Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Calling all transit buffs

So I'm a bit late on the AJC article regarding commuter rail. You can see the proposed routes from the GDOT Transit Planning Board, which has recommended the rail lines. Not really any "news" per se, other than the approval.

Take a look at the travel times - they take a little longer than it does to drive. Can any transit buffs tell me why it doesn't make more sense to pursue high-speed rail? If we are spending $100 million to $500 million per line in start up costs, why aren't high-speed rail options being discussed?

The original Southwest Airline model was based on the idea that they were really competing against drivers, not other airlines. The Southwest folks decided they would make it easier to fly to these middle-distance destinations rather than drive by making it cheaper and quicker. I feel like the same mindset should be used for commuter rails - we need to make it quicker and cheaper for people to take the train to Athens.

I'd love to hear from someone who has had a chance to dig into the financials of a high-speed rail line instead of old technology. I have too much going on right now to really dig into it all. Is it prohibitively expensive, or just "more expensive"? What sort of return on investment could you expect with a high speed rail vs. conventional rail?


  1. While it may not be "prohibitively" expensive, high-speed rail is a lot more expensive than conventional commuter rail.

    For conventional commuter rail you have to build the stations, buy the rail cars and locomotives, and do some modest track improvements. These track improvements are mostly to ease the extra burden on the lines and and to keep from impacting current freght traffic. This type of transit is low-hanging fruit because most of the lines exist, the stations are modest sidings, and a lot of the time used equipment can be purchased for rail cars and locomotives.

    For high-speed rail, much more (and most likely new) equipment would have to be purchased and the entire length of the line would have to be upgraded to high-speed standards. Aside from the much higher costs, this would take a lot longer too.

    Conventional rail could be implemented in a relatively short time-frame. We just need leaders with the political will.

  2. I so wish they'd at least build what's on the map - I could leave the car at home and get to my office at Clayton State from Hapeville in just about the same amount of time.


  3. Also keep in mind that the travel times are only slower of there is no traffic at all. So it still does take less time in rush hour traffic. For example, it may only take me between 60 and 90 min to drive from downtown to Athens on a good day, but in game day traffic, or at 4pm on a Friday headed north, it would take much longer - making the train worth it.

    Right now it takes me about the same time to take Marta to work as it would for me to drive - but I still highly prefer Marta because it's less stressful, saves gas and feels like I'm doing the right thing for the environment.

  4. High speed rail is much more appropriate for longer distance trips. Others already pointed out why commuter rail is a better option than sitting in traffic.

    To achieve the "high speed" in high speed rail, there has to be considerable distance between stations.

    High speed rail is good for regional trips -- eg, Atlanta to Chattanooga, Savannah, Columbus, or Charlotte, etc.

    A high speed rail line as a substitute for a commuter rail line would not be a good idea. With all the stations the train would stop at, there would be no significant (if any) time savings over commuter rail.


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