Currently viewing the tag: "Light Rail Transit (LRT)"

I just finished reading the 2010 Emerging Trends in Real Estate.  Now in its 31st year, this report is jointly produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). This is the first time I have read this report, but I am very impressed. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers webpage this report:

is the oldest, most highly regarded annual industry outlook for the real estate and land use industry and includes interviews and survey responses from more than 900 leading real estate experts, including investors, developers, property company representatives, lenders, brokers and consultants.”

The report is downright bearish on real estate development for 2010.The report goes on the say that real estate developers are “largely dead” and that “builders can leave on long sabbaticals”. They don’t foresee construction picking up until 2012, but when it does, most construction will be focused on urban infill development.

This is great news for those of us that believe that our cities are our future. Below are some of my favorite excerpts from this report:

Next generation projects will orient to infill, urbanizing suburbs, and transit-oriented development. Smaller housing units-close to mass transit, work and 24 hour amenities-gain favor over large houses on big lots at the suburban edge.  People will continue to see greater convenience and want to reduce energy expenses, shorter commutes and smaller heating bills make up for high infill real estate costs.” (Page 12)

Infill vs. Suburbs. Road congestion, higher energy costs, and climate change concerns combine to alter people’s thinking about where they decide to live and work.  ‘It’s a fundamental shift.’ The lifestyle cost-of-living equation starts to swing away more dramatically from bigger houses on bigger lots at the suburban edge to great convenience and efficiencies gained from infill housing closer to work. These homes maybe more expensive on a price-per-pound basis, but reduced driving costs and lower heating/cooling bills provide offsets. And time saved avoiding traffic hassles moderates stress and enhances productivity. ‘Two-hour commutes reach a tipping point with higher energy costs’ and ‘near-in suburbs will do well especially if they link to business cores by mass transportation.” (Page 32)

Investors tend to favor the following:

  • Global gateway markets on East and West coasts- featuring international airports, ports and major commercial centers.
  • Cities and urbanizing infill suburbs with 24-hour attributes-upscale, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, convenient office, retail, entertainment, and recreation districts; mass transit alternatives to driving; good schools (public and/private); and relatively safe streets.
  • Brainpower centers-places that offer dynamic combination of colleges and universities, high paying industries-high tech, biotech, finance, and health cars (medical centers drug companies)- and government offices.” (Page 27)

Denver metro area wins points for building out its light-rail network, encouraging transit –oriented mixed-use projects around stations.” (Page 35)

So what does this mean for Miami’s future?

  • We should hold the Urban Development Boundary, this report confirms that 2 hour commutes are out of vogue.
  • Miami 21 should be implemented immediately and not delayed any further.
  • A large scale light rail system, including Baylink, is long overdue
  • If Miami wants to become a competitive city we need to diversify our economy as much as possible in order to become a brainpower center. A service economy based predominantly on tourism will not attract educated people seeking high paying jobs.

A rendering of the proposed "34th Street Transitway"

The New York City Department of Transportation’s newest project brings the successful concept of Bus Rapid Transit to an important cross town bus route and showcases, once again, what a progressive DOT is capable of doing to improve quality of life and transportation options for its residents and visitors. As you can see in the rendering above, the idea is not only to improve an existing roadway and speed up bus service, but to also improve the pedestrian experience along the corridor.

Famously successful in cities like Bogota and Curitiba, the idea of dedicating lanes to buses has been successful here in Miami, as well. The South Miami-Dade Busway acts as a low-cost extension of the Metrorail for thousands of county residents. TransitMiami.com remains a strong proponent of Light Rail (or LRT over BRT), but as Miami looks to expand its transportation options, our leaders could learn a great deal from NYC - where they understand the importance of land-use in transportation planning.

The South Miami-Dade Busway

Look at the two pictures. What is missing on our Busway?

As high speed rail progresses through the planning stages special attention will need to be paid to the important issue of local connectivity in ensuring high ridership (and high speed rail’s success). Our major problem with funding transit expansion has been the federal government’s unwillingness to give us money because of the demonstrated lack of local political will in funding transit operations and maintenance. As is the case for most transit systems, funding initial construction is not as big a hurdle as funding ongoing operations and maintenance.

Which is why I wonder why MDT and FIU are putting all of their eggs into the proverbial Bus Rapid Transit ‘basket’.  Current plans show a mixture of BRT and BRT light for most major corridors in Dade County. Don’t get me wrong, BRT is not bad, but our goal should be to accommodate the greatest capacity for the same long term cost.  When comparing the O&M of Bus Rapid Transit with Light Rapid Transit this crucial cost is the same.  While initial construction of BRT infrastructure is lower, the operations and maintenance costs, the burden most placed on our local municipalities, is the same as light rail technology, only at a fraction of the capacity.

Don’t take it from me. The bipartisan Congressional Government Accountability Office did its own analysis comparing the costs of BRT with LRT  in 2003:

Communities consider several factors when they select mass transit options. Our 2001 report examined such factors as capital cost and operating costs, system performance, and other advantages and disadvantages of Bus Rapid Transit. We found, for example, that the capital costs of Bus Rapid Transit in the cities we reviewed averaged $13.5 million per mile for busways, $9.0 million per mile for buses on high occupancy vehicle lanes, and $680,000 per mile for buses on city streets, when adjusted to 2000 dollars.4 For comparison, we examined the capital costs of several Light Rail lines and found that they averaged about $34.8 million per mile, ranging from $12.4 million to $118.8 million per mile.5 In addition, in the cities we reviewed that had both types of service, neither Bus Rapid Transit nor Light Rail had a consistent advantage in terms of operating costs.

Said another way, apart from the difference in initial cost, choosing BRT costs as much per year to run as LRT, but with less capacity (light rail cars hold more passengers than bus rapid transit cars). When thinking over the long term, the equation heavily favors LRT, because the lost capacity over time far outweighs the initial savings, especially when one considers latent demand for mass transit.

What this means for the average citizen is that real transit solutions, such as  a metro-rail link down the Douglas corridor or an LRT Bay link, are going to lose out to costly BRT lines that will spend our transit dollars without making meaningful strides in increasing ridership, or connectivity.

I spent the better part of this long weekend wandering through the many parks of New York City.  The weekend weather was absolutely perfect to spend the whole day in a park and as you’ll see from the pictures below - I wasn’t the only one who thought so.  Now, I know I’ve said this before but, Miami could learn a lot from these cities.  New York’s ever growing park infrastructure is absolutely amazing.  Over the weekend, I wandered through Central, Union Square, Washington Square, and most importantly: the new Hudson River Parkway and Hoboken’s Pier A Park.  NYC and Hoboken have rejuvenated their waterfront with quality design and infrastructure, enabling access to the vast open space along the shores.  There certainly is not a valid reason why our Waterfront parks and river greenway shouldn’t be able to emulate the success of these great public spaces.  A brief walk through of either of these two linear riverside parks will reveal why they too will become great public spaces - accessible green space, limited concrete, varied structured and unstructured activity spaces, and multimodal connectivity…

We began the day Saturday with an obligatory trip into Central Park.  This was the scene pretty much throughout the park.  The park offered us a great escape from the crowds we had just walked through in Midtown - it seemed like the other half of the city had flocked to Central Park.

This was the scene at Hoboken’s Pier A, just across the Hudson River from NYC’s Hudson River Parkway.

This whole park is built upon a pier and provides some great open space in which to enjoy the panoramic views of Manhattan.  It reminded a lot of Brooklyn Bridge Park on the opposite side of Manhattan…

Like the Hudson River Parkway, New Jersey is working to connect their entire waterfront park system with bicycle paths - creating safe, healthy, and clean ways for residents to access the waterfront, transit, and Business Districts.

Shade.  If there had’t been a nice cool breeze, I’m sure we would have seen more people enjoying this area.

Being the transit junkie that I am, I just had to go for a ride on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.  These trains are fast, efficient, quiet, and a wonderful way to commute through Jersey.

Streetcars, Trams, Light Rails.  Call them what you may, but these devices resolve the simple task of effectively moving people around densely populated urban centers.  In the spirit of keeping the Miami streetcar alive (which I assure you will not resemble the picture below) this week with a swift defeat of Norm’s frivolous lawsuit against the Miami mega plan, we bring you today’s Pic o’ the Day.  Can anyone name this city?

Today’s post is inspired by an article I read on The Overhead Wire, republished below. The successes and failures of our transit systems can be determined by the attempts we make to integrate them with the urban spaces which surround them. I typically make the distinction that our failures with metrorail has nothing to do with the transit system itself but rather with what we have done in the immediate vicinity of its 22 stations. VTA’s LRT in San Jose, is a perfect example of the type of transit we should be pressing for within the county, instead of Heavy Rail like metrorail. The at-grade train is versatile enough to move passengers quickly and efficiently but small enough to integrate into urban spaces such as the city’s downtown pedestrian mall:San Jose, LRT, Transit Mall

Imagine an LRT similar to this one connecting every major city on our eastern coast through the FEC railroad…

Here is the article from The Overhead wire, illustrating how we should orient our urban structures to transit:

What happens when we orient buildings to transit? It saves space. It creates more value from the land. It creates more opportunities for walking. Here is an exercise I did with that employment sprawl photo from the post below.

1. The Sprawl Way - What San Jose Looks Like

San Jose LRT

2. Sprawl Rearranged - What the same amount of development would look Like if the development were organized around the station. I outlined the buildings and rearranged them in a more compact way.

San Jose LRT

3. Sprawl Rearranged x2 - Doubling the amount of buildings, using the same footprint for each original building.

San Jose LRT

The Boston (MBTA) Silver line illustrates the proper way transportation should be integrated into up and coming areas, not yet ready to be serviced by regular rail transit.  The Silver line will eventually create an “Urban Transit Ring” connecting much of the transit in the city of Boston and establishing a BRT to service areas which could sorely benefit from regular fixed transit.  The Buses used on the silver line operate using engines on regular streets, but operate under electrical power (transferred by overhead wires) when operating in tunnels or streets with existing electrical infrastructure (similar to streetcars and LRT.)  The eventual objective of the silverline is to serve as a placeholder for future rail expansion while cultivating proper transit oriented development and ridership along the route…

As some of you may have noticed, two of Transit Miami’s writers, Andrew Davis and James Wilkins, have departed due to personal time constraints. Meanwhile we welcome the addition of our latest writer, Rob Jordan, who will be working his way into the website over the next few weeks. Transit Miami is looking for some new talent to contribute to the site weekly, if you think you’ve got what it takes to write for Transit Miami, send us an email and some writing samples: movemiami@gmail.com…

Local:

  • Palmetto Bay NIMBYs are fighting an unlikely foe: Palmer Trinity. When residents turn their backs against school expansion out of a fear of more traffic, there is something critically wrong… (Miami Herald)
  • Despite the overwhelming success of the Coral Gables Trolley, plus numerous reports and independent studies which underline the very basic point that the transit system reduces city congestion and the need for 713 downtown parking spaces, Vice Mayor William Kerdyk is still having trouble finding a steady funding stream for the Coral Gables Trolley… (Coral Gables Gazette)
  • The Sunpost, has become the latest newspaper to publicize Norman Braman’s efforts to hoodwink the community into thinking that streetcars, tunnels, and public works projects are a sham… (SunPost)
  • The Public Works department has made a recommendation to cancel the 104 street widening project in west Kendall. (Community Newspapers)

Elsewhere:

  • Damien Goodmon proposes the most asinine reason why a Light Rail Line should not be built in Los Angeles: Kids leaving school will get hit by the passing trains… (L.A. City Beat)
  • Is Suburbia the natural evolution of development? Nope! (Planetizen)
  • Phobia of Public Transportation? Have no fear Stagecoach has prepared a manual for Britons who have become too accustomed to personal vehicles, explaining the intricacies that come with riding a bus. (Telegraph)
  • The Air Car: The world’s first fully air powered, zero emission vehicle to go on sale by summer 2009 in India and some other select countries. The $12,700 CityCAT is powered by 340 Liters of compressed air at 4350 psi, can travel up to 68 mph, and has an estimated range of 125 miles. (Popular Mechanics)
  • Photographs of the BMW X6 sport utility coupe. (It’s Knuttz)
  • A Funeral Dinner on a subway. (Oddity Central)

National:

  • The Houston MTA has voted to use LRT on all of its upcoming 5 rapid transit routes.
  • How do you resolve a budget deficit of $29 Million? You spend $102 Million to build a streetcar of course! This method is being pitched by Cincinnati’s City Manager, who argues that the added benefit the streetcar will bring will more quickly pull the city out of economic recession.
  • Seattle voters will soon be heading to the polls to vote on a massive transportation bill which will simultaneously expand LRT service and widen highways…
Local:
  • Alesh provides a run down of how to use Public Transit. Plenty of good points, particularly: the environment, exercise, reading time, and money. The only thing I’d add to the list is social interaction…
  • Earth to these people…Lowering the parking rates at the Sonesta will CAUSE MORE PROBLEMS… If anything, parking meter rates should increase to discourage people within walking distance of the grove from driving around in search for a parking spot. If you need help on how to get around without a car, see Alesh’s post above…
  • Michael Lewis provides us with some much needed insight on the former fountain in Bayfront Park once dedicated to Claude Pepper…
  • Rail apparently isn’t a viable option to connect to the port… We still disagree


Seattle metro tunnel, originally uploaded by Adam Holloway.

The newly renovated Seattle Transit tunnel will reopen to the public next Monday. After a $94 Million renovation and retrofitting, the final phase of the tunnel will be complete in 2009 when the Sound Transit LRT begins to fully utilize the tunnel instead of the current buses. Due to the reconstruction, a revolutionary precedent was set along Seattle’s downtown third avenue:

“Meanwhile, Third Avenue, which became a bus-and-bike street at peak hours during the two-year tunnel closure, will remain that way. More than 20 downtown surface routes will be shifted to Third Avenue, replacing 18 bus routes that will enter the tunnel.”

In a post I published last week on the transit options available to the Kendall residents, our message may have been presented unclearly and biased towards the CSX rail option. I’d like to clarify this position and reiterate the true stance of Transit Miami on this hotly contested issue.

The CSX corridor was never meant to serve as a replacement to the Kendall Metrorail, LRT, or BRT, but rather operate in conjunction with the east-west option. The belief stems from our knowledge of the low upstart cost of the CSX rail, along with the increased benefit citizens in the Southern part of the Kendall region would experience, an area currently overlooked by all presented alternatives.

Now, we don’t fully support plans to bring transit to the Kendall Dr. corridor unless some drastic measures are taken to ensure that the area adjacent to the corridor is reestablished and rebuilt in a more accessible manner. Revitalizing the strip shopping centers, vast swaths of parking lots, Malls, and dwellings along the corridor will all be keys to its’ success and should not be overlooked in the planning stages. We would not want the transit system to be considered, approved, or funded unless preemptive measures are taken to ensure that Kendall Dr. itself will be transformed into a true urban area that is more hospitable to transit oriented needs.

Similar measures should be set into place for the CSX corridor at key intersections and stations, creating accessible nodes or urban life. The CSX corridor should be limited to a southern terminus at Metrozoo to prevent “justification” of UDB expansion. UDB line movement will be critical to the success or failure of all transit oriented redevelopment in the Kendall region.

We support the use of the CSX corridor to serve as a complimentary system with a rapid transit system along Kendall drive as long as effective measures are put into place which would transform the suburban landscapes into transit oriented communities.

Here we go again folks. The special interest groups of Kendall are working hard to make sure the area never builds any reasonable transit options to deal with their congestion. You may recall my previous open letter to the EKHO and Edward Levinson. We’ll I began writing them (and the Herald) a new letter today in response to this article and found myself repeating much of my previous sentiments…

Here’s the quote by Ed which really inspired me to write to them again:

”This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s total insanity,” said Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson of what he believes will become a traffic nightmare at the intersection of Kendall Drive and 97th Avenue.

That’s right folks…We’re going to scrap the cheaper LRT on existing tracks and ROW, because of possible traffic tie-ups along Ed’s commute.

You wouldn’t trust a gambling chimpanzee with your life savings, so why would you allow special interest groups and homeowners associations to plan a transit system around their vehicular needs? Sound foolish? I hope so. But that’s precisely what’s happening at the Citizen’s Transportation Advisory Committee’s Subcommittee meetings in Kendall where plans are underway to design new public transit for area residents.

Various homeowners associations, backed by Kendall Community Council member Edward Levinson, are working to garner public opposition to a plan that would make the Kendall community more accessible to area residents by using the existing CSX rail corridor.

The group opposes the proposed light rail transit because of possible congestion the at-grade crossings could create for vehicular commuters such as themselves. Not to mention, many of them believe that their homes (built along the previously existing rail corridor) will decrease in value due to added rail transit; this belief has been disproved statistically nationwide (Source: APTA.)

The Kendall community is at a crossroads. The inability to embrace alternative forms of effective transit is disconcerting, particularly in a region currently choking on the congestion induced by its own unchecked growth and sprawl. It is typical of the mentality fostered in this particular region and has been cultivated by our addiction to the automobile.

It is of paramount importance that our citizens educate themselves on the benefits of proper public infrastructure and urban planning before they take up such a bold position against reasonable measures which would help steer the future growth of our community.


Athens LRT 2, originally uploaded by qbanaso86.

Today’s Transitography comes from one of our own readers (Join and add your own photos.) The Athens LRT, is one of the city’s more modern transit lines, opened in 2004.

Transit systems like this will become impossible to construct in the US if Federal funding is switched to also include HOT lanes.

  • The Developer Billionaire partnership Leviev Boymelgreen composed by Lev Leviev and Shaya Boymelgreen, known in Miami for Marquis and Vitri, have decided to split their partnership, citing a difference of opinions towards future development. Boymelgreen sees a formidable future in the Miami market, opted to stay with the Miami land holdings concentrated around the Carnival center, while Leviev maintained ownership of the NYC properties. Besides the developers’ optimistic stance on Miami’s market, it interesting to note that he is considering developing rental units or workforce housing in the CBD, a stance we have long advocated to help alleviate Miami’s recent housing shortages…
  • Miami is ranked 63 in the top 100 most liveable cities by Business Week, down a notch from last year. In browsing through the list I was compelled to notice that all but one of the top 15 cities have Streetcars, Trams, or LRT running through the city streets. Coincidence? I think not…(Via: Spacing Wire)
  • Open Road tolling is coming to a highway near you…
  • Jersey City is quickly becoming the model of the urban future according to this article in today’s USA Today. I should note, on top of existing transit, the city recently completed a light rail transit line to continue to facilitate transit use for the more than 40% of its residents who ride regularly…
  • Blog Update: I’ve somehow neglected to add a link to Cyburbia to the website. Cyburbia was founded in 1994, and is the Internet’s oldest continuously operating planning-related Web site; it functions today as a portal and busy social networking site for planners and others interested in the built environment. Check it out…

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