Proposed long-distance cuts would spell end to national rail system February 5th, 2002
Arizona Republic 5Â February 2002, by Laurence Arnold, QUOTES: “Amtrak officials have compiled a tentative list of 18 long-distance routes that could be cut this fall unless the government drastically increases the money it spends on passenger rail. Among them: the Sunset Limited, which passes through Tucson on its way to Orlando, Fla., from Los Angeles; the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles… The scaled-back passenger train network would consist primarily of several lines in the Northeast, the Auto Train between Virginia and Florida, connections between Chicago and other Midwest cities, and a number of routes inside California.”
Amtrak Threatens Route Cuts, Trims Jobs February 2nd, 2002
Arizona Republic 2 February 2002, by Christopher Doering. QUOTE: “Amtrak threatened on Friday to discontinue money losing long-distance service as it announced job cuts under a $285 million austerity plan that still leaves it short of a requirement to end federal operating subsidies by the end of the year.”
When Should A City Build a Rail Transit System? February 1st, 2002
“Rail won’t work here… we don’t have the density… we’re too spread out… our residents love their cars too much.”
Los Angeles is the perfect counterexample to these arguments, for few places are as sprawled as the L.A. basin, and it is perhaps the pinnacle of automobile mania; but every workday, hundreds of thousands of persons ride trains there. Places like Dallas and Atlanta are also relative newcomers to the transit scene, but even in those sprawled places, rail transit lines are well patronized.
Historically, cities have built transit not after they have high density, but when they have medium density and are growing. Looking back to the early part of the last century, cities like New York found themselves choking in traffic — pedestrians, horses, streetcars, and early automobiles — and built subways. This enabled their densities, modest by modern standards, to grow much higher. Subways were built into open fields outside New York City, where a harvest of grain was soon replaced with a crop of mid-rise apartments and offices. Paradoxically, these lines actually reduced urban sprawl by concentrating new development.
Cities without high capacity transit today find themselves with a proliferation of parking lots and garages — activity vacuums which bring little tax benefit. Those swaths of parking lots and the ever wider streets and highways needed to feed them quickly consume the property tax rolls, while perpetuating traffic congestion. Designing a city for the automobile necessitates development with expanses of empty space which in turn make walking difficult; often, sidewalks are even omitted, creating a psychological barrier to personal mobility and making the addition of transit more difficult. Reversing these influences now pays great dividends later.
Far better for both the property owner and the city to fill those barren spaces with apartments, hotels, stores, and offices which take advantage of urban core infrastructure and enhance the economy. Far better to create an appealing environment in which to work and live.
Cities of the American West, like Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, and Las Vegas now have populations in the range of one-half to two million. The U.S. Census Bureau, along with other agencies, estimate that most of these metropolitan areas will reach four to seven million residents in the next fifty years. In 2001, the Brookings Institute declared that Phoenix surpassed Atlanta’s population density. (see chart: When Should a City Build A Rail-Transit System?)
Now, when these cities are poised to attain the next level of population and density, is the time to build rail transit. Cities which wait to have density before building transit will achieve neither that density nor the viable base to ever attain it.