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Rizzo

Independent studies on rail transit

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My apologies if this has been discussed here at UP. Has anyone stumbled on any independent studies or research on the true effectiveness as an alternative transit option? I've looked through the web and sometimes I run into two sides painting a radically different picture of rail. You have on side of the spectrum hailing it as an effective transit alternative and one despising it per cost subsidy. In most cases the study of this transit option plays two ideologies -- the obvious ones I won't mention.

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An article about a study with discouraging findings about metro Boston commuter rail--specifically the failure of communities to appropriately adjust zoning when adding or restoring commuter rail service:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial...us_only_so_far/

"Above all, the data suggest that we should be very wary of claims that commuter rail will also produce a variety of indirect benefits, such as reducing sprawl or revitalizing ailing communities. If we want to fulfill those goals, the key is to craft good zoning and land-use policies ."

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I don't know if that really qualifies as an objective, unbiased study. I would have to read the actual report and know a little more background before I trust an op-ed piece written by a professor about a student.

In any case, I tend to think that it is rather unlikely that you would ever get such a thing. Just by virtue of doing the report, most companies are already going to display a bias, whether that is from who hired them, what the company does for work, and what the company has published before and needs to defend. Even educational studies are pretty suspect - most are done with the intention of getting a grade, and as anyone who has worked in these institutions knows, there is no such think as an unbiased professor.

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Indeed. For any study out there, it behooves you to find out who paid for it.

In general there are a lot very negative anti-transit studies out there, because going to transit means changing the way things are done in most cities here in the USA and when that happens, a lot of people stand to lose out. There is a lot of vested interest in preserving the suburban life style centered around the automobile and the big box retail that goes with it. Transit promises to change this and a lot of people interested in maintaining this status quo become unglued and will do whatever they can to discredit transit.

Your best bet is to look for case studies on what has happened to cities that have built or expanded rail transit in the past 35 - 40 years vs those that didn't.

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I'd say that for every pro-rail transit study there was two anti studies. When I was reading various rebuttals they would rarely present coherent points. Some things just didn't make sense. It was really hard to read some studies, they read almost like two grade school girls

arguing. Some were blatant in their "bone to pick." I'm sorry, but I quickly discredit that form of discussion.

Thanks for the input.

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I'm not sure that it is fair to characterize this study as anti-rail. It's findings show a major flaw in transit policy: commuter rail service does not by itself bring dramatic changes in land use, since land use depends on local zoning laws. The author was quoted in some newspaper article saying "If you want to change the land use, then for God's sake, change the land use!"

It was during an entirely different era that adding rail service directly shaped the built environment. What we now see as dense and livable streetcar suburbs, for example, developed around streetcar routes when land use was virtually unregulated. But today, if you add rail service to an area but keep the zoning unchanged, land use will not be affected much by the addition of rail.

My take on this study is that its findings are extremely valuable if we want to make rail transit work.

(Clarification: the pdf link above is to a summary of the study, which in full is something like 60 pages and is linked in the summary.)

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I should have clarified that I wasn't talking about the study above. If there was a proactive change in how things are zoned and how to get to those zones then rail would seem more effective.

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I read the article. I completely disagree with the asertion that transit...rail specifically...does not bring about a change of property value along the transit corridor. Every light rail line I have ever seen has raised property values along the corridor...some to staggering levels. I can't think of a transit corridor I have looked at that didn't attract retail and housing along the corridor. In Denver(I think it was Denver) the light rail expansion has encouraged over four billion dollars in development.

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I can't imagine how light rail would not raise property values in almost any urban area. The areas in the Washington suburbs served by light rail have shown robust growth in property values. This is nearly always the case, though there are exceptions where demand has not quite yet caught up with growth. The better question might be to imagine how these suburbs would have developed without light rail. It goes without saying that a light rail station alone is not going to turn a Roxbury into a Duxbury.

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That particular study appeared, at least at first glance, flawed because of certain assumptions, for instance that people who wanted to take commuter transit would live within 10 minutes drive of a station, or that the only factor in determining the density of an area is commuter rail. Even more so, it is very easy to just slightly skew the subject of a study, for instance this study was often sold as a testament to whether or not commuter transit was beneficial, when all it really looked at was measurements of growth and decay within a very small distance of a commuter rail station.

It's not necessarily the fault of the study. It's the fault of the interpretation. And therin lies the reason for the the starkly opposing views. It's too easy to make a study support your case. They are more a proaganda tool than fact.

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Adding WiFi to Commuter Rail

Modern Mass Transit is making it easier for commuters, especially with the latest inter connecting wireless technologies. Many buses, commuter trains, shuttles and even trolley cars now have WiFi wireless computer access so no one is out of touch during the travel time. This is being done now in Baltimore to NY trains and in Sacramento to San Francisco Trains thanks to Amtrak. After all we now have WiFi hotspots at McDonalds, Kinko

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