The Friday News Roundup is a weekly series featuring a few of the top transit, rail, and infrastructure-related news stories of the week. Be sure to follow @MetroCincy on Twitter to receive links to transit-related news articles and blog posts throughout the week.
Harrah’s has been named as the operator of Cincinnati’s new casino at Broadway Commons, and the streetcar is poised to provide a role in the casino’s development (via WLWT):
Casino chiefs are also watching plans for the city’s streetcar very closely, hoping that the two projects will dovetail nicely.”We really are going to set the bar for an urban casino. I mean, there will be nothing like it in the United States,” Cullen said.
“We really are going to set the bar for an urban casino. I mean, there will be nothing like it in the United States,” Cullen said.
Remember when streetcar opponents suggested that we test using rubber-tired “trolley buses” on the streetcar route, before building the actual streetcar? Ogden, Utah is about to spend $175,400 to do just that (via the Standard-Examiner):
The city plans to introduce two trolley-style buses to serve downtown in a yearlong $175,400 experiment to determine ridership for a possible permanent streetcar system. […]
Operational costs, including the hiring of two drivers, fuel purchases and marketing, would total about $116,500.
Brad Thomas at the Cincy Streetcar Blog explains why that’s a bad idea. That’s $175,400 less money Ogden will have available to build their permanent streetcar system, and odds are the buses won’t be an accurate predictor of future streetcar ridership anyway. My prediction: the temporary trolley buses will be deemed a failure, and Ogden’s streetcar project will flounder, which is exactly what Cincinnati’s naysayers hoped would happen with our own streetcar project when they proposed trolley bus look-alikes. (And a quick browse of the comments section of the Standard-Examiner article proves that Cincinnati.com isn’t the only newspaper site with a comments section dominated by knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers.)
Flashback to 2002: William F. Buckley, godfather of the modern conservative movement, explains why public investment in rail is a good idea (via The National Review):
Do we have here an example of an organic exception to the rule that services should pay their own way? That may be in fact the case, but in any event, conservatives need to climb onto a higher level from which to seek a broader perspective.
The urbanization of America and the volatility of American travel need to be accepted as a part of the American culture that shouldn’t be constrained, let alone aborted, by dogmatic enforcements of otherwise useful rules of procedure.
The plan of Sen. Hollings is significantly to improve and to increase the availability of railroads, and he needs to justify doing this, at a cost of over $5 billion per year, by persuading Congress and the public that however uneven the usufructs of rail travel to different parts of America, a national endowment is economically defensible, culturally desirable, and tangentially useful to the common defense.
Those who know me know that my politics slant significantly more to the left than William Buckley’s. But Buckley’s points are valid, and self-described “conservatives” (in truth, today’s “tea party” movement is anything but conservative) would do well to pay heed.
Speaking of anti-progress fanatics in the tea party movement, intercity rail has become a political football in Ohio and Wisconsin. Here in Ohio, gubernatorial candidate John Kasich has made the proposed 3C line into a bogeyman, using misleading “facts” to bolster his case (via the Columbus Dispatch):
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich’s recent comments about the 3C passenger-rail plan (Candidates accept 2 debates,” Dispatch article, Thursday) show a high level of ignorance about the proposal.
About 15 other states are funding rail corridors that started out just like the proposed “3C Quick Start” will. In every case, bar none, people are riding them in droves, despite the fact that they all take longer than driving. Ridership on them keeps going up.
Furthermore, all of these other passenger-rail corridors have demonstrated economic returns that exceed their costs, and not by small amounts, either.
While anti-rail fanatics blather on about “fiscal responsibility”, the American Public Transit Association has determined that riding public transit in lieu of a car can save the average American $9381 annually:
Riding public transportation saves individuals, on average, $9,381 annually and $782 per month based on the August 10, 2010 average national gas price ($2.78 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate. Riding public transit as an alternative to driving is a proven way for individuals to cut monthly and yearly transportation costs while also reducing their carbon footprint.
Bruce Selcraig in Miller-McCune further breaks down the arguments against rail, explaining how investment in rail is a drop in the bucket compared to what gets spent each year on highways and airports:
For the U.S. to have world-class high-speed trains, the government will have to subsidize them. The investment would be small compared to the billions lavished on highways and airports.
This week saw the passing of Cleatus E. Barnett, one of the founding fathers of the Washington Metro system (via the Washington Post):
Smith writes that Mr. Barnett’s greatest impact was expanding the Red Line into Montgomery County in the early 1980s, and he helped ensure the county received the first suburban routes when Metro expanded outside the District.
Mr. Barnett believed the transit system “should reflect the city’s magnificence and beauty. He opposed garish advertising aboard trains and inside stations, which he felt would detract from their majestic vaults.”
Rest in peace, Mr. Barnett. Barnett lived long enough to see the fruits of his efforts, but not all of his colleagues were so fortunate. Who knows how many of us will live long enough to see Cincinnati develop a truly regional rail system, but it’s a goal worth fighting for nonetheless. It’s not about us; it’s about the city we love.
Also from Washington, DC: Cavan Wilk in Greater Greater Washington proposes a possible funding mechanism for large-scale transit infrastructure investment:
Cities and towns all over the United States are demanding more transit infrastructure. But a lack of funding has stymied transit expansion. Finding a solution to this problem is essential.
Since its invention the mid-19th century, transit has been a powerful economic development tool. Some of our most celebrated cities grew up around their rail systems: the New York City Subway, Los Angeles’s extensive pre-war streetcar system, and most recently, the Washington Metro was a main ingredient in our region’s dramatic revival in the 2000’s.
If there is so much demand for more transit, and it builds healthy cities and towns, how do we fund more? The answer lies in harnessing transit’s power to increase land values.
Our current methods of funding mass transit are undoubtedly broken. Others have far more expertise in the policy and financial side of transit than I do, but Wilk’s idea seems worth considering.
Across the pond, the London Underground’s first Tube train with air conditioning has made its public debut. That’s right: until now, Tube trains did not have air conditioning (via Londonist):
This morning, Boris Johnson, TfL chief Peter Hendy, and their respective entourages shlepped up Wembley-way to officially launch the first of the new S-stock trains on the Metropolitan line.
The trains, which were on public display, at Euston a couple of years ago, are replacing the aged A-stock carriages that have made the trip from Amersham to Aldgate since the 1950s. The big selling point is that they’re the first Tube trains to be air-conditioned throughout — a rare bit of good news in that area, as the funding for cooling the Underground was slashed this year. They also sport linked walk-through carriages, much like on the new Overground line. Though there is a significant reduction in seating per train (306 compared to 448 on the existing service), there will be a 25% increase in total capacity, with more room for standing.
Finally, also from Londonist:
John Howe is a model enthusiast who builds realistic card models of Tube stations, bus depots, art deco shops and other London locations. He’s accrued a mighty collection of miniature transport sites, which can be viewed on Flickr. The kits are available for purchase through Kingsway Models – primarily for display of toy vehicles, but we’re sure you lot can think of a million other uses for them.