View Single Post
Old Posted Jun 9, 2008, 6:33 PM
PTSA PTSA is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12
Light Rail in San Antonio

About light rail.

Watch out what you wish for. I live in Portland, Oregon and light rail is not as good as everyone here thinks it is for the following reasons.

1. It must be subsidized. It can not make any kind of a profit on its own and it is very expensive to construct. It is bleeding red badly here. Here in Portland a Tri-County tax on employers is paying most of the costs besides the actual fare. Yes, this is supposedly a real progressive town by taxing you more.

2. It is not flexible. Once it is in, it will stay in that location for a long time. This may become a problem if the commuting patterns change. So true if you look at this from a 25 to 50 year perspective. This is especially true if major corporations are located in suburban areas and the area is developing rapidly.

3. The cars and the stations will be a crime problem. Here in Portland we are having a crime problem on the cars, stations, and parking garages. Crimes such as assaults and car vandalism exist. At late hours you do not want to be alone in certain areas of the light rail line. This conduct has spread along the light rail line to places it was never reported at before. As of lately the increase in this crime has made it necessary for transit police to ride in the cars to try to stem this. More cost again. If you spread the light rail lines in different directions then it really becomes a problem to control.

4. Putting the ride in perspective. If your destination is not within walking distance of the light rail line by the time you catch another transit connector to where you are going then it is very hard to beat the car time to get there. This is within a context where the Portland freeway system is in total chaos.
Unfortunately Portland is more concerned about light rail and bicycles then cars so they have built-up these two at the expense of the basic freeway system. You know how extremely costly and disruptive it is to build additional freeways through established neighborhoods. Wow, icing before the cake!

5. Crashes. Since light rail start here there has always been some kind of an accident here and there involving cars or pedestrians. They just can not get this bug out of the light rail system. When it happens the whole light rail line schedule is a mess. This also occurs when there is a mechanical error. And yes they also occur.

6. Freezing rain. This can shut-down the rail lines as the overhead wiring becomes coated in ice. Occasional problem here.

My advice for San Antonio, after traveling all over the world and the US is:

1. Build a heavy rail line from Roundrock (and just north) to San Antonio downtown ( and just south).

2. Have trains run at 15 minute intervals (or less) at peak times and every 30 minutes thereafter.

3. Elevate it over all crossings so the trains, cars, and pedestrians do not mix.

4. Provide a luxury experience. No one wants to ride bad rail! Even if it is rail.

5. Provide fast rail time, (real, real fast). Innovation will be required here.


Have VIA give it a try with the rapid bus transit, but make it a real good one. It also should be a luxury experience with dedicated and landscaped right-of-way transit lanes and express service. Some observers here (Portland) are thinking twice about light rail within the above context. Light rail is a nostalgic application from the past to our current situation. Although popular, trendy, status like, and nostalgic it perhaps is not the real solution to the problem. A solution should come from future technology and anticipation of the current context but not the past.

Rapid rail in San Antonio
Rapid rail can work between these points (Roundrock to San Antonio) because the stations will be fixed, the population is there to support it, the schedules can be controlled (few stops), crime can be controlled (few stops), it can become a luxury pleasant experience for the commuter and the family, can be fast and efficient, can move larger quantities of passengers and become eventually economical. Each station can be supported by connections to other transit, shops and restaurants, and eventually high density housing. It can be made into a total experience not just transit and or looking over your back at late hours so that you don't become a crime victim.

Light rail is a European application to our cities. This is not an American solution to our cities. We are not Europeans. We are Americans. So many US cities have fallen in love with the European model, which is a shame because it is not the American model which we have not even addressed yet.

Good luck. I love San Antonio and go there every year when I get a chance.

Innovative American Solutions for the New Century
Reply With Quote