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Old October 16th, 2007, 05:23 AM   #1301
greg_christine
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Originally Posted by Jaxom92 View Post
In regards to the heavy-rail vs. light-rail debate, I think that a valid definition of either ought to be put in terms of level of service/efficiency. That is, what is the time saved and convenience gained over the cost incurred. Unfortunately, some of these measures are fuzzy - subjective.

So, if my headways, speed of travel, and money spent (tax and fare) is comparably equal to that of heavy-rail, what does it matter? From what I see being built in Seattle, there's enough grade-separation and "high-speed" (relative term there) corridors to make the cost justifiable in comparison to heavy-rail. Also, if there is another line that needs to be put into an environment that utilizes light-rail's more flexible (but slower) at grade abilities, there's no need to switch trains from line to line. While the line that's at grade is less efficient, the over all system is more efficient because of the existing grade separation, convenience for riders, as well as ease of construction and other technical details.

My thoughts are NOT based on hard numbers but on what makes sense from my limited observations.
I can understand the “It’s good enough!” attitude of Seattle residents who have been waiting decades for a rail transit line. Still, I can’t imagine systems like BART or the Washington Metro being built as light rail.

I used to live in Boston and had a daily commute that involved the Green Line (light rail) and Red Line (heavy rail). For my commute, the contrast between the two lines did not involve differences in grade separation as I boarded the Green Line at either Prudential or Copley, both of which are on the downtown subway segment. Prudential was a shorter walk but Copley was a shorter wait as it was served by trains from all branches. The Green Line was always slower, noisier, and felt more crowded due to there being less space inside the vehicles.





I would highly recommend taking the “Pepsi Challenge” by visiting a city that has both light rail and heavy rail. Cities that have both include Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Baltimore and Los Angeles probably give the fairest comparison as their light rail and heavy rail systems are fairly new; however, the light rail systems of both use high-floor light rail vehicles rather than the 70% low-floor vehicles that will be used in Seattle. Los Angeles has high-floor platforms to provide level-floor boarding for the high-floor light rail vehicles.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 06:09 AM   #1302
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heavy rail is faster in a lot of cases, but this is what we have. plus, it will be one of the fastest light rail systems in the world, which is nothing to sneeze at.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 06:33 AM   #1303
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Originally Posted by greg_christine View Post
The assumption of the permanence of streetcar lines is not supported by history. Seattle once had an extensive streetcar network. It was torn out after WWII and replace with buses. More recently, Seattle had the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar. Service on that line ended so that the maintenance shed could be torn down to make way for a sculpture garden. A deal has been in the works for sometime now to build a new maintenance shed as part of a development in Pioneer Square; however, it is not clear whether streetcar service will resume prior to the line having to be shutdown to make way for demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. In the meantime, the route is being served by a bus:



I also am perplexed by the statement that streetcars are more reliable than buses. Something as simple as an illegally parked car can bring a streetcar line to a halt. Buses have the flexibility of going around such obstructions.
Dude, we started collecting the federal gas tax and using the FHWA (well, its predecessor) to build roads back in 1932. Of course the streetcars died, they were private and started competing with public funds. Where, exactly, have you seen a public system (and two ancient trolleys is not a system) dismantled? You haven't.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 06:36 AM   #1304
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Regarding the 55 mph maximum speed of Central Link, this is probably governed by the design of the signaling system. This is a reasonable design decision for a light rail project given that most light rail vehicle manufacturers claim a top speed no higher than 55 mph.

The 70% low-floor light rail vehicles typically use odd axle arrangements in way of the low-floor segment in order to avoid encroaching on the seating and floor space. The result is that the axles in way of the low-floor segment are never powered and often the ride quality is somewhat compromised. The 70% low-floor vehicles from some manufacturers have a reputation for “hunting”, which is an oscillation that occurs at higher speeds. The Kinkisharyo light rail vehicles that I rode in San Jose seemed very steady at speed. The floor area in way of the low-floor segment was narrower than the floor area in the rest of the vehicle, which leads me to believe that perhaps Kinkisharyo found a good compromise between encroaching on the floor area and providing good ride quality:

I've also ridden the Kinkisharyo cars in Hiroshima - those are almost never grade-separated, but they rarely hunt.

Hunting is mostly a function of the tolerances in the rail laid - trucks are trucks for the most part, there's nothing inherent in the design of the axles that makes them move differently relative to each other (I really don't know where you're coming up with that, all systems have lots of non-powered axles). Look at the date the rail you're riding was most recently relaid, and whether they used concrete ties. Also look at the rail classification.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 06:39 AM   #1305
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I can understand the “It’s good enough!” attitude of Seattle residents who have been waiting decades for a rail transit line. Still, I can’t imagine systems like BART or the Washington Metro being built as light rail.

I used to live in Boston and had a daily commute that involved the Green Line (light rail) and Red Line (heavy rail). For my commute, the contrast between the two lines did not involve differences in grade separation as I boarded the Green Line at either Prudential or Copley, both of which are on the downtown subway segment. Prudential was a shorter walk but Copley was a shorter wait as it was served by trains from all branches. The Green Line was always slower, noisier, and felt more crowded due to there being less space inside the vehicles.

I would highly recommend taking the “Pepsi Challenge” by visiting a city that has both light rail and heavy rail. Cities that have both include Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Baltimore and Los Angeles probably give the fairest comparison as their light rail and heavy rail systems are fairly new; however, the light rail systems of both use high-floor light rail vehicles rather than the 70% low-floor vehicles that will be used in Seattle. Los Angeles has high-floor platforms to provide level-floor boarding for the high-floor light rail vehicles.
You're pointing out low floor versus high floor as your primary difference between light and heavy rail, but there are a lot of differences between the light rail systems you're talking about and Link. Remember, unlike most light rail, we're more grade separated. Unlike most light rail, we have a 55mph top speed. Unlike most light rail, we have four car platforms (and we'll use them). We're also *nowhere* near the size of those cities, and we'll build more before we are.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 08:29 PM   #1306
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An article in the Times this morning about the eastside portion of Proposition 1.

Transit Package's Eastside Benefits Debated

I would challenge any skeptic of rail transit in Seattle to go to Portland and ride their system for a day. One of the columnists for the times did this and he changed his tune.
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Old October 16th, 2007, 08:46 PM   #1307
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Originally Posted by Jaxom92 View Post
An article in the Times this morning about the eastside portion of Proposition 1.

Transit Package's Eastside Benefits Debated

I would challenge any skeptic of rail transit in Seattle to go to Portland and ride their system for a day. One of the columnists for the times did this and he changed his tune.
I sent a response last night to the author:

You mention Freeman contributing to the no campaign... but not Microsoft contributing a lot more to the yes campaign.

There is basically no such thing as "bus rapid transit". In very limited situations, buses can be made faster, but there's basically no political will to do so. In the long term, every time it's studied, rail comes out cheaper because the real costs are the right of way itself - which is the same for buses and rail when you're building the same service. Sticking HOV lanes on a freeway isn't that hard - it's getting people into the cores that costs money. Seriously - BRT is just a stalking horse for the anti-transit. If it worked, we'd have built it after Forward Thrust failed in 1970. Isn't it telling that it's been nearly 40 years since then, and no fast buses have *ever* been proposed past the vague suggestions in Transit Now?

ST2 only plans for $1B in federal dollars. ST1 got $1.5 billion (including the basically guaranteed FTA grant next year for University Link) on less than half the capital costs of ST2. "Finding more money" to go to Redmond is likely to happen - also because Sound Transit is basically counting every single thing that's cost them extra money on Sound Move, just to cover all the bases. ST2 is not lowballed - since 2001, the agency's been on track and meeting goals on time, and it's the same people who've made this plan. They listen to criticism and learn from mistakes - they took a nearly dead agency and now have 80% completion on light rail to the airport.

Really, what I don't understand is how the "congestion" framing has been taken hook, line and sinker. There is no way to "fix" or even reduce congestion for more than a couple of years at a time (right after a project is done). Induced traffic from the new capacity immediately negates any new investments. There are no examples of reduced congestion (except for cherry-picked cases from the year after construction completes) - overall, you can pour tens of billions into a highway and get nowhere. But if you build highways *and* rail, you prevent a lot of the trips that cause congestion from happening, and you keep congestion from getting worse. An Oregon blogger took apart the Times' ridiculous claims about Portland: http://loadedorygun.net/showDiary.do?diaryId=412

I do appreciate that your piece didn't really attack the 2027 date for reaching Overlake. Do note that in Dallas and Salt Lake City, voters were presented with acceleration packages after a few years to knock a decade (each) off construction. They worked. We just can't ask voters for that much money all at once - would a 1% addition to the sales tax fly today? No, even though it would get us all these projects by 2015.

Anyway, I hope the Blethens realize they'll sink their own paper if population growth stalls due to gridlock! Sorry you have to be in the middle of all this. I do hope this helps.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 01:33 AM   #1308
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Why is Freeman opposing the package? Maybe I'm reading it wrong? I can't see that guy opposing this somehow...
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Old October 17th, 2007, 03:46 AM   #1309
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Why is Freeman opposing the package? Maybe I'm reading it wrong? I can't see that guy opposing this somehow...
Probably because he's kinda like me; we both love cars and automobile-related accessories (i.e. roads, highways, lanes, etc.)
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Old October 17th, 2007, 03:53 AM   #1310
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Why is Freeman opposing the package? Maybe I'm reading it wrong? I can't see that guy opposing this somehow...
Kemper Freeman is ideologically opposed to transit. He talks about buses because buses aren't on the ballot, but what he *believes* (and he has talked about this on video) is that cars are necessary and good and a fundamental part of an inalienable American lifestyle.

Until recently, there was a site called http://truthabouttraffic.org (you can see some of the nonsense and made-up numbers on the Wayback Machine at archive.org) with one of his videos and a lot of misinformation.

He just *believes* that people who ride transit won't buy things at Bellevue Square. He wants only the elite living and working in downtown Bellevue, and for us plebes to live in Seattle where we can't decrease his property values.

In short... he's nuts. Everything I've said here is paraphrase of things I've heard him say (in person and on video).
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Old October 17th, 2007, 03:54 AM   #1311
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Probably because he's kinda like me; we both love cars and automobile-related accessories (i.e. roads, highways, lanes, etc.)
No wonder you're opposed to Prop 1. It's not rational at all, is it?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 04:35 AM   #1312
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Dude, we started collecting the federal gas tax and using the FHWA (well, its predecessor) to build roads back in 1932. Of course the streetcars died, they were private and started competing with public funds. Where, exactly, have you seen a public system (and two ancient trolleys is not a system) dismantled? You haven't.
Many of the streetcar lines that were lost during the “Trolley Holocaust” following WWII were publicly owned. A notable case is in Los Angeles. The conversion of the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles Railway streetcar systems to bus service began while those lines were under the control of private companies; however, many of the streetcar lines survived the era of private ownership. Both systems were taken over by a government run transit agency in 1958. The last rail passenger service on the former Pacific Electric was in 1961. The last rail passenger service on the former Los Angeles Railway was in 1963. Public ownership did little to ensure the survival of the old streetcar systems. The main thing that the rail transit lines that survived had in common was a high degree of grade separation.

In Boston, a major segment of a light rail line was abandoned in 1985 when the Arborway segment of the E-Branch was “temporarily” suspended. This was the last significant length of streetcar operation in mixed traffic lanes on the Boston light rail system though short segments with shared traffic lane operation still exist at the turn back points of some of the lines. The MBTA agreed to restore service on the Arborway segment as part of the remediation effort for the “Big Dig” highway project. The MBTA subsequently reneged on this promise. A citizens group took the MBTA to court over this but the outcome was that the MBTA only needs to do a study of transit options for the corridor.

In Philadelphia, streetcar service was eliminated on three lines in 1992. Service was subsequently restored on one of the lines (Girard Avenue) but the suspension of service on the other two lines now appears to be permanent as segments of the tracks have been removed. The resumption of service on the Girard Avenue line was delayed for sometime by local residents who resented the loss of on-street parking.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 04:36 AM   #1313
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I've also ridden the Kinkisharyo cars in Hiroshima - those are almost never grade-separated, but they rarely hunt.

Hunting is mostly a function of the tolerances in the rail laid - trucks are trucks for the most part, there's nothing inherent in the design of the axles that makes them move differently relative to each other (I really don't know where you're coming up with that, all systems have lots of non-powered axles). Look at the date the rail you're riding was most recently relaid, and whether they used concrete ties. Also look at the rail classification.
Track quality definitely plays a role in ride quality; however, hunting can be a problem even on relatively new track. I have heard anecdotes of hunting problems on the central segment of 70% low-floor light rail vehicles in Portland. I believe those light rail vehicles were produced by Siemens.

The report at the following link describes some of the issues with the center trucks on 70% low-floor light rail vehicles:

http://trb.org/publications/tcrp/tcrp_rpt_114.pdf

The following is a short excerpt:

“… The low-floor hieght precludes the sue of conventional wheel sets with solid axle connections between right and left wheels of the center truck.

Unlike a conventional wheelset, the independently rotating wheels (IRWs) of such a center truck cannot steer the wheelset through the curve. This inability leads to increased flange wear, gauge face wear, stick slip noise, and the potential for derailment at curves and on lateral discontinuities in alignment. …”
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Old October 17th, 2007, 04:37 AM   #1314
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You're pointing out low floor versus high floor as your primary difference between light and heavy rail, but there are a lot of differences between the light rail systems you're talking about and Link. Remember, unlike most light rail, we're more grade separated. Unlike most light rail, we have a 55mph top speed. Unlike most light rail, we have four car platforms (and we'll use them). We're also *nowhere* near the size of those cities, and we'll build more before we are.
Excluding streetcars, most light rail lines built during the last few decades do have segments that exploit the 55 mph maximum operating speed of the typical new light rail vehicle.

Last edited by greg_christine; October 17th, 2007 at 04:47 AM.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 04:39 AM   #1315
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I sent a response last night to the author:
...

There is basically no such thing as "bus rapid transit". In very limited situations, buses can be made faster, but there's basically no political will to do so. In the long term, every time it's studied, rail comes out cheaper because the real costs are the right of way itself - which is the same for buses and rail when you're building the same service. Sticking HOV lanes on a freeway isn't that hard - it's getting people into the cores that costs money. Seriously - BRT is just a stalking horse for the anti-transit. If it worked, we'd have built it after Forward Thrust failed in 1970. Isn't it telling that it's been nearly 40 years since then, and no fast buses have *ever* been proposed past the vague suggestions in Transit Now?

...
Sound Transit actually evaluated bus rapid transit alternatives to light rail for the line that will run east across Lake Washington:

- Capital Cost
Busway BRT: $3.1 - $4.2 Billion
Rail Convertible BRT: $3.7 - $5.0 Billion
Light Rail: $4.6 - $6.2 Billion

- Operations & Maintenance Cost (Net change relative to common baseline)
Busway BRT: -$5.5 million/year
Rail Convertible BRT: -$17.2 Million/Year
Light Rail: +$29.0 Million/Year

The cost numbers are from the following document, which might still be available on the Sound Transit website:

“Sound Transit Long-Range Plan Update, Issue Paper E.1: I-90/East King County High Capacity Transit Analysis”, Sound Transit, March 2005.

Sound Transit also did a study of streetcar and electric trolley bus alternatives to serve the First Hill area:

- Capital Cost
Streetcar: $129.7 - $149.2 in Millions of 2006$ (Bus in 2005$)
Electric Trolley Bus: $13.4 - $15.4

- Annual Operating Cost in Millions of 2006$ (Bus in 2005$)
Streetcar: $5.2
Electric Trolley Bus: $3.5

The above numbers were part of a document that used to reside on Sound Transit’s website for Sound Transit 2; however, the document has now disappeared.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 06:26 AM   #1316
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Originally Posted by greg_christine View Post
Sound Transit actually evaluated bus rapid transit alternatives to light rail for the line that will run east across Lake Washington:

- Capital Cost
Busway BRT: $3.1 - $4.2 Billion
Rail Convertible BRT: $3.7 - $5.0 Billion
Light Rail: $4.6 - $6.2 Billion

- Operations & Maintenance Cost (Net change relative to common baseline)
Busway BRT: -$5.5 million/year
Rail Convertible BRT: -$17.2 Million/Year
Light Rail: +$29.0 Million/Year

The cost numbers are from the following document, which might still be available on the Sound Transit website:

“Sound Transit Long-Range Plan Update, Issue Paper E.1: I-90/East King County High Capacity Transit Analysis”, Sound Transit, March 2005.

Sound Transit also did a study of streetcar and electric trolley bus alternatives to serve the First Hill area:

- Capital Cost
Streetcar: $129.7 - $149.2 in Millions of 2006$ (Bus in 2005$)
Electric Trolley Bus: $13.4 - $15.4

- Annual Operating Cost in Millions of 2006$ (Bus in 2005$)
Streetcar: $5.2
Electric Trolley Bus: $3.5

The above numbers were part of a document that used to reside on Sound Transit’s website for Sound Transit 2; however, the document has now disappeared.
The only reason those maintenance costs are lower is because they're piggybacking off of Metro maintenance facilities. What those numbers hide is that new facilities would later be needed - Metro is already charging more every year for maintenance (look at the recent ST financial report - running a bus cost 114/hr in 2006, up from the mid-90s/hr in 2005). And if you take into account the cost of replacing your fleet, and the cost of replacing your driving surface (which are capital costs by those numbers), LRT is much cheaper.

Since when did this become an argument? Light rail trains stay in service for 30 years without major overhaul. Buses stay in service for 12 (generally) without major overhaul. Tracks last two to four times as long as asphalt under equivalent use, and are cheaper and faster to replace. Start thinking 100 years ahead, not 20 years ahead.

By the way, another comment about your earlier "streetcars were removed" snark - grade separated transit is *never* removed.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 06:28 AM   #1317
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Excluding streetcars, most light rail lines built during the last few decades do have segments that exploit the 55 mph maximum operating speed of the typical new light rail vehicle.
And go 20mph downtown. Did you miss that bit where Link will have the fastest average speed in the US?
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Old October 17th, 2007, 09:35 AM   #1318
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I also am perplexed by the statement that streetcars are more reliable than buses. Something as simple as an illegally parked car can bring a streetcar line to a halt. Buses have the flexibility of going around such obstructions.
Yeah, but have you asked Portland how many people actually park illegally on a streetcar track? Any idiot can see the streetcar can't get around their parked car, so they pick somewhere else to park illegally.

What really makes buses unreliable in urban settings is:

1) The randomness of boarding times once the bus fills up -- loading everyone through one door, trying to squeeze standing room passengers through a narrow corridor, etc. Modern streetcars (like Portland's) are much, much better than buses at loading and unloading people quickly. (That's not to say someone couldn't design a multi-door, wide-aisle, low-floor bus and use it in a proof-of-payment system where everyone could unload and load at the same time. But it's not the reality of buses in use today.)

2) Pulling in and out of traffic at each stop. Streetcars don't need to do this. (Again, buses can do this, and there's some of it around Seattle, but it's not the typical reality of buses.)
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Old October 17th, 2007, 04:39 PM   #1319
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By the way, another comment about your earlier "streetcars were removed" snark - grade separated transit is *never* removed.
Not necessarily. In Rochester, NY they had a subway, but it was abandon in 1956. The subway tunnels still have tracks, but there has been a debate between people who want subway service restored, those who want the tunnels filled in, and those who don't want to bring them back, because they would have to do something with all the homeless living in the tunnels. In Chicago, branches of the "L" have been torn down, and in Manhattan, El's were torn down, subways were planned for replacement, but were never built. In Sioux City, there was an El, from 1891, to 1899. And in Seattle the Interurban line was torn out, now causing the need for Link LRT, and interurbans were torn out all across the country.
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Old October 17th, 2007, 06:50 PM   #1320
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Not necessarily. In Rochester, NY they had a subway, but it was abandon in 1956. The subway tunnels still have tracks, but there has been a debate between people who want subway service restored, those who want the tunnels filled in, and those who don't want to bring them back, because they would have to do something with all the homeless living in the tunnels. In Chicago, branches of the "L" have been torn down, and in Manhattan, El's were torn down, subways were planned for replacement, but were never built. In Sioux City, there was an El, from 1891, to 1899. And in Seattle the Interurban line was torn out, now causing the need for Link LRT, and interurbans were torn out all across the country.
I knew I should have said "grade separated in their own right of way".

The interurbans were not grade separated - they were on streets in the core. That's why I said grade separated. Rochester was *barely* grade separated - it operated freight, long-distance and single-car trolleys, not its own right of way. It needed the local interurban in order to justify maintenance costs - when the interurbans died, it did too. Like the streetcars, the reasons for its abandonment are understood and basically impossible to repeat without having twenty cent per gallon gas. I believe Rochester was also the smallest city in the world to build a "subway" (which was really just retained cut).

I really can't believe that we're so pedantic that the point is being nitpicked to death. Link will be around for far longer than any of us will be alive. It's being built in areas that are already built-up, and unlike Rochester, it will only operate its own service - it won't be dependent upon other services.

There is no rational argument against the reality here - because new rail drives development in places that are unnaturally low density (forced to stay low due to the effects of highway investment), ridership will be strong and sustained as station areas are built out, and we will probably have service for a hundred years or more.
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