The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Light Rail: Is It Worth the Effort?

          Light rail has been a transportation option in many cities throughout the world for many years.  Proponents defend the merits of this mode of transportation, while there are many detractors who have very reasonable arguments against light rail.

            Some of the primary benefits of light rail and public transportation in general are reducing the number vehicles on the streets and highways, abating the amount of vehicular smog, providing economic benefits to riders commuting to jobs, and giving lower income classes a reasonable means of transportation at a low cost.

           The arguments against light rail include the high cost of constructing the lines, few people using the trains, disruption to communities where the train lines are put into place, and massive delays that can occur if equipment breaks down or is involved in an accident.

             An MTA official  told me that the trains could perhaps never be self-sustaining based on current fare structures and fares would have to be increased substantially for this to be so, thus defeating the economy of riding the trains and discouraging use.  Currently the light rail systems must be subsidized by local tax dollars and federal and state funds.   One must question the wisdom and fairness of this.

           Is light rail worth the effort and expense?

          What is your opinion of light rail and public transportation in general being funded by our tax dollars?  Do you use public transportation?  Would you continue to use it if fares were raised substantially in order to pay for the actual operating costs?   How do we get people out of their cars and onto public transportation?  Which would be more effective--incentives or punitive measures?  And what would some of those be?  What do you think is the future of transportation in the community where you live?


  1. I live in Cape Town and with the Soccer World Cup having been held in South Africa this year there have been many infrastructure updates. Probably one of the most significant and costly has been the development of what is known as "the rapid bus transport system". What they have essentialy done is to take part of the existing roads and in certain areas convert this into a dedicated bus lane. The only problem with this is that you still have to walk long distances to the bus stop and then from the bus stop to your destination. Busses are sporadic at the moment but the RBTS is not yet in opperation despite the fact that they have been busy working on the roads for months causing massive trafic jams and road closures.
    Do I believe that "Light Rail" is the way to go? Maybe maybe not but I'm sure it must be better than what they are doing in my own country, at least they are not restricting the already inadequite road system. Go figure.
    God bless you my friend.

  2. As I don't have my won transport I have to make do what is availiable, The train service here leaves much to be desired either cancelled or delayed, The local bus service is the same, I walk as much as I can (a) because it's healthier and (b)I save money .
    I have to travel by train if I meet up with my son but when I visit my daughter I go by cab.
    Loved the post
    Have a good day.

  3. Don't like the idea of us taxpayers footing the bill, especially when most of us will never use it.

  4. WE need to be open to change for our environment.
    If it is cleaner, at cheaper in the long will eventually be worth the costs. I think more people will use it; It is new hence a lot of questions and concerns.
    Regarding massive delays; Well, these can occur in any accident. The situation varies, but I have seen traffic in VA, backed up for six hours.
    I think once the word is out the benefits will out way the cost! It is new, anything new allows trepidation to surface.

  5. light rail is expanding in our area. in a couple of years, not only will all the communties be linked but we will also have a line coming from the airport directly to downtown. that will be a big plus for the city which has a lot of conventions. our city is relatively safe and clean. it wouldn't hurt our government to subsidize it....not for the amount of money that they take from us in taxes!!! ...we oughta be subsidizing our own country as much we everyone else's.

  6. Geoff -- Good to hear from you again. Often a problem with cities hosting international events like the World Cup, they will build structures and transportation systems to accomodate the event and when it is over what has been built goes largely unused or is not integrated properly into the city plan. More inconvenience should not be the outcome of what was intended to improve things. Good planning is essential.

    Yvonne -- Here in the U.S. we hear so much about the great public transportation infrastructure in Europe. Maybe they aren't talking about England. I wonder if they no longer have enough funds to run the system efficiently?

    Alex -- The tax subsidization is a concern of a lot of people, but if a lot of people used the system it might be worth it. Maybe the naysayers need to be more visionary.

    Ellie-- If the projects are planned well and prove useful to the public, I think eventually people will see the value. Good planning and educating the public can make it work.

    Bud -- I hear what you're saying about paying more heed to the needs of our country and its citizens. I think we waste an awful lot of money on other countries who don't fully appreciate it.

  7. I think it is. We may not see the benefits right away, but we will in the very near future. The cost now will seem niniscule ten years from now.

    I also think we need these high speed clean energy trains to link cities. In our region, San Diego, Orange County, Long Beach, LA., Santa Barbara, San Jose, and the Bay are could benefit immensely from a network of these new trains. We can include the Inland Empire to. How about L.A. to Las Vegas?

    Stephen Tremp

  8. I know I'm late but I would like to add another aspect not mentioned as of yet to public transportation. An alternative to both car or train would be tele-commuting.

    By providing the incentive to allow employees to tele-commute you achieve the same result. As I have stated Kentucky is a little slow but the concept of tele-commuting could be achieved even here.

    It is just a state of mind what ever way you believe to be best. The fact is some change is needed.

    Good series, Lee.
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  9. I walk or take public transportation (train or subway) 95% of the time. I’m not familiar with the light rail though.

  10. Stephen Tremp -- I think there are trains to most of those places in California that you mention. I don't think they are publicized enough. I also don't recall cost of fares--I've investigated this in the past because I wanted to go to San Diego, but I don't recall what the details were and I never went. One of my daughters and a friend took a train to San Francisco once but I don't recall the detail of that either. There's been talk of a high speed bullet train to Las Vegas, but it would leave from Apple Valley or somewhere up there and if I drove that far I'd probably just a well keep driving to LV and have my car to get around. It would have to leave from Union Station to really be practical.

    Hemant -- Thank you.

    Jules -- Tele-commuting is an excellent option where practical. I'd love to have a job with that option.

    Holly Ruggiero -- Light rail is similar to train or subway and in some cases may be one of those and just a matter of understanding terminology. In essence, light rail is a lower capacity rail transport that runs on electric. Usually with about 3 cars, the light rail trains often run on the street like a trolley, but also at times may be on elevated tracks or underground. Light rail also usually runs at lower speeds.

  11. This is a tough one. I think as a society we are used to having our own vehicles - and the convenience that entails. If the public transportation system is fast and effecient, we should encourage people to use it. If that requires tax breaks so be it. It's better for the environment and that means a lot.

  12. Jemi -- Where ever it's practical we need to be convinced that we don't have to use our car for going everyplace, but that's going to be a tough one because as you say we like the convenience of being in our own vehicles.

  13. Thanks for the info. I think they sound marvelous.

  14. by the way, Lee...

    who is the politician that's going to get the train line from Cali to Vegas?

  15. Bud -- couldn't tell you any names, it's just a proposal that I've heard about for several years.

  16. Hi Arlee .. I've always thought that if transport was comprehensive .. buses, trains, trams, light railways .. with a simple pricing structure - ie no admin costs in running the prices .. just straight forward .. then we'd all use it and it would be used to the maximum .. hence it would be profitable.

    It has to change .. somewhere along the line - what we do in our little country, I don't know ... I hope they come up with some reasonable scheme .. thanks Hilary

  17. It's worth the cost to keep the air clean and the road traffic down. I wish we had light rail.

  18. Hilary -- I don't know how simple the pricing structure could ever get for public transportation or if it could ever work without supplemental funding from tax dollars. It would be ideal if it could be run profitably and practically on its own.

    Paula-- I agree with you. A good all-around comprehensive network of rail throughout the U.S. would be nice, but the costs would probably be prohibitive.


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.