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Mith242

Western Public Transportation Systems

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After visiting Albuquerque and seeing their new heavy rail system and hearing a little about a possible light rail or trolley streetcar system in the future I decided I'd like to find out more about public transportation in general for the western part of the country. Heavy rail, light rail, trolley/streetcar, even bus systems. Share some info. :D I'm also curious if anyone has any suggestions for public transportation as well.

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Good thread, Mith.

Well, let's run down the list:

  • Albuqeruque: new heavy rail system

  • Denver: light rail system, opened about a year ago w/ expansion plans

  • Salt Lake City: light rail system, opened in 2001 w/ expansion plans

  • Las Vegas: small, tourist-oriented monorail system

  • Phoenix: light rail under construction

  • Tucson: "modern streetcar" planned and mostly funded, current tourist-oriented trolley

  • San Diego: fairly extensive light rail system, heavy rail "Coaster"

  • Los Angeles: subway, heavy rail and light rail

  • Bay Area: public transit king of the West: light rail, trolleys, subways, heavy rail

  • Sacramento: light rail

  • Portland: light rail

  • Seattle: light rail under construction, heavy rail, commuter ferry system, Tacoma has a small a light rail system which connects its Downtown to the heavy rail

  • Spokane: light rail system planned

Out of everyone, I think that Las Vegas is by far the furthest behind. I've heard rumors of light rail there, but is anything actually being done? The most logical thing to do there would be to be a build a transit system (maybe even expanding upon the current monorail) to go from Downtown to the Strip to the airport. Is it just the taxi companies who are keeping that down?

Seattle is also pretty bad. They have a great bus system, but being on a crowded commuter bus stuck in traffic is much worse than being in a car stuck in traffic. They would also benefit greatly from a trolley system considering the fantastic density they have. Plus, multiple employment centers (Redmond, Downtown Bellevue, etc) means that a suburban rail system would most likely be successful.

Any thoughts?

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I wonder if Las Vegas is having a hard time keeping up because of all the growth going on. Isn't it the fastest growing metro? A trolley in Seattle does sound like a good idea. To be honest I just assumed they already had something like that. I admit my only experiance of that list is Albuquerque. I am impressed with the way Albuquerque seems to be heading though. Before their heavy rail is even finished they are talking about possibly extending it to Santa Fe and also putting in a light rail/modern streetcar system as well. It may not be much compared to some of the other cities on the list but it's also quite a bit smaller than some of those on the list as well. Any opinions on which western city has the best public transportation system?

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Denver's first light rail line opened in 1994, and a major expansion into the southeast (I-25) corridor is set to open within the month with a possible expansion east to DIA already being discussed.

There's long been rumors of heavy rail from Fort Collins to Pueblo, but there's major doubt about it's viability and it's never really gotten any legs.

Within the last few weeks Denver has also taken two bids to centralize it's transit system around Union Station downtown. One of the plans includes residential/commercial highrsises and underground light rail.

For what little it's worth, Colorado Springs is in the process of chosing a site for a new transit hub to house it's "Mountain Metro Transit" bus system. The "preferred" site takes into account future heavy rail plans, but I really don't see the so called "Front Range Commuter Rail" as much more than a pipe dream at this point.

http://www.gazette.com/display.php?secid=2

Council discussed the issue again today, but I don't know what the outcome was yet.

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Council decided not to go forward with the depot plan. I'm not really dissapointed in this case... I agree with those who said it would have ruined a historic site with little if any benefit to the community. If the time comes when there is a true commitment to regional commuter rail or citywide light rail, I'm sure they'll find a way to make it work no matter what site is chosen.

http://www.gazette.com/display.php?secid=2

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Whoops! Shows what I know about Denver.

That CO Springs - Denver corridor is so busy that I would think rail would be the first option. Same thing with Boulder - Denver. Does Colorado Springs have the right kind of culture for mass transit, or is it one of those "die in my car" kind of places?

Also not on my little list are Boise and Fresno. Fresno is actually quite a bit larger (closer to Tucson: 450k city, 1 mil metro), but both have apparently thought about light rail. Boise just strikes me as a more progressive town (I haven't been to either before though), so I would think light rail would have a better chance up there than in Fresno.

Also, anyone know of any plans for a Metro Utah (Ogden-Salt Lake-Provo) rail line? There's already Amtrak service from Provo to Salt Lake City, but Amtrak service is typically sporadic and doesn't really act as a viable means of alternative transit.

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Colorado Springs is not particularly progressive. As someone on another board said, Colorado Springs is a town of haves and have nots. The Have's drive their SUV's, the have not's take the bus. We won't see lightrail here anytime soon.

As for commuter rail between the cities... there is a bus serviced called FREX "Front Range Express" that runs between Denver & COS daily. I believe it averages 600 riders per day. Traffic between the cities is not heavy enough to justify a highway any wider than 4 lanes, so I'd say it's a long shot. I think the northern front range cities will be linked by rail long before Colorado Springs get's in on it.

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Traffic between the cities is not heavy enough to justify a highway any wider than 4 lanes, so I'd say it's a long shot.

Really? Every time I've driven that stretch of I-25 (not many times) I've noticed how much traffic there was and thought they could use an extra lane, especially around Castle Rock. Or is that just Denver exhurb traffic?

Wasn't there also a proposal at one point to build some kind of Autobahn-esque toll road that paralleled I-25. Not that those are ever realistic (even Texas shot one down).

I think the northern front range cities will be linked by rail long before Colorado Springs get's in on it.

Yeah, the whole Denver-Boulder-Fort Collins area seems to be merging together pretty quickly into one big megalopolis. Since Denver already has its established rail system it's the best way to go.

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Yeah... it's 40 miles or so between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock that doesn't have heavy traffic. Once you reach Castle Rock your basically in Exurban Denver.

There is a proposal for a toll road that would run east of the I-25 corridor cities from Fort Collins to Pueblo called Prairie Falcon Parkway. The speed limit would be around 80 mph but it's facing lots of opposition.

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Part of the reason I started this topic was because there's been some talk about public transportation in the Southern US form. I was curious how the west and south compare in general. I think we all associate major public transportation like heavy rail and such in the northeast and upper midwest. What does anyone think is the major hinderance to increasing public transportation in the west?

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The western United States urbanized during a time when the automobile and suburban sprawl were king. The culture is just now starting to show signs of switching back to the concepts of density, walkability, and public transportation. It will happen eventually... but revolution takes time.

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The western United States urbanized during a time when the automobile and suburban sprawl were king. The culture is just now starting to show signs of switching back to the concepts of density, walkability, and public transportation. It will happen eventually... but revolution takes time.

Yes that's understandable. One thing mentioned in the Southern US forum was the effect of weather and climate on public transportation. Not sure that would apply as much to the west.

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I think the renewed interest in rail transit in both major urban corridors in California and in the Seattle area are promising cases for the West Coast. But those areas developed much earlier than the rest of the West.

The period of history when most Southwestern cities developed is most important, but it also has to be with politics and, I think, the vast distances between towns. Phoenix is the largest city in the country to not be directly served by passenger rail service. I think it's kind of a crime that you can no longer get from Tucson to Phoenix by train, and even if you can find someone willing to drive 40 miles south from Phoenix to Maricopa (nearly half the distance of just driving to Tucson), Amtrak's service is on limited days and arrives at about 2am.

I think that the regression period of rail in this country has already begun to reverse itself though. People now seem more interested in train travel and more anxious to get away from the stress, expense and hassle of driving long distances.

This article was in the Tucson Weekly a little over a month ago:

Riding the Rails: Work continues on Tucson-to-Mexico train service, but many obstacles remain

Sure there's those pesky "obstacles", but at least there's an interest (I would even go to Puerto Penasco if there was train service) and a bright outlook.

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I don't think climate has to have an effect on public transportation as long as adequate shelter from the elements is provided at every stop and station.

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Well, it's been said that certain modes don't work in certain areas because of weather. For example, a subway would not be a good idea for California because people are so used to being outside and seeing the beautiful, blue sky. Conversely, in cities like Detroit and Boston, where the weather is no where near as nice, subways would work. However, both LA and Greater SF have subways, so maybe that statement isn't correct.

But yeah, I think you're right. Even in notoriously rainy cities like Seattle, it just takes some intelligent station design to make things work (the bus tunnel/soon to be light rail is a good example).

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I wonder if the southwest might be the main consideration as far as climate is concerned. Granted the winters wouldn't be a problem but the summers. Would people be willing to wait around for public transportation when it's 120?

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That might be a good argument for subway, especially in a sprawling city like Phoenix. That said, I think most people who chose to live in such warm climates do so because they enjoy it, and as long as some sort of relief in the form of shade and perhaps some sort of misting devices are provided, there should be no reason not to take public transportation assuming it's an efficient system.

I really don't think weather is too big of a factor as long as common sense is used in designing a transportation system.

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