... Local Rail
Here I would have liked if dKos readers had been given an idea of the differences between the various local rail systems, though that may warrant a whole new diary. ...
Local Rail and High Speed Rail are greater mututal supporters of each other, and so I was enthusiastic about the idea of DoDo ... Daneel here on the Daily Kos ... writing precisely that diary ... which turned into a series. Jerome a Paris has just posted the first of that series here: Local rail (1)
Daneel focuses on the energy-efficient transport options between High Speed Rail and local buses. What I really want to add to his excellent work (and yes, go check it out!) is why High Speed Rail and Local Rail complement and support each other ... why they are made to be BFF.
Completing the paragraph quoted above, to give an idea of the range of systems covered in DoDo's diary series:
... Light rail, subways and elevateds, suburban rail, and various combinations/enhancements of the previous like light rail changing over to heavy rail when leaving town, light metros, RER-type connections. Which is best for a city depends on its size.
Indeed, this range of systems is why the Eurotrib version of DoDo's excellent diary weighed in at over 10,000 words, and is being delivered to Daily Kos as a series ... starting, as noted above, with this launchpad diary, Local Rail (1), guest hosted by Jerome a Paris.
Local Rail as Recruiter for HSR
Of course, this is the idea that prompted DoDo to start work on the series ... Local Rail is the best recruiter for High Speed Rail. Local Rail has several benefits:
- It is a superior generator of park-and-ride trips to buses, because there are people who will ride a train who will not ride a city bus ... on the rational side, Local Rail is not subject to the congestion delays that city buses are subject to ... and in addition there seems to be a perception that city buses are more for those who cannot afford a car (IOW, people like me);
- Local Rail has the possibility of the largest catchment of any of the recruiters listed in the High Speed Rail: The Recruiters diary ... while riding two hours to get to work by bicycle is a great workout, I expect that a two hour bike ride as the start of a trip is not an option many will adopt!
- They can share infrastructure ... as I have noted several times, the trip through a major city, with three or four HSR stations to collect passengers, does not required a dedicated HSR corridor ... the HSR gets up to full speed when it leaves the city and heads out to the next one. So the local rail can drop you off at a platform connecting to the HSR platform ... and will sometimes even drop you off at the same platform that you will be leaving from.
HSR as a patronage driver for Local Rail
For someone who focuses on the big metropolitan rail systems ... New York, DC, etc. ... this may well look like a trivial impact. However, the big metropolitan systems are not the marginal systems.
For example, Columbus, Ohio is a city that has grown, in my lifetime, from about 1/3 of a million people to over a million people. And much of Licking County, where I grew up just east of Columbus, has been converted in the process from a rural county with a smallish industrial city (Newark, Ohio) as its county seat to outer suburbs of Columbus. Columbus is the size of city that Energy Independence would dictate having several heavy commuter rail corridors, with the network extended by light rail lines ... and one of the commuter rail lines would extend through eastern Licking County to Newark, at the very least (if not farther).
However, Federal funding for local rail in the US ... "fixed guideways" in bureaucratese ... is so tight that Columbus could not come close to getting a light rail line off the ground, based on current competitive project funding (based, as I discussed earlier in the year, on travel time savings, not on energy savings).
Getting "travel time saving" up requires getting patronage up ... and a HSR system between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinatti (connecting further afield) would provide additional patronage for local heavy rail, as well as providing an additional interstate-travel justification for Federal funding.
Economies of Scope
The third and final complementarity that I want to point out is the one that is easiest to overlook, especially for activists focusing on either HSR or Local Rail, and that is the range of transport offered by the system. The ultimate target is to allow households dependent on three cars to become two car households, households dependent on two cars to become one car households, and households dependent on one car to become car-independent households.
And car-independence involves more than offering an alternative on the daily commute. It requires offering transport alternatives that cover the range of activities currently requiring a car. The local travel offered by Local Rail or by the regional and inter-regional travel offered by High Speed Rail will not, on their own, cover the basic travel needs of as many people as both will together ... and that goes even more strongly for households, since several people in a household can have more diverse transport needs than a single person.
And yes, it will take time for people to start taking the "car reduction" option, even after it becomes a viable option. However, the increase in disposable income that comes with each car shed by a household means that this is a one-way process ... and the inexorable rise in the long term average price of gasoline ensures that this will accelerate over time. Indeed, as gasoline passes $5 a gallon and starts heading to $10, there will be growing political pressure to provide the missing links in the network to allow more households to shed their cars.
Now, a narrowly focused Local Rail advocate may argue that the vast majority of trips are local trips ... but a consideration of the various transport options I collected together as "The Recruiters" for HSR also shows that there are a wide variety of local transport options that have strong energy efficiency, compared to an Auto-dependent transport system ... including Pluggable Hybrid Electric vehicles, when operating within their battery range.
However, when it comes to trips of 100 to 500 miles, the competitive, energy efficient, options narrow down to High Speed Rail.
So whether it is a need to travel into Headquarters once every two weeks, taking the kids to the regional amusement park, or going to visit family in the broader region, the greater the opportunity to engage in regional travel without a car, the larger the number of households that will fall into those who can imagine dispensing with a car. And as gasoline prices continue their rise, that imagination will turn to action for increasing numbers of people.
... uh, maybe there is no conclusion here. I just wanted to make those three specific points about the complementarity between High Speed Rail and Local Rail.
No, wait, there is a conclusion: If you have not done so already, Go and Read (and I hope, Recommend), the diary, Local Rail (1). I hope that you enjoy the series as much as I did, and contribute to making for a lively discussion.