop the old earthworks;
  • if the old track is used but it was heavily degraded and needed thorough regulation;
  • if old heavy rail rails are re-used (load carrying capacity degrades with time; in Europe, it is common practice to recycle rails removed from mainlines first in branchlines with lower axleload, then in narrow-gauge lines with even lower axleload; less often in light rail lines because those tend to use special rail profiles on roads).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:55:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bus travel* up by 10% in the last 12 months. *Mainly commutes to capital.

However, I read recently that online route planning and timetables are having a major impact, especially when available as smartphone apps.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:44:36 AM EST
Here in Australia public ( mass) transport is so bloody expensive and irregular and with bad connections that everyone who turns 15 immediately buys car...(parents buy it). Cities are wide ( as people still prefer houses to live in) and distances are great. I do not even see any effort on governments side to change this situation. Even if they try it is going to take decades to come even close to Europe. Then again Europe is over populated and this is a good example...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 09:06:14 AM EST
You live in Brisbane, right? There, construction of the Moreton Bay Rail Link started recently, and Cross River Rail was judged positively by the federal government in July; so a total lack of government effort would be an exaggeration (though the election of Queensland's new Liberal National government certainly didn't help). I agree that commuter and urban rail coverage is spotty even in the bigger cities, and not enough is done to change that. I think Perth (which now gets a light rail too) is doing most.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 10:07:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree.  The same modal shift is observed in Melbourne and Sydney.  Most of my younger friends in Sydney and Melbourne lack a car.  Brisbane is, like Adelaide, just a decade behind the trends.
by njh on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 03:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes , actually , you are right.Sydney and Melbourne are a bit different, but have in mind they have about 4 million people each. Brisbane is a size similar to Belgrade ( in population) but Belgrade even with lack of money there their public transport is better and people use it a lot. I suppose here in Brisbane people are also spoiled. But it is so bloody expensive that even with this price of petrol it is cheaper to use the car (especially for two people or more) to go anywhere.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 05:41:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And yes people also can't afford to spend a lot of time in transport that is not frequent enough and have not good connection.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 05:57:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It probably also depends where you live.  My friend used to live there and used a combination of PT and rollerblades for everything.  But he was fairly close to the CBD.
by njh on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:38:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well my suburb is around 16 km from CBD and actually has pretty good direct buss to CBD via high way ...not everyone is so lucky and most of the people live in suburbs, especially families. But it is not only important to go to CBD all tho it is for work.And it is still so expensive. We are not really in to rollerblades , haha, we are close to the age of 60...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 10:38:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

You should have seen this coming :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:44:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hahahaha...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:48:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But having about 4m each in a country of about 20m means that what Sydney and Melbourne are like is a very big chunk of what Australia is like.

Obviously the mode share is much lower in Newcastle, because the public transport sucks. And the solution to the parking problems in the struggling CBD and to serve new developments in the Hunter River Foreshore put forward by the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce is to rip up the rail corridor that is almost perfectly placed to serve both.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 12:12:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
parking problems in the struggling CBD
====
Horrific ...and that's what makes a lot of people use PT. Parking at CBD is so bloody expensive lately and not many people can afford it.Also traffic at the rush hours is nightmare...
The solution they see here is to actually make quite a few CBDs around the city so that people can work closer to home, but it is going to take decades. They may not even need it by that time because more and more people are working from home due to internet possibilities.
I do not know if I like it...If people work from home and probably  soon children are to be educated from home, we are buying stuff trough internet and soon we will stop going to shops etc.,  where exactly people are going to meet and interact with each other.Honestly , I really do not know if I like technology that will make people even more lonely...and it is already happening...  

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 07:31:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that the stuff we buy from the internet have such a large impact on the local shops as they do on the big shopping mall ~ and in the big shopping mall we are quite often alone in crowd.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that the stuff we buy from the internet have such a large impact on the local shops as they do on the big shopping mall  

Not yet that we are buying that much trough internet but it will happen...it takes time.I see more and more supermarket trucks in home delivery because it is so easy now to buy trough internet ( almost like you are there). Look what happened in just last 10 years...life have changed so much. We are losing occupations like check out operators and we are having new occupations like personal trainer...etc. When I came to NZ 18 years ago not just me but many people of my generation who were Kiwis were afraid to touch computers in fear that they will mess something and look at us now...My granddaughter operated games and other stuff on the computer being age of 4. I am still afraid to touch some of her (computerized) toys, haha
World is changing and I am afraid as much as this is good in a way it is also bad. In stead of having coffee with my neighbors and discuss politic and prices and local events , which I did a lot when I was younger , I am sitting here at my lap top and I am talking to you...It's also good but I am old...where will young people meet and make friends and partners too? At the pub ? There they are too drunk to remember  what happened last night, haha.
Luckily we are not there yet but we may find our selves pretty soon in this kind of lonely life...

by vbo on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 08:15:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stuttgart: Fewer and fewer young people own cars

Surely the German policy of holding down wages for manufacturing is a large contributor, but it is not exactly shocking that the newspaper article would stress social reasons. But it is good that an alternative is being provided for the increasingly large portion of the population that cannot afford the 'status' of automobile ownership.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 10:56:48 AM EST
Surely the German policy of holding down wages for manufacturing is a large contributor

What proportion of 18-25-year-old in Stuttgart is in manufacturing today? And do you mean wages being held steady, or cut?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 11:38:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some stats I found for Stuttgart – none of them on our specific subject (income distribution among young people), but they underline that Stuttgart is a relatively rich city:
  • Average available household income: it rose 20% from 2000 to 2008 then receded slightly in 2009.
  • Avergage gross wages: it rose 15% from 2000 to 2007 then receded to 11% above the 2000 number until 2009.
  • Jobless: almost doubled from 2001 to 2005, then fell back below the 2001 (and thus the higher 2000) level by 2011.
  • People with jobs: the total number didn't change much from 2000, it was slightly higher in 2011; but the share of those in manufacturing fell from 26.6% to 21.1% while the services sector grew.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 12:33:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the USA manufacturing jobs were typically among the highest paying jobs that didn't require a college education, especially for entry level workers. Those jobs, in a sense, set a reference against which the wages in the service sector was measured. Construction has always been the other relatively high wage sector.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 03:51:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do these figures compare with other countries with high unemployment and without comparable public transport?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 11:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect that permanent high unemplyment and its predictable consequences on the wages and economic safety of the young is a better explanation (though it is part of the same package).

If you can - like one of the candidates for the top job at Swedish unions put - finish high school one week, and the next get a job and an apartment, then getting a car comes next. If not, and you learn to get by without a car, then maybe you will wait until you really have to to get one. On annecdotal grounds I think there is such a trend in Sweden, though not a strong one.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 04:12:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's also the competing desire to have a flashy smart phone. For young men especially, if its improbable to become intimate with young women without a car, then a car is going to be a massive priority. If its improbable to become intimate with young women without a smart phone, then a car is going to have a rival for that young man's income.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:35:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The income security is probably as or more important than the income level: A car has a much higher fixed cost share and much longer liquidation time for the individual user than does public transport (for society, of course, it's the other way around). If you lose your job, you can not-buy train tickets for the months where you are unemployed and do not need to commute farther than your municipal employment office. If you lose your job and have to sell your car and repurchase one when you get a new job, you are down several k€.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 3rd, 2012 at 04:09:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Insofar as public transportation goes, I'd have to give San Francisco high marks. There are LOTS of options:  SF Muni (cable cars, street cars, light rail and buses) and also BART.

Coming from a town where public transportation was practically non-existent ... well, I mean there were buses, but good luck getting any where on them ... meaning getting downtown from say West San Jose would require three transfers and half a day (if the wind is blowing in the right direction AND you were lucky). Then the good fortune of getting totally spoiled with a move to the City.

What a joy to walk three blocks, take a chugging little cable car up to the top of Nob Hill (at the crest of the hill you could watch the locals practice tai chi in Huntington Park in the early morning sun, with the crystal blue bay in the background), then descend down the hill and into the bustling buzz of the Financial District.  What an excellent way to start the day!

Certainly proved to me that one can easily do without a car if they are fortunate enough to live in a City with a good public transportation system in place.

by sgr2 on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 11:52:24 AM EST
An effective public transportation system is a major urban amenity, where it is present.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 03:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And SF is fairly crappy compared with the industrialized world.  It's embarrassing how quaint the bay area's PT feels after experiencing Shanghai, London, Melbourne or Munich.  I think even Seattle's PT is better than SF (the buses run on time :).

You're right about VTA, with the exception of my Campbell to San Jose commute, most of south bay is a PT wasteland.

by njh on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 03:54:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not everything: the light rail and the Caltrain are quite useful (been using them on the occasion). Nothing like a European metropolis though, and the bus network is really poor.
by Bernard on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 04:04:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, thanks for pointing out CalTrain, which I had missed. It has served the Peninsula corridor well for a good many years. I remember my girlfriends' fathers taking the train from Palo Alto to the City for work back in the early 60's. It even had a bar car back then, which was a real favorite for the return trip home. It's always been rather humorous to the natives though, because the CalTrain tracks run right up the middle of the Peninsula, pretty much parallel to the old main street El Camino Real, and right smack through some of the most expensive real estate in the area (Atherton, Menlo Park, etc.)

The good news now though is that you can reach the SF station by light rail (in large part, thanks to new adjacent SF Giants' stadium) and there is relatively easy access ... it used to be that the station was located pretty much out in the middle of nowhere and was somewhat of a pain to get to, and a somewhat seedy location once you got there. Regrettably, the end station in San Jose was not any better, also situated in the middle of nowhere, but I think they may have fixed that now too. (One thing that hasn't been fixed however, is sufficient room for bicycles!)

But of course it goes without saying that even now both the SF train station and the San Jose train station pale in comparison to practically any European train station, anywhere.

by sgr2 on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:17:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well indeed, the light rail is what I used to commute from Campbell to San Jose.  On that route it's faster than driving.
by njh on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:36:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good to hear! When I left SJ they had just started running light rail on North First in the downtown area, but that was it. It's really nice to know things have improved.
by sgr2 on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 07:13:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely you should compare with cities with similar terrain? The SF system is certainly better than Naples'.....
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 04:17:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cars rule in the south bay. Is it even possible to get from Campbell to San Jose without a car? It certainly never was during my time there.
by sgr2 on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 06:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was the case when I was living there (10 years ago): you choice were by car, either 17 or San Tomas Expressway or even Winchester boulevard. As njh mentioned, new branches have been added to the light rail: it goes all the way to Campbell now.

I was there when the branch from Mountain view Caltrain to Milpitas was added: it goes through the Cisco campus on Tasman, Netscape & Lookheed in Mountain View, but they missed the Googleplex: at the time, it was only a gleam in Page and Brin's eye :)

by Bernard on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 05:08:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yet, for a city of almost one million, this is still an awfully thin network...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 06:30:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, and that's only San José: this is already the largest city in Northern California (San Francisco tops out at 800K) and the urban area (Santa Clara, Campbell, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Milpitas etc...), is close to 2 millions.

Yet the PT network has nothing to do with what you can find in San Francisco, a much smaller city but more a "real" city, comparable to what we're used to in Europe. In any case, when you say "the City" anywhere in the Bay area, you're referring to San Francisco, not San José.

by Bernard on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 05:51:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and it seems to take a hilbert curve too.
by njh on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:02:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
who works for Google. He doesn't have a driver's license.

Luckily for him, he lives in Munich.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 04:27:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like many big employers in the South Bay, Google has set up their own system of shuttle buses:

Campus Operations - Google Green

High-tech, low-impact employee shuttles

Because the shuttle system that serves commuters to our San Francisco Bay Area offices is so convenient and rider-friendly, Googlers often leave their cars at home (or don't own cars at all). About 4,500 Googlers take the shuttle to work on any given day, and our shuttle program is projected to hit 1.8 million rides in 2012.

In addition to an ultra comfortable ride, real-time location information, and wifi, our shuttles have the cleanest diesel engines ever built. In fact, Google is the first and largest company with a corporate coach fleet to exceed the EPA's 2010 bus emission standards. They run on 5% biodiesel and are fitted with filtration systems that eliminate many harmful emissions, including nitrogen oxide.

by Bernard on Thu Nov 1st, 2012 at 05:55:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
S-Bahn systems are expensive, they need large populations to justify their construction.

If they are causing a 50% modal shift from cars then you should include say 50% of road expenses in the area as part of the benefits.  Which might turn out to mean they are cheap.

The good thing about these victims of their own success is that they created public support for upgrades with budgets that are the multiples of the original penny-wise projects.

This suggests that the right strategy is to run as many super low cost systems as possible as a way to bootstrap.  This is contrary to the typical US practice of gold plating.  And when such a strategy is taken in the US, it also is successful: the seattle lake union trolley is very successful (12 minute freq on a 2 mile route with standing room only in peak hour) and yet is one of the cheapest passenger rail projects in the states.  Build 10 more of them in seattle and you would see the same mode shift.

by njh on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 04:00:28 PM EST
Here is how Colorado Springs does it.

First, the city motto is (or should be): "We Are Cheapskates!" Nothing that adds any significant tax increment has a ghost of a chance of passing, so all our services are pretty primitive. So we have a bus system.

The bus system currently consists of a grand total of 18 lines, in a city of about 400,000 people. Of those, 14 lines intersect in the downtown terminal. The schedules are synchronized so that all the buses arrive on the hour, and leave at about quarter past. This makes transfers easy, but limits the range of each line. The other 4 lines intersect with one or more of the 14 at various transfer points.

The system mainly supports the disadvantaged community, including the disabled and elderly, as well as students and less wealthy. On special occasions, the ridership expands into the general population. For example, this past weekend was the Emma Crawford Casket Race in Manitou Springs, a suburb to the west of downtown. Manitou has a horrible parking situation even on non-event days, and it is impossible when there is a parade or something going on. In that kind of case, it makes sense for people to park downtown and take the bus to Manitou. As a result, the bus system gets heavy use on those occasions and light use otherwise.

The typical fare is $1.75, or $0.85 for "special" riders (elderly, disabled, students), with free transfers. Because of the need to cater to the needs of the community, the busses kneel at the curb, and also have build-in wheelchair ramps. With both wheelchair spaces in use, each bus has 27 seats. This is not an issue on normal days, but on event days there is some crowding. The system does not operate on Sunday, and on weekdays most of the lines shut down at around 7:00 pm.

Periodically there is a groundswell of enthusiasm for streetcars or trolleys, but even in the 1920s the streetcar system here was quite limited. In the current political climate, it seems unlikely that we will ever have anything beyond a bare-bones minimum public transit system here. Recently we have begun charging students to ride on school buses (a separate system from the regular buses), and as a result, many parents now drive their kids to and from school. The roads and driveways were not designed to handle 100+ cars in a queue. The recent abduction and horrible murder of a student in Denver will undoubtedly make the situation worse as parents prevent their children from leaving the house under any circumstances...

by asdf on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 01:03:26 PM EST
There you go ~ Ravenna, Ohio is lucky, because 18 bus lines per 400,000 people is one per 22,000, and we have one and a half bus line for 11,000.

That is, one more than hourly frequency busline operating through town and connecting to Kent, the Walmart between Ravenna and Kent, and the shopping center on the other side of Kent, and one low frequency town single bus circulator route, with peak frequency augmented a little by buses being making one run on that route before being added to or after taken off the main interurban bus route.

And why do we have such great service (relative to a normal semi-rural Ohio county: the county where I grew up has a $4 dial a ride transit service, and no scheduled bus routes)?

Because of the University ~ our bus service is a merger of the country and the Kent State bus service, and Kent State students and staff ride free with their college ID, which results in a decent little set of bus routes serving the city of Kent, and Ravenna getting perhaps a slightly better welfare bus route system than serves Colorado Springs.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 01:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The schedules are synchronized so that all the buses arrive on the hour, and leave at about quarter past.

Does that mean that the buses run once every hour!?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:24:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Checking, some are half-hourly but most are indeed hourly.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 02:29:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, it's not exactly the most frequent service in the world! But this "all into the depot at the same time" method [surely there is an official term for it] works in this case because you only need to find space for a dozen buses at once. With infrequent service, it's good because otherwise you might have to wait a long time for your transfer bus to show up.

Keep in mind the very mild climate we have here, which can get very cold in the winter but is otherwise almost always sunny. So you don't have the situation of standing in the freezing rain waiting for a bus, more like sunbathing waiting for a bus, most of the time...

The bike racks are pretty heavily used, and to some extent make up for the sparse geographical coverage, at least for people able to use bikes.

by asdf on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 03:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the airline world, the "all into the depot at the same time" method is called "hub-and-spoke".
by corncam on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 09:19:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a locked hub, when all are in at the same time.

An open hub is where they interchange there but with simultaneous arrival, which obviously requires either higher frequency or great tolerance for waiting.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:22:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is the us school bus system separate anyway?  When I were a wee lad we just caught the same bus as everyone else.
by njh on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:04:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Newcastle, students within reach of the Newcastle Bus and Ferry service buses can take the city buses, those beyond the reach take buses chartered from private operators.

I don't know whether total reliance on the school bus was primarily a rural school thing in the US, but it was definitely a rural school thing, where there was no system for providing public transport to every house in a school district. As the post-WWII suburbs were growing in what were originally rural areas, its not surprising that was adopted as the model in lieu of using the school child traffic as a platform for a general bus system.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Oct 30th, 2012 at 12:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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