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rocky top buzz

Reality hits Music City Star

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http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar...EWS01/609190334

Ok, so the lead story this morning shows that yesterday, 345 riders rode the train into downtown (they say they don't have last nights numbers yet, but I would have to imagine there aren't too many who drove into work and then rode the train home).

Based on the cost estimate of $40 million, that's $115,942.02 per rider!!! Is this really what we want as an alternative to the interstates?

Maybe I was mistaken, but I thought the estimated 1,400 daily riders would have meant 1,400 riding in, 1,400 riding out - 2,800 total. This story say that their estimates are based on each way? Why would someone ride the train to work and then not ride it home, or vice-versa? And besides, don't you typically have higher numbers when something is new? It's called hype. New stadiums have higher attendence when they first open; same thing for the new schemmerhorn. It scares me to think that 350 was the number for all those just doing the new thing. What if the regular ridership is closer to 100-200?

Maybe I'm just mad about the fact that this rail line is setup for failure because they chose the weakest link, downtown to lebanon, as their starting point. If you had this running yesterday between downtown and murfreesboro, I bet you would have had 5,000 rders. But this line appears doomed for failure, and that will unneccesarily doom this project across the Nashville MSA.

What do you guys think, am I blowing this up too early? I just really expected to have a huge turnout on day 1, and then see more realistic numbers as we progressed.

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I think if the rail line is given a chance rider ship should improve. This part of the country is not mass transit users yet at the same time many of us dream of being inside the building on opening day of a huge new sports stadium.

We just got a metro bus service in Cleveland, and at first the buses were almost completely empty, but as the weeks passed and word got out the ridership has seen a nice increase. The Cleveland system is now looking to add more routes and buses.

One thought about the light use to start out, gas prices have taken a nose dive and the SUV drivers out there aren't thinking as much about the ol' fuel tank like they were back in June and July.

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I agree. This is a bad time to finally open the rail line, with gas now being as low as $2.30.

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I don't buy into the gas price deal as much. Even at $2.30, those folks are probably burning 2 galoons of gas = $4.60 per trip. Most of what I read as far as why people are riding is because of commute times, and gas prices don't appear to have an effect on commute times.

I hope you're right about comparing what happened with Cleveland's bus system to what is happening here. My only thought against that would be that this commuter rail has gotten A LOT of publicity.

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The City Paper seems to think reality has hit the music city star too:

http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/index.cf...p;news_id=52241

I don't read the City Paper article as saying that the Music City Star is doomed, but it is providing a realistic wake-up call that people need to use the darn thing or it's over. I agree with the operators in putting a real focus on customer service. If people try it and have a bad experience, they will go right back to their cars and never give the train a second thought. So I believe that ridership will be built one customer at a time. The more people start figuring out ways to make it work in their schedules, the more it will work for everyone. And I definitely know people here in Chicago who take the Metra (our suburban commuter trains) and really use that time to read for pleasure or to catch up on emails and other work and really make that time productive. So even if the commute time is similar to driving, they sort of get that hour or more of time each way back. It's hard to put a price on that. I also think that if the train line is successful, that residential and business activity will increase near the train stops. In a way, commuter trains contribute to sprawl by making it even more convenient than driving to live out of the city.

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I still just don't see the demand. I mean, we could run a commuter train all the way to Cookeville, but if only 1 person commutes from Cookeville daily, and he rides the train (100% participation!), would the expense be justifiable? I think not.

There just aren't that many people in Wilson county commuting to Nashville.

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It's overpriced for what you get and the distance you travel. A quick comparison to the Metra in Chicago shows how far apart the fares get based on the number of rides you purchase.

Metra from Wheaton to downtown Chicago (approx. 22 miles)

1-way ticket $3.90

10 ride ticket $33.15

Monthly pass $105.30

Compared to Lebanon to Nashville (approx. 23 miles)

1-way ticket $5.00

10 ride ticket $45.00

Monthly pass $168.00

On top of that, for $5 you can get an unlimited pass to ride the Metra all weekend! Sounds like the "Music City Star"(I hate that cheesy name) has the wrong management in place if they want packed trains.

I also can't believe that they aren't taking advantage of running trains to the Titans games or late night runs for Predators games. What a big $$ opportunity that's being missed out on.

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This train will almost certainly be a failure economically. Thats why the local governments are propping it up, and why they are grasping for funding options 5 years down the road. I agree completely with everything Rocky top has said. The one line that could support itself at this point would be the Boro, but alas no train there.

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Do interstates make money? Do you all hold roads to the same standard as rail?

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Do interstates make money? Do you all hold roads to the same standard as rail?

With no toll roads around here, of course they don't make money. What "roads and rail" standard are you referring to?

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It's overpriced for what you get and the distance you travel. A quick comparison to the Metra in Chicago shows how far apart the fares get based on the number of rides you purchase.

.....

Compared to Lebanon to Nashville (approx. 23 miles)

1-way ticket $5.00

10 ride ticket $45.00

Monthly pass $168.00....

It seems to me that gasoline alone to drive this route for most vehicles would cost more than riding the train. Then there is depreciation on the vehicle and possibly having to pay to park in Nashville. The train would seem to be a bargain in comparison. It should also be noted that most insurance companies will give people a considerable break on their car insurance if the tell them they are not using the vehicle for commuting to work.

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It seems to me that gasoline alone to drive this route for most vehicles would cost more than riding the train. Then there is depreciation on the vehicle and possibly having to pay to park in Nashville. The train would seem to be a bargain in comparison. It should also be noted that most insurance companies will give people a considerable break on their car insurance if the tell them they are not using the vehicle for commuting to work.

Metro M., you make a very, very, very good point about insurance companies and giving breaks to those that use mass transit. That is very true almost anywhere you go that has mass transit.

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(nashscan @ Sep 23 2006, 10:48 PM)

Do interstates make money? Do you all hold roads to the same standard as rail?

I guess the difference I see is that roads are paid for out of the gas tax, not general funds. So if I don't use the roads (ie buy gas), then I'm not force to pay the roads. But If I live in Wilson County, I have to pay for this train whether I ride it our not.

I'm not completely opposed to some type of subsidy to get this idea going, but If I were going to have to pay for empty trains over the next 30 years, I'd be mad.

Does anyone have an update on ridership numbers since day 1? I just wonder if there is a significant difference, or if they are about the same?

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To answer the question, yes this is too early to call it a bust. To mature this line into a viable option it will take years of development around the stations with people purchasing homes that have jobs downtown and along the line.

350 riders per day start means the line is a success for a commuter line in a city as low-density as this.

The line isn't $111,000 per individual because the line will be used more than one day.

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It is without a doubt too early to make a judgement on this. In the early days of the car people didn't really buy into it either. I see this as the same situation. It will take time, marketing, and a lot of hearsay, but I think that eventually this thing will be a success.

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In my opinion its already a success. An average 35 mile country road has construction costs higher than $40 million many times and the round trip numbers for STAR are already at 750 or so per day. Their goal is to get that above 1000, which means it will only take 200-300 new riders in the course of the next few years. Its highly attainable.

If a country road that gets 500-1000 drivers a day costs as much, if not more, than this line, what is anyone - even the most fiscally conservative libertarian - got to complain with?

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Have you seen the latest ridership numbers? Are they close to the original targets? What do they "need" to cover expenses?

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