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Clearly, it's not Metra, but Nashville isn't Chicago either. For the amount of money that it cost to develop it is actually pretty efficient. Latest ridership figures look better, with David Plazas quoting a weekday ridership of 1100-1200 people on three inbound and three outbound trips daily (around 200 people per trip). http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/david-plazas/2015/08/22/middle-tn-has-stake-nashville-mayors-race-transit/32102473/  That is also in the setting of low gas prices. 

I don't buy the argument that there isn't any way to get anywhere from downtown.  Most importantly, from Riverfront Station all of the CBD and Sobro is walkable with a 10-15 minute walk. The Music City Circuit Blue route and MTA #93 buses are idling at the station for passengers to jump on. The #93 will get someone to Vanderbilt in 9-13 minutes (depending on where on campus) and Belmont in 17 minutes.

I also don't see the condition of the cars serving as a deterrent to passengers. While they are clearly older, they are very clean serve their function well. They are much nicer than either NY MTA or Chicago subway cars from the passengers' perspective. 

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The absence of additional MCS routes from a central terminal further limits the perceived and actual usefulness of the current service.
-==-

Not to be overly tangential with this discussion, but can you (and anyone else with insight) comment on a feasible location for building such a central terminal, given our current infrastructure and buildout? The Landport is an obvious choice, but it is equally apparent that there are significant hurdles that have fallen into place since the inception of that facility.

I find myself saddened by the thought that, in order to acquire the amount of land necessary for such a thing, we would have to place it well outside of the downtown area. I hope I'm wrong...

Edited by Vrtigo

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Clearly, it's not Metra, but Nashville isn't Chicago either. For the amount of money that it cost to develop it is actually pretty efficient. Latest ridership figures look better, with David Plazas quoting a weekday ridership of 1100-1200 people on three inbound and three outbound trips daily (around 200 people per trip). http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/david-plazas/2015/08/22/middle-tn-has-stake-nashville-mayors-race-transit/32102473/  That is also in the setting of low gas prices. 

I don't buy the argument that there isn't any way to get anywhere from downtown.  Most importantly, from Riverfront Station all of the CBD and Sobro is walkable with a 10-15 minute walk. The Music City Circuit Blue route and MTA #93 buses are idling at the station for passengers to jump on. The #93 will get someone to Vanderbilt in 9-13 minutes (depending on where on campus) and Belmont in 17 minutes.

I also don't see the condition of the cars serving as a deterrent to passengers. While they are clearly older, they are very clean serve their function well. They are much nicer than either NY MTA or Chicago subway cars from the passengers' perspective. 

Hey_Hey, I'm only saying this because the MCS has not grown or been expanded,  It doesn't have top be Chicago or even Northern Va. for it to need expansion ─ that's my argument.  It's not a matter of the amount of money that it costed to be developed, as that clearly was an objective in showcasing it as a start-up.  As I said, it's been 9 years, and it also is in need of some type of service augmentation, in order for ridership to justify expansion, recursively, even along that eastern rail route.

Also as far as comparison to NYCMTA and the CTA subway/elevated is concerned, suburban commuter-rail (railroad-based) and heavy-rail transit (HRT) are different classifications of systems and equipment types, HRT systems generally almost always incurring far more duty cycles than commuter rail, by nature of their designed use and application.  When commuter-rail expansion in the future does take off in the region, only then, as I had stated, could the costs of new equipment be justified.

-==-

Edited by rookzie

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Not to be overly tangential with this discussion, but can you (and anyone else with insight) comment on a feasible location for building such a central terminal, given our current infrastructure and buildout? The Landport is an obvious choice, but it is equally apparent that there are significant hurdles that have fallen into place since the inception of that facility.

I find myself saddened by the thought that, in order to acquire the amount of land necessary for such a thing, we would have to place it well outside of the downtown area. I hope I'm wrong...

If I get time, Vrtigo, I can recap some unofficial MPO talk on feasibility for a central terminal.  Other than of course the monumental costs, the availability of locating a site for such a facility has become more and more of a challenge, because of the removal of some once viable assets in the gulch, making it much more costly to create a long-term scalable and multi-modal facility, which optimally would consolidate intercity bus/rail, urban, and suburban transit.

The erection of the gulch pedestrian bridge likely cannot be coordinated in time with any yet future intention of re-purposing Union Station as a terminal, even if the station itself ever were to be reclaimed from private use.  VolsfanWill did however come up with a possible solution with flyovers and undercuts (somewhat reminiscent of Chicago Metra's and NICTD's [South Shore] Randolph Street station track re-arrangement during the last decade and a half).  But concrete flyovers (graduated grade elevations) can restrict the type of vehicles which can be used, if they are too steep, particularly if cars are double-decked open-gallery suburban coaches (as those used on the current MCS).  Perhaps, Will will pop out and share it with us some day.  I really liked it.
-==-

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I think that the MCS could really benefit from a concerted, targeted public relations campaign informing more people of the service (including billboard and radio advertising to target those sitting in traffic), and working with MTA sync up downtown circulator service with train arrivals (that is, whenever a train pulls up, there are guaranteed to be busses waiting to take people to their destination. Push the fact that if you work downtown and live within a short drive of a suburban station, you can save money on parking, fuel, and wear and tear, as well as make your morning commute more peaceful and enjoyable. I've not taken the Star, but it seems like it has potential to be a rather scenic ride for at least some of the distance.

On a positive note, I just noticed that Google Maps now integrates next departure for both trains and buses from at least one MCS station. Now if only they can get it to the rest of them.

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Also as far as comparison to NYCMTA and the CTA subway/elevated is concerned, suburban commuter-rail (railroad-based) and heavy-rail transit (HRT) are different classifications of systems and equipment types, HRT systems generally almost always incurring far more duty cycles than commuter rail, by nature of their designed use and application.  When commuter-rail expansion in the future does take off in the region, only then, as I had stated, could the costs of new equipment be justified.

-==-

I understand the differences. My point was that you do not need a high end interior to attract riders. Clean, yes, but I don't think it has to be signature interior design for a train.  The systems I mentioned previously are very utilitarian, yet they have no problem attracting riders. I guess what I'm saying is that if I had $10 million to spend on the MCS I would allocate those funds to additional stations or track upgrades instead of spending money on the cars themselves.

Edited by Hey_Hey

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I think that the MCS could really benefit from a concerted, targeted public relations campaign informing more people of the service (including billboard and radio advertising to target those sitting in traffic), and working with MTA sync up downtown circulator service with train arrivals (that is, whenever a train pulls up, there are guaranteed to be busses waiting to take people to their destination. Push the fact that if you work downtown and live within a short drive of a suburban station, you can save money on parking, fuel, and wear and tear, as well as make your morning commute more peaceful and enjoyable. I've not taken the Star, but it seems like it has potential to be a rather scenic ride for at least some of the distance.

On a positive note, I just noticed that Google Maps now integrates next departure for both trains and buses from at least one MCS station. Now if only they can get it to the rest of them.

I really hope MTA/RTA markets the real time app like crazy. I think it is really going to attract choice riders because it will take away the "unknown": Did my bus or train come early, or is it late? Do I have time for a bathroom break before I leave this restaurant and catch the bus? I'm running a little late....do I have time to get to the park and ride, or do I just drive on into work?  For people that rely on MTA/RTA for transit, I don't see a lot of increased ridership because of this but I do see an improvement in quality of life. 

Another thought I had while riding the bus the other day:  The per-ride fare system seems ill-conceived and a vestige of the past. Everything seems to be going to a subscription model: cloud based software, internet and cell phone service, cable TV, the YMCA, B-Cycle, etc., etc. The per-ride fares serve as a deterrent to additional utilization, but there are no additional costs to MTA or RTA based on an additional rider. The current routes are a sunk cost, and it doesn't matter if 1 person rides a certain bus or 300 people ride it, the cost is the same.  Why don't we offer a viable alternative for patrons?  What if, instead of a per-ride fare, we focused on a yearly "membership" to MTA and/or RTA.  Per-ride fares could still be available, but the goal would be to make it so that the obvious choice for anyone is to buy the membership.  Once a "membership" is purchased the incentives are now aligned for both MTA and riders to utilize the service as frequently as possible.  If I were to buy a yearly membership to MTA then each additional time I ride it my per-ride cost drops which makes my investment even better.  Right now, for my most frequent trip on the bus, it costs me $3.40 for a roundtrip versus 18 cents for me to drive.  That's not a very strong incentive, but if I were to purchase a yearly membership them that cost is sunk and I will utilize it as much as possible.

Last year MTA collected $16.8 million in self-generated funds. I don't know the breakdown of that between ad revenue on buses and fares, but I'll assume 100% of that came from fares.  A $100 yearly fee would require 168,000 members to be revenue neutral, assuming no one continued to use the fare box for single rides.  To put that in perspective, Vanderbilt and Belmont together have ~45,000 students and employees.  Could we get that many people to buy a "membership subscription" to MTA? Would that be a game changer and induce demand, especially if it is coupled with the rollout of a comprehensive transit plan?

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I understand the differences. My point was that you do not need a high end interior to attract riders. Clean, yes, but I don't think it has to be signature interior design for a train.  The systems I mentioned previously are very utilitarian, yet they have no problem attracting riders. I guess what I'm saying is that if I had $10 million to spend on the MCS I would allocate those funds to additional stations or track upgrades instead of spending money on the cars themselves.

I totally agree; increased wayside infrastructure is what's needed before coaches.  Coaches follow down the track, when capacity demands it from expanded service, and as spoiled (and rotten) regular riders have to give up their second seats for better filling of these existing cars, then the MCS mgmt. will have begun to feel some heat.  Not saying that they need standee riders (with all seats filled on main and in the galley levels), just that there still remains some capacity for increased ridership. 

Nathan_in_DC also has a good point.  For years I have stated, and as the even one panelist of the Cumberland Region Tomorrow discussion mentioned last June, that the RTA has done a lousy job of promoting the current MCS, particularly to those not on-line.  A serious (if not monumental) lack of advertising is much of the problem, to boot, without any reference to a need for funding to augment service on that route. In some cities and counties of other states, I have seen catchy billboard signs on the interstates saying something to the effect, "If you rode this here thing, then you'd probably be home by now". Such visibility and marketing go a long way to "make ends meet", so to speak (just like the train), and to flash attention, although it won't solve the woes.  I believe that last year, the MCS was at the bottom of list in terms of a annual levels of ridership in North America for "official" commuter-rail ops.  We need to change that bottom-listed ranking, and we can make it work.  The stations are marked to accommodate up to 4 cars, so we have some room to grow. with improvements of the track (condition, sidings, stations), just as you say, with an infusion or two of some $M.  We need to collect a few more crusts of bug "salad" on the windshields of the MCS Locos and cab-control cars.  Hey_Hey, I'm with you on this...
-==-

Edited by rookzie
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I totally agree; increased wayside infrastructure is what's needed before coaches.  Coaches follow down the track, when capacity demands it from expanded service, and as spoiled (and rotten) regular riders have to give up their second seats for better filling of these existing cars, then the MCS mgmt. will have begun to feel some heat.  Not saying that they need standee riders (with all seats filled on main and in the galley levels), just that there still remains some capacity for increased ridership. 

Nathan_in_DC also has a good point.  For years I have stated, and as the even one panelist of the Cumberland Region Tomorrow discussion mentioned last June, that the RTA has done a lousy job of promoting the current MCS, particularly to those not on-line.  A serious (if not monumental) lack of advertising is much of the problem, to boot, without any reference to a need for funding to augment service on that route. In some cities and counties of other states, I have seen catchy billboard signs on the interstates saying something to the effect, "If you rode this here thing, then you'd probably be home by now". Such visibility and marketing go a long way to "make ends meet", so to speak (just like the train), and to flash attention, although it won't solve the woes.  I believe that last year, the MCS was at the bottom of list in terms of a annual levels of ridership in North America for "official" commuter-rail ops.  We need to change that bottom-listed ranking, and we can make it work.  The stations are marked to accommodate up to 4 cars, so we have some room to grow. with improvements of the track (condition, sidings, stations), just as you say, with an infusion or two of some $M.  We need to collect a few more crusts of bugs on the windshields of the MCS Locos and cab-control cars.
-==-

Even if the platform can only handle 4 cars, you can load a few more if you put a car ahead of the platform and one behind, having people board from the cars at the platform and move up to the next one when they get on. On the SEPTA trains I used to take, a lot of the rush hour express trains did this at the suburban stops that were designed a century ago to accept much smaller trains, and it works.

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For a central intermodal station I would use a combination of the old train shed space and the space adjacent to the lifeway campus.  Some would have to be underground.  And the csx yard would have to be eliminated shown to a single or at most double track (not likely). There would be a small parking structure on the shed site with retail facing demonbruen. It would not block the union station hotel view above this point. 

 It would be the confluence of 3 commuter lines and 4 light rail lines. The light rail would combine into a single line through the cbd then split again at the bus terminal. Underground along the way. 

I never said my idea was cheap. 

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We had sort of hijacked another thread talking about bridge construction over I-40, so I moved this comment over here.

 

My proposal for the Broadway Bridge is lacking in fine detail, but I wonder if a Single Point Urban Interchange would work here.

I40%20Broadway%20SPUI_zpsho1hgxfw.jpg

It provides double left turns off I-40 and off Broadway under a three-phase traffic signal operation. The downside is that no through traffic is allowed on the collector roads (13th and 14th) meaning the south-bound exit to Demonbruen would be closed. However, it would be significantly more efficient as the beauty of Single Point Urban Interchanges (SPUI's) is its simple traffic signal operation. It would be worth the sacrifice, although a certain auto sales lot owner might object.

To me, some version of this looks doable, although it might fail under the scrutiny of a more exacting analysis.

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For a central intermodal station I would use a combination of the old train shed space and the space adjacent to the lifeway campus.  Some would have to be underground.  And the csx yard would have to be eliminated shown to a single or at most double track (not likely). There would be a small parking structure on the shed site with retail facing demonbruen. It would not block the union station hotel view above this point. 

 It would be the confluence of 3 commuter lines and 4 light rail lines. The light rail would combine into a single line through the cbd then split again at the bus terminal. Underground along the way. 

I never said my idea was cheap. 

"..I never said my idea was cheap."

..What good ones ever are?  You get what you pay for in all terms.  Some kind of bold approach will be needed, and its going to need a whole lot of buy-in, if it ever is to get done at all.  The problem with Nashville and the region is tht there is no pre-existing network or framework; the MCS hardly qualifies as either, and at best can be considered a single point-to-point standalone in its present form.  Most (but perhaps not all) US cities which do have systems, have had them long enough, such that they have incrementally expanded or extended the systems to various extents, or at least they have established specific plans to be proposed for approval (or not).  Nashville does not have any scalable system in place to even be expanded.  In the case of regional transit, the MCS, while arguably viable, most likely will have to be integrated into a separate yet unplanned network, whether or not feasibility would allow its DT terminus to be relocated to a central one.

Even Houston, SLC, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Charlotte, and Norfolk ─ all regional and urban systems of which are relatively new (since 1975), in terms of start-ups. ─ have have something in place as a framework on which to expand.  With this being said, it's going to take quite a while before Nashville can start to harvest the fruits of any comprehensive system, even in part.  Maybe from a few "trees", but it'll be a long time coming from the "grove".  As I have said at least once before in the last 2 years, it takes having something to start, to get more later.  -==-

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This is a great idea IMO...

http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/blog/2015/09/tackling-nashville-s-highway-traffic-one.html?ana=e_du_pub&s=article_du&ed=2015-09-01&u=USpWGZlG/ZV6GLeaR6tOAQ0751cc7b&t=1441142224

This really excites me actually thinking about it. I could see park and ride garages built at exits in further out destinations (Murfreesboro) and more local buses closer in (Antioch and S Nashville).

Edited by MetroTN
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This is a great idea IMO...

http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/blog/2015/09/tackling-nashville-s-highway-traffic-one.html?ana=e_du_pub&s=article_du&ed=2015-09-01&u=USpWGZlG/ZV6GLeaR6tOAQ0751cc7b&t=1441142224

This really excites me actually thinking about it. I could see park and ride garages built at exits in further out destinations (Murfreesboro) and more local buses closer in (Antioch and S Nashville).

Oh GOD NO!  I hope people realize that BRT in the core is a joke.  It's a "cheaper" idea for a reason...it doesn't work (especially in a city like this).  It's possible it could work in the outlying areas (like Antioch or Brentwood), but to even think that BRT will help in the core is a comical thought.  LRT follows most of the streets and is far and above the choice for inner-city transit above ground.  BRT will still be subject to our jacked-up traffic lights.

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Oh GOD NO!  I hope people realize that BRT in the core is a joke.  It's a "cheaper" idea for a reason...it doesn't work (especially in a city like this).  It's possible it could work in the outlying areas (like Antioch or Brentwood), but to even think that BRT will help in the core is a comical thought.  LRT follows most of the streets and is far and above the choice for inner-city transit above ground.  BRT will still be subject to our jacked-up traffic lights.

I'm not going to join the torrent that's likely to follow that statement, but I'm a waiting....

I will say one thing though.  For the outlying areas, the region as a whole needs far more Park-n-Ride / Kiss-n-Ride facilities than it ever dreamed about.  Even Hillsboro Rd and Franklin Rd, could benefit from some anti-NIMBY collaboration and establish these to expand the existing MTA services to the county extents.  It's a damn shame in this day and age that MTA does not extend past Hobbs Rd. in Green Hills or even past Skyline and Walmart on Dickerson Rd.  It makes no sense whatsoever, that one has to live closer to the core, in order to have the option of riding the bus.  But they also would need to provide security at such parking plazas, to ward off catalytic-converter stealing, surprisingly a crime that has not been uncommon in some cases (e.g. Hermitage MCS station).  They don't need any BRT to be able to afford a perceived benefit of parking provisions further out; they just need extended distance, period, within the county at least for the time being.  I ride with people who drive to Christ the King and park along Belmont Blvd, just to ride the bus and avoid fighting downtown (or even midtown and at Vandy).

But the MTA does have a serious shortage of motor coaches, both 40- and 60-ft, and they need to tackle funding for fleet expansion ahead of other investments.  Again they don't need BRT to take this step.
-==-

Edited by rookzie
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BRT will still be subject to our jacked-up traffic lights.

I could build you a BRT line and integrate the traffic signals on it and five more corridors for what it would cost to take LRT the same distance. It provides an identical level of service for a fraction of the money.

The only trouble I've seen regarding BRT in "a city like this" is from all of the people who think they're too high-class to occupy a rubber-wheeled transit vehicle, cf. the Amp.

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Okay... so I know I must sound like my own echo... but seriously, I cannot imagine that either BRT or LRT works best on the most traveled streets in town.  Look for a parallel (1-block away) street from the most traveled corridors.  Most of the opposition to the BRT (Amp) plan was that it was on West End.  You'll need to win over the car drivers, but that won't happen until after the system is up and running. 

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I could build you a BRT line and integrate the traffic signals on it and five more corridors for what it would cost to take LRT the same distance. It provides an identical level of service for a fraction of the money.

The only trouble I've seen regarding BRT in "a city like this" is from all of the people who think they're too high-class to occupy a rubber-wheeled transit vehicle, cf. the Amp.

I'm not too good for a bus, but I have enough common sense to know people hate buses in this town and will not ride them regardless what you call the routes.

 

Expensive or not, more options MUST be discussed and soon.

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Okay... so I know I must sound like my own echo... but seriously, I cannot imagine that either BRT or LRT works best on the most traveled streets in town.  Look for a parallel (1-block away) street from the most traveled corridors.  Most of the opposition to the BRT (Amp) plan was that it was on West End.  You'll need to win over the car drivers, but that won't happen until after the system is up and running. 

The biggest hurdle to this approach is that there just aren't that many roads that parallel the focus corridors for a sufficient distance to avoid travel time increases. For example, the Broadway / West End study looked at Church and Demonbreun, but those terminate at Centennial Park and Music Row, respectively, and in any case many of the congested spots are further west than those locations. There are other routes that would serve the purpose for short stretches, such as Richland and Whitland Avenues in Cherokee Park, but those are residential streets where you'd simply be shifting the impacts from one group of neighbors to another with an additional travel time penalty. (Bicycle boulevards are another story.)

A more abstract beef is that it presupposes that vehicular traffic takes precedence over transit traffic. Walking distance is assumed to be a half-mile, probably more like a quarter in Southern heat (and as one of the carpetbagging consultants told me, "You all are a little larger down here"), and using up some of that distance by relegating the transit lines to a side street decreases its efficiency, particularly when the ideal is to have the transit riders outnumber the vehicle occupants. If anything, being more apt to destination-driven traffic, the transit lines should be on the focus roadway, with bypassing cars off the corridor. That's where the development is, after all.

I'm not too good for a bus, but I have enough common sense to know people hate buses in this town and will not ride them regardless what you call the routes.

 

Expensive or not, more options MUST be discussed and soon.

I'm curious as to why the default position is to cater to the people with hang-ups over more economically-viable options. This isn't the case elsewhere. Brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets look much more upscale than concrete and asphalt, and I'm sure more people would like to walk or drive on them. But they are the exception, not the rule, and if the reverse were true we would have a lot less of both. Alternatively, if the city were going to great expense to cater to the whims of a few, particularly if said few were residents of, say, Belle Meade, Phil Williams would have a field day. People seem attuned to accept the no-frills options in other areas of public infrastructure, roads, buildings, etc. There's no reason they can't here.

I'd be more sympathetic to the case for going upmarket if there were an economic justification, that is, if mass transit were even remotely a profitable venture and the increased expenses associated with LRT were covered by the revenue from increased ridership. Farebox recovery ratios being what they are, however, I'm disinclined to double or triple the amount of taxpayer money spent on a project simply because a few more potential riders might (operative word) overcome their superficial preconceptions long enough to use it.

If people need some more motivation to slum it up on the bus, well, traffic's not going to get any lighter.

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We "discussed" the Tennessean article in June arguing for more roads and against transit.

It took some time, but the Tennessean Opinion pages have now run my piece in response, which is mostly about induced demand:

Tennessee cannot build its way out of traffic congestion

http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/09/02/tennessee-cannot-build-its-way-out-traffic-congestion/71545486/?hootPostID=50c730f75f5e75ee7d52374050910f09

 

The word space was too short to get into specific options of BRT, light rail, etc.  My main point was that "free" highways cost everyone and distort supply and demand.  I did briefly advocate for congestion based pricing in the form of HOT lanes similar to Atlanta and other cities.  The Tennessean feed turn that into:

I think it's clear in the end of my letter, but in case there was any confusion, my science work is in biology and has nothing to do with transportation in any way.

-Kevin Erreger

37206dude

Your perseverance paid off. Thanks for the contribution.
-==-

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That's a well-stated article. That logic really argues for taking away a lane of interstate traffic and using it for mass transit. It also opens the possibility of using a dedicated lane of the interstate as a revenue generator for the rest of the transit system.  Could we charge express lane prices on our interstates and then use that money to fund mass transit projects? 

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That's a well-stated article. That logic really argues for taking away a lane of interstate traffic and using it for mass transit. It also opens the possibility of using a dedicated lane of the interstate as a revenue generator for the rest of the transit system.  Could we charge express lane prices on our interstates and then use that money to fund mass transit projects? 

That's right.  Could we?....

-==-

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I think a toll based system for roads like 440 could be a huge help, and if the fees are heightened for truck traffic could encourage more use of a free 840.  Requiring EZ Pass for entrance, or a system of photographing the license plate then requiring drivers to go online later to pay, could be easy to implement and could dynamically adjust based on the time of day and traffic volume. Say, make it free outside of rush hour and on weekends, and institute fees during the day and on special events.

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