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nowyano

Public transit in Alabama

Would You Use Rail Transit?  

54 members have voted

  1. 1. Subways, Light or Commuter Rail in Alabama

    • Only in Birmingham
      21
    • Only in Mobile
      2
    • Only in Huntsville
      2
    • Only in Montgomery
      0
    • In Any of Them
      6
    • Not At All
      23
  2. 2. If There Were A Rail Transit System In One of the Big 4 Alabama Metros Would You Use It?

    • Yes
      34
    • No
      12
    • Sometimes
      8


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I think that a subway or any sort of heavy rail transit is out of the question. Those are extremely expensive, and there have been no new starts approved in the past 30 years except for San Juan, PR which was just recently approved.

Light rail transit (LRT) would probably work well in Birmingham and maybe Montgomery.

Many cities smaller than Birmingham are making plans for an LRT system. In my state, our 3 largest metros all have plans for a rail based transit system of some kind. Greenville and Charleston are furthest along in this process, and each are planning an LRT system. Also, Charlotte is about the same size as Birmingham, and its LRT system is already under construction.

Birmingham is a great candidate for LRT. Its a fairly large city, and it does not have an all encompasing interstate system, which works to its benefit for transit purposes. You guys are right in that the current system will have to be revamped. Busses are typically less popular modes of transportation in the US because they are typically serving only those that can't afford a car. As gas prices go up, you generally begin to see more people riding bus systems. Rail, on the other hand, is viewed more positively. Another option for Birmingham may be Bus Rapid Transit. This is a sort of hybrid between busses and rail. They are essentially "rail" lines with stations and everything, but with rubber tires and concrete as its "tracks." I am not a big fan of this mode, but it could be an option worth exploring.

One thing to remember is that rail systems don't have to be focused on one downtown central station. Don't look at MARTA as an example of a good system. It works well enough, but it doesn't allow people to get where they need to go which is why it is not used to its fullest extent. Remember that in most cities, downtown is just a central employment node, but most people work in the suburbs. Also, the majority of trips that people make are for leisure activites, not work. Birmingham will need to have some lines that have access to major employment centers as well as major shopping centers and suburbs.

I don't know Birminham's traffic patterns and employment centers at all. Unfortunately my personal experience with this city is limited to what I have seen from the interstate.

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One thing to remember is that rail systems don't have to be focused on one downtown central station. Don't look at MARTA as an example of a good system. It works well enough, but it doesn't allow people to get where they need to go which is why it is not used to its fullest extent. Remember that in most cities, downtown is just a central employment node, but most people work in the suburbs. Also, the majority of trips that people make are for leisure activites, not work. Birmingham will need to have some lines that have access to major employment centers as well as major shopping centers and suburbs.

This is where Birmingham's MAX bus system fails. Many of the concentration of routes focus on shuttling people around the city of Birmingham, and there are few routes from Birmingham outward to the suburbs. A LRT system would need to start out as sabre0link suggested by roughly paralleling US 31 from Alabaster to Gardendale, then building up from there. The terrain would obviously present some challenges, but Birmingham will be a great fit for a LRT system, if only local leaders would pursue funding for it.

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Now, a train would go, what... 55/60? Or more, depending on type of system (light rail, monorail, elevated/typical, etc). No traffic, with between 6 and 8 stops of at most 3 mins each (yes, stops are typically pretty short)... could take 50 minutes.

Compare that with DC.. the route I took was from Greenbelt to DuPont Circle, a distance of 11 miles, that took 30 minutes. That included a transfer to a different train line, and about twice as many stops. Cost was also $3.30 (due to the distance & the transfer).

Actually the vehicles in the DC system are some of the fastest heavy rail cars in the nation as they can reach 79 mph. Once you hit the suburban routes in one of these trains where they travel down the median of the interstate, its fascinating to watch the train go faster than the traffic. And this is when everyone on the highway is breaking the 65 mph speed limit. The DC Metro is a great system, but as Spartan mentioned earlier, the technology is far too expensive for anything less than a 8-9 million metro.

The focus for cities in Alabama should be surface level light rail.

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Actually the vehicles in the DC system are some of the fastest heavy rail cars in the nation as they can reach 79 mph. Once you hit the suburban routes in one of these trains where they travel down the median of the interstate, its fascinating to watch the train go faster than the traffic. And this is when everyone on the highway is breaking the 65 mph speed limit. The DC Metro is a great system, but as Spartan mentioned earlier, the technology is far too expensive for anything less than a 8-9 million metro.

Those trains have their own dedicated route...unless dedicated routes are built for commuter trains in Alabama, they would have to abide by the speed limit set by the railroad company maintaining those tracks, which is in many cases 65 mph at max.

I agree that a heavy rail system would be too much for any of the cities in Alabama, but something needs to be done that is attractive to the middle-class suburban commuter.

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Heavy rail, (DC metro) and commuter rail are not the same thing. Heavy rail systems never share the tracks with freight due to safety reasons. These are heavy duty electrified systems that can carry a lot of people and make frequent stops. This is why the technology is so expensive. Examples of heavy rail are Atlanta's MARTA, the NYC transit system, Chicago's El, Los Angeles Red line.

In contrast, commuter rail, by design, is meant to share tracks with freight lines to reduce cost and use a different technology. Basically they use a short haul version of an Amtrak locomotive pulling carriages that have been modified for local travel. These can be extremely cost effective as the commuter rail in Nashville demonstrates as the entire line costs less than $50M. Examples of commuter rail are Chicago's Metra, South Florida TriRail, Charlotte's North Line (proposed)

A third option is light rail. These are electrified trains and are similar in make up to a heavy rail line, but have smaller capacities and the stations are not nearly as elaborate. LRT does not share tracks with freight in this country due to safety concerns, but it can be operated in a highway ROW in order to reduce costs. (but this does reduce the effectiveness) The LRT in Dallas operates on the streets within the center city, but moves onto its own ROW as it heads to the suburbs. Other light rail lines are in Houston, San Diego, Charlotte, Minneapolis, and Denver.

There are variations on these, but these are the basic modes of city/metro rail transit in the USA.

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Another option for Birmingham may be Bus Rapid Transit. This is a sort of hybrid between busses and rail.

I'll respond to this, then expand on some idea that I got today from viewing traffic jam photos in other cities... :)

Birmingham has the following listed in its Transit System Plan dated Feb 2006:

Expanded Local Bus (CBD and UAB as well as surrounding areas, typical normal local bus)

Fixed Rail Streetcar (runs downtown only, BJCC at 11th Ave N. to 11th Ave S., and another route from 13th St S. to 32nd St. S.)

Express Bus (Interstates)

Bus Rapid Transit (Walmart on 280 to City Hall... via 280, University, and 19th St. Not sure if this is the BRT system you spoke of, or if it's running on the road. )

Enhanced Bus Alignment (uhrh? *Scooby Doo sound* Looks like a bus that'll run between stations, instead of corners....

ALSO listed... are HOV lanes. Existing plan is from Alabaster to Uni. Blvd. Proposed goes beyond that (from Calera to Gardendale)

How many vehicles do you normally see with more than 1 person in the vehicle on their way to work in the morning? Or will the occupancy thing be ignored, thus making the HOV pointless, as it has added a lane to the road?

If they insist on widening the roads... widen from Alabaster north (make exit only lanes.. something!) til it's 3 lanes from Exit 238 to whatever exit 119 is at. And widen the same on the reverse.

There are a TON of people that get off at Pelham (tank farm exit) and a TON of people that get off at Alabaster... the only time it backs up from Shelby Cty. Airport is when there's an accident right there or between there and Calera....

By the time morning/afternoon traffic reaches Alabaster, it is manageable. Two lanes is fine, it's when you quadruple the number of cars on the interstate at one exit that causes the problem.

Traffic bottlenecks at Alabaster in the morning, and then at 119 in the afternoon.

Now then, my idea. In some Asian city (I believe), they have a rail in the CENTER of the interstate (elevated, of course)... but this posed an idea in my head... and I assume ya'll can figure it out... put the stations and tracks over the interstate (there are places where it would be an issue, though..... heh), and route to 'mainland' when needed... Transit Plazas above the interstates.... *shrugs* Just an idea. lol. >_< :)

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Now then, my idea. In some Asian city (I believe), they have a rail in the CENTER of the interstate (elevated, of course)... but this posed an idea in my head... and I assume ya'll can figure it out... put the stations and tracks over the interstate (there are places where it would be an issue, though..... heh), and route to 'mainland' when needed... Transit Plazas above the interstates.... *shrugs* Just an idea. lol. >_< :)

Actually the suburban portion of the DC metro is like this in some spots. The trains go down the center of the interstate and the stations are built over the interstate. Generally however this is not the best idea in the world as usually there is nothing walkable near an interstate.

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Generally however this is not the best idea in the world as usually there is nothing walkable near an interstate.

Maybe not, but if there is sufficient parking at the station (maybe make the station like a toll road plaza) then the over-the-interstate station would work. If there is an HOV lane planned for the center of the interstate anyway, then I don't know whether there would be room for a rail line as well.

How are those stations layed out over the interstate, and does access come from ramps to and from the interstate? What about parking?

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The orange line operates down the median of I-66. I am not familiar with all the stations, but the Vienna station for example is built like a bridge over the highway. The train platform is under the station as the train operates close to the height of the roadway. Since the road is below grade at this point, the entrance to the station on either side of the highway are at ground level. There are large park and ride parking lots by the station but there is now considerable development within walking distance.

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Now then, my idea. In some Asian city (I believe), they have a rail in the CENTER of the interstate (elevated, of course)... but this posed an idea in my head... and I assume ya'll can figure it out... put the stations and tracks over the interstate (there are places where it would be an issue, though..... heh), and route to 'mainland' when needed... Transit Plazas above the interstates.... *shrugs* Just an idea. lol. >_< :)

They have this in Atlanta as well. MARTA runs down the center of GA400 on its way to Buckhead. Its a great idea. You get tons of visibility that way, and when the trains are running faster than the traffic, you may get some converts...

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I was thinking more elevated than at grade with the road... heh. Parking on either side of the interstate, with access to the station provided by sidewalks, etc.. (you still have to walk, but it's from where you parked to the tracks.. heh). The station itself would be built on a 'plaza' (Think of a tunnel.... the tunnel would have to be created (more money) around the road before the station could be built. Since there's pretty much no way we'd be able to have a true subway, it'd have to be elevated. Sort of like Disney's Monorail (which I really wouldn't mind if that was our system!), the system is two fold... people mover first, and a testing bed for tires, since the cars use tires on the center cement track. :)

Anyways...

More searching, possibly some sketching... thinking...

Hmm.. upon some searching...

Aesthetically I would think a meld between Monorail and Light Rail would be great.... self-powered (no need for wires above) or third-rail powered (like a subway) would be best, with the costs of Light Rail. Heh. :\ But where to find that mixture?

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Aesthetically I would think a meld between Monorail and Light Rail would be great.... self-powered (no need for wires above) or third-rail powered (like a subway) would be best, with the costs of Light Rail. Heh. :\ But where to find that mixture?

Well actually that does exist. Its call DMU (diesel multiple units). Do a search on The River Line in New Jersey if you would like to see a fine example of this. Pending certain ongoing federal certificatoins, DMUs can share tracks with freight which further reduces their cost.

Monorails, are very expensive to build now because of Federal requirements that require some sort of escape mechanism from the vehicle in case it catches on fire. This is a real danger as it has happend on several monorail systems in the last few years.

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The more I think about it I believe a regional commuter rail would work for the Birmingham area. The recent numbers that reveal that more people from Tuscaloosa, Anniston and Gadsden commuting to the Birmingham area, it is becoming more of the suitable option.

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Having encountered people from NYC trying to get around B'ham this past weekend....

We need something if we want to keep landing huge conventions... and for ones that have people staying here for a week or so... something to do for the kids... besides McWane Center. But that's not part of the transit. If we do have something else, it needs to be 'easily accesible' (iow, a few blocks from a transit station)

I see all this retail and shopping centers that keep appearing, and I can't seem to fathom why we're doing so, except for the whole ease-of-travel thing... retail is moving towards people's homes...

It appears that the 4-laneing of I-65 around Valleydale Road is continuing...

The main people that (I feel) would use mass transit would be 18-25 year olds... most cost concious, most over the joy of driving, and just overall more likely to use it. It'd have to be those that intro it to their family, friends, etc...

Re: commuter rail: Yes, but there'd have to be an EXCELLENT way of getting people from the B'ham station to their work (or near it).

There is no single transit solution... it is called a transit system for a reason. :)

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Having encountered people from NYC trying to get around B'ham this past weekend....

We need something if we want to keep landing huge conventions... and for ones that have people staying here for a week or so... something to do for the kids... besides McWane Center. But that's not part of the transit. If we do have something else, it needs to be 'easily accesible' (iow, a few blocks from a transit station)

I see all this retail and shopping centers that keep appearing, and I can't seem to fathom why we're doing so, except for the whole ease-of-travel thing... retail is moving towards people's homes...

It appears that the 4-laneing of I-65 around Valleydale Road is continuing...

The main people that (I feel) would use mass transit would be 18-25 year olds... most cost concious, most over the joy of driving, and just overall more likely to use it. It'd have to be those that intro it to their family, friends, etc...

Re: commuter rail: Yes, but there'd have to be an EXCELLENT way of getting people from the B'ham station to their work (or near it).

There is no single transit solution... it is called a transit system for a reason. :)

I think this fight is one uphill battle that I think we could win if regional cooperation is accomplished. It was mentioned in the Birmingham News last week about those monthly meetings of officials has produced a Transit Advisory Board. This board is comprised of opponents and proponents of mass transit from all around the metro area. They goal is to come to a compromise over this issue. I'm praying this will produce a plan that can actual work with the final product of an improved mass transit with more bus routes and some form of fixed route transit (BRT, LRT, or commuter rail).

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I think this fight is one uphill battle that I think we could win if regional cooperation is accomplished. It was mentioned in the Birmingham News last week about those monthly meetings of officials has produced a Transit Advisory Board. This board is comprised of opponents and proponents of mass transit from all around the metro area. They goal is to come to a compromise over this issue. I'm praying this will produce a plan that can actual work with the final product of an improved mass transit with more bus routes and some form of fixed route transit (BRT, LRT, or commuter rail).

It's sad how long it took them to do something about this. They shoulda done it a loooong time ago.

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I know I'm late but I'll add my 2 cents ;) .. I don't see a subway system as being practical in Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile or Montgomery.. LRT is probably more practical, but I see Huntsville being the first of the 4 cities to have a LRT system in place..

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I know I'm late but I'll add my 2 cents ;) .. I don't see a subway system as being practical in Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile or Montgomery.. LRT is probably more practical, but I see Huntsville being the first of the 4 cities to have a LRT system in place..

That's the way I see it going. Cause Decatur and Huntsville have long been talking about having a monorail, or some other type of LRT between the cities that connects the two metros. Also, having stops in places like Mooresville, Madison, Space Center, and the Arsenal/MSFC.

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I know I'm late but I'll add my 2 cents ;) .. I don't see a subway system as being practical in Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile or Montgomery.. LRT is probably more practical, but I see Huntsville being the first of the 4 cities to have a LRT system in place..

The guy that created this thread intended to say "both subway and LRT" (see the first page). And welcome to the forum, Rocket. :)

That's the way I see it going. Cause Decatur and Huntsville have long been talking about having a monorail, or some other type of LRT between the cities that connects the two metros. Also, having stops in places like Mooresville, Madison, Space Center, and the Arsenal/MSFC.

Why have a monorail when there's a nice train track running between Huntsville and Decatur? My idea is to build a commuter rail line between Decatur, Madison, Huntsville, and Scottsboro, with lots of stops in between. At every station, there would be park and ride lots, and at the urban stations, there would be bus terminals to get people to/from work. Another plan that's being talked about is a light rail line from Downtown Huntsville to Ditto Landing, using the existing HMCRA line. However, the line will need to be upgraded before it is ever used for mass transit. There are some smaller projects that could be done, like a light rail line in Research Park West beginning at the proposed Bridge Street Bus Terminal, and a commuter rail spur into the Arsenal. But most of this will never be reality, with the exception of the Downtown to Ditto LRT and the HunDec commuter rail.

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The guy that created this thread intended to say "both subway and LRT" (see the first page). And welcome to the forum, Rocket. :)

Why have a monorail when there's a nice train track running between Huntsville and Decatur? My idea is to build a commuter rail line between Decatur, Madison, Huntsville, and Scottsboro, with lots of stops in between. At every station, there would be park and ride lots, and at the urban stations, there would be bus terminals to get people to/from work. Another plan that's being talked about is a light rail line from Downtown Huntsville to Ditto Landing, using the existing HMCRA line. However, the line will need to be upgraded before it is ever used for mass transit. There are some smaller projects that could be done, like a light rail line in Research Park West beginning at the proposed Bridge Street Bus Terminal, and a commuter rail spur into the Arsenal. But most of this will never be reality, with the exception of the Downtown to Ditto LRT and the HunDec commuter rail.

Haha, a monorail just sounds more high--tech. But really, there's too much traffic going on that railroad. Everytime I'm out on the river, there's a freight train that goes over the RR Bridge about every 10 minutes, that's a conservative estimate. There would have to be a new line stretching between the metros in order to create an efficient route.

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Haha, a monorail just sounds more high--tech. But really, there's too much traffic going on that railroad. Everytime I'm out on the river, there's a freight train that goes over the RR Bridge about every 10 minutes, that's a conservative estimate. There would have to be a new line stretching between the metros in order to create an efficient route.

Either a new line would have to be constructed or the line would need to be double-tracked. Keep in mind that the railroad bridge across the river also has to be lifted periodically for marine traffic, and then there is the intermodal facility at the Huntsville International Airport that the Norfolk Southern line services.

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Either a new line would have to be constructed or the line would need to be double-tracked. Keep in mind that the railroad bridge across the river also has to be lifted periodically for marine traffic, and then there is the intermodal facility at the Huntsville International Airport that the Norfolk Southern line services.

Yea a new bridge into Decatur would surely have to be built. Which wouldn't be good, considering that there's really not any good place to build a new track into town, or to leave the northshore.

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If more money is needed, public transit must be supported

This one of the best arguments for more state funding for public transportation across the state. It seems if we are going to increase funding for the highways and roads across the state, public transportation funding should also be a part of this package. We are 1 of only 4 states that don't allow for state funding revenues from gas taxes to go towards public transportation. Alabama should change this and it is going to continue to hold us back. Public transporatation along with the increase of the number of sidewalks would offer a healthy alternative to sitting in a car drive.

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If more money is needed, public transit must be supported

This one of the best arguments for more state funding for public transportation across the state. It seems if we are going to increase funding for the highways and roads across the state, public transportation funding should also be a part of this package. We are 1 of only 4 states that don't allow for state funding revenues from gas taxes to go towards public transportation. Alabama should change this and it is going to continue to hold us back. Public transporatation along with the increase of the number of sidewalks would offer a healthy alternative to sitting in a car drive.

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