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    It would be useful, but not likely in the near future. The question on the ACS form is designed to capture the data needed to answer specific funding and legislation needs. Also, there are budget pressures and a background of popular resistance to giving the government your personal data that make expanding or changing the survey a very contentious process.
    In short, until there is an actual policy that needs to collect mixed mode commuting there will be no motive to change the question to capture the data.


    Lewis Fernrock

    I biked through here yesterday (coming west on Reed en route to Acme) and yeah, felt as bad as ever. There is still that giant triangle of asphalt in the middle where you can’t tell which street/lane/whatever you’re in



    pedestrian crossing lights are welcome, but there isn’t much point to the rest of it



    In short: No.

    The construction is done now, and the only noticeable change is a slight bumpout on the northwestern corner, and new traffic lights and ped crossing signals. No ped refuge. No other bumpouts. And I think the crossing time is actually *shorter* than it used to be.

    Half a million dollars later, and it’s just as bad as it was before.



    Interesting that people almost uniformly prefer living near shops and businesses, vs. living in a residential-only area. Only problem is… shops and businesses require a concentration of people, and only a portion of people can live near them. It is never realistic to expect a large fraction of people to live in suburban locations near shops and businesses. Even in a hi-rise environment, some people (those on upper floors) live further away from shops and businesses than others (those on lower floors). And the more downscale the neighborhood is, the less money people spend around, which leads to even fewer shops and businesses.

    I do think it makes sense to develop small “downtowns” with concentrated housing, shops and businesses, surrounded by less-dense residential areas. This will allow the maximum number of people to live close to these amenities. But I suppose that’s what New Urbanists have already figured out.

    One thing would be interesting to see, is how many people value being close to big box shopping. Actually, two categories: big box supermarkets (frequented weekly or more frequently), and big box other (frequented less often). Although it doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal as a corner grocer, I have always valued living near to a full-service supermarket.



    The tunnels that would have dead ended in a deep cavern like ESA? It was a bad plan that would have served zero Amtrak trains. If they want to run more trains just take back a couple slots from njtransit. If nj commuters don’t like it then they can complain to their governor, get a new tunnel built for them.



    According to Amtrak’s own figures, Amtrak is only 14% more efficient per passenger mile than the airline industry. That is not a big difference, it’s like the difference between 30mpg an 34mpg. But the airlines are getting more efficient all the time. Currently, they do about 60-100 passenger miles per gallon.

    More interesting is their comparison with automobiles. They used an “average” automobile with “average” occupancy of 1.1 people per vehicle. But it is well-known that long-distance automobile occupancy is significantly higher (after all, who road trips alone?) Which brings automobiles in line with energy efficiency of plans and Amtrak, if not better, for long-distance travel.

    If you REALLY care about saving energy, you’ll be buying a Prius. Which uses about 2400 BTU / mile. That means that even if you drive it alone, you will be about as efficient as Amtrak and far more efficient than the average automobile on US streets. And if you take a buddy alone on your road trip, you will find it is more fuel-efficient than Amtrak or the airlines.

    Sorry, Amtrak. Not the most sustainable. At least not without major improvements in fuel economy (which are possible, but would require serious changes and capital improvements).

    PS: The most fuel-efficient way to travel long distances is intercity bus. It does about 150 passenger-miles per gallon with real-life load factors, blowing away everything except a fully-loaded Prius.

    By sustainable, maybe you didn’t mean “fuel efficient,” maybe you were talking about running out of the liquid fuel needed to power jets. I don’t think this will be a big problem in the future. Air travel is growing, but it will always be just a small fraction of the transportation energy pie. I don’t think will have a problem figuring out ways to make those quantities of liquid fuel in a sustainable way.



    Agreed, but that’s all CSX infrastructure. It still boggles my mind that NEC trains have to switch locomotives at Union Station if they are travelling to Richmond and beyond.



    They make sense for trucking and that’s about it, why the Feds believe that truckers need a huge subsidy is beyond me, though.


    Brad Kort

    Most interesting to me was that this bill would open a $14B loan fund to Amtrak. That would be fantastic as it would enable Amtrak to invest in the infrastructure needed to rebuild ancient infrastructure and pay for much needed equipment. I hope it comes to fruition.



    Stay on topic, answer the question posed that started the thread and maybe I’ll entertain your nonsense.


    Alex Brideau III

    Actually, plane pollution doesn’t do our atmosphere any favors. Rail travel is the most sustainable of our current mainstream transportation options, and we should be moving in the direction of sustainability, not the opposite.



    What is the point of plane-free living? The plans are fast, and also amazingly fuel-efficient. Is there any serious environmental benefit to taking a long-distance Amtrak instead?



    Yay, let’s hear it for Christy. And now he’s pandering to the far right, denying climate change in an effort to get a national GOP nomination. Christy’s already shown his true Jersey Bully colors, when will this guy disappear?



    Please show me the commuter rail between New Haven and Boston. And even if Newark to Perrysville is not far, it kind of puts the kibbosh on using commuter rail to go between New York and DC.



    Oh I see, “run it like a business,” like the Port Authority. In this case, “fair market rate” means “whatever the market will bear when you’re a monopoly.” If there were any serious competition for Hudson River crossings, tolls would go down. I know that because the GW Bridge turns a big profit, which is used for all manner of pet projects (including a bit of transit funding) that should probably have been funded some way other than on the backs of Hudson river commuters.



    Never be built, really? Remember that the next time you mail-order something from the West Coast and expect it to be delivered by UPS in less than 3 weeks. Intermodal freight has its place, but we’d still have to make some serious sacrifices if we tried to ship everything that way.

    Remember that the transcontinental railroad also required government support to be built. And that gas tax is a more efficient way to raise money for roads than tolls.



    Sorry, I don’t think that Amtrak is very good at providing data. Here are some numbers:
    “For example, they find that Caltrain (a system similar to Amtrak, averaging 155 passengers per train) produces less than half as many greenhouse-gas emissions or particulate matter per passenger mile compared with driving a sedan (average passengers: 1.58).” Caltrain is pretty popular at peak hours, so I would imagine many Amtrak routes are worse. And there are definitely going to be fewer passengers late at night.



    Yet there’s no plan to shut down any of the most hopeless routes.



    This is a pretty dopey definition, but it basically consists of “the lines Amtrak owns”.

    It should extend to Schenectady, NY as well, now that Amtrak has leased that line.



    That’s a very important question.

    The Lake Shore Limited runs crammed full pretty much all the time — even at high ticket prices — and it’s the longest train operated by Amtrak.

    Big difference from the Heartland Flyer, which is a short train running from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City, and only fills up on game days.



    Again with the cherry-picking. Let’s specify that yes, trains crossing the Rockies are not particularly useful. What does that have to do with the rest of the trains?

    Losing the Lake Shore Limited, the Capitol Limited, and the Cardinal (the three “long distance” trains which interconnect the Chicago Hub to the NEC) would actually be serious hurt to both the Chicago and NEC networks. They count for more than their direct connecting traffic: by making connectivity possible, they encourage car free, plane-free living.



    The so-called “long-distance” routes are generally too long for *commuting*.

    But most of them are very useful for other kinds of travelling, and are quite popular even with high ticket prices. (I refer to the Lake Shore Limited, the Capitol Limited, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, the Crescent…) These “long distance” trains are important: several of them are profitable (before overhead) and all they really need is longer trains, more trains, and running on time.

    You’ve cherry-picked two of the most hopeless routes (Coast Starlight & California Zephyr). There’s a real difference between west-of-the-mississippi (expensive to run, go through empty areas) and east-of-the-mississippi (cheap to run, go through areas with lots of people).



    The sort of rural interstates which can’t charge tolls have no function.

    The NYS Thruway, Pennsylvania Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike, and Indiana Toll Road were useful, and they can charge tolls.

    The empty Interstates through Wyoming and North Dakota were a mistake and should not have been built.



    Toll roads are the only sort of roads which are run as a business. There are a few places where toll roads can pay for themselves… but they’ve all been built already.



    No, it isn’t sound policy. The NEC does OK and improvements there (beyond the basic maintenance stuff, which is badly needed) have low payback

    The best payback Amtrak can get is by building and improving the *connecting routes* which stretch off the NEC. (Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, NYC-Albany-Syracuse-Rochester-Buffalo, DC-Richmond-Raleigh, DC-Winston/Salem-Charlotte, etc etc)



    I agree with you. But I’d point out that before we build expensive tunnels through the mountains, we should probably build faster rail from New York to Chicago (on three different routes, via Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cincinatti), DC to Chicago, Philadelphia to Chicago, DC to Florida, Chicago to Denver, Chicago to Minneapolis, Chicago to St. Louis, St. Louis to Dallas, Dallas to San Antonio, Dallas to Houston, San Antonio to Houston, SF to LA, LA to Phoenix, LA to Las Vegas, etc….

    We haven’t put the money into the EASY parts which have LOTS OF CITIES yet. We’re going to have to do that before we try to fix the empty stretches from Reno to Denver.



    Is there any hope for bike+transit trips not to be counted as transit-only trips for future census counts? Cities with higher transit mode share (like DC, NY, and SF) tend to get undercounted bike modeshare because of this.



    FWIW, the bill actually still allows Amtrak to cross-subsidize the “National Network” (which includes state-sponsored trains, the cheap-to-run NY-Chicago and NY-Florida trains, as well as the expensive-to-run Chicago-West Coast trains) from the profits on the NEC. It simply requires that Amtrak give a report to Congress on exactly how much is being transferred.

    So the Republicans are posturing about defunding the long-distance trains, but actually they are continuing to fund them. Which makes sense, given that the expensive Chicago-West Coast trains are the ones which benefit the Republican voters.


    Michael Andersen

    Seems like Minneapolis data moves up and down a lot; maybe it’s because the Census surveys ask what people’s primary commute mode was the week before they get the survey, and Minneapolis biking is particularly weather-dependent. If you zoom out on the data, though, it’s basically a four-year plateau.


    David Goldberg

    Any explanation posited for the drop in Minneapolis?



    What is the occupancy rate at which you think a train counts as “empty”, and which routes are you thinking of?


    C Monroe

    At first this tollway was a good idea to give an alternative to bypass the 91(riverside frwy) and the 55(Costa Mesa) to the southern Orange County area. It should have stopped after the second extension between Irvine and Lake Forrest. Those from Riverside county will use 15 or 215 to go to San Diego and The more populated areas of Orange County will use the 5 to San Diego.

    Also the Orange county metrolink lines are busy, maybe expand rail before finishing this.


    Angie Schmitt

    I visited there a few years ago and I thought it was the most wonderful place I’d ever been, and I was sharing a room with three people.



    I agree completely with your environmental and energy observations and would like to see better rail in the East and along the West Coast in a couple of corridors. It’s just that complaining that the Cal Z isn’t an HSR train is far far far far far far from the sort of rail system that “Europe, China and Japan have”.

    The Cal Z corridor doesn’t even have the excuse for rail service that the Empire Builder has: “there is no parallel bus service”. There is parallel bus service along the sections of the route parallel to I-80 and I-70 though not between Salt Lake City and Green River.


    Karen Lynn Allen

    We’ve spent trillions and trillions building fabulous infrastructure for cars that involve tunnels, bridges and straightening curves. We have simply chosen not to do so for rail while Europe, China and Japan have. Surely that is obvious to anyone who has traveled to those areas.

    The shale oil bubble in the US is winding down. The rest of the world has already passed peak oil production and is on the downside slope. We’re going to be turning to rail in a big way, and we’ll be more than a little disconcerted that what we have to work with is so poor and antiquated in quality.



    60,000 AADT is borderline capacity for a 2-lane-per-direction highway. It can accommodate such traffic, but it is volatile: some broken car or weather condition might make it slow.

    95.000 AADT is the maximum a 2-lane-per-direction highway can cope, already congested, before the “cliff” of reduced capacity due to too-slow-to-clear-space traffic is reached.


    Joseph Minicozzi

    … and our Governor wants to go out and put our state in debt in order to pay for transportation projects. Go figure? How about trimming the fat out of the design of the project, and save us all some money as well as sprawl. Dropping the two unnecessary lanes should save us many millions.** Seems like a no brainer. PS: Ashevillians has been trying to get the I-26 project engineers to see the light on this since the 90′s.

    ** For the NEPA fans in the audience, the community has been asking for a 6 lane option for a few decades. NCDOT has steadfastly denied making that option. So this community of 80k people has to suffer with only one option. To go from a 4 lane highway to an 8 lane highway.



    Agreed. This is nothing more than a scheme to kill off regional rail and prevent the development of high-speed rail. Urban freeways? The feds will pay for 90% of the capital costs, promote urban sprawl, and damage inner-city neighborhoods. High Speed Rail that can link city centers and promote smart growth development? NEVERRRRR!!!


    Kostelec Planning

    The report cites lack of traffic growth. The analysis of historical travel demand model outputs shows they have been comically bad in estimating future traffic.




    If you want to travel between almost any two points on the NEC you can do it for amazingly low commuter fares. True, you can’t travel between Newark, DE and Perrysville, MD, but that’s not far.



    This is true. My wife and I rode the Northeast Regional from Washington to NY Penn a couple of months ago; it cost about $90/per person. After we visited in NYC we wanted to visit her relatives in extreme eastern Pennsylvania, just across from Trenton.

    So we took NJ Transit. It stopped quite a bit more often than the ATK, but it cost $14 each. Then we took SEPTA from Yardley into Philadelphia and on to the airport for $9 each. Subsidized? Hell, yes, but worth it for the people who live there. They’d die on those tiny rural roads if everyone had to drive.




    Well, those rails in Glenwood Canyon “follow[ing] the intricate curves of the Colorado River” would cost hundreds of millions of dollars per curve to straighten, because it would mean digging a tunnel through the mountain around which the river is curving. Surely you understand that.

    And, did you notice that there were almost exactly zero people between Price/Helper, Utah and Grand Junction? Ditto between Grand Junction and Denver except at the huge metropolis of Glenwood Springs.

    Such country does not exactly meet “high speed rail” density requirements, even if it were as flat as Northern Indiana.


    Karen Lynn Allen

    So last week I took the California Zephyr from San Francisco (bus to Emeryville) to Denver. Oh. My. Goodness.

    I live blogged it. If interested, check here:

    My ultimate conclusion? The California Zephyr is absolutely fabulous for sight-seeing. (Who knew eastern Utah was so gorgeous?) Absolutely horrific for transportation. We spent most of the trip going 35 mph. Seriously. There were times I could’ve biked faster. And we took four half-hour breaks so people could go smoke. Seriously. And our train broke down twice. Seriously. Once in Nevada in the middle of totally nowhere for three hours (an electrical problem which meant we had no air conditioning!) and once later for half a hour. (Does Amtrak do any preventative maintenance at all, one must wonder?) We arrived in Denver 4 hours late. The retirees in the sleepers didn’t care–they were fine with however long it took. After all, the scenery was stunning. Anyone who was using Amtrak to actually get somewhere was a little irked. The main issue, speed-wise, is that it doesn’t appear that the tracks have been much improved since the Transcontinental Railroad was built in 1869. We followed the intricate curves of the Colorado River just as our forebears did in 1870 but it did seem kind of crazy that in, say, 144 years, we couldn’t have made an improvement or two.

    What I learned riding Amtrak: Bring your own food. (You can always do better than the dining car.) The refurbished train station in Denver is lovely. Some very strange people ride in Amtrak coach, full of highly unusual scientific theories that I am happy to consider except that the evidence verifying them is sketchy. (On a side note: Denver is doing great! Lots of urban infill, quite a few bicyclists.)

    In 1950, it took 49 hours to go from San Francisco to Chicago by rail. Now it takes 50 hours. While the rest of the world has created zippy trains that go 150, 180, 220 miles per hour, we’ve made no progress at all.



    Don’t forget that the perennial problem of long-distance routes is also capacity shortage. And nonetheless, NEC capital improvements in the billions, just to keep a state of good repair are still in dire and imminent need (Baltimore tunnels especially)



    The Coast Starlight to Seattle is the only train from LA to SF, it may run to Seattle but it’s a key part of the state network. I don’t know the numbers going from SF to Oregon/Seattle and vice versa. But that’s a lot different and a shorter haul than going to New Orleans.



    I don’t know about all of them, but the I know the California Zephyr and Coast Starlight are totally useless for commuting. They get filled by vacationers.



    But the fact is, running empty trains is worse for the environment than if people just drive. Shouldn’t we be trying to achieve the greatest net benefit?

    And it’s not just Republicans who are stupid-Democrats also have supported archaic regulations that make trains needlessly heavy, overstaffed, expensive (due to onerous “Buy American” requirements that discriminate against Germany and Japan) and hard-to-board.


    Egbert True

    The NEC is capacity constrained by the tunnels under the Hudson. The planned new tunnel was canceled by New Jersey Governor Christy after many years of planning and finding funding. Any new tunnel is tens of years away.


    Ferdinand Cesarano

    I am very sad to have to acknowledge that most of your comments are valid. When bicyclists break the law, this makes a terrible impression on the rest of society. One effect is that it alienates those people who should be our natural allies: pedestrians. Even worse, it gives free ammunition to people who already hate bicyclists, spurring these people to complain to police, to elected officials, and to the outlets of the idiot media.

    When I ride, I stop at all red lights; also, I never go the wrong way on streets or ride on the sidewalks. I insist that other bicyclists do likewise, and denounce those who don’t. This leads to plenty of arguments — both out on the street and here on Streetsblog — with other bicylists, people who spout self-serving rationalisations about why they shouldn’t have to follow the law.

    They claim that they couldn’t get anywhere if they stopped at every red light. I, having ridden 5800 miles last year and being on pace for more this year, and having just ridden from New York to Philadelphia and back, all while stopping at every red light, have no patience at all for that kind of nonsensical statement.

    They point out that drivers don’t follow the law, either. And this is true. (Though, from my two days of experience riding in Philadelphia, I get the impression that it is less true there than in New York.) I am a daily bike commuter; and every day I see drivers ignoring stop signs and blowing red lights. However, if we want to criticise these people, who, unlike us, are creating deadly conditions by means of their law-breaking, then we have the obligation to act within the law so as not to surrender our moral standing to make that criticism.

    These excuse-makers often say that the law requiring bicyclists to stop at red lights is absurd. And this, too, is true. Red lights are designed to manage automobile traffic; they are poorly suited to bicycles. Idaho has a law that allows bicyclists to proceed after a stop at a red light. This obviously should be the law everywhere. But the fact is that it is currently *not* the law everywhere. We need to follow the existing laws (even the stupid ones), as we lobby our legislators for better laws.

    These apologists for scofflaw bicycling don’t accept the fact that their illegal acts are also unethical acts which demonstrate poor citizenship. If we want to claim that we are a legitimate part of society and are therefore entitled to public accommodations, then we have the responsibility to behave like a legitimate part of society by using bicycle-specific accommodations and all public roads in the proper way. When a bicyclist uses the accommodation of a bike lane but then runs a red light, that bicycilst is showing an arrogance that is infurating to any observer. Someone seeing this behaviour will likely conclude, not unreasonably, that bicycle infrastructure is not a good thing.

    Any individual bicyclist’s biggest enemies are drivers, the overwhelming majority of whom are incompetent and negligent, and many of whom are hostile and downright murderous. But bicyclists’ collective worst enemies are bicyclists ourselves, too many of whom believe that the law doesn’t apply to us. And far too many of us are willing to display this belief to the world.

    Where your comments are badly mistaken is in your assertion that bicyclists should be licenced. A licence is justified for motor vehicles only on the grounds of the great harm that these vehicles do. Bicycles simply cannot be that destructive; deaths and serious injuries to pedestrians resulting from collissions with bicycles are statistically invisible when compared to those deaths and injuries which occur as a result of being hit by cars. As you can see from the previous paragraphs, in no way do I condone irresponsible and illegal bike riding. But please do not exaggerate; from the point of view of pedestrians, this constitutes an annoyance, not a life-threatening menace.

    Furthermore, the establishment of bicycle lanes is a fine legacy for any mayor, and makes up for a lot of faults. When Bloomberg was elected in New York, I was very unhappy. And there is plenty of legitimate criticism that one can make about his tenure, particularly regarding the treatment of black and Latin kids by our terrifying and terrorising police force. But, despite this serious flaw, Bloomberg has to be considered a great mayor for his having given us hundreds of miles of bike lanes.

    Bike lanes calm traffic; and this benefits everyone. The benefit to bicyclists and pedestrians of slower automobile speeds is obvious. What might be less obvious is that this benefits drivers as well, as collissions become fewer and less serious, thereby causing fewer injuries and costing car owners less in repairs and insurance premiums.

    A city which promotes bicycling with the creation of bicycle infrastructure is to some extent de-incentivising driving. Bike lanes lure more and more people to take up bicycling; and some will inevitably be people who begin using their bicycles for trips that they formerly took in their cars. Doing so becomes easier and easier as the bike-lane network becomes more and more extensive, and as bicycling becomes normalised in the culture. This has a positive impact on public health, both by spurring exercise and by slowing the increase in pollution.

    So bicyclists’ interests are actually identical with the general interest; and promoting bicycling amounts to promoting the common good.