Posts tagged ‘Transit’
The Obama Administration recently laid out their plan for investment in a national network of High Speed Rail lines across the United States. This investment includes $8B to be generated from the $787B stimulus plan along with a proposed $5B coming from his proposed 2010 fiscal budget. On the grand scheme of things this is a drop in the bucket, and seemingly light years away from China’s initiative, but I guess you need to start somewhere, right?
According to a recent article in the China Daily, China is “poised to become the world’s High Speed Rail leader.” They are set to build 42 new high speed lines spanning a total of 13,000 km over the next three years. And while our current administration is contemplating how to spend $13B in high speed rail, China is investing $300B in their high speed rail initiative by the year 2020. If a country as smart and as talented as China is blazing this trail, shouldn’t we be more aggressively following their lead?
The way I see it, the positive impacts of building out High Speed Rail lines are good & plenty, here are just a few:
- **A reduction in highway traffic
- **A decreased dependency on oil
- **Minimized pollution
- **Increased employment options for commuters who would not normally drive to certain locations
- **Newly created jobs for planning, design and construction professionals, among MANY others
- **A reduction of air traffic
- **Increased property value for those outlying areas that would otherwise have limited options in getting to “the city.”
And these are just a few. I recently listened to a debate on the High Speed Rail topic between Richard Harnish, Executive Director-Midwest High Speed Rail Association and Randall O’Toole, Sr. Fellow with the CATO Institute. Grab a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun…or two…and take a listen:
The information available on this topic is endless. I believe High Speed Rail to be a great and necessary alternative, but like everything else, it boils down to money and acceptance. The proposed $13B investment is a nice start, but where will we get the funds to finish? And once these High Speed Rail lines are up and running, will there be enough funds from rider revenue, taxes, and government subsidies to keep up with the cost of operations and maintenance?
I believe that one day High Speed Rail will be a mainstay in our country, it’s just a matter of when. What do you think?
By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
February’s stimulus plan has the US poised to put $8 billion into upgrading our rail network and developing high-speed rail “corridors.” Half of the articles I read support theses rail initiatives; the other half criticize them. As far as I understand, most of the criticism centers on the belief that $8 billion, even supplemented with additional stimulus monies, is not enough to have a true high speed rail like our UK counterparts. For example, the California high speed rail is estimated at over $40 billion. BUT, we have to start somewhere. For all the technologies that the US leads the world in, highspeed rail isn’t one of them! We need to fund the high speed rail initiatives. We can’t afford to wait.
If you are one of the anti-Rail people, why are you? Tell us your thoughts.
So, this brings me to my next question: Do you see SkyTran making a US hit in the next decade? SkyTran is described as “lightweight two-passenger vehicles suspended from elevated passive magnetic levitation tracks…expected to achieve the equivalent of over 200 miles per gallon fuel economy at 100 miles per hour or faster.”
If we can’t get folks on board with high speed rail, then does anyone actually think the US would invest in a patented personal rapid transit. Will we ever see a “Jetsons” type of world in transportation?
It was only a few years ago that the mac-daddy SUV’s ruled the road and it was cool to haul around town in a Denali, Tahoe, Escalade, Hummer or Excursion, a phenomenon that I was certainly guilty of. Then everyone became concerned about the environment, gas prices went up, and the cross-over vehicle was all the rage. But now many Americans are considering going hybrid or dumping the car altogether in favor of public transportation. It seems as though public transit planning and engineering has been “the wave of the future” for many cities for quite some time now. Some cities were ahead of the curve, but most were on the curve or behind. Now we are at a critical juncture, and of course, everyone is scrambling to build out or make MAJOR overhauls to their existing public transit systems. Take a look:
Earlier this month the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) published* the following statistics, which in light of the rising gas prices, should not surprise you:
- Americans took 2.6 billion trips on public transportation in the first three months of 2008 (85 million more than last year for the same time period).
- 10.3 billion trips were taken on public transportation in 2007, the highest number of trips taken in fifty years; the first quarter of 2008 showed an up tick of 3.3%.
- Light rail had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with a 10.3% increase for the first quarter; the largest increases in ridership were found in Baltimore, Minneapolis, St. Louis and San Francisco.
- Commuter rail increased 5.7 in the first of quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were found in Seattle, Harrisburg, Oakland, Stockton, Pompano Beach and Philadelphia…all of which experienced double digit growth rates.
- Heavy rail increased by 4.4% in the first quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were seen in Staten Island, Boston, Jersey City, Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore and San Francisco.
- Bus ridership increased 2% in the first quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were found in San Antonio, Denver, San Diego, Minneapolis, Seattle and Phoenix.
A very interesting point was made at the end of the video above…it stated that a good percentage of transit funding comes from a state’s gas tax. But if we are seeing a major increase in the use of public transportation, that means that less and less folks are fueling up their cars…you see where I’m going here? Where do we now turn for the funding that is being lost?
Quite frankly, I am pretty sure that we will never see $3.00 gas again unless you purchase a new vehicle from Chrysler , so we will continue to see the public transportation ridership rates rise. What does all of this mean? What it means is that if you are a civil engineer, you’ve got a bright future ahead with a strong demand for your talents. There will always be minor bumps in the road, like the state of the current land development market, but that will come back. But we need to repair, rebuild, upgrade, and expand our existing infrastructure (roads, bridges, utlities, etc), we need to build new to meet the demands of our population, and now public transportation is feeling the squeeze to meet the needs of the American public.
Have you made the full cross over into utilizing your local transit systems? Are you seeing an increase in RFP’s from your local transit agencies? Where will the funding come from? What projects are your firm working on in the area of public transporatation? Let’s hear from you!
*To see the complete ridership report published by the APTA go to http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership